Tag Archives: Forked Lake

Camp Journal, Part 4

 

Making Legends

Camp Morning

My body clock wakes me between 5:30 and 6:00, so that’s probably about the time it was when I crawled from my tent out into the warm and hazy July Sunday. We still have a long way to go, I think as I brew the coffee and heat water for oatmeal. I won’t be satisfied the boat motor repair will be straightforward until it’s actually done. The prop came off easily, and we had two sizes of propeller shear pins available, so this should be a slam dunk. Okay, don’t get over-confident.
While the boys slept in after a weekend full of action and a march through a monsoon, I headed down to the AquaMarie for the repair. I was glad to see Max had remembered to throw back the single bass from the live well. The breakdown and subsequent trip to town erased all hopes of Saturday Fish-Fry in camp, so this fish won a reprieve. The rain was so heavy the night before that it filled the boat almost halfway. A foot deep or more at the transom, the battery case was submerged, my tackle box afloat.
I grabbed the bilge pump, and returned water to the lake for a few minutes before feeling an urgency to get to the motor fix. The shear pin was just a tad long, and it jammed as I put the propeller on. I tried to pound down the ends with the hammer head of the camp hatchet. It needed to be just a sixteenth of an inch shorter for the prop to slip on over it. I couldn’t get the prop to seat all the way on the shaft, and determined the shear pin was still long, and snugging the ends of its channel within the assembly. Using the hatchet hammer again, I gently tapped the prop on over the tight shear pin until it seated enough to get the cotter pin back into the prop bell. “The use of the hatchet in small engine repair.” I narrated to myself.
The thing I always dread, which is yet to happen, would be striking camp in the pouring rain. Fortunately, there were but a few passing sprinkles this morning as the boys rose and breakfasted. We lingered a little, retold some early stories of the trip. Finally, the task of rolling up our beds and collapsing the tents loomed, and we began to pack the boat for travel. We loaded up, tied the kayak to the stern line as it hauled our cooler. We pulled out from site 34 with one long, last look at our temporary forest home.
“Fingers crossed.” I said as I started the motor and let it warm up. As expected, we put her in gear and she motored off, and headed for the channel marker buoys that lead to the boat launch.

Motoring

For a Sunday morning in mid-July, there were few people at the launch. Normally there’s a queue waiting to get to the water’s edge. Rental canoes are emptied and returned to the racks. Kayaks are lifted to rooftops, and the occasional boat trailer would back in to retrieve a vessel. Now the “beach” was wide open, save two other campers.
Up to the lot to fetch the Jimmy, (aka The Black Pearl), over one lot to hook up her boat trailer, then down to the water. The routine process of trailering the boat was made easier with two young men to assist, and we pulled our beautiful blue fiberglass baby from her favorite lake.
There’s an old adage that says things happen in threes. I hold no stock in superstitions, but as luck would have it…
Onto the beach crawls the trailer, the right tire torn and flat as the proverbial pancake.
“Ock!” came the Gaelic interjection.
I had a spare. Two in fact. Over the years I’ve owned the AquaMarie, I’ve steadily upgraded and replaced parts. New bow and stern lights, reworked wiring. About five horns ’cause for some reason they always stop working after two years. New bunks on the trailer, new LED trailer lights that don’t need three bulbs replaced every year. Along with a stern-mounted American flag and a new winch, I also ordered a pair of tires on brand new white rims.
Now, the boat came from Florida originally, and I’ve owned it a decade or so without ever seeing the lug bolts removed. These are the five bolts per wheel that hold them onto the hub. For the past two years I’ve gone out and sprayed them with rust-busting products, anticipating the wheels that are routinely submerged would not come off easily. I had planned to take the trailer to “The Tire Store” in Canajoharie, where the guys armed with air-driven impact wrenches, torches, and other tools of the trade could “persuade” stubborn lug nuts or bolts to come off. So for the past couple of years, two shiny new, 5-bolt trailer tires have taken a great round-trip joyride into the Adirondacks. It must be like a dream life for a tire; never exposed to sunlight or that nasty pavement, never having to hold up a thousand-pound load.
I’m anxious that the rusty old lugs will not be moved. We grab the lug wrench from the Jimmy, and of course, it’s too small. Well, it’s Sunday, camp is packed up (though much of it is in the boat), we’re on dry land, and the weather was pretty mild. Another perfect storm.
“Maybe I’ll need to find out if Roadside Assistance will change a trailer tire.” I addressed the boys, “Meanwhile, let’s head to town to see if we can find a 3/4″ socket to fit.”

