Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In which Vaska visits one of my favorite places

So here's my boy Vaska on the path through what used to be an Adirondack Great Camp. Or a pretty good camp. It never quite reached the status of Marjorie Merriweather Post's camp, but it was okay as far as plutocratic retreats go.

This used to be a wide-open area, and has, in the past quarter century, been taken over by small trees and brush. But let's explain, first:

We are about 10 miles back from anywhere, in a part of the Adirondacks where even being in the middle of "anywhere' isn't a whole lot.

Here's where we were:
Or, to put it in more global terms:
The point being that we started nowhere and then got a little more out of the middle of things.

But, when I talked about going out there later, everyone was familiar with the place and had a story to tell. Streeter Lake is a place that everyone goes, but in a protective kind of way. We live a quiet life to start with, and Streeter Lake is one of those place we go when we want life to settle down even more.

Check it out: I'm aware that city folks get a little freaked out by how quiet it is in the country. But here's a video that I shot out at Streeter Lake around noon. Earlier in the morning, the birds were challenging each other -- that is, at about 5 a.m., you hear the "Oh, I love you, baby" birdsong, but by around 10 a.m., the lovemaking is over and it's mostly "Hey! Whachoo doin' on my territory?" singing. 

Still, it's singing. As the sun gets high and the temperatures rise, everybody chills out and here is the result: It's like having noise-cancelling headphones on. The only sound is an occasional breeze and whatever the dog is up to. Crank your speakers to the max and dig it:

If you know a more peaceful place, feel free to share it, but I felt like I was in heaven. 

And so did the pupster, who was happy to find new things to smell and new place to explore, This is what hounds are bred for, and he was in his element:

The farther we got into the trails, the happier he became.

We got down to the lake itself, and he took a drink and then shrugged it off. But this is where I camped with my boys, back when they were tiny and we'd hike the six miles from the house to the lake.

Making that long hike to Streeter, without whining or asking to be carried or otherwise exhibiting evidence of being a baby, was a rite of manhood. And a very entertaining one.

The nine-year-old in that picture will turn 40 in just a few weeks. Meanwhile, despite his desperate clinging to hot chocolate in this picture, he did have the presence of mind to swim out into the lake and beckon his father with "it's warm once you get in," only to laugh and swim to shore, towels and fire once he had lured the Old Man into the chilly water.

Anyway, three decades plus a little later, here's the same spot, and much the same indeed,except that the dog is not as much into humorous deceit:
 One oddity of the place is that, although it is 10 miles back from any real roads, and far in the midst of the "Forever Wild" Adirondacks, this is a 4,000 acre tract that was once owned by a man who had made a fortune with potato chips.

The place had been a kind of minor example of the Adirondack Great Camp, and there was a time when there were buildings on the grounds, though they have all disappeared since. The only thing left is a codicil in the will that gave the grounds over to the state, and that is a small area that contains the family mausoleum:
Strangely, in the middle of nowhere, you come across this fenced area and these groomed grounds. There is apparently some kind of endowment that keeps it going, because it is absolutely spotless, amid absolute wilderness.

Tres bizarre, but in a kind of cool way. There was a time when Andy's groundskeepers would run you off the property, but he donated the acreage before his death and it's a great place to go back and just kind of hang out. Even with Andy and his family entombed on the property.

If nothing else, it makes Streeter Lake an outstanding place, when the sun goes down and there is no light but from the stars and the campfire, to tell Mark Twain's classic ghost story of the Golden Arm.

The boys asked for a ghost story and I said I knew one, but then I thought about how incredibly un-right it was to tell the Golden Arm when we were camped on a lake just across from a mausoleum, so I stopped, but they begged and begged, and like a fool, I gave in. Scared the living bejayzus out of them, as well it might.

Thirty-some years later, I still don't know if that was a really cool moment or a stunning lapse in parental judgment. Oh well, what the hell.

And nothing scares the dog, so we went over to Crystal Lake, which is next door. Now, Streeter is remote, but, somehow, you always run into one or two people out there. But the deal is, they stay on Streeter and you go over to Crystal and that way, everyone has some peace and quiet.

So Vaska and I walked over to Crystal Lake, where the water is, as the name suggests, incredibly clean and clear, and also warm.

We had a lovely swim and I think that next year, when we go back for the next reunion, we'll bring a tent and schedule a night at Crystal Lake.

 I don't think I'll get much opposition to the plan.