Ah, Solitude.

My piece of crap computer has suddenly decided to start randomly rebooting on me, so the mystery pictures I was going to ask you about are now history until I figure out what the hell is up with it. So the single picture I have from my hike on Sunday is my current profile pic.

My buddy Greg lives a couple of hours away, and we don't get to hang out as much as we'd like to, so it was good to catch up. It was the first time either of us had been on this particular hike, and the day couldn't have been more perfect. We had a great time.

Since I am currently contemplating what I can and can't write about the weddings I attended, I decided to tell you a camping story instead, given that I recently talked about my bad "people luck."

We tend to take a lot of time off in September and October for backpacking and canoeing, mostly because we don't mind if it gets cold, there's no bugs and it's a lot less crowded. Usually, by mid-October in the Adirondacks, it can be cold enough to freeze your water at night, and the Autumn leaves are long gone.

There's a reason we like to go places so late in the season, and that's because when it gets cold and the leaves are gone, generally so are the crowds.

We pulled up to the parking lot at Forked Lake early on a Saturday morning and unloaded the canoe. Forked Lake is one of those places where you don't have to carry the canoe very far -- you can park pretty close to water. I looked over to the right, and saw a row of porta-potties that were left over from Labor Day weekend, the last weekend the lake was officially "open" to camping. They don't really enforce it, but we figured we'd find a spot to camp that was out of the way and not on one of the shoreline camping sites, just in case there happened to be a bored ranger running around somewhere looking for something to do.

As a result, we set up the tent in a wind-blasted jumble of downed cedar trees that were uprooted in a major storm a few years back. I don't know why we didn't just camp on the beach since were the only people on the lake, but anyway, that's what we did.

That night was uneventful, and when the fire went out, we we went to sleep.

The next thing I remember is waking up at dawn with my heart in my throat because the world just exploded. I scrambled out of the tent to look around, and the sound of the explosion was still echoing around the mountains.

We figured out later that it was a sonic boom, which isn't as odd as it sounds since A-10 Warthogs routinely used the Adirondack airspace for training exercises, but it's a helluva way to wake up. Since it was still very early, I crawled back inside the tent and went back to sleep...

...only to wake up a few hours later to a different sound. Could it be...music? And a very loud voice? Over a megaphone? And then other voices, much closer.

Lots of them. WTF?

We crawled out of our tent and walked to the water's edge. Amazingly, the entire lake was filled with people in canoes.

Literally hundreds of them. All laughing, yelling to each other across the water and generally having a grand old time, which basically meant that this quiet, pristine lake was now louder than an Irish bar late on St. Paddy's day. At that point, I realized the porta-potties were there for a very different reason than the one I originally thought. It turned out we were caught in the middle of this.

Obviously, we decided not to stay. We packed up and paddled out amidst the crowd, trying to avoid bumping our camo-painted, 90 lb. fiberglass behemoth of a canoe into other see-through boats that cost more than I make in 6 months.

When we finally got within 20 feet of the shore, the guy on the megaphone (who was then about 30 feet away from us) yelled, "WHAT NUMBER?" directly into our faces.

We stepped out of the canoe and straight into a fucking carnival. The beach was covered with people, canoes, portable picnic tables, you name it. There was even a popcorn wagon, a guy making fried dough, and a radio station van, finished off by a D.J. cranking out the oldies.

We dragged our floating brick past the announcer.

"What number are you?" he asked again, this time -- thankfully -- without the amplification.

"No number," I replied. "Just us."

Then we drove home where it's quiet and peaceful and nobody plays oldies.

The End.

Dammit, now I want fried dough.


  1. Anonymous10:30 PM

    Aww, JV. I kind of feel sorry for you that your hiking/camping trip was ruined like that. I too run from the madding crowds, so even though this too is a bit of schadenfreude, I'm not laughing this time.

    Good story though.

  2. When I did go camping, my times were April and May, and September. I like it quiet, too. I never had this bad of luck.
    The first time I went camping alone, right after Labor Day one year, I was in a line of all female campers. Came in handy later, when I fell and broke my wrist. I don't think you guys would have had a magazine to use for a splint.

  3. Anonymous1:06 AM

    condolences on the computer. Mine is overheating and just turning itself off - and I'm not talking hibernation or shut-down procedure, just OFF, done. I've taken to putting it in the fridge.

  4. That canoe/camp trip must have been absolutely surreal.

    Re the POS computer: it sounds like now would be a great time to use the boot disk it came with and back up all of your data on the machine, if you don't already have it backed up somewhere. In a worst-case scenario, you could lose every single byte. Then you can go ahead and get it fixed, secure in the knowledge that you aren't going to accidentally lose a single photo, email or MP3.

