Date of Trip: September 2006
My friend Slim’s family owns a house in the Adirondacks on beautiful Piseco Lake. (Technically it’s called a “camp” as its not insulated for the winter.) The Welsh Roberts invited me to spend Labor Day Weekend with ’em to get a true taste of backwoods livin’. And, like a snipe who just got let out of a soapbox, I jumped at the chance.
So northward did we truck it from central New Jersey, up the NY Thruway (Rt. 87), cutting over at Albany to the rolling undulation of deciduous, smoke-covered hills, changin’ foliage already beginning to show. We arrived at the Roberts Camp on Friday evening about 2130, the weather overcast, the air heavy and crisp like a lizard’s tale.
A choice of two zig-zagged paths, a tiled mosaic of rocks, tree stumps and roots, led the way to the camp. It’s a red-brown, two-story cabin about 150 feet from the water’s edge. The property was purchased by Mr. Robert’s grammymammy in 1908 for $1,800 and a blood handshake. A second downward twisting route descends to a narrow sandy beach where the highly-reputed MV “Admiral Spoons” rests proudly, half on the shore, half in the lake. We would take the spoons out several times during the weekend for some boatin’ and fishin’.
On the first night, I didn’t spend too much time acclimatin’ to my accommodations, because Slim and I had decided it was time to mingle with the local element. So we headed to the OxBow, a hot upstate nightspot (choice being somewhat limited ya’ll) where the threat of being beaten up seemed minimal. Slim had a propensity for doin’ just that — gettin’ beaten up — so I wanted to avoid any potential situation where the possibility of gettin a whoopin’ was high. In fact, when we arrived, we were approached by several different locquatious locals who were intent on making us feel welcome. I must say, I was a bit surprised by their mental acuity. I had preconceived notions about people from the boonies (ironic, but hint of truth nonetheless), but like a baby with a bumblebee makin’ momma proud, those notions were quickly squished. It could certainly have been a result of my incredibly low expectations, and had I expected sparkling conversation, I may not have been as impressed. I usally keep my expectations low. Slim Pete and I had a solid night of people watching and conversatin’, and we decided to return the next evenin’ for some live music.
It’s easy to see why such a place is so important to the folk up in the Adirondacks. Despite the natural beauty everywhere, the place is isolated, and social communion is a key element of enjoying the landscape without going insane. Stories abound about people in the area lettin’ this place get them involved in some bizarre/heinous undertakins. When you don’t have people to talk to, you start talkin’ to the fog, or the woods. During dinner on Sunday night, there was an extended story tellin’ session about the colorful folk who’d made their way through these hills, picking off hikers and the like.
The weekend forecast called for “da da da. da da da da doo da da, stormy weather” and the like. Weather forecasting in general seems to be more an art than a science, and this is even more true on Piseco. The lake is considerably large, and any of the locals will go on at length about how it commands its own weather system. During one fishin’ expedition, it was windy and rough on one end, and a the other end, two to three miles away, it was calm and the sun was pokin’ through the clouds.
Saturday was rainy and cold, so we were confined to the cabin for much of the day. A fire in the living room supplied the only source of heat for the entire place. But because I’m such a hearty fellow, this suited me just fine. Like Slim’s dog Rusty, I could really get used to camp living. There is a shower, but its not typically used more than once per person per week. I took a single shower over the three day weekend and Slim took this act as an opportunity to do some ribbin’. The water that comes through the house is just lake water heated through a pump. It’s strained to keep large pieces of lake matter from cloggin’ the pipes, but beyond that, it comes out as is. Slim mentions that he sometimes just hops in the lake with some soap-on-a-rope and does his washin’ there.
The whole lake setting is stunning. I’m not going to try to describe it, cause I just couldn’t do the place justice. Besides lookin’ like a painting, there’s also a quietness about the whole area. A man can actually hear his own thoughts in the Adirondacks. He can hear the voice from within surfacin’ (see above). The two photos featured in this trip report are really just the tip of the loon’s tail.
On Piseco, people usually fish for small-mouthed bass or lake trout. Unfortunately, the weather conditions weren’t right for catching anything. It was either too windy, too rough, or we went out at the wrong time. A combined four hours of fishin’ yielded only two bites. Slim, an expert fisherman, was responsible for both, catching a 15 inch “grunt” (unimpressive generic fish). Sadly, I was unable to introduce my own approach to fishing — catch, kill and release.
By Saturday evening we were ready to head back to the Oxbow to check out the scene. When we arrived, we were met by some serious hootin’ and hollerin’. It turns out that there were two Bachlorette parties who had decided to hit up the Oxbow. Slim and I were mortified. We’re tough guys, so we stayed. The music was pretty bland, each song pretty much a tedious continuation of the last.
Sunday mornin’ (1 p.m.), Slim took me to the local golf course, Pleasant Lake GC, a very nice nine-hole course where you can play all day for $17. After 13 holes, a combination of foul weather and hatred of golf ended the outing, and we headed back to the camp.
As there is no TV in the cabin, people are forced to talk to each other, play games or read. There is a healthy emphasis on story telling. Word actually travels fast up in these parts, and per usual, embellishments are added. Most of the stories involve a hiker or hikers gettin’ lost, and disappearing into the woods forever.
One other activity of note: With the bad weather keepin’ us holed up, we were forced to be creative. We decided to take on a month old Sunday Times’ crossword puzzle. Despite a concerted effort, our four educated minds, my own as sharp as a scorpion’s tail, were unable to complete even three quarters of the puzzle. Slim wrote a hate letter to Will Shortz.