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Our fourth camping trip
My fourth camping trip
to the Lake George area was in the summer of 1992. As usual I was staying at the
Adirondack Camping Village, which is my favorite campground in the Lake George
area. I had visited this same campground the two previous summers with my friend
Mike, and some of our other friends. During these trips the gear we used was
mostly Mikes, as I had little camping gear of my own. This time around was a bit
different. First of all, Mike wasn't with us, it was my friend Steve, and my
then girlfriend (now wife) Holly and I. Secondly, I had bought some of my own
camping gear since the last trip. It was still a joint effort between Steve and
I to make sure that we had everything we needed. Steve provided some important
things like the propane stove. We had two tents, one 8' by 10' cabin tent, and
one "A" frame trail style tent. We only had just a couple of tarps, one of which
was covering the gear on our roof during the drive there. This wound up being a
bad idea. Several times along the way the tarp on the roof became loose and had
to be re-secured on the side of the road. The last time we (I) had gotten pretty
damned tired of stopping to tie it back up, and decided to let it flap for a
while. The tarp wound up getting shredded pretty badly on one corner (actually
it was a pretty significant area of the tarp). This tarp would end up being the
ground cloth underneath the trail tent (which Steve slept in). The trail tent
had a nylon floor in it, and hadn't been treated to water proofing spray, or
seam sealer in years. To make matters worse Steve set the tent up with the door
area in a low spot on the site. Needless to say it rained, a LOT, and
Steve got pretty wet! That was only one of the problems we had. . .
To start things off, on the way there we made a wrong turn at Albany, and wound up on I90 going East. This is NOT the way to go to Lake George people. I had two maps, and handed one to my girlfriend who was sitting next to me in the passengers side seat, and the other to Steve who was in the back. I even pointed out to Holly where we were on the map. NEITHER of them could manage to read the map and figure out how the hell to get back to the Northway. Now just to make things interesting, it was right around rush hour, and the traffic was ridiculous. I finally managed to find a place where I could pull to the shoulder and read the map my self. I found a way to get where I was going, and after a while actually managed to pull back onto the road (like I said, the traffic was really bad). In essence, we wound up driving all the way around the city of Albany. This little detour around Albany cost us more than an hour. Then, to make matters worse we wound up getting of the Northway in Glens Falls because the car was about out of gas (it only got 8 miles to the gallon). We had left Fishkill NY at around 5:30 in the evening. Normally, the drive to Lake George takes about two and a half to three hours. It was nearly 9:00 at night by the time we got there between all the stops to re-secure the tarp, and my Albany adventure.
During the course of this trip we learned a couple of important lessons. First of all we managed to create some friction with some of the local teenagers. We wound up paying the price for this. On one occasion we parked our car on a public street. It was a clear, sunny day and we parked at around six in the evening. It was the middle of the summer, and still broad daylight when we parked. We returned to the car after a boat cruise which started at about eleven, so it was a bit after midnight when we got back to the car. When I got in the car the headlights were on. Now the battery in the car was NOT brand new, as a matter of fact it was pretty damn old by the looks of it. I seriously doubt that it would have been able to power the headlights for over six hours (actually I know damn well it couldn't have). I shut of the lights and then noticed a paper note on the windshield written in crayon that said "you left your lights on." I turned the key to see if the car would start, and when it hit the on position the wipers began moving. I know damn well that I had not had the wipers on at all that day. I shut of the wipers and tried to crank the car over. It turned over once very slowly, and I let off the key. I told Steve and Holly we would have to let it sit for a while, and we went and got some ice cream cones. About fifteen minutes later we returned to the car, and were able to start it. Again, I seriously doubt it would have recovered that quickly, or at all, if the lights had been on for six hours.
When we returned to the campsite that same night, the tent flaps were wide open flapping in the breeze. Again, I know that they were closed because I had gone back up to the tent after we were in the car ready to leave the site for the day. After I got what I wanted out of the tent I closed it up, and had complained to Holly that the screen doors hadn't been fastened completely when she closed it up. I told her it was a good thing I had to go back, otherwise the tent would have been full of bugs. Steve and I checked out the campsite with flashlights completely before we let Holly out of the car. There was nothing missing from the site, even my guitar, and some other items of some value were still in the tent, and my camera and other stuff in the car hadn't been disturbed, but there was a note hanging off our picnic table. It was written in crayon and said, "you left your tent open too."
A couple of days later we were at the Aviation mall, which is just down the road from Lake George, in Queensbury. This is where we had the original encounter that disturbed the teens. When we returned to the car the windshield wipers had been flipped upside down on the wiper arms so that the rubber blades were sticking up in the air, and the metal frames were against the windshield. This was the last incident, and we were pretty relieved that they hadn't done any real damage.