  5. Anonymous8:26 AM

    I agree w/ pp - back up the data on your computer now before it really dies - i.e. external hardrive. you will definitely regret it if you don't.

    love your blog :)

  6. Hmmm - now I'm wondering if we know some of the same people. My sister's husband's best friend Greg went camping in the Adirondacks on Saturday night with another friend. He came back Sunday afternoon. He would be a few hours from you.

    Does he have a wife named Lauren? Would just be very weird. My BIL - Jonathan often hikes and camps with him too.

    Probably different people but just made me think. :)

  7. Anonymous10:03 AM

    I have seen A-10's over the Moose River Wilderness near Inlet.

    My parents had a singular experience while camping at Stillwater Reservior. In the middle of the night a helicopter (which they assume was military) hovered over their tent and spotlighted it. The nylon walls of the tent seemed a scant protection from the piercing beam.

    Mike H
    Upstate NY

  8. Dammit, now I want fried dough, too.

  9. bring on the wedding stories! just write and ask if they're appropriate for sharing later.

    sorry the air force ruined your morning!

  10. I can relate to the jets waking you up at the worst times.

    I have family that live near Reno, and one year my wife and I (newlyweds) decided to go hiking and camp out in the desert near my aunt's house.

    Sad to say, there's an AFB just south of their town, and the weekend we'd chosen to go there was the same weekend that they were doing supersonice flight testing of the F-19 stealth fighters.

    When those things came down to around 250 feet, and went supersonic? Let's just say that I needed a bit of dental work when we got back home!

    I feel you pain Johnny, I really do.

  11. What the hell is fried dough? It sounds like a doughnut without the hole.
    Loved the post, as usual.

  12. I grew up on USAF bases....Dad was a F-102, 106, F4 etc jock. I roll over when the sonic boom hits. Dad had the distinction of booming the Maryland hills, twice, too close to some 1600 Penn Ave in Wash. DC. Yep, he boomed the White House twice in just minutes....they were not amused. Thankfully, the CO was....That was around 1958......
    He still proudly wears his M2 pin (Mach 2 buster...)

  13. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Nothing worse than setting yourself up on a nice camping trip, deep in the boonies, waaaay off-season, and some yahoos manage to "find" you and decide it's a good place to camp too... ("...well you guys are here, afterall!") Bastards.

  14. Tome, it was the most ridiculous thing.

    Silverstar, we would have had an actual splint! (we like to be prepared.)

    anon, my mouse goes out to lunch, then the whole thing just restarts. It's either bad memory or an overheating graphics card. (the fan went on the card.)

    Don, I run a RAID setup with 2 mirrored 320 gigs. I am probably OK, barring something that fries them both at once. I did start copying stuff to DVD though...

    Tricia, nope, this was just a day hike in the catskills sunday...

    Mike, yes! I've seen them there too..in fact, one early morning at cedar river flow, two A-10s flew over at tree top level and scared the crap out of us.

    Anhara, it's good for what ails ya.

    Muskrat, good suggestion!

    Jor, holy crap. That must have been something to see (hear)

    Beck, have you never been to a fair? It's kinda like if you take pizza dough, and deep fry it, then sprinkle powdered sugar on it. It's amazing.

    Ray, that's cool. and also a good way to break some windows!

    Kristina, that seems to happen to us ALL THE TIME.

  15. Anonymous6:40 PM

    People ruining camping trips seems to happen more and more often. It's like they don't realize that the whole reason some of US go camping is to get away from people like THEM. One time, we packed up camp and left at 12:30 AM to get away from people who wouldn't shut up. The 7 hour drive home was miserable.

    I think I wouldn't mind the planes so much, though. When I was younger I was bitten by the Top Gun bug, and have loved military aircraft ever since. Guess now when you camp you have to consider not only the season, but the flight schedule...sucks.

    Craving fried dough now (we call them funnel cakes)...

  16. Damned stupid canoers... Rickey loves spending time in the majestic adirondacks (Saranac Lake) and if Rickey sees more than one other person while on a day hike, Rickey gets pissed.

  17. Thanks for writing your blog! You are so talented - I could picture myself with you all on the trip - around the fire, enjoying the solitude...then BAM! You make me laugh...but your comments ring so true. Yep, fried dough would taste really good right now. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Anonymous12:15 PM

    Glad you made it out okay!

  19. my dad and uncles used to make a point of hiking mt. marcy in the dead of winter when i was little kid. dad's reasoning: no black flies. we have a few nice shots of them standing at the top with icicles in their beards.

    also, we have a cabin just a stone's throw from the halfway point on the AT and always look forward to the thru hikers... and a good swim in the lake...

  20. marianne, that's cool! Do you rent it?

  21. do we rent it out? um, no. but visitors are always welcome. and there's always beer in the fridge... in the crisper drawers, of course.

  22. of course! where else?

  23. What in tar nation is fried dough? Is that upstate boondock talk for "funnel cake"?