The Jimmy and AquaMarie at the Mohawk River, 2019

We pile into the Jimmy again, and wind our way up the gravel road, up Deerland Road, and three miles up the state highway, straight to Hoss’s. Nothing like tools at all, so on to Mountain Born. Here, down one of the alleys, we find wrenches and sockets. No 3/4″ socket or ratchet drive or lug wrench. “Well, I guess we’re going to get to see Tupper Lake after all!” I called to my mates, and we headed north out of town.
It was a beautiful day for a ride, and this is some of the most scenic country you’ll ever see. We got to Tupper Lake and drove through the town, looking alternately at the lake and boats, then looking for the Aubuchon Hardware store. On Saturday, we noticed the water lilies had bloomed overnight. Places where we fished green pads on Friday sported white flowers. At Tupper Lake, we saw a lot of water lilies, and were enchanted by their colors; red, white, pink and yellow.
We found the hardware store and walked about to find some tools. I had measured the bolt with my fishing de-liar, and was certain it was three-quarters of an inch. I bought a 3/8″ ratchet drive to add to the four or five I already have back home. I picked up a (very expensive) deep well 3/4″ socket. We looked further for a “breaker bar”, solid chrome steel to spin your socket without grinding the gears of the ratchet drive. We came across the automotive department, and found a 4-way lug wrench. There was no 3/4″ on it, but there was a 13/16″, so we’ll take this along for insurance, along with a can of WD-40 penetrating oil. Sixty dollars later, we were heading south again to rescue our abandoned boat.

Scenic Adirondacks

And so this “perfect storm” engulfed us. Like the firewood purchased from Mountain Born Friday, and then the find-of-the-day shear pin there again on Saturday. We’d had a great ride on a wide open Sunday in beautiful summer weather, in one of the prettiest places I know of, and now were equipped (hopefully) for the tire change.
“I suppose I could leave her here and come back tomorrow if I had to.” I reasoned as we pulled out the jack and Max went to the wheel. The 3/4″ socket didn’t fit. My “surely 3/4″ bolt head was actually a standard 13/16”, which was one of the legs on the 4-way lug wrench. Without hesitation, Max quickly loosened all five bolts. “Pretty easy once they started.” he said, “The threads aren’t rusted at all.”
We listed the “what-ifs”, and again counted our luck. This didn’t happen on the way up here. On one of those long, desolate stretches of State Highway 10, where you see nothing for miles. No houses, no villages, no power lines, no stores. Nor did it happen on our way home, when the trailer and boat (loaded with gear) would need to be left on the side of the highway as we went in search of a lug wrench. Just like shearing the prop pin right at the beach, this perfect storm happened at the perfect place. Where we could park our boat in the lot, the rangers on watch. It was surrounded and passed by other campers and boaters that wouldn’t dream of tampering with such a thing. She was in a parking lot at a campground, covered, and could have remained there briefly if necessary.
In retrospect, even the torrent we marched through was perfect in its way, as if collaborating with the shear pin incident. The result was we walked through a rainy forest and had a great tale to tell, and this prevented us from being out on the boat when the storm struck. The very hour we were at the Eagle’s Inlet the night before, catching fish and watching the sunset, a half-hour’s ride from camp.
And so, the Camporee of 2020 will go in the books as one of the most memorable, adventure-filled and satisfying trips to our fabled lake. I can’t relate the excitement of landing fish after fish, or the feelings of self-reliance and accomplishment felt overcoming the obstacles we encountered. Photos do not do justice to the lake or the mountains, or the skies filled with passing storms and the golden red sunset, or the fish. My words can only describe the sounds of the loons calling into the night, the breeze in the pines, the chugging of the little outboard motor or the laughter of my grandsons.
I have added a page to the future. A page that will be turned many years from now, long after I am gone from this Earth. A man named Kacey, or one named Max, will look to his children, or perhaps grandchildren, and tell them stories of epic adventures with their grandfather. If they have learned anything from me, they will dutifully exaggerate the arduous journey, the ferocity of the storms, the efforts required to overcome our difficulties, and most importantly, the number and size of the fish.
And perhaps they will remember the trip made to the stormy lake, just we three. Without buddy-system backups or spare boats for rescue. Just the three of us, and our beloved lake.

