In a departure from tradition, this year's camping was at Lake Durant Campground. This was due to my familiar haunt, Eighth Lake Campground, closing early this year and opening late in 2020 due to maintanance. This caused some unfortunate division amongst our Eighth Lake camping community with better than half our usual crew staying at Nick's Lake in Old Forge and mostly the rest of us at Lake Durant.
The trip from Winsted to ADK was mostly uneventful, other than some persistent rain. It's one thing to be mindful of traffic and wandering wildlife for the four hour drive. It's quite another when there are fluctuating levels of precipitation! The weather added some definite fatigue, but not terrible. It was vacation, after all!
Upon arrival and having driven through rain storms for a substantial portion of the trek from Connecticut to camp, it was prudent to get the essentials set up first. Here's a shot of the hastily set up command center. Those marks on the ground are from dragging the picnic table to a more appropriate spot.
The "roof" worked fine after a bit of fine tuning the next day. It's basically two inexpensive tarps from Walmart with a overlap at the peak. Even though having settled in with it's present arrangement developed over a few years worth of ADK visits, I have some ideas to try next year - specifically using some PVC for the ridge and drip edges. Sooner or later I'm going to end up with a site without conveniently situated trees for the rope peak support line...
The command center allows for cooking, writing, radio, and other activities under shelter from rain. Being cooped up in the tent during the day due to rain would be terrible.
The faithful Coleman tent all set up on the most level, but not "level enough" spot on the site. I was very disappointed with this, as it adversely affected my sleep. Apparently I've got to be pretty damn close to true horizontal to get a decent night's sleep. I suspect someone with a camp trailer would have a heck of a time trying to level it anywhere on this particular site.
Towards the end of my 2019 stay, one of the door flap zippers decided to go "unrailed." This disturbing development may spell the demise of this old friend. I've not been happy checking out prices for its ultimate replacement.
Here's a shrouded Blue Mountain as seen directly from my campsite!
...then I tried the zoom feature on my cheap cell phone camera.
Finally! An unobscured view of Blue! What a beauty. It's sure a lucky bonus to reserving site 51 sight unseen way back in December 2018!
Chow's on! A fast, easy, and delicious skillet meal: leftover baked beans, some chunks of leftover pork loin, and some fresh green beans. I still have to figure out how to better regulate the heat to the skillet. Even set at its lowest setting, the Coleman stove that screws directly onto a propane tank is still too hot for good cast iron skillet cooking.
I noticed this not-so-little fella on the base of my Coleman lamp's propane tank:
Disinterested in the plastic base, he then decided my boot was more interesting. I'm very curious what this guy is going to turn into. Moth? Butterfly? One thing is for certain: that neon green color doesn't blend in very well with anything in the Adirondacks!
A nice shot of the faithful Arturo in it's shoreline berth right at the campsite - and only a few feet away from the command center - with the majestic south face of Blue Mountain as a backdrop.
Viewing the northwest horizon from my campsite, there is a mountain that locals call "Little Blue." Curiosity got the best of me, so I checked a USGS topo map for the mountain's real name. Oddly enough, it's labeled as Little Blue!
An integral part of camping, at least for me, is operating my ham radio gear. There's an added "fun factor" to this hobby when you're out in the woods, running your radio off small batteries, and generally just being away from all the clutter and madness of day-to-day life back at home.
The full set up: an old, 1980s vintage Heathkit HW-8, spare HW-8, MFJ keyer, Brown Brothers CTL-A combo key/paddles, and the homebrew L-network antenna tuner. Oh yes - barely visible on the far right is the 1964 Vibroplex Original Standard bug. the three batteries I brought along served me well for the duration of my stay.
Definintely NOT a backpacker friendly collection of stuff, but this set up is fine for the type of camping I do ... though I certainly could slim things down a bit.
Note the stone holding down the upper-right corner of the notebook/logbook page - a necessity for dealing with the wind coming in from across the lake!
I had very good results getting WN1MB/2 up and running this year. Here's the usual 60' antenna wire going up into the canopy. I fashioned together a coaxially fed, 40 meter inverted vee, too, with some leftover wire I had stowed away, though it didn't seem to work nearly as well as the simple 60 foot, single wire and L-network tuner.
