June 27, 2008

Part II: The Big Moose Road to Bald Mountain

Insert photo next to liner notes

We awoke to soothing sounds of the creek punctuated by the clanking of pans in the kitchen. Hugh was thinking about breakfast. I put a pot (circa 1920) of coffee on and watched him work while the others gathered their senses about them.

Several pounds of home fries, bacon, Croghan Bologna, biscuits, and eggs later, we headed out on the the Number 4/Stillwater/Big Moose Road--25 miles of partially paved wonderment into the Adirondack State Park. Essentially, the first mile and the last mile are paved, the rest is an unpleasant journey on dirt, rock, and stone.

It was one of those constantly shifting weather days--sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny--so, we decided to climb a relatively easy peak with good views from the top.

After an hour in the wilderness, we parked the earth-coated hybrid (looking a bit like the Adobe from the SNL fauxmercial) at the base of Bald Mountain (also known as Rondaxe Mountain, for some strange reason), between the towns of Inlet and Old Forge.

Hiking the backbone

It was a quick hike up--with the last 1/4 up a slight incline across what was described as a dinosaur's backbone. Hugh kept making Natty Bumppo references, Chris examined every pile of animal feces that we encountered (slightly more disturbing than his crayfish obsession), and Dan made his usual sarcastic comments.

Leatherstocking comparison: who is the real Natty Bumppo?

Bumppo #1

Bumppo #2

At the top of the mountain, there was a fire tower that you could climb and look out at the other peaks and the Fulton Chain Lakes.

After spending an hour or so playing around on the summit, we headed back down to the car and Old Forge for lunch.

Chris, resting at the Peak

Old Forge is a tourist town--with tacky souvenir shops, restaurants, and Enchanted Forest, Water Safari ("where the fun never stops!"). Apparently, there was a big motorcycle rally happening in town (Thunder in The Forge), and all of the bars had bikes parked out front and mean-looking, leather-clad folks inside. We chose the place with the least amount of bikers--"Slickers"--as we realized we looked out of place (3 out of 4 of us were wearing Red Sox hats, and all 4 of us were wearing sarcastic looks) and were magnets for trouble. We had some burgers and beers, listened to a cover band, and left before the "Jagermeister Girls" could force us to drink the stuff (but not before they handed out Jager lais). After browsing souvenirs in town and pausing to let some deer cross the road, we headed back down the Big Moose/Stillwater/Number 4 road...

A well-placed sign.

Back at the cabin, we continued our beer, hot dog and s'more feast from the night before--listening to music through Dan's iPod (I'm sorry, but Radiohead is not campfire music) and watching the clouds periodically block out the stars.

Apparently flames and Calexico attract moths

June 09, 2008

Part I: A duct-taped hybrid and the “Sammich King”

The Plan:

Dan and I would meet at the supermarket to pick up essential supplies and then head to Chris' place at noon on Friday. While we were shopping, Chris, the only one of us to not be able to take a full day off, was to feverishly finish working in an attempt to cut loose and head out by 12:30 PM. Hugh would depart his house in Manchester, NH, head Southwest to meet us at his brother's house in Sturbridge. We had a 5-6 hour drive ahead of us, and we wanted to get on the road as soon as possible so that we would have enough daylight to unpack, settle in, and start a campfire.

Croghan not pictured

The Execution:

The supply run went as planned and Dan and I arrived at Chris' place at noon with plastic shopping bags filled with beef jerky, spicy nuts & cajun sticks, soda, goldfish, Jim Beam, honey-mustard sourdough pretzle pieces, grapes, Pringles, and duct tape. We loaded up the Honda Civic hybrid (great gas mileage, small trunk), then duct-taped over a large hole in the bumper--the result of a previous fender bender--for purposes of optimum aerodynamics, filled up the tank, and headed West for the first leg of the trip: Cambridge to Sturbridge.

Aerodynamically flawless

Hugh had been a bit angsty in the lead up to the trip. He thrives on details, structure, and planning, and wasn't comfortable with the vaguaries of our departure. He originally wanted to leave promptly at 8 AM and seemed very intent on the details: Did the cabin have running water? Where would we sleep? Would we fish, hike, play poker? What should we buy and what would we eat? Did the cabin have running water [sic]? When Chris' work pushed our planned departure to "…by 12:30, if all goes according to plan," Hugh's irritation was working itself into a frenzy and we needed a quick distraction, so naturally, we proposed that he be put in charge of acquiring sandwiches for the trip. In all of the outings, get-togethers, trips, and activities that Hugh has been involved in, he seems strangely determined that sandwiches play an integral role. Where we get the sandwiches, when we get the sandwiches, and what kind of sandwiches we get, all feature prominently in the schedule. This trip was no exception, Hugh was dubbed the "Sammich King" and quickly became wrapped up in his task.

When we pulled into the driveway of his brother's house in Sturbridge, Hugh was miles away—still on his sandwich run—even though we were running about a half hour late. Eventually, he arrived and excitedly bounded out of his car like a puppy, hefty Italian sandwiches in hand, and asked if he should bring Risk. I wasn't sure if he was joking at first, but the semi-crazed look in his eyes told me he was not. After carefully considering that he would have to ride with it across his lap in the backseat due to the shortage of available trunk space, the plan was, thankfully, scraped. So, we continued West, in a Northerly direction, Risk-less and restless for the weekend ahead.

Thank God for hybrids with small trunks

Our route was pretty simple, we took I-90 (the Mass Pike/the NYS Thruway) through the Berkshires, past Albany, and then left the highway at Little Falls and proceeded North—The Tug Hill Plateau on our left, the Adirondack State Park to our right. For the most part, the drive was long, straight, and dull--passing a landscape of farms, cows, turkey vultures, smallish towns, factories, both pre- and post-roadkill woodchucks (though, mostly the latter). It was mostly sunny, then cloudy; the air smelled like tires, manure, and Springtime. We took turns playing DJ with our iPods to pass the time, listening to funny songs and not-so-funny songs. After a stop in Lowville (as Dan pointed out, the "ow" sounds like in the word "cow") to pick up more supplies (including beer, bacon, water, Croghan Bologna, and 3 different kinds of hot dogs (we each had our preferences but sampling the local fare was important), kielbasa, eggs, cheap coffee , biscuits, butter, and one packet of frozen mixed vegetables (Hugh was concerned by the lack of balance in his diet), we arrived at my family's cabin, outside of Croghan, NY.


While I puttered around the compound unlocking the outhouse, turning on power, etc., Dan worked on getting the fire started--as the returned Peace Corps volunteer, we figured he was the closest thing to a Boy Scout and the most suited for the job. Hugh and Chris put our beers in a cage wedged between two rocks in the creek (pronounced: "crick") to keep them cold, then proceeded to play in the water—looking for crayfish and brook trout.

The beginning of Chris' bizarre crayfish obsession

Once the fire was roaring, we settled around it for an evening of assorted hot dogs, beer, and s'mores…

A s'more too far