Indeed, Camporee 2020 will be vaulted to the status of legend, and we three Musketeers to legendary.

 

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

 

Camp Journal, Part 3

Number Thirty-One

Forked Lake Campground

Of all the days we pass through in a life, the majority will be unremarkable in a lifetime sense. We remember important individual days by date, but it is singular moments, brief flashes, that actually constitute a memory.
I don’t remember everything about the day Ryan was born, but I remember going to the mall and buying blue and pink balloons, printed with the names Ryan and Elizabeth respectively. (Until he joined us in the world, we didn’t know if we’d greet boy or girl.)
I don’t remember all of Miranda’s wedding or reception, but I vividly recall walking her down the aisle and telling her “Take one giant step.” . I recall as well the father-daughter dance hours later, with the newly-minted Mrs. Prime.
And so it is with our great adventures, in the outdoors and at camp. I can total the number of days I’ve spent at this lake. I can list the friends and loved ones that have joined me here. I can show you on the campground map all the sites where we have pitched our temporary canvas homes. But the stories, the ones we really remember, are those times when the ordinary became the extraordinary.
The time I swamped the canoe and ended up, fully clothed, in the lake. The time I couldn’t get the engine of the boat to start, a mile down the lake and approaching sunset. Never was I more thankful for my die-hard camping partner Joe, and his little Bass Tracker boat which towed the AquaMarie back to camp.
The time I arose from my tent, somewhere deep in “the middle of the night”, and observed a single cloud sitting on the silent and still lake, not another cloud in sight. Or another occasion past midnight, the campground practically empty, when I was the sole witness to a great ancient hemlock crashing down onto the forest floor a half mile away in the otherwise peaceful wilderness.
The Camporee of 2020 will certainly be remembered as remarkable in many ways. First and foremost, all other members of our tribe had called off, leaving only grandsons Kacey and Max, and myself, to foray into the piney woods. I must relate that the aforementioned grandsons are not little children as they may come to mind. Kacey turns twenty-two in October, and Max seventeen a month later. They were essentially grown men helping with the work and enjoying the camping trip rather than children that required supervision.
And here we were. The real deal. The real die-hards, eh? There’s some kind of line between “bold” and “stupid”, and we may have straddled it a bit. But it sure made for some great stories.

Stormy Weather

So we were lucky to find a shear pin to replace the broken one on our boat motor’s propeller, right nearby in the hamlet of Long Lake, and we leaped from the Jimmy to try to beat the thunderstorm rampaging up the lake toward us. We weren’t ten steps from the truck when the rain started. Before we entered the woods trail, the skies opened, and torrential rain fell hard. Previously, we had found the sprinkles to be quite warm. We joked that we could shower in them if we had a bar of soap.
Not so true for Number Thirty-One.
“Whoa! That rain is cold!” cried Max, in a t-shirt, shorts and Crocs. Kacey wore jeans. It took about two minutes for the rain to soak my slicker, and the water drained down the back, onto my calves, through the socks, into the shoes. It was nearing darkness, but thankfully still light enough to see in the woods without flashlights. We heard one or two claps of thunder as we marched through the monsoon. It was probably a fifteen-minute hike in good weather, so there was little point in hurrying. We were in it now, with no choice but to keep walking. We’d pass the side trails that led to campsites and shout them out over the noise of the rainfall.
“Site eleven! We’re a third of the way.”
“Site twenty-one, only a third to go!”