Both antenna pull lines were "second shots"! Either luck was on my side or I'm getting better with the simple line launch system on which I've settled. Or perhaps it's a little of both.
Here's a hastily fashioned cheat sheet for the September SKCC WES to remind me I'm in NY instead of CT. I just stuck it on the spare HW-8 I brought along. I forget exactly why, but my participation in WES was very limited compared to other years at camp. It might have been due to the good fishing on Lake Durant compared to earlier years when fishing Seventh Lake.
A requisite sunset picture taken from the command center. Too bad it's so fuzzy. I suspect a more steady hand would have helped.
My camping cuisine is generally spartan and inelegant. A single cooler fueled by a block of ice doesn't support "fancy" nor does cookware or prep area. Therefore, every once and a while it's nice to splurge on something special for mealtime.
Patience paid off in this regard. On a few trips to/through Inlet to pick up ice for the cooler, I checked Kalil's Groceries for steaks. On one of those trips, I scored a couple of rib eye steaks that were 1/2-price! The only issue was their date code required they be used right away - which really wasn't an issue for me.
Here's the one I cooked that very night with an overcooked but yummy sliced onion and buttered Jewish rye/pumpernickel bread. Deeeeelicious!
In my haste getting the steak over the fire, Murphy (of Murphy's Law) visited. While fumbling to close and lock the grill basket, I had the damn thing upside down. Gravity prevailed and the steak landed flat on the ground. And I'm talking dirt ground; not "grassy ground."
I was devastated, but not deterred. After a rinse with some water and scrapping, the steak was deemed "clean enough." Onto the basket, properly this time, and over the fire it went. Didn't get sick and only had a couple pieces that were gritty!
Mornings in the Adirondacks can appear deceptively dismal, at least in September when I'm there. You wake up in the tent, crawl out of the warm sleeping bag, rush to put on some clothing that isn't exactly toasty warm and dry, and unzip the tent flap to check out the weather. More often than not, you're greeted with the prospect of it not being a very pleasant day.
What the heck happened to Blue Mountain? Where'd it go?
These dismal looking mornings don't always mean the day is a wash; frequently it's just a ruse. A couple of websites I visit offer a much different perspective and show this morning fog phenomenon much more dramatically.
These screenshots (and other photos) can be clicked on for larger images. First is a screenshot of the McCauley Mountain webcam view:
And here's what the view from Whiteface Mountain looks like when that blanket of fog which has shrouded the valley has lifted and partially dispersed. Amazing, isn't it?
You may be interested in checking out these websites/webcams throughout the year like I do! You're guaranteed to get some wonderful views. Here are the links:
Old Forge "Webb" cams - plural! - features 10 cams!
Whiteface Mountain webcam - awesome views from the summit
Raquette Lake Navagation webcam - home of the S.S. Durant
While on a supplies run, I spotted this beautifully restored and maintained Chris Craft on Route 28 in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake. The boat looked strikingly similar to the Chris Craft my father bought from his brother back in the early 1950s, so I just had to stop and check it out...and I'm so glad I did!
Note the vehicle just to the left of the stern mounted American flag: that's my 2000 Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorer. My folks bought it in 2006 and it has faithfully made the annual ADK trek since then. I've owned it since 2015 or 2016. Now back to the "Chris"...
Proud owners Dave and Lorainne (or Lorraine) from the Rochester area were kind enough to entertain all my questions, for which I'm grateful.
It turns out that their boat is the same model as our family's "Chris" was, though I'm uncertain about the year of manufacture. Regardless, this beautiful 17 foot Runabout has been masterfully restored without falling prey to unnecessary modern updates. I could only see three differences that stood out to me: the absence of the side waterline splash boards, grooved and puttied engine box cover, and slightly lower windshield glass.
Dave noted it sported a Chris Craft, 6 cylinder flathead engine modified with electronic ignition. Our's had a Chrysler Marine flathead 6 with standard coil and distributor ignition.
He backed the trailered boat from Main Street down a driveway and down the boat launch ramp in one pass. Impressive driving skills! It was obvious this wasn't Dave's first rodeo...
Once launched, Lorainne and I held The Osprey off the side of the pier while Dave deftly played with the manual choke and fired up the engine. What a wonderful sound, which in and of itself brought another flood of great memories!
