Adirondack Mountains Trip, August 28-31, 1999

Unfortunately, I didn't decide that writing a story and including photos was a good idea until long after all this happened. In the future I'm going to make a conscious effort to do that photo-documentary-type thing to really complete the story.

As always, the scans don't do justice to the slides. Doubly so here, since I just batch-processed all the scans and didn't bother to clean them up or anything. Oh well. 5/17/03 Update: It was also before I really learned to do good scanning, too.

The Plan

In early August I was struck with the need to go on an adventure. I don't know what brought the need about, but aside from driving my Jeep on a daily basis, I hadn't done any adventuring since visiting James (in Michigan) and Sherree (in Minnesota) back in March. Part of it may have been a need to go tooling down the highway and through some woods in my new truck (a spiffy '99 Ford Explorer Sport).

So anyway, I was talking with Sherree one night in early August. We were trying to figure out what we might do while she was back in Connecticut during her summer break from school, when I suggested a camping trip. Much to my surprise, she agreed.

A little background: for years I told Sherree that camping was fun and that she should go on a trip with me sometime. But for whatever reason, I could never convince her to do it. Part of it was that her idea of "camping" is going somewhere in the fully-loaded RV--complete with VCR and Nintendo for those beautiful sunny days when there's nothing better to do than sit around watching movies and playing video games. In July '98 a bunch of us were going on a short backpacking trip and she agreed to go with us, but then she backed out at the last minute. I haven't let her forget that.

Anyway, she agreed, so I began hunting around for some place good to go. Back when I was a young'n, I vacationed in the Lake Placid area of the Adirondack Mountains (in New York) with the family. We did a lot of the typical tourist stuff. Seeing as how this was the first real camping trip Sherree was going on, I thought being a tourist might go over better than hiking through some woods for four days. So that's the kind of stuff we did, and it worked well.

Saturday, August 28

So we're on our way. Something we were concerned about was the hurricane that was passing through New York. That could put a damper on things. As we got closer to our destination of Sharp Bridge Campground, we couldn't help but notice that it was raining hard enough to slow traffic from 65 to 25 MPH. Not a good sign. Most of our conversation seemed to revolve around the idea that the rain could ruin the trip. Happily, the rain quit and everything dried up about 15 minutes before we got off the highway.

"Find a site, come back tomorrow morning" was not the sign I was expecting to see on the camp office door. So we drove around and found a campsite, but not before we re-enacted a typical off-roading commercial by bouncing over some rather large roots as we drove up the side of a 45-degree hill. We wandered around the campground briefly and quickly came across Brenda, who talked to us about any and everything.

Not only did she pass along some useful information (buy firewood down that road here, the closest store is 20 minutes down there), but also told us some great stuff about the Adirondack Mountains. She had been spending her summers up here for 20 years, and loved it. 6+ million acres, a wet forest where fires were always allowed, the highway that ruined the ambiance, and such like that. But then she detailed all that stuff we didn't really care about. Like the fact that she needed to get up on the roof of her camper to fix the leaks in it. And the ladder she needed to buy to get on the roof to fix the leaks. And the canoe she made that she used to carry on the roof of the camper but had now given to this other family who had been camping up there for nearly as long as she had.

I guess I'm just not as good at socializing with people as she was. I guess it's also possible we just had no real interest in what she was saying. Anyway, we didn't accept the invitation to sit around her fire that night. We built our own.

Sunday, August 29

After a boring cereal breakfast and poking some more fun at Brenda, we were off for our first bit of sightseeing: High Falls Gorge. Unfortunately, we drove past all kinds of great views that I didn't feel the urge to stop and photograph. Oh well. A surprise came when we found out that the Ironman bike race was this same weekend and, amazingly enough, on the same route we were taking. We drove by a bunch of people jumping up and down, cheering like crazy. It turns out they were cheering for the athletes, not us.