Site Marker

The rain made the trail slick, especially on tree roots and the occasional wooden bridge. Troughs in the trail filled with water deep enough to submerge my canvas sneakers over the laces.
“Twenty-six! Only five more to go!”
We plod along, soaked to the skin. My mind hearkens back to many snowshoe walks with canine companions as I cheer on my stamina. How the top of Nishan Hill, only a quarter-mile from the house, seems so distant when the temperatures are far below freezing, and the winter wind sleds down Victory Mountain, gaining speed across the glen until it blasts me in the face. We’ll be sitting in front of a hot fire sipping coffee in twenty minutes, but for now it’s one more step, then one more step.
We sloshed our way along, losing the trail just once, but we quickly corrected. I was mindlessly plodding along, head down, watching my footing. “Here we are!” Max declared. I looked up to see the Site 31 sign on the tree three feet from me.
The rain continued heavily as darkness settled around us. Just in time. We crawled into our tents and stripped off our wringing wet clothes. Within half an hour, Number Thirty-One finished its performance, and the rains stopped, leaving the air cooler and more comfortable.
We crawled from our cocoons and battled wet everything to try to get a little fire going. We fried hot dogs in the cast iron, and commenced to fill our bellies with another delicious camp meal. Max discovered the can of Spam, and that followed the hot dogs.
The umbrella chairs were soaked, pools of water in their seats, and to say we were tired would be quite the understatement. The lingering over the dying fire would not last long this night, and our little beds on the ground called to us.

Fire Ring

In the tent, I was too excited to sleep. The adventure of it all, and unflinching accommodation of all the hurdles the lake, the sky and the little boat threw at us. I spent some time jabbering away at Kacey, mostly about my camera, which was conspicuously absent on the boat for pics of our catches. I talked about the way I love photography and documenting all of life’s adventures and beauties. Certainly the rain was a threat, and helped convince me to leave the all-electronic gadget in the camera bag. Yet there was another incentive, and that was to simply enjoy this time with my grandsons. To be grabbing the landing net at the call of “Fish on!”, not grabbing my camera. To see the bald eagle, and watch it fly through the great wide beautiful world, not condensed and cropped to the size of a viewfinder. To marvel at the colors in the sky, the smiles of my grandsons, reflections in the water, the passing rain clouds. To live these moments and tuck them into the memory banks and galleries of my mind.

Camp Neighbors

In fact, on this trip, I was glad to have just one photo to bring home, of a family of ducks swimming past our camp. (All the other images in this journal series are from years past at Forked Lake) That single image will be iconic for me, and will always transport me back to this lake, and the time just the three of us shared camp. The time we had no Saturday Fish Fry because we were trekking through a hurricane fetching emergency repair parts for the boat. And running my mouth like Chatty Cathy as the loons called into the pitch black night.
Fifty-one years later, those rings deep within, that ten-year-old boy, still excited as ever to be at camp.

Rains fell off and on as we slept away our last night in this incredible, amazing, memorable place.

Part 4 next time.

Paz

Camp Journal, Part 2


“More please, sir.”

 

Good morning, Lake!

It was dark outside when the pitter-patter of raindrops on my tent fly woke me. So we were not to be entirely spared some rain. After a short while, the shower stirred Kacey, who climbed out of the hammock and crawled into the tent. Entering or exiting a tent simply cannot be done quietly. There are two parallel zippers on the outer fly to open, then the L-O-N-G oval door zipper. Then you must zip down the two on the fly before closing the L-O-N-G oval door screen. It was quite hot in the tent, as the flaps of the fly remained closed for rain. Door screens, window screens and vents in the rain fly were no match for the air in the 70’s and 100% humidity.
When again I awoke the sun was rising, and I pulled the firewood from under cover and got a smoky fire going. There’s something about a smoky campfire. It’s like a prerequisite for a campsite. It doesn’t seem alive without a plume wafting skyward.

