Cabin Life – #40

I’m a traitor.  I went to Vermont to go hiking this week.  A friend and I hiked Elmore Mountain to an old fire tower.  The fire tower was open to the public even though it was decommissioned, which is a big change from New York.  Most of the fire towers here have had their first two flights of stairs removed, with the small, obligatory “Warning” sign attached somewhere. 

When I went over Sunday afternoon on the Port Kent ferry, the overwhelming view of both Vermont and the Adirondacks was still green.  The shoreline of Lake Champlain on both sides of the lake showed little sign of the cooling temperatures of mid-September. 

I met up with Mike in Montpelier and followed him to his house somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  It was well after dark by the time we got there.  We had a small fire and a couple of beers while Pico and Mike’s dog Sadie wrestled with each other and barked at the coyotes howling in the woods, not too far away.  We could hear cows mooing on a neighboring farm and a heavy dew started settling in while the fire died down.

When I woke up the next morning, I glanced out the window to see a gray sky and a fire red maple.  The feeling of waking up on an overcast day with a hike planned was somewhat offset by the brightness of the tree.  The window was open and the coolness made me both wide awake and reluctant to get out of bed. 

I knocked on Mike’s door to wake him up for the hike, but he and Sadie were already awake.  After a beautifully fatty breakfast with a lot of coffee, we headed north to Elmore State Park to climb the mountain.  It was a nice trail, and because it was Vermont, basically everyone else we saw had a dog, so Pico and Sadie had plenty of butts to sniff along the way.

When we were done with the hike, we headed back to Mike’s place so I could go home and he could drive down to New Hampshire for a three day hiking trip.  I got back on the ferry in Burlington, and soon realized that the boat was going backwards.  Or, more accurately, the cars were facing backward. 

As the ferry left Vermont, I watched as the lake gained in size while the buildings and boats shrank.  Camel’s Hump and Mt. Mansfield stood idly by while we went west across the lake.  I got out of the car and turned around.  Looking at the Adirondacks from the ferry with Vermont at my back, I realized that I while like the vibe of Vermont, it’s not the Adirondacks.  And I love the Adirondacks.

Cabin Life -#37

I love lying in the hammock.  There’s a cold beer on the upright log next to me and Pico is lying on the other side.  Shamelessly, I use Pico as a push off to swing the hammock.  He weighs enough to absorb the push, and seems to be content with the petting.  Luckily he hasn’t attempted to join me in the hammock yet.

There are a couple of spider silks strung between two branches, and the afternoon light is glinting off of them.  When the light breeze blows, they disappear and then reappear as a shimmer in the middle of nothingness.  I can’t see where the silks tie into the leaves, but the suspended middle of the strings is visible more often than not.

Even when I’m not tired, the hammock seems to lull me into a state of pure apathy.  Especially with the heat we’ve had this summer, the feel of the breeze encompassing my whole body is very relieving.  Whatever book I’m reading inevitably ends up on the ground, and I have no qualms about spending an hour in semi-consciousness while hanging out in the hammock.  Even Pico seems to relax when he’s there, only getting up to chase a red squirrel or chipmunk up one of the pine trees.  He hasn’t gotten hit by a pinecone yet, but it’s not for a lack of trying on the squirrel’s part.

I push off of Pico again and run my hand lightly down his back as the hammock swings away.  It’s a small price to pay for having such a reliable and useful partner.  Lying in the hammock not only relaxes me, but brings back lots of memories from growing up.  My grandparents had a summer camp on the Sacandaga Reservoir, near Vandenberg’s Point.  The camp was set up on a hill, but it was just a short walk down to the beach. 

They had a flight of wooden stairs that went down from the camp through the blueberry bushes.  Halfway down the stairs, there was no railing on the right side, and that’s where the big, classic, white cotton hammock hung.  It was low enough to the ground that an adult could put their foot down and push off.  I just belly flopped onto the thing, shoved my arm through the netting and pushed off of one of the big knotty roots with my hand. 

It was one of my favorite things about spending time at camp.  The place was pretty close to home, so we would go up there a lot.  There was no hammock at home, though, and the one at camp always seemed special.  Maybe it’s because I shared it with so many of the important people in my life, but I don’t think I got lazy when I lay in that particular hammock.  I just got happy.

