The Old Leather Man: controversy over digging up a legend

Leather Man, Leatherman, Old Leather Man, The Old Leather ManInvestigators in Connecticut are planning to uncover a local legend, but they’re facing a backlash of public sentiment.

An archaeological team will open the grave of The Old Leather Man, a mysterious wanderer who from 1883 to 1889 walked a 365 mile loop from the lower Hudson River Valley into Connecticut and back. It took him 34 days to make the journey and he was so punctual that well-wishers used to to have meals ready for him when he showed up. He spoke French but little English, slept only in caves and rock shelters, and never revealed information about himself. He got his name from his homemade, 60 lb. suit of leather.

His grave in Ossining’s Sparta Cemetery brings a regular flow of the curious, but local officials are afraid it’s too close to the street and is a safety hazard. They plan to dig up The Old Leather Man and move him to a different part of the cemetery. They also want to take a DNA sample. Legend claims he was a heartbroken Frenchman named Jules Bourglay, but Leather Man biographer Dan W. DeLuca says this is an invention of a newspaper of the time.

The DNA might prove a clue to who he really was and that’s where the controversy starts. History teacher Don Johnson has set up a website called Leave the Leatherman Alone, saying that his privacy should be respected. Judging from all the comments on his site, he seems to have a fair amount of backing.

As a former archaeologist I love unraveling a good mystery but I have to agree with Mr. Johnson on this one. The Old Leather Man obviously wanted his identity to remain unknown, and just because he was a homeless man why should his wishes be ignored? He never committed any crime besides vagrancy, he died of natural causes, and there are no known inheritance issues, so what’s the need?

As a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley, I loved the mysteries of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states–the strange rock constructions, the Revolutionary War ghosts, Mystery Hill, and, of course, The Old Leather Man. Most of this is the stuff of imagination, but The Old Leather Man was real, living person.

And because of that, we should let his mystery remain buried.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Goby.com names top New England ski resorts to brave the winter storm warnings

ski resort

There’s another massive snowstorm heading up the east coast and making its way to Boston, Providence, Nashua and beyond. As the storms get worse, the New Englanders get daring. What better excuse to brave the slopes than with a fresh few feet of snow at a favorite ski resort?

Goby.com, a travel and events search engine, pulled together a list of the top ski resorts in New England. Our advice: Instead of sticking around the airport hoping for a flight out of the winter wonderland, bundle up and head to one of these hideaways. There’s snow, there’s a fire, there’s a bar, and there’s a lot of skiing, sledding and snowboarding to be found.

  1. Nashoba Valley: Cruise the slopes of Nashoba Valley’s Snow Tubing Park seven days and seven nights.
  2. Acadia National Park: Acadia offers hiking trails up Cadillac Mountain, a 44-mile system of carriage roads (open to hikers, bicycles, and horses), naturalist programs, and plenty of cross-country skiing.
  3. Blue Hills Ski Area: Blue Hills Ski Area is conveniently located in Canton, MA, making it the closest ski area to the Boston Metro Area.
  4. Wachusett Mountain: Wachusett is the highest mountain in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut River and stands some 2,006 feet above sea level at its peak.
  5. Bousquet’s: A family-friendly area offering skiing, bording and snow tubing at affordable rates, including a bed and breakfast option.
  6. Butternut Ski Area: One of New England’s most beloved ski resorts, Butternut has slopes for all levels and plenty of children’s activities.
  7. ski resortCatamount: The mountain offers 1,000 feet of vertical descent and the most diverse terrain mix in the Berkshires.
  8. Blandford Ski Area: Owned and operated by the Springfield Ski Club, and open to the public, Blandford has 22 trails, half pipe, terrain park, and four lifts.
  9. Loon Mountain: The ultimate winter getaway, including 35 km cross-country trails, fabulous slopes, snowshoeing, ice skating along with night and day snowtubing.
  10. Wildcat Mountain Ski Area: You’ll have impressive view of Mount Washington from the massive 4,000 foot plus summit on Wildcat Mountain.
  11. Tenney Mountain: The mountain has joined forces with Eastern Mountain Sports to offer family-friendly and children-friendly winter and ski activities.
  12. Cranmore Mountain Resort: The popular ski resort has 11 lifts, including a high speed detachable quad and 200 acres of skiable mountain. It is practically at the center of North Conway, and 10 minutes from Storyland.
  13. Okemo Mountain Resort: Okemo is home to a 500 foot long superpipe, six action-packed terrain parks, and award winning children’s programs. The nearby Okemo Valley Nordic Center offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and a Winter Indoor Golf Academy Center.
  14. Stowe Mountain Resort: The famous mountain resort is the perfect place for nordic, cross-country and back-country skiers.
  15. Killington Mountain Resort: Located in central Vermont, the resort stretches across seven mountain areas, including Pico Mountain, and features access to 191 trails and 30 lifts.