Smoky Fire

I fired up the gas camp stove to brew fresh coffee in the red enameled steel coffee pot, and to heat water for oatmeal in the blue enamel cookpot. Coffee was done and a good fire burning as the boys rose to greet the day. We had instant oatmeal, mixed and served in the aged aluminum bowls of the mess kits. I had introduced the lads to my pervasive philosophy of “What would Lewis and Clark do?” This is applied to many things afield, at home and at camp. It includes things like passing on the bug repellent and using a head net, tucking socks into pants, and washing dishes in the lake. And so I commenced to make “Lewis and Clark toast”. Bread grilled in butter in the aluminum mess kit’s skillet. Okay, so Lewis and Clark likely had no yeast-risen bread, but I’m sure they had hot biscuits, and butter as fresh as it gets.
I pulled from my pack two “Emergency Poncho” packages, and distributed them to my campmates. I had a good light duty rain jacket, and we were ready for rain. Without further ado, we killed the fire and boarded the AquaMarie for a Saturday full of fishing. Today the rains would visit us off and on, and I started a game of numbering each brief shower. The boys would pull their plastic poncho hoods over their heads, and I mine on my green jacket, and I would declare “Here comes number twenty-two!” Before we knew, the drizzles would stop, and frequently the sun would peek out at us.
“Let’s go down to the lily pads.” Max requested again, “The ones all the way down the left fork.”
We motored west down the lake, and bore left at its namesake fork, down to the inlet from Indian Lake. We didn’t find much action here compared to years past. We re-positioned to a few promising spots, but landed the rare foot-long, barely keepers.
“We might wish later we kept the small ones.” Kacey referred to the minimum-length fish we released back into the water. By evening, we would wish we had heeded those words. Rain and sunshine came and went as we wound our way back to the other lily pads, the inlet from Lewey Lake, hereafter known as “Eagle’s Inlet”. We numbered each shower, and peppered the lovely day with “I should have stayed home” as we enjoyed good fishing action and the calls of the loons. We saw the big birds a lot this trip, accompanying this year’s brood. The tiny copies would swim alongside, or climb on mom or dad’s back for a ride. Occasionally they would be left alone, momentarily bobbing on the surface as parents swam deep to catch lunch.
We hauled in quite a few foot-longs, and Max dropped a keeper in the live well, a 14-incher. As we headed back to camp for lunch, we trolled our way across “the fork”, which is the deepest part of the lake. Here, the land-locked salmon settle into the cold depths. We always hope to hook one again. Of the hundreds of fish caught here over the years, we’ve seen just one. We had a good chuckle when Kacey swung the landing net, fish included, over my seat as I stood beside it (twice). “I like the way you subtly held that dripping net right over my chair.” I said. “Now it’s all wet.” Of course, everything on the boat was already wet after a day of fishing in the rain.
I had checked the gas gauge and was startled to find it below a quarter-tank as we fished the far end of the lake. “I think we have enough to get back to camp.” I shared with my shipmates. My eye went to the gauge frequently on the trip back, and on one occasion as I faced astern, Max called from the bow seat “Pop! The plane!”

The plane!

I looked up to see the floats of a single-engine water taxi fly past us, 50 feet off the water and not 10 yards off the port. We watched the plane fly down the lake, traveling eastward. It rose above the tree line, made a long banking turn, and disappeared behind the distant hills.
We made it back to site 34, where we beached the boat, without running out of gas. It was shallow, but flat and sandy here, unlike the shore strewn with boulders that hemmed our own sites. Fortunately, no one arrived to claim site 34 for the weekend, so it became the AquaMarie’s mooring home.
“Is Joe here yet?” I ask as we traipse through site 33 on the way to our own camp. No joe. It’s a bit more than a two-hour drive from home to here, so I held out some hope we might still see him later.
Burgers again, cooked in the cast iron over an open fire. We finished off the package. Saturday night is traditionally Fish Fry. We fish for our supper all day, and gather all Camporee attendees at a single site for dinner. Rains came and went as we ate lunch. The mountains across the lake would disappear into the passing vaporous shrouds, and Max would point and exclaim “That mountain is gone!”