It didn't dawn on me what day it was until we got into the High Falls Gorge parking lot and noticed it was practically empty. For anybody considering a trip, Sunday is a good day to visit this place. We took the self-guided tour, listened to the recordings, and marveled at the views.

Incidentally, a 15+ pound camera bag gets very heavy very quickly when hanging off of one shoulder. Having somebody along who is willing to carry the bag on occasion is a wonderful relief.

After all of us (Sherree, the ducks, and I) finished eating our sandwiches and Cheetos, we moved on towards Whiteface Mountain. Of course, we had to deal with the detours from the Ironman. Including a detour that took us in a circle--we went through Lake Placid twice. The key is not to turn where the signs say. Duh, I should have known that. After getting out of Lake Placid we continued on towards Whiteface Mountain, when we passed Wilmington Notch Campground (where the family stayed years prior) and Santa's Workshop (a spot we had visited).

A log cabin-style gatehouse and some lady in a green uniform looking for $12 greeted us at the base of the mountain. That $12 bought us a "hello" and a small brochure detailing what we would see on the way up. It was a 10-stop, 5-mile trip to the top. We made all the stops and took our time getting up there (in other words, I took a long time to blast through a few frames of film). This is where it first became really obvious that a 28mm lens just wasn't wide enough to capture much of the landscape; 24mm might have done it, but I needed a 20mm, I'm sure. Some photos from the many stops:

After parking, we wandered in the general direction that other people were wandering. We found ourselves at the beginning of a long staircase with a sign right next to it. The sign reported that only the most physically fit people should go to the mountaintop this way, as you were climbing five stories in a mere 1/5 mile. So Sherree and I, being model physically-fit people and unwilling to let a sign intimidate us, head up the staircase for the top. I stopped along the way for some photos; Sherree pressed on.

Being such a clear day, I was able to get some nice photos from the top of the mountain. Too bad I don't have a 20mm lens.

And being the lazy bums we are, we took the elevator back down the mountain. Of course, we didn't call ourselves lazy; our reasoning was that "we hadn't experienced the elevator." The elevator operator noticed my camera and proceeded to mention that I was lucky enough to be here on one of the clearest days of the summer. On the drive back down the mountain we made considerably less stops.

After getting back to the campsite and sitting down for five minutes, we decided to hunt out Blue Ridge Falls. According to the map it was nearby. We found it without much trouble and enjoyed jumping from rock to rock and doing the whole exploring thing. I went off to burn some film when I saw Sherree splash into the water, soaking all of her clothes. Yes, I laughed. Yes, very hard. No, I didn't get a picture. She went up to the truck to change while I took some more photos. I want a 20mm lens.

At this point, it's important to know that I brought my camera--with a single roll of partially-exposed film--down to the falls. I finished that roll of film and noticed how far down river I was and did not want to climb over all those rocks to get back to the truck for more film, just to go back to the falls and climb all that way down river again. So I was hoping I would see Sherree coming back so that I could ask her to bring more film. With all this water rushing around me, I knew I wouldn't be able to hear well (and neither would she), so I would have to yell very loudly. Here's the conversation that followed:

    Dan: "Hey!"
    Sherree: "Hey!"
    "Film!" I get a strange look from Sherree. I yell again, "film!"
    "Ok!" Sherree starts to run off.
    "One roll!"
    "Ok!" Sherree starts to run off.
    "Ok!" Sherree goes to get the film.

Well, maybe you had to be there to understand just how funny it was. Of course, in a conversation that came up later she told me she was originally just going to bring the whole camera bag down. Yeah, that would have worked.

A bit later we headed back to the campground for dinner. Incidentally, I cooked the whole weekend, mainly because Sherree lacked faith that I am a more-than-experienced chef in the out-of-doors. I could say that she found the food more than satisfactory, but that's like saying a Hasbro executive told you they make quality toys.

I believe the high-point of the trip for Sherree was when we broke out the stuff for S'mores. And of course, we had a fire again.

