Author’s Note: Greetings. I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone. Your reads, RETWEETS, FACEBOOK shares, compliments & comments have all been so all greatly appreciated. I especially want to thank Editor Melissa Hart & all the great folks at Adirondack Explorer & here at The Adirondack Almanack. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity they have given me to share some of my adventures & stories with all of you.
“Adirondack lean-tos are so much more than simple cedar log structures built in the woods.”
“The Bull Rush Bay lean-to is scheduled some time later this month to be demolished and replaced.”
This news hit me like a heavy weight title fight sucker punch in the gut. I’ve been barely able to catch my breath since I first heard this news in a reader comment to my most recent Adirondack Almanack story, “Smoke on the Water,” posted just last week.
A True Adirondack Lake Rescue Story
“Smoke on the Water, Fire in the Sky”
Those famous lyrics may have meant one thing when they helped propel the 1970’s band Deep Purple to worldwide Rock n’ roll stardom, but to someone paddling a canoe on a wilderness lake in the Adirondacks, they quickly took on an entirely different meaning, as a group of young canoeists was about to find out.
It was the summer of 2012, and the Monroe family, as has become tradition over the past 40 plus years, once again established camp at our favorite spot near the mouth of the river flowing from the middle of the chain of Saranac Lakes, the site officially designated on the DEC reservation web page as “site 63”, but affectionately known by the locals as “Bull Rush Bay.”
Having grown up in the Adirondacks, worked, hunted and hiked the high peaks, done a stint in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, graduated Army Ranger School- I take pride in my hardiness and skills in the woods; nights spent alone under the stars, packing only an Adirondack woodsman’s most essential tools, matching wits with Mother Nature, the elements, and high peaks terrain.
How the Adirondack Park Agency lead counsel’s legal shenanigans denied the Environmental Conservation Department a canoe racing victory
The year was 1977. I was 13 years old. It was the summer before I entered my freshman year at Saranac Lake High School. My Dad, Tom Monroe, had just been appointed in April by Commissioner Berle as DEC’s (then referred to as “Encon”) Region 5 Regional Director, following the long and distinguished career of the legendary William E. Petty.
Most of us have reoccurring dreams. Some of them are pleasant, some less so. Psychologists write books about them, and each of us probably spends time puzzling over their meaning. I think few of us ever expect them to come true, or even want them to come true. Who really wants to show up in public in their underwear? There are exceptions, moments when dreams do come true, if even only for a moment. One of those moments, and those dreams, happened for me, while I was a young man, living and working in the Adirondack High Peaks.
My brother and I, circa 1969, at our Dock on the Sacandaga by our boat with a stringer full of walleyes we caught with our dad.
“While many a pickled pepper peck Peter Piper may have indeed picked, I ponder: How many pickled pecks would have Piper picked if perhaps Peter were picking dill pickle pike.”
My first youthful pike encounter was actually with walleyed pike, as opposed to great northerns. I’m not even sure Walleyes are technically really a true “pike”. Pickled or otherwise, I believe they are more a cross between a pickerel and a perch.
My Dad, younger brother and I used to fish the walleye run on the Great Sacandaga. We’d troll up and down, back and forth on the river, near where we kept Dad’s boat tied to our floating dock, out behind our rented grey stucco house, just above the bridge. We trolled with yellow bucktails in Dad’s little Starcraft, at first putt-putting along with my Grandad’s old 5 HP Scott-At-Water. Somewhere along the line, Dad upgraded to a new 20 HP Johnson that started a lot easier and worked a lot better.
When I was a boy growing up in our house on 1 Stevenson Lane, my mom had an antique bottle collection that she kept on a shelf. One of those bottles had a rustically intricate attached metal stopper. The engraved circular glass on the front read “ISAAC MERKEL & SON, BOSS LAGER, SARANAC LAKE.” That bottle always held a special fascination for me. I still have it.