Ausable Marsh

Pico and I hiked the Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area trail a few weeks ago.  Here’s a few shots from the marsh.  I don’t know wildflowers, so if any of you know what these are please clue the rest of us in with a comment.







Cabin Life – #36

It’s dry.  Too dry.  I dug a hole the other day and it was like digging in a sand box.  A foot down and the dirt was still bone dry.  I only remember one other drought like this, when I was at Paul Smiths.  Doc Kudish pointed out to me that the leaves on the trees were actually wilting.  The same thing is happening now, and there’s even a few that are starting to change color.  And it’s not because it’s been cool out.

Both of the spring-fed streams that run through the property are dry because the water table has dropped so low.  There are no blueberries, which is a shame because wild blueberries are hands-down one of the greatest foods known to man.  We did get some rain earlier this week, and it was much needed, but it’s not enough to make up for what we haven’t gotten over the course of the summer.

There haven’t been as many fires this year though.  In 2002 there was more than three hundred and twenty fires all over the Adirondacks.  I was listening to NCPR one day and they had a story about a huge fire out west that had burned thousands of acres and hundreds of millions of dollars of property.  They then switched to local news.  The story was that there was a seven acre fire threatening a lean-to. 

We’ve got it pretty good compared to a lot of the country.  Almost seven million acres burned.  It’s hard to believe that the acreage burned nation wide is the same as the entire Adirondack Park.  Just imagine if about one-third of New York State was on fire.  Luckily it’s not, and I guess that’s something to be happy about, even during this drought.

Lake Champlain

Cabin Life – #36 will be out next Tuesday…

Popped up over night and disintegrated two days later.


Driftwood and Valcour Island


Great Blue Heron wading along shore


Hiking up the hill out back. Wasn’t that long ago…


Cabin Life -#34

I like bees.  They really don’t bother me that much.  It’s not like I want to get stung, but they tend to leave me alone, maybe because I don’t freak out when they fly near me.  I understand those who are allergic or just don’t want to get stung, though. 

I remember vividly the first time I got stung by a bee.  It was at our house on 5th Ave in Gloversville, and I was already strapped into my car seat in the back.  Mom was locking up the house or grabbing something from inside, and when I shifted in my car seat, the bee stung me right on the butt.  I don’t know if I started screaming (I couldn’t have been more than fifteen at the time) and I don’t remember the aftermath, but the sting itself is clear as day.

At work there is a window air conditioner.  I was mowing the lawn and noticed a lot of bees around near the a/c unit.  I stopped to watch, mainly to see if there was a ground nest nearby.  Watching the bees for a minute, I realized that they were going to the ground under the a/c to drink, not because their hive was down there. 

With the ridiculous drought going on, I’m not surprised that the bees are hanging around a reliable source of water.  It’s fun to sit a few feet away and not really be in any danger of getting stung.  As long as I don’t get too close or let Pico run through them, I figure it’s safe to hang out and watch.  I won’t bother them if they don’t bother me, and the feeling so far seems to be mutual.

Cabin Life – #32

The baby osprey are getting big.  They poke their heads up above the lip of the nest and look down on us.  The chatter they make is for food, though, not because I’m standing about twenty feet below their nest.  The people and the cars and the bikes don’t seem to bother this particular family. 

Their nest is built on top of an electric pole right behind the entrance booth of the campground.  It’s about three feet across, sits right on the electric feed for the whole park.  It stinks pretty bad right now, as there hasn’t been any rain to wash the area in and below the nest.  The shrubs and pavement are splattered white but amazingly no one has gotten hit.

The osprey are a big attraction along the road, with three nests.  But the ones at the booth are my favorite.  Watching them circle around with a bullhead in their talons they seem so graceful.  It’s another story when they are getting chased and harassed by birds one tenth their size.  I’ve seen the osprey running from little red-winged blackbirds and even the great blue heron has chased them off a few times.

It’s great to be able to watch a bird daily, just going about its life.  Lot’s of people ask if they are eagles, but once they get a good look at the birds, it’s apparent even with the similar white heads that they are not.  And while it would be great to have eagles nesting right there, the osprey are good enough company.

