Tag Archives: Adirondack Mountains

Camp Journal, Part 1

 

Perfect Storms

Chairs Await

I understand much of the modern science of meteorology. Warm and cold fronts, high and low atmospheric pressures, occluded fronts, jet streams, humidity, moisture in the clouds. One can fathom a pretty good guess with the data from weather radar, computer modeling, and good, old-fashioned experience and instinct. Still, even a meteorologist will admit, foretelling the weather is essentially an informed speculation.
So the weather forecast for our annual trip to the Adirondack High Peaks region and the remote Forked Lake Wilderness called for showers and passing thunderstorms. 25% guess for Friday, 85% educated good guess for Saturday, and back to 25% Sunday. “Looks like we might see our first washout.” Joe texted me. My regular camping companion for this past decade, he followed Sparky’s lead (our other 10-year die hard compatriot), who had hinted at calling it off already on Thursday. It would be the first break in the ten-year tradition. “Bah!” I replied to Joe. “I’m heading north. We’ll see what it looks like when we get up there. Every day is part of the story!”
Friday morning, after we finally got Max awake, he and another grandson, Kacey, climbed in the Jimmy and hauled our boat, the AquaMarie, to her favorite destination. Skies were cloudy and overcast, and temperatures were high, in the 80’s. Perfect brewing weather for thunderstorms. We were packing light and moving at a quick but unhurried pace. We drove past the scenic outlook, where we can see the western edge of the Green Mountains in Vermont, and the north end of The Berkshires. We drove past the hamlet of Sabael. These are two places I like to pause and look and linger.
We pulled into the Indian Lake One-Stop for our traditional cold cut sandwiches. Max’s favorite is the liverwurst sub, not something offered at a lot of places. I do turkey on wheat, and I don’t know if it’s superior bread and cold cuts or the atmosphere and preferred company, but I find it always to be the best turkey sandwich of my year. We ate on the road, continuing our northward trek and watching skies that looked potentially stormy, but dropped no rain on us. Past Lake Durant, past Mason Lake, past Galusha’s Cottages and Lake Algonquin, and the Northville-Lake Placid Trail signs.
After two hours’ travel, I drove past Deerland Road, where three miles hence resided the gravel road, which 2.8 miles later brings us to the DEC Campground at Forked Lake. I turned left at Hoss’s Corner Store, and showed the boys Long Lake, (the lake, not the village) and the place where Ryan and I boarded a float plane for a great ride, much of it right over our beloved campground. Then we made straightaway for the boat launch, and the AquaMarie slid into the cool, clear water, the lake obviously low, with a few rocks poking up where normally they are hidden. We could see the high water mark, and the lake was down by perhaps four inches or so. In a shallow lake filled with boulders, this can mean the difference between boating over rocks or hitting them.
Then we came to our first, and frankly easiest, hitch in our plans. We checked in at the ranger station and asked for two bags of firewood, to which the ranger replied “No wood this year. Didn’t have time to get it.” The campsites in the state had only opened July first, and hadn’t time to put everything in place. “Have to go to Stewart’s for wood.” he said. So back in the truck and up the 2.8 mile gravel road and the three miles of paved road and three more miles back to the hamlet of Long Lake. Passing the Stewart’s and Hoss’s, I again continued down the “main drag” by the beach, where the water taxi was homed and the Adirondack Hotel stood three stories high, facing north. Here we stopped at Mountain Born, and picked up four bags of firewood after nosing around the campy-touristy store. Little did we know that finding this hitherto unexplored trading post would be our salvation from another hitch we would encounter Saturday.
Camp stores are a mesmerizing conglomeration of goods, and seem to be a hybrid of tourist trap, camp store, marina, hardware store, grocery and fishing tackle supply. There are window stickers and T-shirts and sweatshirts for the tourists. Then there is camping supply; stove gas and fire starters, plastic flatware and plastic ponchos and S’mores sticks. Part of the store is a mini-marina; spark plugs for your boat motor, 2-stroke oil, paddles, life jackets, bulbs for your running lights, ropes for anchor lines. At the other end of this aisle is the beach store; sunscreen and beach umbrellas, floaties, checkered plastic tablecloths, disposable hibachis and folding chairs. Next to plastic pails and sand shovels and the occasional snorkel we find the automotive section; motor oil, fix-a-flat, air fresheners and sun shades. In the midst of this will be a miniature fishing tackle department, with poles and fishing line, lures, hooks, snap swivels, and a fish scaler. Then the souvenir section, with those little cedar boxes declaring “World’s Best Mom” or “Lake Life”. There are soaps made from pine needles and candies made from maple syrup and boxes of Paine’s Of Maine balsam incense.
We grabbed up our firewood and hightailed it back to the boat launch, boarded the AquaMarie, and motored out onto the lake, up the east shore to sites 31 and 32, our home for these three days. Clouds came and went, as did the sunshine, and we awaited Joe’s arrival at site 33. We pitched camp in short order, and were ready for some fishing. We headed for “the lily pads”, which actually describes a half dozen places around the lake with several inlets. This spot, however, has two parallel channels that wend their way through half a mile of bog before emptying into the pristine lake at one of our top “hot spots”. From here, Max would land the first of many bass over the weekend. One at seventeen inches, and another at sixteen. Kacey and I would soon join the ranks of successful fishers, and we were well on our way to another perfect day at camp.
As we caught and released quite a few fish, listened to the loons and floated on our peaceful lake, I began a running gag that would punctuate our weekend. With a sarcastic tone and a disgruntled moan, I’d say “This is awful. I should have stayed home.” The other running gag was the “waiting for Joe”. The last I heard from him before leaving my cell phone in the truck was “See you up there.” I fully expected him to show up sometime Friday. I’d see a boat as we were fishing and ask “Is that Joe?”
“Want to troll the south shore down to the lily pads?” Max asked, referring to yet another spot with the same moniker. I agreed, of course. Our road trip to Paradise, added trip to town, pitching camp and catching fish had burned up most of our day. The sun told me we had perhaps two hours before sunset. “Let’s head for the inlet (the “lily pads”) first,” I commanded as Captain of the AquaMarie, “then we’ll troll our way back so we’ll be getting closer to camp as it gets dark.”
We chugged slowly up the inlet as the water lilies fouled our prop and wrapped around it. We shut off the engine and dropped anchor at the spot that produced awesome fishing last year. I saw a movement across the forty-foot-wide channel, and from a pine tree not 100 feet away, a bald eagle leaped into the air, glided southbound down the channel, made two flaps of its nine foot wingspan, and disappeared behind the trees. We marveled at the sight.
“Well,” I summarized, “we drove here, pitched camp, caught fish, heard the loons, and now we’ve seen a bald eagle. Now we just need to eat some fish and sleep in a tent and we’ll have checked all the boxes for a perfect trip to camp.”