It all began innocently enough, quite by accident really, about three summers ago as I quietly rowed my Zen boat canoe from South Creek into camp. As I crossed some shallows near the shore of an island as I entered the lake, something glistened blue, reflecting morning sunlight from the lake’s bottom.
I can recall a time when there were still tent platforms on all the prime spots along the shores of Lower & Middle Saranac lakes. Despite being built on state land, they all had “POSTED” signs. Engraved family signs hung on the doors of what had originally been intended as public camping sites. Many had docks, propane tanks, generators, all the trappings of private camps. Some had been occupied by the same family for more than a generation. Many of them had become quite elaborate.
“Put on your life jacket!!!”
“Can I go fishing now?”
“Wear your life jacket.”
“What if we want to go swimming?”
“Not without life jackets.”
“Can we at least go down by the water?”
“With your life jackets.”
I had an interesting conversation with my brother recently in camp. It began innocently enough, with an observation he made about the difficulties the Saranac Lake Elks Club was apparently having recruiting new members for their lodge.
He said “You could probably get grandfathered in for membership because of Dad. RJ (my son) could never be a member here though, because he’s never lived here.”
Though I know he meant nothing by it, the comment made me stop in my tracks.
I remember our orientation day visit to Paul Smith’s College with our son RJ as he prepared to enter his freshman year as a Wildlife Sciences major there.
It was August 2017. RJ had been accepted into Paul Smith’s Wildlife Sciences program. He wanted to follow his grandfather’s footsteps and become a Forest Ranger. My wife and I were so proud.
We had visited the campus several times prior to that day. RJ had fallen in love with it from the start. So had we, as his parents. Who wouldn’t? It was perfect. A small college campus nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks, on the shore of a lake. A place where students could bring boats, kayaks & canoes, go hunting, hiking or fishing, study trees, fish & wildlife, learn to make maple syrup, where they could simply open their dorm room window and smell that cool mountain air balsam breeze.
Part III: The Bear Dance
July 28th-8am-My cell phone rang. It was Ray. “Hey- got a call last night from my neighbor- he’s camped on site 66, just above us. He said “BEAR!” Came about 4am. He says they tried yelling at it, but it completely ignored them. So they shot fireworks at it- That’s all they had. He said he thought there might be two. They saw the small one. I’ve got the chickens and the pontoon boat- what’s the plan?”
“Robin, Mom and I will meet you at the State Bridge at 11. We’ll go cook chickens. Anyone staying with you tonight? You’re gonna have bears.”
Courtesy of: Your Friendly Neighborhood Adirondack Outlaw
Greetings! As I made a quick trip out from camp for a food/water re-supply before heading back in for a long stint in camp through the Memorial Day holiday with our family, I thought a quick scouting report might be something folks find useful as they prepare to head into the Adirondacks for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
Part II : Bear Watch
Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part series. Click here for Part 1
July 12, late afternoon- my phone rang. It was Ray. “Hey- listen, the only day I can get in here overnight this weekend is Saturday- just me- what’s your plan?”
He seemed a little uneased at the prospect of a night in camp alone. I couldn’t blame him. We’d already been visited 3 times by the bear. Twice in one night. Twice while we were there.
“I’ll be there on Saturday. I’ll row in- late evening. We’ll fish, camp out in the lean to, build a bonfire, and fend off the bears.”
Part I : Bear Essentials
Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 3:30 pm- My cell phone rang. It was my brother Ray, calling from the lean to on Bull Rush Bay.
“Hey- I’m in camp for the day. Pepper’s with me. Two food bins are missing from the lean to and the Yeti is tipped over.”
We ran down the list of potential culprits- vandals, raccoons, bears. Missing food bins didn’t fit any known raccoon MO. It would have taken Racczilla to tip over that Yeti. Scratch raccoons. That left two suspects- vandals, or bears.
I said “Vandals would have stolen the Yeti, and the beer. Bears leave drag marks. Be careful, especially with that pup! Keep your eyes peeled for drag marks. Call me back.”
3:42 pm. My phone rang again.