December 1, 2021

In the summertime, adventure is where you find it

Bob Ellis/staff photographer With school out for the summer, young fans, from left, Evan Rogoff, his brother, Luke, and Caleb Epp watch a Cortland Crush baseball game June 29 at Beaudry Park. Cortland Crush manager Bill McConnell coaches first base.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Bob Ellis/staff photographer With school out for the summer, young fans, from left, Evan Rogoff, his brother, Luke, and Caleb Epp watch a Cortland Crush baseball game June 29 at Beaudry Park. Cortland Crush manager Bill McConnell coaches first base.

The kids have had a whole week to be bored. Independence Day is behind us. Ahead lie endless days, lightning bug-filled nights, and brain-atrophying attempts to forget everything ever learned in a school year.

Time to make memories.

It doesn’t have to cost much or involve a lengthy trip. Give yourself a 20-mile radius, $20 (for adult and child) and designate a kid for a sidekick. What can you do that a kid will never forget?

Nine weeks until school starts, so nine adventures:

Climb Virgil Mountain

Distance: Eight miles. Cost: Free.

To a reasonably experienced hiker, climbing Virgil Mountain on the Finger Lakes Trail is a pleasant, 4.7-mile saunter up the south side of Cortland County’s highest peak.

To a kid, it’s a backwoods expedition. Park at Baldwin and Odell roads in Virgil and follow the white blazes.

Start by heading north and you get to the top of the 2,132-foot mountain faster with a fun descent.

Start by going south and it’s a longer trek to the top, but faster back to the car once you get there. Make sure to bring enough water.

You’ll cross valleys and creeks, dells and woods. You’ll have a beautiful view looking north. Looking east is pretty, too. At the end, you can brag you’ve climbed New York’s 28th highest peak.

Go boating on Whitney Point Lake

Distance: 20 miles. Cost: $20 or less.

The waves splash gently against the prow; the sun warms your face. You’re hundreds of feet from shore and at the beck of the wind. Sailing is both peaceful and exhilarating.

The 1,200-acre reservoir just south of Cortland County offers the usual lakeside amenities: swimming, picnicking, hiking trails and volleyball pits. The fishing is good, too.

But for $20, you can rent a canoe or rowboat for the day. Or you can rent a sailboat for $8 an hour.

You might want to stick with someone who has done it before for a first trip, but you’re not seeking the Northwest Passage here, just puttering around a small lake. You can learn how in a couple of hours.

Quest for the Rocky

Distance: 13 miles. Cost: Free.

John D. Rockefeller — the founder of Standard Oil, America’s first oil baron and the original Warren Buffet — was born in 1839 in Richford. If you’re interested in a quest to see where money comes from, seek his birthplace.

The foundation of the modest house remains in Michigan Hill State Forest, which has grown up the past 175 years to cover what was otherwise poor farmland in far more scenic woods.

Actually, the forest is a good site for birders, with turkey, ruffed grouse, warblers, flycatchers, woodcock, white-throated sparrow, American goldfinch, Rufous-sided towhee, white-eyed vireo, hermit thrush, brown thrasher, Indigo bunting, gray catbird — but don’t tell the kids that unless they really like birds.

The foundation is marked by a sign on the side of Rockefeller Road. It’s not spectacular, but quests rarely are. The easiest way to get there is to take Route 200 east from Harford Mills, a quick jog on Griggs Gulf Road, then south on Michigan Hill Road until you get to Rockefeller Road. It’s not easy driving, so you might want to hike it — that’s the adventure.

Crushing the competition

Distance: Half-mile Cost: Free.

Baseball isn’t just a sport. It’s an icon of Americana. Who cares who’s playing? Who cares what the score is?

The Cortland Crush is a semi-pro team, college players filling the summer under the lights at Beaudry Park in Cortland. It’s not the Mets, but you’ll sit about 4 feet from the dugout, so you can’t get any closer to the action without tripping over first base.

Grab a hot dog, sit back and enjoy the afternoon or evening. If the kids get bored, they can play on the playground — try that at Yankee Stadium — and you can chat with a friend.

But don’t dawdle; the team’s last home game of the season is July 22 against the Syracuse Salt Cats.

Finding Fillmore

Distance: Nine miles. Cost: Free (or $7 a car).

Millard Fillmore was one of history’s most undersung presidents. He was the last Whig Party president before the party self-destructed, and the only Whig president not to die in office. He was once nominated for the presidency because he was out of the country and couldn’t defend himself.

Monuments to him include a bronze statue in Buffalo, his grave, also in Buffalo, and the house he built in East Aurora.

None of those are close, however, so you can show the kids his birthplace on Fillmore Road in Summerhill. It’s modest, even by forgotten presidential standards: a few poured concrete picnic tables under a tin-roof pavilion. But the field is pretty.

Make it up to the kids by heading down the hill to Fillmore Glen State Park in Moravia. You’ll find a replica of the house Fillmore was born in, swim in some of the coldest water Central New York can offer and trails both high and low.

Cruise-In in style

Distance: Two miles. Cost: Free.

Some art is best viewed in the parking lot. Classic cars, muscle cars — specifically Fords. You don’t have to be a motorhead to appreciate the sense of power, luxury, style and even love that goes into the cars the CNY Mustang and All Ford Club shows at Cort Lanes Bowling Alley on Tompkins Street Extension in Cortlandville.

The cruise-ins feature music, food and door prizes, but it doesn’t cost anything just to look. Watch for their remaining shows this year: 5:30 p.m. today, July 19, Aug. 2, 16, 30, Sept. 6.

Grown-up scavenger hunts

Distance: From one-third mile to 16 miles. Cost: Free.

Think scavenger hunt. What prize can you find? Where is it hidden? When you do that for grown-ups, it’s called geocaching. Cortland County has a 20-stop geocaching tour that will take you from downtown Cortland to Willet.

Find a collection of historic snowplows, seriously, and a stop on the Underground Railroad. Each stop has a story.

You just have to know where to look. And here’s where you can start:

Must go past

Distance: 1 mile Cost: varies.

Cortland County has had a reverence for history, and money, since almost before it had history. In one of those quirks of a community’s backstory, that history features very large trucks, well water and ladies undergarments.

In fact, the three history museums in Cortland all either focus on or were established by the major moneymakers of their day: the 1890 House on Tompkins Street, the Suggett House Museum on Homer Avenue and the CNY Living History Center on Route 11 north.

Think of it as a rainy-day alternative to binge-watching Pokemon on Netflix.

How much is it? Admission is $8 to Suggett House, $8 and $5 for 1890 House and $10 and $5 for CNY Living History Center.