Forked Lake Sunset

The action was hot, so we stayed at the Eagle’s Inlet. We watched the sunset from the boat, watched the water calm to glass. Viewed the colorful sky as civil twilight progressed to nautical twilight, often declaring “I should have stayed home.”
Finally, and I don’t recall exactly why, we weighed anchor, lit the running lights, and got underway for our mile-or-so trip back to camp. Perhaps darkness or hunger were our incentives, and we cannot discount plain old tiredness. The air was perfect, and we motored our way up the center channel as twilight faded into darkness. I throttled back, left the tiller, let her plod along her course toward the little light hanging from a tree that marked our home. I stood and walked amidship, between my two boys so I could be heard above the hum of the motor and the churning water.
“I’m so glad we did this. I’m always wanting to be out on the lake at night, cruising or fishing under the running lights. We have fulfilled my dream.” After a moment’s pause I put on a scowl. “This is awful. I should have stayed home.”
“Yeah.” the grandsons nodded in mock agreement.

We cooked more burgers over the fire. Kacey took to the hammock, to sleep out in the piney forest air. I prepared a bed for him in my tent, in the event he might need to escape rainfall. The occasional splash of a fish, a light breeze in the eaves of the hemlocks, and calls of the loons were our lullaby.

Ah, another perfect day.

Perfect Day #3

Bow Boots

Journal entry 6/14/17

Perfect Day #3

Wednesday is Fish Taco Day in camp. Today, you fish for your supper.

Went up the northeast inlet quite a ways, and grounded the AquaMarie on weedy clumps of sediment in the shallows. Lifted the outboard and revved it a bit, and thankfully we were able to pull her free from the grounding. Twice! The motor ran poorly off and on, fouling one cylinder occasionally. 

