Saturday, September 9, 2023

Weathering a storm during Woodhull Mountain tower lighting

sunset from Woodhull Mountain fire tower

The folks in the Southeastern states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are putting together their infrastructure and many homes that were flooded out (or damaged) with the wind and rain from Hurricane Idalia. It came through at the worst time. There was a full moon, causing the highest time for tides and storm surges of up to twelve feet. That hit areas in Florida where they were less than that above sea level.

The super full moon didn’t show up here as it rose, because it was pouring. I got up the next morning and got some shots from the Fourth Lake Boat Launch, as clearing came overnight. There were a few lingering clouds, which made for nice shots over the lake. I didn’t wait for it to go down, as the sun had come up and the moon (as big as it was) [was] starting to fade. A flock of mallard ducks at my feet were begging for breakfast, but they didn’t get anything from me.


The little bear that has been around all summer is getting bolder. I went to town to pick up a pizza and I left the garage door open. When I came back, he had found the corn bin and he had it out on the driveway. He didn’t want to give it up, but he did. I put some cayenne pepper on what was left on the driveway, but he ate it anyway. The next night, he was peeking in the kitchen window as he stood in my flower bed, tramping down the cosmos. Getting the corn was okay, but looking in my kitchen window as he stood on my flowers…that’s going too far. So, I whacked him with the broom. I haven’t seen him since, so I hope he got the message.


As I came home from Utica [on] Saturday night [September 2,] it was pouring out of one black cloud over Old Forge. [The] weather [channel had predicted] that it was going to be a clear night. As I got out of the car at home, there was a lightning strike not far away and a big clap of thunder. I got my lights and other stuff ready to go for the trip up Woodhull Mountain for the fire tower lighting. I traveled into the trailhead, and when I got out of the truck there was another clap of thunder just to the south. I had my rain gear, but if it was raining…you would not be seeing anyone lighting the other towers.

Super moon over Fourth Lake

Super moon over Fourth Lake. Photo by Gary Lee.

As I went up the trail, it looked clear to the west…which was good. As I got to the top, I could see the sun was about to set in the west, so I quickly climbed the tower to get a good shot of the sunset. There was just a sliver of clear sky, and the rest of the sky was a big, black cloud…but no rain. As the sun sank, it got prettier until it disappeared. I could see to the west quite [well,] but it was hazy to the east, as the storm was headed that way. I could see the lights around [the] Rome Airport and the lights on the wind farm towers to the south. To the north, I could see the fire tower on Rondaxe Mountain and lights along the shoreline of the lake below the tower.


I got my lights hung up on the outside of the tower before the light failed completely. I knew that Fred Knauf was on Wakely Mountain. He was going to light up early, so the WW Durant tour boat dinner cruise could see them from Raquette Lake. I gave him a call, and he had to duck under the cabin porch on Wakely, as the thunderstorm passed before he got his lights on the tower. I could see his lights, but that was about as far to the east as I could see. He said he could see Owlshead, Blue, Snowy, Rondaxe, Stillwater, and my lights over this way. I could see headlamps of people climbing up to the Rondaxe Tower, some from the old trail to the west of the tower.


Did I say the wind was blowing?  Well it was, [and] luckily [it was not] cold. I went down and took a couple pictures of my tower lit up. I read the list of observers who had served in that tower (which I put in last week’s article.) I did call Ron, who was lighting Rondaxe Tower, and he said he had some company up there with him. Then Jim Fox called from Stillwater Tower, and he had some friends up there with him and Harry Peck. I took down the lights at 9:30 p.m. and started down the mountain. A barred owl called a few times, as I passed where he was hunting just off the trail. As I hiked the trail, [I thought about] how many times the observers who worked on these mountains climbed up and down from the towers. [I also thought about] the observations they [must have] made over the years and how many times they ducked thunderstorms in their cabins, as the lightning lit up their towers.


The 90-Miler canoe race [started] Friday [September 8,] but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Sunset from the Woodhull Mountain fire tower. Photo by Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

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