Cabin Life – #31

I was watching the sun come up over the Vermont mountains, listening to Pico splash in the lake and really appreciating the bug free morning.  The haziness of the air made for a nice sunrise, all pinks and purples.  Pico loves the water, even though I have to give him a warm-up throw or two of the ball to get him to really swim.  But once he’s in, he loves it.

Ed caught a mouse last night.  At three in the morning.  And he wouldn’t kill it.  He just walked around for half an hour with the poor thing in his mouth.  Every couple of minutes Ed would drop him just to catch him again.  He was growling at Herbie and Pico and me.  Finally I just picked Ed up and carried him outside, where he dropped the mouse and it ran off. 

I’m no fan of mice, especially in my house, but I was surprised when it ran off.  As far as I know, it’s only the second mouse Ed’s ever caught.  And he responded to my travesty of releasing his prey by knocking a glass onto the floor, shattering it.  He maintained eye contact the entire time.  Now, the next time this happens, I will be faced with the decision of letting him torment the mouse or incurring Ed’s wrath.  Well, sorry little mice, but I gotta live with that cat.

Cabin Life – #30

I was slapping myself stupid trying to get all the mosquitoes.  There was a nice breeze coming off the lake and the fire was helping keep them down a little, but I was still getting eaten alive. 

I threw another piece of wood on the fire.  It was some leftover wood from last year’s hurricane that had blown down during the storm.  The red pines that came down around here were huge old trees, but growing in sand a lot them just tipped over.

Back in the cabin, the woodstove hasn’t been used in months.  I think back to all the winter nights when I really would have liked to see the fire.  But my stove doesn’t have any glass in it, just a big black box.  A little bit of light is nice when the sun goes down at five in the afternoon.

Most nights this summer have too hot to bother with a fire, even outside. The heat coming off the fire mixed with the stagnant humid air is just not too enjoyable.  The only thing making up for it is the late evening swims to cool off before bed.  And that’s a far cry from getting up three times a night to stoke the fire.

Cabin Life – #29

A cast-iron pan, quart pot and tea kettle.  It’s hard to believe that I spent six months pretty much just using those three utensils to make all of my meals.  And it’s not that I’ve been eating out a lot or eating unhealthy meals, but with only a little propane stove to cook on, I got by with the bare minimum of dishes.  Plus it was really hard to wash dishes with no running water.

Another blogger told me to use spray bottles to do the dishes.  Put warm, soapy water in one and clean in the other to save on water, since I was filling a five-gallon jug every couple of days and hauling it to the cabin.  It was a great idea and definitely saved on water, but I found that using the spray bottle to rinse was just not effective.  The wash bottle was great, but I still just ran the spigot on the jug to rinse.

After reading Pete Nelson’s recent article on trail food, it reminded me of the best meal I have ever eaten.  I’m lucky to be in a family that likes to cook, and I’ve eaten at some amazing restaurants, but even though Aunt Jen’s crab cakes literally make my mouth water, they pale in comparison to the meal my buddy Derek and I made when we were hiking in college.

We set out from Gloversville very early one morning to do an overnight hike and knock out a few High Peaks.  After driving about three hours to get to Keene Valley, he and I started (with what I would now consider to be insanely heavy packs) along the trail.  After climbing Whale’s Tail, Wright, and Algonquin, we sat down on the leeward side of Boundary to make dinner before continuing on to Iroquois.

The wind was blowing and it took a while to get my little stove going, but we had our one little pot and enough water to cook.  Once the water got boiling, I dumped in the box of instant mac and cheese.  Then we added the pre-made “cheese” sauce and the coup de grace, a can of tuna.  I have never enjoyed a meal so much, and I know for a fact that it was the best meal I’ve ever had because it’s something like twelve years later and I still think about it. 

There was one other time I made this same meal at home.  It was terrible.  I ate about half and then threw the rest away.  I couldn’t believe that something that had been so good and so rewarding at one time, could be so outright awful on another occasion.  Clearly, the mac and cheese with tuna was only good because of the exertion we had put in prior to eating it.  I don’t know if Derek remembers this particular dinner, but I do.  And I will never eat it again.