Ryan pulled the first fish, a 14″ rock bass, which we placed in the live well. “One fish each and one for the pot will be plenty” I said, observing our Forked Lake Rule. We went fishless for a couple of hours as we worked the north shore just off the main channel, fished the holes between islands. By 2 o’clock, we still had just one fish. “Well,” Ryan says, “if we don’t have more fish by three o’clock, we might as well throw this one back.”

We decided we would force ourselves to eat the dehydrated “survivor” foods if we failed to catch fish. Oh ye of little Lake faith. About then I hit a nice rock bass, about 15″, and I assured Ryan it would be enough to make fish tacos for two. “I wouldn’t mind having a third fish, just to be sure.” came Ryan’s reply, as we returned to camp to prep for dinner.

I walked to the south point of our island and hammered it, fishing alongside a pair of loons. A couple nibbles I thought were short (there were Bluegills), then whack, and BANG! Fish on! Set the hook and landed another 15-incher. I walked back to the table where Ryan was filleting the fish. “Did you order a delivery?” I asked, holding up the rock bass. “Sweet!” was his reply, “You come through again!”

Ryan whipped up a beer batter and fried small pieces of the day’s catch. Flour tortillas, avocado, limes and a little sauce, and a delicious Fish Taco Shore Dinner was had. “Well, that was a great dinner.” Ryan summed up, “Eating fish my dad caught for me!”

My battery had died on my camera, and I decided to live the last day actually seeing everything. From time to time I would gaze at the beautiful vista or some tiny subject and would declare “I wish I had a camera so I wouldn’t actually have to look at this with just my eyes.”

It cooled off a bit, the last evening in camp, and we stretched out the hours around the fire pit. We laughed so much, we both complained our faces were hurting. We headed for the tent reluctantly, and laid down our heads, listening to the call of loons.

When I awoke in the midst of the night and walked down to the water, I looked north and there was an entire cloud, just sitting on the lake. It was probably 100-150 feet tall, as wide as that part of the lake, and it just sat there. So curious. Not much of fog about, and not a cloud in the sky.

The sky had, indeed, fallen.

Good thing Chicken Little is not here. 

Third Eye

As the journal stated, my camera battery ran out Tuesday evening. I had made no provision for a spare. I intended to make a run back to civilization and the Fun Bus, and charge the battery, but this didn’t happen.

Whenever I am out in the world, and I mean always, the camera is part of me. Practically a body extension, a bionic eye. I love to document our lives, events, our growing family. I love the art of photography, compelled to capture mood, light, moments in abstract. And, of course, I love to shoot our outdoor adventures in all their aspects.

I missed my niece’s wedding and reception, even though I was there for all of it. I was the official wedding videographer, and was no hack. We got every second from early morning hair and makeup to the mother-of-the-bride after the reception, complete with B-roll. Of course, I spent the day inside a three-quarter inch viewfinder, and felt the next day as if I wasn’t even there.

This was not my only lesson on the subject, and so I embraced the idea of having a good excuse to leave the camera in the bag.

We traveled quite a ways up the northeast inlet, winding our way slowly up the channels, often shallow enough for the prop to churn up the fine sediment. As we twisted and wended our way back out, she ran aground on a clump of weedy soil deposit. I tried reverse, but the bottom fin of the outboard dug in and refused to let her back. I lifted the motor halfway and powered on in forward, and she rooster-tailed her way over the impasse. For a moment, I thought we’d have to jump into the muck and push her out, but again, the little outboard saw us through.

We saw a whitetail deer on the west side channel, a rare sighting at the lake. Backed up to hundreds of thousands of acres of Adirondack wilderness, the wildlife has plenty of places to go without approaching areas of human activity. Of course the black bears follow their noses. The loons, too, will tolerate our encroachments on their lake, share their fish. To date, at this lake I’d seen just one bald eagle, practically the icon of wild places. Oddly enough, I’ve seen more bald eagles around my home town, and even in the big city along the mighty Hudson River.

Throughout the day I’d make tongue-in-cheek comments about not having a camera, being forced to see things with my eyes. My only regret was I was unable to document the preparation and presentation of the Fabulous Famous Fish Tacos of Forked Lake. Luckily, Ryan had enough reserve charge on his phone to get a snapshot for me.

Fabulous Fish Tacos

Last evening in camp is always dichotomous. There’s a whisper in the back of your mind, calling you home. Yet there is a quiet gentle voice of this place compelling us to linger longer. The timeless days pass quickly, and before we know they are drawing to a close. Last day in camp is my least favorite. Striking the tents is undeniable testimony that this dream must end.

