Saturday, December 30, 2023

Reminiscing as we celebrate 60th Wedding Anniversary

people gather around a campfire in winter

It is a white Christmas here at Eight Acre Wood, but just barely…with leaf cover showing through the
white stuff. Santa would have needed a motor vehicle (and not a sleigh) in most of the United States this
Christmas. I mentioned all the events going on this week in our lives including Christmas, the full moon, and our granddaughter’s wedding on December 30. [However,] I forgot the big one…and that was our 60th Wedding Anniversary [on] Wednesday, [December] 27. I surely would have been reminded if I missed that one, for sure. When you marry the girl next door, you cannot forget these things.

One of those memories was the day I got the Forest Ranger job at West Canada Lakes. I came home from
the interview and Karen was sitting on the porch of our trailer in West Milton with our daughter, Erin, not
yet six months old on her lap. She had been down to our neighbor’s house discussing the possible job change. It was going to be one of the biggest changes in our lives and the second year of our marriage was August 1965. Karen was pregnant with our second child, Michael, and tears rolled down her face as I told her I got the job.

 

West Canada Lakes was a little rustic… you might say. There was no running water (which came out of the lake by the bucket full,) no electricity, gas stove, and two gas lights, and no refrigeration…which would be a big life change. We did have phone service [once] I fixed the phone line, which was out almost daily if it rained…or the wind blew. We did have radio service when the Pillsbury fire tower observer was up in the tower. Access was a fifteen-mile hike in from Perkins Clearing or a fifteen-minute float plane trip in from Lake Pleasant. The state paid for two plane trips to get what we needed into the log cabin there and be there in a week. It was a scramble to get what we were going to need that would fit in a seaplane, but we did it.

 

We headed to Lake Pleasant with most of our few worldly possessions in the back seat of our ’57 Chevy, plus our dog, Dog, and our cat, Kisser. It was raining and foggy that day and the pilot said he could not make the trip that day, so we went back home. The next day did not seem much better, but he said he was coming and landed on Lake Pleasant [at] about 9 a.m. We loaded all our stuff into the plane and off it went to our new home. He came back for us in about forty-five minutes.

 

We put in a few more of our things, the cat in a box, the dog, Karen in the back seat with Erin on her lap, me in the other front seat by the pilot, Chuck Windhusen, and off we went (both for our first ever plane ride.) We did not see much of the ground, as we traveled through the clouds as Chuck watched his watch and compass. It was a little bumpy and the cat got out of her box and ran around the cab. Chuck said, “If she goes by here again, I am opening the window.” Karen got her back in the box and soon we came down through the clouds and landed on West Canada Lake, our new home for the next few months. Karen said, “Next time, I want to see where we are going.”

Gnome at Tony Harper’s in Inlet, waiting for snow. Photo by Gary Lee.

[Back home,] the trails are a mess, with many washouts in the snowmobile trail system and lots of debris in the ski and hiking trails. The wet snow that came after the rain ended took down lots of dead branches and some trees [as well.] So, if you are out and about pick a few limbs from the trail which would make it much safer when the snow comes, then you do not have to ski, snowmobile, or hike over this stuff. That is what I have been doing for the last few days, and there is a lot of debris in the trails. It has taken me over an hour per mile on most of the trails I have been clearing…not big stuff, but tons of little stuff. I use my pick walking stick and that way I do not even have to bend over, just [a] flick of the stick and the debris [is] out of the trail. All the trails are not going to be cleared, so if we get snow, be careful not to run into some of this junk in your travels.

 

This week I went to the Solstice celebration at the Old Forge Library. There were about twenty [people] in attendance around a campfire, some stories were [shared] about the beauty around us, a children’s book was read, and a couple poems were read. Peace around the world was expressed by many in attendance. As we were there reading, two Crows chased a Short-Eared Owl right over our heads…such beauty at the right time.

 

My granddaughter, Rachel’s, wedding [is] this weekend in Rochester, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Solstice celebration at the Old Forge Library. 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."




6 Responses

  1. Tom Vawter says:

    Happy 60th to a wonderful couple, and Happy New Year.

  2. Gerald Myers says:

    Gary is a legend in the Adirondacks. Glad he’s doing well.
    I also got old (81) against my will so my big woods tracking days are over but the memories remain.
    Jerry Myers

  3. Martie says:

    At first, I had assumed Karen’s tears at your news of the job at West Canada Lakes were joyful … but maybe not, given the remoteness and lack of modern conveniences – ad her pregnancy! I loved the story and congratulate you both – on your 60 years of marriage and your willingness to take risks in the wild.

  4. David Gibson says:

    Good you remembered the girl next door, Gary. Congratulations to you both. Thanks for the telling of your first overflight of the Adks. You’ve been well grounded ever since.

  5. Linda says:

    What a newlywed adventure! Would love to hear more. Happy anniversary! Your wife may be my newest hero, small child, pregnant and no “basic” necessities as we know them! Happy New Year!!

  6. Phil Brown says:

    Great story, Gary. Happy anniversary and happy new year!

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