As mentioned in last week's post, some of my earliest memories are of heading west into the Mohawk Valley to spend the weekend at Grandma Minnie's. I still make regular trips into the valley, although I no longer sit on my aunt's lap as she drives along the highway, as I did back in the days before seat belts and car seats.
But the highway still runs along the Mohawk River, and I know that we are getting close to Minnie's village when we pass "The Noses" along the New York State Thruway. Little Nose and Big Nose are two humpy hills on either side of the river that seem to form a gateway to the Mohawk Valley.
I always had trouble remembering which one was "Big" and which was "Little," since both rocky hills appear to be about the same size from the highway. But the trick is to remember that Big Nose is on your right as you head west along the river.
A diorama in the New York State Museum in downtown Albany depicts the same landscape around the time Minnie's earliest Dutch ancestor arrived in the valley. Iroquois women cultivated corn, beans, and squash near here several centuries ago.
On a recent drive west past the Noses, I saw a bald eagle perched in a tree along the river near Canajoharie, a present-day town that takes its name from the original Mohawk village that stood nearby. It gave my heart a lift to know that eagles have returned to this area, after having been wiped out here decades ago.