This particular evening I saw the whole sunset, the rose-tinted wisps of clouds flying above me. This evening I saw the laugh lines in my son’s face, the warm fluttering glow of the campfire in his blue eyes. At the twilight of this day, I saw the aquamarine sky light up with the evening star, the delicate diamonds of giants, shining brightly across the incomprehensible distance. This evening I smelled the smoke of camp, the humus of pine and hemlock, the very water of the lake as it hung suspended in the cool night air. I tasted the cold and bitter coffee, scented of wood fire, ashes floating on its surface. I listened intently to the creatures of the night, the owl’s “who cooks for you?”, the maniacal laughter of loons swimming in the dark. I felt the wet breeze on my face, the chilly dew setting on mossy rocks, the warming embrace of favorite company.

“The best pictures I have are right here”, I say, tapping my temple with an index finger.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

 

 

A Perfect Day, Again

Serene Morning

Journal Entry 6/13/17 – A perfect day, again.

After missing out the first day, Ryan scores a respectable Bass down past the fork and to the north (13″). One 13-incher for me, maybe a Crappie .Boat motor running poorly, fouling plugs, but didn’t leave us stranded. 

A pancakes & bacon breakfast, tuna salad on rye for lunch and Famous Deconstructed Pot Roast Dinner with fresh-baked corn bread. A brief shower in the afternoon, but otherwise partly cloudy with periods of full sun. Temps in the high 70’s. Ryan got a sunburn.

Mike and Joyce and Ann and Eric struck camp a day early, and we now have the island to ourselves. Resident friends included the robin, a pair of grackles, probably a nesting pair, and a couple of sparrows that I may mistake for pine siskin.

I awoke somewhere in the wee hours and stepped out of my tent. The night air was completely still. The three-quarters waxing moon hung high to the south, illuminating the fog with its orange glow. Venus stood thirty degrees above the horizon due east, and its doppleganger was reflected in the glass-smooth waters of our own personal lake. Except for the father-and-son with their own island next door, we have the entire campground to ourselves.

Ryan retired early, and I sat up for a long while, listening to loons playfully echoing one another. I slept the fitful sleep of the dreamer, exhausted by his adventure.

I awoke fairly early. Some awareness of different surroundings, probably. Things scurrying on the forest floor beside my tent, birds chirping ten feet away. Also, I’m as excited to be at camp now as I was at ten years old, and like to be up early. The world is different at sunrise. Before sunrise. Before the world awakens. It’s very, very quiet (except for birdsong), and all the world feels closer, more intimate. It is the best time to feel a personal connection with the world.

This morning, however, I heard the gentle sounds of a light rain. Barely more than a drizzle. As if the rain was waning and was dripping from the trees. I laid in bed (well, “in sleeping bag”) a bit longer, waiting for the rain to stop. I was awake, and as I listened to the sound it seemed oddly directional. I leaned over toward Ryan’s side of the tent, and found his iPhone in the net bag, set to sleep machine mode. All that water noise was Ryan’s phone!

I flew out of bed and ran from the tent with camera in hand to capture that golden hour.

Ryan whipped up a bacon and pancakes breakfast with maple syrup. Real maple syrup, We live in maple syrup country, after all, and in “March Journal, March 2016”, there’s a whole bit about Max’s Sugar Shack, tapping trees and boiling sap in the Cabana.

After breakfast, we hit the water. Forked Lake has a fork in it, as the name implies, and at the confluence of the two forks is the deepest part of the lake, with about forty feet of water. This is the deep hole where the Landlocked Salmon hide, a quarry we seek each year. Joe caught one about three years ago, and we haven’t seen one since. We motored past the fork and to the north, headed for a small cove Ryan had had luck at before. Sure enough, before long he pulled a thirteen-inch bass from the clear water. Having gone fishless Monday, it was good to “break that spell”.

I hadn’t done a tune-up on the boat motor, and the AquaMarie putted along more like The African Queen, slowly wending her way down the lake, then along the north shore. We hit a few spots and motored around for a few hours, then made our way back to camp for lunch.

We had quite a crowd of locals, at times. Seems there was some kind of Dragonfly Rally. I suppose it was mating season or maybe they were just racing, but they were everywhere, along with Swallowtail butterflies (or maybe Admirals). Typical of my behavior, I personified them all and began speaking to them regularly. Usually, we’d be out on the boat and see one or the other, and I’d scold them. “You’re not supposed to be out here in the middle of the lake. You’re going to get eaten! Get back to camp, now.”