This taught us an important lesson about creating friction on someone else's home turf! Another lesson we learned from this was to always hide the card you get for parking ID from campgrounds and hotels / motels. They usually tell you to hang it from your rear view mirror. We had been smart enough to take ours down while parking in the village, and sat it on the seat, but if someone does decide to break into the vehicle they can easily read it. We figure this must be how the kids knew what campground and site we were staying at. Now I either carry the ID with me, or lock it in the glove compartment or trunk.
We also learned how important tarps are during this trip. We had a tarp for under our tent and another for under the trail tent. The one we were going to use under the trail tent had gotten frayed pretty badly on one corner (about a fourth of the tarp), but we used it anyway (well it was all we had). We also had one big tarp. I think it was around 10' x 16' or so, maybe a little bigger. We got a good size log, about five inches in diameter and maybe ten feet long. We checked it for strength, and when we were sure it would hold we began preparing it for use. Using my hatchet I carved a groove about a half inch deep around each end of the log, maybe four inches from the end. Then I took a length of poly rope, which I had bought at the dollar store, and cut it in half. We melted the ends to keep it from fraying, and tied one piece around each end of the log. Then we used the ropes to suspend the log over our picnic table. Once it was secured we pulled the big tarp over it, and tied it into place giving us a place out of the sun and rain to cook and eat. Later in the trip we wound up buying another tarp to cover our tent which leaked badly despite water proofing and seam sealing. We also wound up taking down the dining tarp and using it over our tent when we found out the tarp we had bought for the job just wasn't big enough. Out of eight nights we spent there I think it rained solidly for four, and on and off for a fifth. Luckily most of the days were better than the nights were.
One final lesson we learned during this trip is how important it is to secure your food. Luckily we didn't have an encounter with a bear, or anything else large and dangerous! Being as we were on a budget (and quite a tight one at that) we decided to bring most of the food we would eat during the trip with us. Now our trip was more of a vacation trip to Lake George, as we planned on doing lots of gift shopping, and hitting the amusement parks and all that kind of stuff. We had decided to camp to save money, so cooking our own food was a way to save a bit more. We bought most of our food ahead of time, and combined our shopping with normal shopping for the family (I lived with my mother and grandmother at the time) buying as much as possible from club stores. Some of the more perishable items we bought at the Price Chopper in Glens Falls the day we planned on using it. All of our meats and other cold food items were stored in a Coleman 48 Quart cooler. A Coleman 40 Quart cooler held our drinks. What remained were English muffins, bread, graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate, spaghetti, jars and cans, and spices. Our sleeping bag was brand new, and still in the box when we arrived. We unpacked the sleeping bag, and packed the remaining food in the box. We interleaved the flaps on the box, locking them together. This was a pretty strong box, and it was secure. NONE of the food in the box had been opened. We sat the box on our picnic table, and stacked a couple of 12 packs of Coca~Cola on top of it, completely covering the top of the box.
When we returned to the campsite the first night, it was COVERED with crows. I'm not kidding, it looked like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It was dark, and in the headlights of the car EVERYTHING was covered with crows. All of the ridge poles on the tent, the ridge in our dining tarp, the ropes holding up the dining tarp ridge, anything that could support a crow had at least one on it. In addition to the crows, there were DOZENS of little red squirrels running all over the place. We had to get out of the car, and throw pine cones all over the place to scare them away. NOTE, we did not try to hit any of the animals, we threw the pine cones at the tarps and tents to shake them and make some noise which scared the birds, but this still took a good five minutes to get them to go. Once the site was cleared out we got a good look at the damage. They had chewed a hole through the sleeping bag box, and then through the box of graham crackers, and through the sealed wax paper sleeve the crackers were in, and gotten at the crackers. They had also pulled the bag of marshmallows out of the box and ripped it open. For the rest of the trip, we kept seeing little red squirrels running around our campsite with marshmallow stuck in the fur around their face, or with a whole marshmallow in their mouth. The good thing is they didn't get in anything that would hurt them, or that we couldn't replace, and we didn't get hurt by any BIG animals. The lesson is make sure your food is secured, or animals will get in it. There are two ways to secure food. It should be in a box made of either metal or plastic. If the box will be left outside it must latch and lock. Outside, if bears are a concern, the box should be suspended between a couple of trees, at least 12 feet off the ground, and at least 8 feet from either tree. Otherwise the box should be in your car. The best place is in the trunk. If your food box will not fit in the trunk then place it on the floor of the back seat of the car, and again, if bears are a concern, cover it with blankets. Make sure the blankets are crumpled, and don't look like a blanket wrapped around a cooler, as bears may be wiser than you think. You should secure your cooler the same way as your food box. Finally, be sure that the windows in the car are closed all the way. Even if you take all these precautions, animals WILL get into your food if they know it is there and they want it! You would be amazed at the amount of damage a bear can inflict on a car!