It was a dream hatched in the winter cold.
Visions of camping trips past danced in our heads. We recalled idyllic five to seven day stays on the water-access campsites of Indian Lake, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York State. Days of basking in the sun, reading and writing in total tranquility, evenings paddling in shallow waters watching for wildlife on shore, then sitting by the campfire (NOT making S’mores – never cared for them). Motoring to check out other sites for future visits. Climbing into comfy sleeping bags when our day’s adventures had worn us out. Sleeping the restful sleep of the dead in the quiet and cool night.
Indian is not a heavily populated lake. Much of the shore line is State land. It’s a large lake, but with only two places to launch a boat. Campsites are few and far between. The continuous buzz of high powered motorboats is noticeably absent on such a large lake.
And so it was that we hatched the plan to try camping again, after about a twenty-year hiatus.
We started inspecting our equipment as far back as April, concerned that it may have become home to one or more mouse families. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. We set the tent up in our yard and left it there for two weeks to air it out (it did smell a bit of mildew). My husband, who works only part time, volunteered to organize all the necessary gear, a major task with so many years past since we’d done this.
My mother-in-law is elderly and frail, so we decided we’d better bring a cell phone, so we could be reachable in the event of an emergency. I decided to leave my computer at home, and opted instead for pen and paper for writing. I’ve done some of my most creative work on camping trips. I was psyched.
Our dog, Nala, loves being outdoors, especially in the woods. So we were confident that she would love camping. She had the woods, the water and us. What more could she possibly want?
We had planned to leave on Monday. By Sunday, we were like two kids who didn’t want to wait another minute. It was a beautiful day – we should be enjoying the great outdoors! So we packed up and left a day early. There was the risk that our reserved campsite wouldn’t be available, and we’d have to set up a temporary site elsewhere. But we decided it was worth it. We left the canoe home to simplify things, planning to use the pontoon boat most of the time anyway.
Alas, our return to camping was a Murphy’s Law disaster.
After the first, quite beautiful day, which we spent setting up our temporary site, the weather was rainy and cold for three straight days, with too much wind to take the boat out even if it appealed to us.
The shoreline at the site was all rocks, despite our being told when we made reservations that it was a site where we could beach the boat. We had to leave it at the boat launch a half mile away.
The campsite was slanted, so every night we slid to the front of the tent.
Campfires were another disaster. Between the wet wood and the swirling winds, the fire was smoky and there was no place to sit where the smoke wouldn’t find us. Nala, the only smart one of the three of us, apparently, went off and sat away from the fire. We tried to force the remembered ambiance, and spent the evening choking on smoke and wiping watery eyes.
Except for her wisdom about the fire, Nala was a bit freaked out, which surprised us. One rainy night I got up to use the outhouse – as usual she followed me, but when we got back she refused to go back into the tent. She plopped down right there in the mud and rain. I had to drag her back to the tent and wipe her down as well as I could with an already damp towel, and try to get her settled down for the rest of the night.
Are we having fun yet?
Oh, yes, and we had no cell service, so we were out of touch with email (not an entirely bad thing) and couldn’t make calls. There was a phone at the ranger station, but it no longer takes coins. So in order for Den to call and check on his mother we had to drive into Indian Lake village and find someplace that sold calling cards.
We were supposed to come home on the fifth day, and day four eventually blossomed into a banner day. But sometime on Wednesday the screen door on the tent stopped zipping. We could live with that, but then the main door zipper came off the track and we couldn’t get it back on. (Hey, the tent is only 35+ years old!) With more rain expected overnight and who knew what creatures were roaming, we decided to pack it in a day early.
Nala literally jumped for joy when we pulled in our driveway. We climbed out of the car only to see we’d lost one of the boots on the bimini top on the pontoon boat. Early in the week we were planning to scout island sites for future trips. We never even made it out onto the lake.
And I doubt it matters, because I don’t think either of us is interested in trying camping again in the foreseeable future!