Fishing was off a bit today, and we returned again to camp after a nearly-fishless afternoon session. Ryan began to prepare his “Deconstructed Pot Roast Dinner”. He likes pot roast, but not in slices, so he cooked up the meat then cut and shredded it like chili or stew beef. He proceeded to cook the rest of Pot Roast Dinner; potatoes and carrots. All cooked in cast iron over an open fire, the final touch was baking fresh corn bread (declared as my favorite camp food) in the cast iron skillet. We hovered over this pan like quilting-bee ladies on a newborn baby. We made great fun over exaggerating Ryan’s silly name, and soon it became “Mechanically Deconstructed Rehydrated one-pot Pot Roast Meal”. No matter what you called it, it was the best camp dinner since yesterday’s.

With a delicious dinner in our bellies, tired bodies from a hard day’s camping, and soaring spirits buoyed by the most beautiful place we know, we settled in for evening in camp. There is no end to the topics that are discussed around the fire. We laughed long into the night, now and then hearing a loon call, or the splash of a fish surfacing for a snack. By day three, we both remarked at how our faces hurt, our cheek muscles strained from an excessive amount of laughter in a short period of time.

Ryan’s my son, but calls me his best friend in the world. In a way, I wish for him that he had a compatriot of his own age, raising babies, remodeling houses, drinking heartily. Yet again, I must admit that there is hardly a greater compliment, a greater satisfaction, a greater honor, than to be best friend to your own child. The feeling is mutual.

So another sun sets on camp, and we while away the hours around the fire pit until Ryan retires first. As the journal entry states, I lingered long over the fire, watching and listening to my lake. All was still when suddenly I heard, perhaps a quarter-mile distant, a great thunderous crash, deep in the night. I realized I had just heard a gargantuan tree falling in the woods, a hundred-year-old hemlock probably, standing fifty or sixty feet tall before today. I felt a little thrill thinking I am the only person in the world to bear witness to this event.

I retired to the tent, well-worn from a day of adventure.

I vowed not to be fooled by the sleep machine tomorrow.

Perfect Day #3, next time on Life In Engleville.

 

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

Back To The Island

Perfect day #1: Five Star Recipe

1) Drive into beautiful mountains and wilderness with one of your favorite people.

2)Fly in a float plane over an island.

3)Boat to the island and pitch camp.

4)Catch a sweet bass.

5)Have a five-star chicken dinner under the pine boughs.

“Our” Island

In the second week of June, my son Ryan and I returned to Forked Lake in the beautiful and wild Adirondack Mountains of New York State for four days of father & son time.

To kick it off, Ryan surprised me by continuing past Forked Lake to Long Lake, where he’d arranged a float plane ride! The photo above was shot from the single-engine Cessna our pilot Bob was flying, as he overflew the island on which we camp. Bob was kind enough to accept our request to see our island from the air, and flew a couple of passes over Forked Lake.

After taking off and landing on the water, we returned to dry ground long enough to drive the ten minutes to Forked Lake. We launched the AquaMarie, and motored to our island campsite.

We pitched the tents, organized our gear, stacked the firewood, and headed right out for some fishing. I pulled two lovely 18-inch bass out of the lake and released them. No fish for Ryan.

Meet the neighbors at site 51: Mike and Joyce and Ann and Eric. They’ve come to the lake for several decades. Assaulted by black flies, they would leave the next day, leaving us “our” island all to ourselves.

Chef Ryan prepared the dinner for day 1, cooked on cast iron over an open fire. First, sauté some freshly sliced zucchini, sear the chicken, add garlic and onion. Deglaze the pan for a sauce, and top with grape tomatoes and chopped parsley. Roughing it does not have to be uncivilized.

Then watch the full moon rise over a pristine lake you have practically to yourselves. Fish from a boat at the dock under the moon. 

Satisfied with our meal, we sat by a good fire and watched the moon rise before us. The sound of the loons calling to one another just a few hundred yards away added the perfect touch. I played with my camera, trying to photograph the brilliant starfield overhead, the rising moon, and its reflection on the glass-smooth water.

We lingered long at the fire, though I couldn’t tell you the time. Clocks are not allowed on the island. We toddled off to our tents, sleeping the sleep of the work-weary, surrounded by the lullaby of nature.

Resting up for another perfect day. Next time at Life In Engleville.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz