Monday, June 28, 2010
I hadn't slept in a tent in years. I always used to brag that I don't camp. I enjoy the comforts of city life too much, I'd say. But people change and the past several years I've been getting more and more into the outdoor life. Beach trips, hiking upstate, trips to national parks and forests, rock climbing....the sunburn on my face proves that I love the outdoor life now.
So when my friend Chris proposed a camping trip upstate I readily agreed and within weeks myself and two good friends grew our beards and headed into the woods. Our destination was a little camp ground by a small lake near the Pepacton Reservoir in the Catskills.
Now, being civilized fellows we did bring our share of gear with us. Two tents, a grille, fishing rods, foldie-chairs, a canoe (rental), plenty of "off" and of course the food. Three coolers worth of meals, most of which were prepared by Jarred, who's quite the chef. Here's a sample of a text he sent before we left: "Friday nite/chicken tenderloins 2 ways (herb&spicy) and thai steak kebabs. Sat lunch rosemary/roasted garlic sliders." Quite the gourmet camping grub. One more thing we made sure we brought; 36 cans of beer and 2 bottles of whiskey. Luckily we were able to row our canoe to the site to carry all this stuff.
Sitting at our lake...
The first day we mostly just set up camp and took in the beautiful surroundings. I went for a swim in the lake and floated with back in water and closed eyes in the sun. So peaceful. We ate our first amazing meal and cracked open the Bulleit. It was a clear full moon night. Strong blue light shone through the trees like a midnight cathedral. We went for a canoe ride. No idea what time it was. One of our rules was no clocks. Nothing was out there but a lone goose. This goose wound up following us around the rest of the weekend. At some point Chris fell in the lake, but not while I was in the canoe, so I could not be a witness. Somehow half his body was completely dry while the other half was soaked.
Doesn't this wooden stump look like a frog?
Next day we milled around for a while in the early sun and I went out in the canoe to go fishing. Chris had to help me with setting up the hook, etc and this took us a while. It kept getting tangled up for some reason. The lake only had small pan fish and I only caught one. I'm not much of a fisherman. I put it back.
Some of the beautiful things I saw...
After an award-winning lunch we head out for a hike up the nearest hill. It was a great trail with many changes in the scenery, well marked. It started raining while we were out so we had to run back to the camp to cover our tents with tarp. But it wasn't a heavy rain and no damage done. We headed back up and hiked till the sun was getting heavy in the valley.
That night it rained. We could see the dark clouds approaching the lake. It was a strange feeling because it was this half-dark / half-light evening that lasted forever. We couldn't tell when the sun set and when the full moon rose because everything was so overcast. And since we weren't allowed to check watches we lost all sense of time. The rain wasn't so bad and we lit the fire and drank and ate to keep spirits up. We were tired and just stared at the fire until we dozed off, back to the tents. We all took turns snoring and I was a bit dehydrated. But all was fine the next morning.
Next morning came and a couple rangers stopped by at different times. One warned us of black bears. She asked us if we knew what to do and we said, "yeah, put the food in the tent!". "Oh no, you don't want to do that!" she said. Yeah, we knew...I'm not sure why we said that. We were hanging the food on a nearby tree.
The next ranger saw us packing up to head out and since we were with our packs he exclaimed real loud "backpackers rule!". "We hear ya brother", we said back. We didn't have the heart to tell him we drove up here from the city.
We ended the trip with a nice long hike on the dry brook ridge. Up and up we went, a steep climb for much of it. But it felt great and the trail never left you bored. We reached the crest of the ridge but didn't make it to the viewpoint since that was another half hour ahead and it was time to head back to real life.
Back in town the atmosphere was hot and sticky. The air was heavy and the lights were glowing through a gauze that covered all the neighborhoods. A much needed shower, checking email and into bed, dreaming of that black bear in the woods.