Disappearing Mountain

With lunch in our bellies and only one fish in the live well,, the fishing beckoned. “Let’s head over to the lily pads.” I said. We shoved off and paddled out of the shallows. The motor started right up, but when I put it in gear, nothing happened. I shifted to neutral, to reverse, back to forward. The motor revved, but the prop barely moved.
“Oh no!” I said in shocked surprise, “I think we broke the shear pin on the prop!” It was that or the transmission had stopped working for some reason. Start with the simplest first. A shear pin in a prop should be readily serviceable, even afield. We paddled back to shore, lucky and thankful that the breakdown took place right at the beach, not in the middle of the lake. Or worse, a mile-and-a-half down the lake as we were earlier in the day.
More or less instantly, my focus shifts. From carefree wilderness camper and fishing guide to two young men, suddenly I am responsible grandfather and broken-down boat owner. We’re dead in the water, so to speak, with no boat for fishing or transporting our camp back to civilization tomorrow. There is a wilderness trail that leads back to the campsite parking lot, and this was our salvation. Many years we’ve camped on the north shore, where there is no trail at all, boat access only! Still, nine miles away was only the hamlet of Long Lake; a convenience store, a hotel, and two camp stores. We might find spark plugs, or even a bilge plug, but parts for a 50-year-old outboard motor seemed like a bit of a long shot.
The boys settled back at camp, probably eating again, as I started to troubleshoot the motor. Using the pliers on my all-in-one fishing tool, I removed the cotter pin from the bell of the propeller. Pulling the prop off its shaft, I saw a small metal piece drop into the foot-deep water. I picked it up out of the sand and found it to be one third of a broken shear pin. I carefully removed the other two pieces so I would have an example with me to determine length and diameter. This find was something of a relief. A shear pin is essentially like a nail pinning together two parts of rotary machinery. Quite common, they’re found in snow blowers, probably lawn mowers, too. This would be easier to find or substitute than transmission parts for a 1976 Evinrude.
I wouldn’t be able to relax with the unresolved situation hanging over me. I checked the sun, and it looked like late afternoon. We had perhaps three hours before sunset, and no idea how long it might take to find a suitable part. It was possible we’d need to drive the twenty-two miles to the next big town, Tupper Lake, to find a hardware store. Not to mention it’s already five o’clock on Saturday. Who knows what stores will be closed, and which might remain so Sunday?
The boys could have stayed at camp, but tagged along as we set out on the half-mile trail back to the Jimmy. I brought my slicker and a flashlight, in the event we were to encounter rain or darkness. Back at the lot, I said “No white Jeep.”, which meant no Joe. By suppertime on Saturday, I guess we should give up hopes of seeing him this weekend. On the hike, and the drive to the village, we reasoned out our situation. With time came calming, and collected thoughts. “Well, we could ask the campground rangers to tow our boat back if we really needed to.” I stated.
We went to Hoss’s, but they had little by way of hardware. I found a variety pack of nails, some similar in size to the shear pin, and bought them. “In a pinch, a nail will substitute for a shear pin.” I shared with Max and Kacey. “It should be enough at least to get us home.” I asked if there was a hardware store in town.  No, replied the girl behind the counter, but there’s an Aubuchon hardware in Tupper Lake, open Sunday, too. Yet another relief. At least there’s a safety net. We continued on to Mountain Born, and looked around the array of goods. I turned down one aisle and found all the drawers of hardware I’d find at my hometown True Value store. Nuts and bolts, washers and lags, spring clips…and there was a drawer labeled SHEAR PINS. I pulled my sample from my pocket, and found the closest match. We couldn’t be sure about the diameter, so bought a pair in each of two diameters. Best $1.20 I’ve spent in a long time. Our spirits soared at this easy find, and we headed back to the campsite, darkness approaching.
“No white Jeep.” I said back at the lot. Looking up the lake, westward, I could see a huge black storm stomping its way toward us. It looked like the meanest storm we’d seen all weekend. “Maybe we should wait this out in the truck.” I suggest. It’s a close gamble, as it became darker with each moment. If we waited it out for more than half an hour, we’d be hiking through the woods in a moonless, cloud-covered, pitch black night.

