This is the first in a 3-part journal entry, followed by The Storm Approaches and culminating with The Storm Strikes. -Paz
Forked Lake, Adirondack Mountains.
I grew up in “The Park”, and after living 50 miles south of it for 30 years, it still feels like home. The Adirondack Park is so big you could put Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Glacier National Parks inside it, and have 800,000 acres left over! Of the remaining large, intact tracts of land areas, the Adirondacks ranks among the top three globally.
Two hours on the main road, a couple miles on the secondary road, another mile on the dirt road and we’re at the lake. Then we load our boat, The AquaMarie, with camping and fishing gear, and ply the waters to reach our camp site.
There’s no road to the camp, not even a logging road. On the south shore of the lake, there’s a foot trail that leads to camp sites on that side. Around the north shore, where Joe & Bowin camped, there isn’t even a foot trail. Like the original Adirondack frontiersmen, French Louie & Trapper John, if you can’t cross this lake you’re bushwhacking over a mountain to get out of here.
And leave the cell phone in the car. The High Peaks Region is one of those rare remaining respites from cell towers and signal. We are truly off the grid now.
As a kid, my dad would pack us all (our dog Buddy included) into his boat, The Honey Doll, and we’d pitch camp on Scout Island on the Sacandaga Lake for a couple of weeks in August.
Camping on an island was great fun as a kid and teen. Like Robinson Crusoe, but with tents and outboard motors. Now here I am, four decades later, boating to our camp site with my son, Ryan. This place is so much more remote. The lake is an ancient vestige of the last ice age, its water is clear as glass, and it is bound by rocky shores. There are no sandy beaches. While it reaches depths of 40 feet at its deepest, there are boulders strewn about in the water. No water-skiing, big power boats or jet skis here. The boat launch can barely handle our little fourteen-foot Magnum fishing boat.
We started this annual thing, Joe & I, as a “Camporee”, inviting folks from work to join us for an off-site get together. The first year we had a good turnout, a half-dozen campers and some day visitors on Saturday, enjoying a wood fire and grilled foodstuffs. That was when we held the Camporee at Moffitt’s Beach, where you can drive your air-conditioned SUV right up to the “driveway” of your camp site. You can “rough it” in a tent, pitched alongside the pop-ups, travel trailers and RV’s.
Since moving the Camporee to the remote and desolate Forked Lake, it’s been down to the true core of adventure-seeking wilderness lovers; Joe & his son Bowin, Me and my son Ryan, and our dear friend Sparky. It’s become something of an intimate affair, all the more special because the experience is shared by just the few of us.
We’ve lived, however briefly, like a little tribe out in the piney woods. We caught fish to feed the clan. We visited each other’s camps for dinners and breakfasts. Joe & Bowin fishing from their Tracker, Ryan & I on The AquaMarie, we’d catch up to and pass one another during the day, sharing fish hot spots and sporting our catches.
During the day, it’s outdoor sporting at its best. Boats and fishing. A contest for first, largest and most fish. One appreciates the lack of phones ringing, televisions playing, lawnmowers running, cars & trucks passing. It takes a little while for the brain to adjust. There are chores at camp, but few real responsibilities. No gardens to water, no houses to paint, no stairs to build, no dog to feed.
As the day draws to a close, we make dinner plans. Tonight at Joe’s camp, tomorrow at ours. Joe is serving up loose meat sandwiches, cooked over a wood fire in a cast iron Dutch oven. It’s a mix of venison, some pork, and a ground-up leftover hamburger from lunch. Is it the air, the activity, or the lack of a fridge and pantry to raid that makes all food taste so much better when camping? Served simply on rolled bread, your hand as the plate, it was the best thing I’d tasted all day.
After dinner it was probably around nine o’clock (I have no time piece with me. We tell time by the position of the sun when we’re in the bush!). Ryan and I boarded the AquaMarie and turned on the running lights, and made our way across the lake under a full moon.
Back at our camp, Ryan and I found that Sparky had arrived late (hitherto he was MIA, and we wondered if he’d make it this year). Following our best homo habilis manners, we started a roaring fire and commenced to stare at it for several hours. Loons on the lake let out their calls between dives. Across the water, the sounds carry from other camps. As the moon raced across the sky, the sounds and the visible camp fires dwindled until all fell silent.
Bed time, and tomorrow is a full day in camp.
It would be the best rest of this year.
Next chapter: The Storm Approaches
Be at peace,