For the second week of June, we planned a Father & Son camping trip to one of my favorite places on the planet, pristine Forked Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. My son Ryan was the catalyst, and he put together a trip with my brother-in-law Chris and Chris’s son Jon. Jon and Ryan are cousins about the same age, and though we sometimes lived a couple of states apart, they spent plenty of time together all of their lives.
We reserved site 51 on the island in the middle of the lake, and upon arrival we found that the folks that reserved site 52 , (the other half of the island) had cancelled! We had the whole island to ourselves! It was our good fortune as we would discover, as site 52 is on the leeward side, and we had rain storms blowing by throughout our stay. Now and then I’d go to the west side, (site 51) and look up the lake and into the Adirondack High Peaks, and return to camp announcing “The island weather forecast for the next few hours”.
Rains came and went throughout our three night stay. We’d watch them as they blew up the lake, channeled by hills surrounding the water, the wind picking up speed, unencumbered, as it raced across the surface. Small whitecaps were seen to pick up, and rains would sweep gently in at an angle. Sometimes there’d be a brief but steady cloudburst, passing within minutes. At other times a dense mist would fill the air and float over the island, the boats, the tents and the campers. The rest of the campground was virtually empty, and when the mists would surround our little island it was as if we were all alone in the universe. Tranquility at its best.
Treated like a king, I was told I would need to do no cooking, as the young Epicureans had planned all the meals. There were eggs with hash browns for breakfast Tuesday, and pancakes on Wednesday. For dinner there was a fine stew, cooked all afternoon in the cast iron Dutch oven over the open fire, and complemented with fresh-baked biscuits! Wednesday night’s dinner consisted of tossed salad and fish tacos, made fresh from the day’s catch! Chris even remembered the S’mores!
Fishing was off a bit. Of course we were two weeks early for bass season (opens 3rd Saturday in June here), and the only other fish we saw were Crappies. (In case you don’t know, I’m not being crass, “Crappie” is actually the name of the species. In sophisticated company it’s pronounced “croppy”). Chris and Jon (from Florida and Massachusetts, respectively) ponied up for their out-of-state 3-day fishing licenses, but alas I don’t think they ever landed a fish. Not to worry, as father and son team Ryan and I landed about 2 pounds of fish. Plenty enough for fish tacos for four. Chef Ryan cut the fish into smaller pieces, and they were then batter-dipped and deep-fried in the cast iron over the fire. Somehow, I missed the photos of that, but I can still remember the incredible flavor!
Days were filled with motoring and paddling about, fishing, stoking the fire. By the third day of intermittent rains, we were making the hand gestures from The Karate Kid and saying “jacket on- jacket off”. Still, we fished through some rain and sat through some rain. Ryan says “It makes us bad-ass.” Nights were pretty cool, getting into the lower 40’s by Wednesday night.
We heard this weird sound during the day. Clearly a bird, but with an odd call. It sounded like an alarm clock going off, or someone imitating an alarm clock. Usually five short tones, the same flat note, like “ehn-ehn-ehn-ehn-ehn” if you can pronounce that. Sometimes this would be truncated to three notes, but almost always five. I started calling it “the alarm clock bird” and kept a keen eye out for it. (An avid birdwatcher and member of the Audubon Society, I have some bird-seeking chops, but could never lay eyes on this one.) I learned after the trip, reading an article in Adirondack Life Magazine that it was a Saw-whet Owl. So named because the sound resembled a whet stone applied to sharpening a saw. The article said in today’s nomenclature it might be called a backup-alarm bird!
Of course, much of camping, which is kinda work and kinda vacation, involves sitting around the fire. Sometimes it’s to dry out your socks. Other times it’s to stand in the acrid smoke in order to spite the mosquitoes.
Sometimes it’s because you’re here in this most beautiful and peaceful place, surrounded by nature and some of your closest people. Because the crackle of the fire between easy conversations is the soundtrack of relaxation. Because the sun falling below the horizon casts indescribable hues of gold and pink, contrasted against an aquamarine sky studded with diamond points of evening stars.
As in years past, I find it impossible to cram all of the activity and beauty into a single post. In fact, it’s difficult to properly describe the tranquility of life on an island. Like the theme to the TV show Gilligan’s Island, “No phone, no lights, no motorcars. Not a single luxury.”
Okay, so fresh coffee may be a luxury the castaways didn’t have.
And a down sleeping bag.
More next time. Take care, and keep in touch.