Revised Feb 3rd/05

Tom's Lake George Site  Stories

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Our second trip

    The second time I went camping in Lake George was in 1990.  I was 21 at the time.  Although this was quite a few years after the first trip, and I was significantly older, I was NOT necessarily any smarter.  This camping trip was the first one that I organized.  It wound up being my mother, my friend Mike, and I.  My mother and I drove up first in my 1978 Chevy Nova.  The Nova was a 2 door car, and we packed the shit out of it.  When I got done packing the trunk I actually had to sit on the trunk lid to get it closed.  I had NEVER driven any where near that far from home, and with well over 100,000 miles on the car I was a bit concerned as to weather it would make the trip.  We made the trip in just over an hour and a half (actually it took us just over 2 hours, but we stopped for about 20 minutes in Glens Falls to eat breakfast).  It is about 160 miles from my house so I figure that we were going close to 100 mph the whole way.  I only stopped in Glens Falls because my mother threatened to kill me if I didn't stop.  I was honestly afraid that once I shut the car off it wouldn't start up again.  For much of the trip I was driving so close behind 18 wheelers that my engine was actually running HOT from the lack of airflow through the radiator.  We had only what we could fit in the trunk and back seat of my Nova, and that wasn't much.  We didn't have any sleeping bags, or other camping gear, except for a beaten up old trail tent that had been given to me when I was a boy, by someone who was going to throw it out.  The screen was all ripped, and I had to sew the ties back on the flaps.  We set this up and used it only to store gear in.  We used blankets, and relied on Mike to bring the rest of the gear.

    Mike was driving a 1972 Impala, and he filled the trunk, back seat, and passengers side of the front seat with gear.  He had just about anything you could wish for, but all the gear in the world doesn't make up for not having brains.  Don't get me wrong, neither of us was stupid, we just didn't think things out very well.  He had a very nice tent with a rubberized canvas floor, canvas walls, and a rubberized nylon fly.  Although it used metal poles, it set up kind of like a dome tent.  The floor was square, but the walls curved in toward the center.  The four corners of the tent hooked into the bottoms of the poles, so when it was set up you could pick the whole thing up and move it around.  As it turned out, this was a bad thing!  We only had the cheesy wire type of tent pegs that come with the tents, and as we were expecting good weather for the four nights we only used one tent peg in each corner to hold the tent in place.  Let me be the first to tell you, it takes MORE than 4 tent pegs to hold a tent in place.  This was a really BIG mistake.

    The first night was fine, except that we froze our asses off all night long, only having blankets.  We were a bit surprised that it dropped down into the 40's over night, since the daytime temps were in the 80's.  The second night became a disaster.  The day started out beautiful.  It was clear and sunny.  If I remember right we spent the day at the amusement park.  That evening we were walking along the Fort William Henry Commons shopping area when all of a sudden the sky started turning dark.  It was only about 6 or 6:30 in the evening.

    Let me set the scene a little bit.  My car was parked on Montcalm St. between Schuyler St. and Cooper St.  This is about 8 or 9 blocks from where we were walking.  Mike had left his car at the campground.  The group consisted of the girl I was dating at the time, my friend Mike, my mom and I.  I had picked up my girlfriend at the Fort William Henry motel earlier in the day, and had to drop her back off there before returning to the campground that night.  My girlfriend was staying at the Motel, with her family, while the rest of us were camping.  My mother is VERY afraid of thunder and lightening.

    The rest of the events I am about to describe started and stopped almost instantly, it was only about fifteen or twenty minutes from beginning to end.

The Story

    While we were walking along the sky SUDDENLY began to darken dramatically.  My friend Mike said to me in an excited tone, and somewhat abruptly and quickly "dude, run" and he was gone.  I ran as fast as I could, and was barely managing to keep up with him.  I had NO idea what was going on.  Mike was, and probably still is, a bit of a BS artist, but I knew that he had spent a LOT more time in the Adirondacks than I had, as he had gone on many camping, fishing, and hunting trips with his father in the area.  He was heading back toward the village, and I wasn't quite sure why. I was just getting ready to try to ask why (understand that I had all I could do to keep breathing while running at this pace) when the answer came to me. The sky turned PITCH BLACK, and there was an explosion like you have never heard before (thunder I later realized), the Heavens lit up, and the ground literally shook. At the same time, the rain began coming down harder than I have ever seen it rain before. Within just a couple of steps we were soaked, and the power was out. It was like night.  This all literally happened in about 10 to 15 seconds!  It took us about three minutes to get to the car.  When we got to the car I started it up, and turned on the CB.  We turned onto Cooper St. and took that to McGillis Av.  We turned left onto McGillis Av.  We didn't make it too far before we ran into backed up traffic.  This whole time it was pouring out, the wind was fierce, and the thunder and lightening was bright, deafening, and constant.  While we were waiting to cross Canada St. to pick up my mother and girlfriend (it was taking a while because the traffic light was out, and a sheriff was directing traffic) we listened to the CB.  We heard some truckers driving on the Northway (which is a couple of hundred feet behind us at this point) talking about seeing a funnel cloud (as in tornado).  By the time we got to pick up the others the thunder and lightening had pretty much stopped, but it was very windy, dark, and raining extremely hard.  We drove around to the other side of the Fort William Henry and dropped my girlfriend off at the motel, and then headed for the campground.  By now the wind had calmed down a bit, as well as the rain.  It was still raining steadily, but not so hard.  When we got to the campsite we didn't see the tent.  After pulling both cars up to face the site, and turning on our high beam lights (it was still VERY dark) we found the tent upside down in a stream about thirty feet into the woods, and down a pretty steep little hill.

    Needless to say, everything in the tent was VERY wet.  We carried it back to the campsite, and uprighted it.  We then put in all the tent pegs, and by the time we were finished the rain had stopped, and the sky was clearing.  After cleaning up the best we could, we returned to the village for supper, and to have some fun.  The gear never did dry completely.  Luckily, our clothes were in my smaller trail tent, which didn't get nearly as wet.  Don't get me wrong, it was FAR from water -proof, and I didn't cover it with a tarp, or put a tarp under it, and of course the bags we packed our clothes in weren't water proof, but they only got damp, not soaked.