Storms Approaching

“Let’s go for it!” Max replied.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The rain began before we were across the bridge from the parking lot to the trail.

More next time.

Paz

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.

The Pinnacle Days Of Summer

Bow View

We’re right smack dab in the middle of it now, this summer thing. Hot weather, T-shirts and shorts, long days with the sun setting at 8 o’clock. Misty, humid mornings. Hazy humid afternoons. Passing thunderstorms. Welcome trips to the lake or the ice cream stand.

Spring’s constant is change. Each day nature reveals something new. A flower, migrating birds, trees leafing in. The days grow longer and the temperatures milder. Away with coats and hats.

Then we roll into June. Busy as can be with grade ceremonies and graduations and weddings. The fields are getting greener, the pumpkin plants can be seen now, starting their march to Autumn. By the end of June, we’ve pretty much accepted summer weather as the status quo.

Too often, our senses are so calmed to summer that the slightest change will awaken them. A particularly chilly night, when we are shocked to find ourselves lighting the heater on a June morning. A hot day, which is what we would expect from summer, becomes the topic of whining conversations. “It’s oppressive today.” “It must be the humidity.” “Looks like rain all weekend.” “My air conditioner never stops.”

It takes focus to remember these are unique days. The brain purposely makes you forget February and snow and down comforters, and lulls you into thinking that life will be like this from now on. But the clock is ticking, the Earth is tilting, and these days we dreamed of in the depths of winter are numbered.

Now we arise each day and move through it without noticing the outdoors and the subtle changes in the flora and fauna. The lilies are blooming and the hummingbird regularly visits the foxglove. It’s just another summer day for us, but for the wildlife, the clock is ticking, too. Babies must be raised, taught foraging and camouflage and self-defense, and fattened up for the next set of seasons. Fledglings fledge and leave the nest, often under the watchful eyes of parents.

And so what looks like just another summer day is anything but. Thick leaves on trees hide the squirrels, thick underbrush hides the mink until she scurries across the road with lunch in her jaws. In tall grasses, Common Yellowthroats and Skippers and Crickets disappear, save the occasional glimpse of movement, the flash of a wing.

Now I am on watch each day. Every day I remind myself (and the dog, when she’s listening) that these are our pinnacle days. I must remind myself to look and to see and to treasure these moments. Lush, full trees. Red-winged Blackbirds. Summer storms. Each and every day counts, and I am bound and determined not to simply let them pass by without notice. Every evening I stand outside and marvel at the mild air, the starfield above, the calls of creatures of the night, the owl and the coyote.

When I awaken in my armchair at 1 a.m., and Juney wants to go out, I follow her. I note the position of the Big Dipper, off to her summer place, and far from her winter home. I note the morning sun rising over the Sumacs instead of the south side of the barn. On my commute she rides quartering-off to my left, a welcome relief from the dead-ahead of the equinoxes.

“Remember these lilies,
These misty mornings,
This thick underbrush,
This Pinnacle Day.”

And now I am off for the weekend to my favorite lake way up north in the High peaks Region of the Adirondack Mountains. Here I will commune with loons, lure some fishes. Sleep on the ground with the sounds of night things rustling beside my tent. I will rise with the sun and smell the air, scented with water and perfumes of pines. I will gaze out on the glass-smooth water under the stars. I will be in touch intimately with these Pinnacle Days, and will relish every moment before my return to civilization.

