One of the destinations we want to go to with the bus is the Almanzo Wilder Homestead, in Malone, NY. On first glance, you might be asking ‘who’ and ‘why’, but this is the farm that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s (of the Little House books) husband grew up on before moving west and meeting her.
Now, not only is that a neat destination, but the trip there should be lots of fun. Starting from Buffalo, our first likely stop is up on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation to top up our fuel for the trip. While this seems like it would take us out of our way to Malone, it puts us right by the start of the ‘Cobblestone Trail’.
Located along historic Ridge Road (NY 104), the route follows the dry areas of the geography of one of the terraces of the Niagara Escarpment, just north of the route of the Erie Canal. Used by pioneers and homesteaders in the 18th & 19th centuries, it was the major ‘northern’ route into Western New York.
These buildings, often built using skills of masons who had been brought in to work on the building of the stone aspects of the Erie Canal, were expensive and durable, being made of cobbles left from the retreat of the most recent ice age’s glaciers. They functioned not just as houses, churches, or workshops, but also as status symbols for the communities they were in. Now, there’s a Museum for the Cobblestone Society comprised of three cobblestone buildings and four more 19th century wooden structures (at 14389 Ridge Road in Albion).
Farther along, north of Rochester, NY Route 104 crosses the mouth of Irondequoit Bay on a long, elevated bridge that gives a great view of both the Bay and out to Lake Ontario to the north.
Following along NY 104 to the east, just past Sodus Bay, is Chimney Bluffs State Park. Another remnant of the glacial actions of the last ice age, the eroding glacial till is constantly changing, like the Badlands of South Dakota. These formations continue to the east along Lake Ontario to Oswego.
Following NY 104 along that route, past Oswego, 104B heads northeast to Route 3, which heads north along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario to Henderson Bay, and just past Sacketts Bay, heading north on County Road 180 to 12E, which will take us up to Cape Vincent, where Lake Ontario flows out into the St. Lawrence River and through the Thousand Islands. NY Route 12 ends at Morristown, but the route along the river continues as NY Route 37, and continues that way until Massena. After Massena, the road turns south-east toward Malone.
Just ten miles short of Malone (and twelve miles from the Almanzo Wilder Homestead) is the Babbling Brook RV Park. This looks like a great base to travel from to the Homestead. There are only 57 sites, but a quick search for reviews comes up nicely positive, so we’re looking forward to trying them out!
Finally we can get to the Homestead itself. The museum/home-stead consists of 84 acres of farmland, woods, restored original post and beam constructed farmhouse (1840-1843), reconstructed post and beam framed barns and outbuildings, a museum/visitor center/research library/ archives/gift shop complex, orchard, covered picnic pavilion, and nature trail to the Wilder family frontage on the Trout River.
We really think that this looks like a full day’s worth of exploration, so we’ll likely have another night at the RV Park, then head home. While the scenic route could take us 8 or so hours (without extended stops!), the route back to Buffalo, via I-81 and I-90 could take us as little as 4 and a half. But of course, there’s more to do on the way back if we go in a round-about fashion. But that’s another post’s work.
And if you want to know more about Almanzo Wilder, or what the homestead was like when he was a boy, check out the book!