Have a favorite? Let us know where you love to ski in New England.

A Dozen Ways to Save in New England

Looking to make your travel bucks go a bit further this summer? Well, there are a dozen ways you can do it in New England. Twelve properties in the New England Inns & Resorts Association are kicking in extra nights, meal vouchers upgrades and comp’ed rounds of golf to get you under their roofs for a while. Here are three to whet your appetite

1. Free Golf at Crowne Plaza Cromwell
Head up to Cromwell, Connecticut and a two-night stay at the Crowne Plaza will get you a free 18-hole round of golf at Lyman Orchards Golf Course. Rates start at $131 a night, and you have to book at least seven days in advance.

2. Free night mid-week at The Wildflower Inn
From September 6, 2010 through October 29, 2010, you get a free fourth night when you book three at The Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vermont. Take in the foliage, and breathe in air that’s just starting to become crisp – while sipping hot cider and nibbling on Vermont Cabot cheese. Rates start at $390 per couple for four nights (mid-week only).

3. Free for kids at Lake Morey Resort
Visit Lake Morey in Fairley, Vermont, and children under 12 can stay free (in a room with an adult), eat free and take full advantage of the supervised children’s program. It’s only available mid-week, now through August 22, 2010.

Escape the heat at Wentworth by the Sea

On an oppressive day like today (which for me is any day over 80 degrees), New Hampshire starts to sound incredibly attractive. It’s a bit cooler than New York – to the point where you can actually feel it. Throw in an upscale dining experience, and that’s all the reason you need for a weekend getaway!

Head up to the Wentworth by the Sea in New Hampshire to escape the baking heat of the city, and while you’re at it, munch on the creations of Daniel Dumont, the Wentworth Dining Room’s Executive Chef. With the hotel’s “Coastal Dining Package,” you’ll pick up dinner for two in Dumont’s domain, complimentary turndown service and late checkout. If there’s an upgrade available, it’s yours. The rate’s $349 a night, and you’ll need online promo code D18 to book it.

Live free or die? Well, live free or melt, perhaps. Get up to New Hampshire to give those sweat glands a break.

Four New England family packages for summer

The school year is coming to an end, and summer vacation plans are starting to pop up. With heat poised to sweep the nation, the cool New England air (at least relatively cool) makes it an attractive destination. There are plenty of deals out there at the region’s inns and resorts, so you’ll have plenty of options at your disposal.

1. New England Aquarium Family Package
Do you need a reason to stay at Boston‘s Fairmont Copley Plaza? It’s a great property right in the Back Bay, and parents who love martinis will want to run downstairs to the Oak Bar for a drink. In addition to the fantastic accommodations, you’ll pick up four tickets to the New England Aquarium (two adults and two kids). Prices start at $239 a night (not bad at all for this property) and are good through the end of the year.

2. Family Fun Package
Get away to Kennebunkport, Maine for four nights (with a water-view room) at the Nonantum Resort’s Carriage Inn. The package includes a full breakfast every day, dinner one night in the 95 Ocean restaurant, a poolside lunch one day and an overflowing Nonantum beach bag. You’ll also score tickets for the Intown Trolley, a scenic boat ride, bottled water, an in-room welcome basket, Kennebunk Beach Pass and resort coupons. Rates start at $1,249 for a family of three, with each additional adult costing $359 and each extra kid $100. The deal is available Sunday through Thursday from June 20 to September 2, 2010.3. StoryLand All-Inclusive Family Vacation
Visit with a bit of help from the Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club in Jackson, New Hampshire. This package includes a two-night stay, breakfast and dinner daily and a free nine-hole round of golf. You’ll also get tickets to StoryLand for every family member for one day. Rates start at $509 and are available from June 25 through October 10, 2010.

4. Catch Me if You Can
Visit Catamount Adventure Park, a new ropes and zipline canopy tour, and stay at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. To help you get through the experience, you’ll receive a backpack with bottled water and trail mix for two upon arrival – and breakfast the following day. Rates start at $405, available from May 31 through September 16, 2010.