Very, very few modern boats can hold a candle to the workmanship and classiness of these vintage lake boats. And I firmly believe that even fewer of today's modern boats will ever be looked upon as true "classics" in the future.
After the Chris Craft memory recharge, it was off to Inlet for a block of ice for the cooler and visit to Arrowhead Park. I was reminded it was Patriot Day. Inlet remembers and will NEVER forget - nor should any American!
It was a cool day and blustery, as both the flag and lake surface attest.
I've always liked this little chapel perched on the side of the hill behind the Raquette Lake Navagation Company's gift shop/caboose.
Here's a dedication plaque by the chapel's entrance. This woman passed away at far too young an age.
There are a number of websites I visit daily during my 50 weeks per year away from the Adirondacks. Doing so not only offers glimpses of places I love, but also helps maintain some mental balance during the hustle and bustle of daily life. One of the websites is that of the Raquette Lake Navagation Company.
Here's a typical shot from their webcam:
Screen capture and image manipulation - Sharie Cohen
So to pay homage to a webcam that brings me Adirondack spirit and memories throughout the year while I'm away, here's a photo of Raquette Lake Navagation's webcam - a camera taking a picture of a camera, if you please:
Lake Durant hosts a hybrid game fish - the tiger muskellunge - a species I've never caught. Though the Lake Durant tiger musky population remains unscathed by this fisherman, I did have significant luck with two other species: largemouth bass and perch. They're the only types of fish caught this year in ADK, but they were plentiful and all feisty!
Here's the nicest catch of this year's vacation. He played the largemouth bass role perfectly: drag spinning runs, charging the boat, and sulking on the lake bed. He was quickly returned safe and sound to the lake.
At my campsite, I marveled at the profusion of pine cones clustered on the topmost boughs of many old growth conifers. Whilst gazing around the shoreline, I spotted a young tree around about 7 feet in height with odd looking growths from its higher, young limbs. Upon closer examination, they turned out being sap oozing pine cones growing vertically from the limbs. This was a first for me: seeing these interesting seed pod clusters both so large and accessible for examination!
On the way out for another musky hunt, I snapped this shot of the campsite from the boat. The tent on the left with the command center tarp on the right.
After visiting the facilities one night, this was the view of that night's sunset as seen through the woods on the path back to the campsite.
And here's the same sunset once back at the campsite. Note the silhouette of Little Blue Mountain on the horizon and the light of the oil lamp - my beacon - in the darkness of the command post. So pretty. Can you see The Allure?
A pleasant surprise was that a good friend from Eighth Lake Campground was my campsite neighbor at Durant this year. Paul and his dog Daisy were up the hill from my site. After a few days, they were joined by Paul's wife Valerie and their other dog Luna. They're about the best neighbors one could ever ask for.
Here are some pictures taken by Paul's wife, Valerie, who was kind enough to pass them along. The first and second caught Paul and I contemplating something or other one cool morning:
Val caught me checking my cellphone for a signal in the next one. Unfortunately, it also reveals my receeding hairline and slowly progressing male pattern baldness:
"Dammit all! No signal!"
The sun finally came out for this shot of the lakeside just feet away from my tent:
Paul got a Green Giant® promotional statue of their Jolly Green Giant off eBay, if I remember correctly. Anyway, he brings it along every September when camping. It's a rather imposing conversation piece!
Here's your faithful scribe and 6'6" camper dwarfted by the Jolly Green Giant!
Note Lil Sprout atop the Giant's left shoulder.
Thanks for the photos, Val!
With "facility chores" done and things winding down for the night, a campfire provides a camper with what an Alaskan friend refers to as "bush TV."
And that turned out being the last night campfire of my 2019 ADK stay.
On the third day of camping, I somehow managed to tweak my back, which led to varying degrees of discomfort pretty much 24/7 thereafter. Between that and more foul weather moving in, after some contemplation on Friday morning, the 13th of September, I decided to strike camp three days early and head back home. Losing three days of reservation fees was unappealing, but toughing out any more back problems while camping was far less appealing. heh.
All in all, it was another wonderful camping vacation, and the ADK's Lake Durant campground is a great place to get away from it all!
Now it's time for anticipating September 2020 and waiting for Reserve America's reservation window to open in early December!