Keep watch now.
These days seem to pass so quickly, and I wouldn’t want you to miss a minute of it.

 

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

Deadbeat’s Journal

Deadbeat. That’s what I’ve been for Life In Engleville.

I’ll tell you. Starting in January I took up sort of a new phase in my writing. I inadvertently started  a novel. Yes, inadvertently. I thought I’d write a sort of serial story in blog posts, but it quickly took on a life of its own, and has since occupied much of my precious and finite creative time. Look for “Blogroll” on the main page, and you’ll find Sasha of The Chukchi Sea. Now into its second “book”, Lodge. The story starts in Homestead (the first book) if you’re interested in reading and starting at the beginning.

Around the ranch, we’ve come quite a ways since the last post in March. We had a great blizzard going, and it did not disappoint us. About thirty inches of snow. It was too deep to snowmobile in, and the sled sank and bogged down. By the next weekend, riding was nice. Plenty of snow and the milder, sunny April days were welcome. Alas, by the following weekend, there was not enough snow on the trails to use the sled. Well, we’re set for this winter!

Sledding Thursday Trail

Elsewhere, we got the AquaMarie dry-docked in the cabana for some reworking from stem to stern. On the trailer, repairs were needed to the bunks (wooden glides covered with carpet) which were replaced, as well as the bow stop. Additionally, we upgraded the old steel cable winch to one that uses a web strap. No more wire stabs! Lastly, I finally replaced the lights. Went with submersible LED’s, and now she’s up to date (and I won’t go through 4 light bulbs a year). Took the motor down to Andersen Boats for a tune-up and once-over, bought a new gas tank, and a pair of new tires for the trailer. Additionally, we replaced the bow and stern lights, reworked the electrical a bit (new box, moved the light switch), replaced the single horn with a twin, and at long last added Old Glory, a U.S. flag. She made the trip to our beloved Forked Lake in the Adirondacks the first week in June for the father & son trip with Ryan. We brought our dear friend Carl with us this trip, and had a great time (and delicious fish). That trip, and the annual Camporee in July, will no doubt fill their own post!

AquaMarie at Forked lake

At the ranch, we’re doing a little work on the Ark. Replaced the south-facing side porch and posts, added new stairs and railings. Recarpeted the living room, and weekend before last I repapered the kitchen walls. Some painting projects were executed by grandson Kacey, turning 19 in October. How that time has flown!

In June, near-disaster struck. One beautiful, sunny Saturday I went out to my John Deere to mow the ranch. Turned the key and heard a “snap”. Knew it was all over. Partly a panic, you can’t skip a week of mowing or you might as well bring a baler. Also heartbreak. I’m not really certain why, but I love the JD almost as much as a dog. We’ve been together a number of years, shared nearly 700 hours together, gleefully mowing yards and trails. Well, a number of those hours are logged by grandkids who love the JD, too. They use it more as a go-kart. Max has actually driven it around in the snow. Typically, granddaughters Lizzy and Maddie will tie a snow sled to the tractor, and Max will drive around trying to dump them. (This they also did with the Ski-doo!) Or they’ll hook up the garden cart and go for wagon rides.

So this past week, my son-in-law, a certified mechanic, delivered my Deere to me, all fixed and running better than new! Simple pleasures, eh? It doesn’t take much to make my day! I spent yesterday grinning like a fool as I mowed the lawn with the Deere for the first time since June.

It’s been a strange summer in a few ways. Weather has been almost bizarre. Record high temperatures, rain every other day, oppressive humidity. Now we are in the waning of the pinnacle days of summer. I’ve been a deadbeat for the blogs, but not for the world, as I’ve filled every waking moment with some activity or another all summer. Glad I carved out enough time to drop an entry, though it’s really not much.

Things are settling down a little now, as things do about this time of year. I’ll be back in the blogosphere real soon, and tell you some stories about the places I’ve been.

Some without ever leaving home.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

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

Island Time

Fathers & Sons

Fathers & Sons

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.

 

Paz