It was this evening that I had a revelation concerning my friendship with Sherree: we have nothing in common. Sherree was quick to point out that I was wrong--we both went to high school together and we both worked on the school newspaper, for example. I point out that I went to high school with hundreds of people and worked on the paper with at least 50 other people, yet never became good friends with hardly any of them, let alone stayed in contact over the years. We debated this for a while. But in the end we came to the conclusion that our friendship is based on constant jokes at each other's expense. (Ok, mostly my jokes at her expense.)

Monday, August 30

The most interesting and strange things seem to happen in the bathroom. Sherree walked into the women's bathroom when she hears a deep, booming, male-sounding voice from the shower: "I'll be out in a minute." Some guy mistook the men's room for the women's.

After the morning rituals, we headed towards Natural Stone Bridge and Caves. Now, you would think some place with a name like that would be quite photogenic. It isn't. Er, maybe I just didn't have the right "frame of mind" to see it as photogenic. Don't get me wrong, it was an enjoyable spot to visit, but I found it to be a terrible let-down as compared to Sunday's views.

Next we moved on to the Adirondack Museum, which was an amazing place. We spent about four hours there, and didn't get to go through but half of the place, glazing over much of what we did see. An entire day could easily be spent there. The museum was very comprehensive, in that it focused on every activity that ever happened within the Adirondack mountain range. Everything from rustic furniture building, logging and horse-drawn snow-removal to famous writers, painters and other artists from the area are covered here.

Unfortunately, I had more interest in studying all the exhibits than I did in photographing them, so I haven't any shots from there.

We had to leave the Museum early enough to get back in time to meet Sherree's friend, Mike From Ohio. As we were leaving the Museum a small group of people asked if it was worth the price of admission. After telling them how little we got to see and recommending they come back when they could spend an entire day, they looked a little disappointed. The museum was only open for another hour and this was their only opportunity to see it.

Mike From Ohio arrived, we ate, then went down to Blue Ridge Falls. It was nearly dark when we got there, but we still explored a bit. I (accidentally) slid down the face of a rock; luckily my hands were there to grab on to every jagged edge and small stone, leaving numerous scratches.

When we got back to the campsite I got another fire going, only to ignore it to play rummy and eat S'mores with Sherree and Mike From Ohio. I was harangued much of the night for playing with a poker-face. I announced that I was going to get up early to go back to Blue Ridge Falls to photograph with some of the early-morning light. Mike From Ohio groaned, but Sherree wanted me to wake her when I got up.

Tuesday, August 31

The last day. Sigh. Sherree and I left about 6:30 and were back at the campground by about 7:30. I want a 20mm lens.

We were having pancakes for breakfast.

    "What are you going to fry them in?" Sherree asked.
    "The frying pan," I responded.
    "Isn't that the lid to the pot?"
    "Not if I turn it upside down." It seemed simple enough to me.

So when I was mixing the pancake batter, some little bug flew into it. I just kept mixing; who cares about a bug? Extra protein. I flopped a pancake out on to Sherree's plate and mentioned that in one of these pancakes was a bug. "Eww! Here it is!" She found it, but unfortunately, didn't consider herself lucky.

I went down to sign us out of the campground and had a nice conversation with Tim, the 28-year-old Park Ranger/Campground Maintainer. I mentioned the "find a site, come back tomorrow" sign; he wanted to spend the day fishing and with his wife.

What about somebody "stealing" a night, or worse?

"That doesn't happen here--didn't you notice how few other campers there were? This is well outside of the 'tourist' area and is a quiet, solitary place for those who can appreciate it." My kinda place.

Tim continued: "My wife wants me to retire when I'm 50. How can I do that in a place like this? It's such a cushy job, you can't even call it work. Like I said, I spent the day fishing yesterday."

We left Mike From Ohio's car at the campground and headed north to Ausable Chasm. Incidentally, this was the only tourist-trap to rape us: $17 a ticket. Worth it, but considering that the $12 ($6/person) at Whiteface Mountain was the most expensive place we had been this seemed sorta the proverbial "highway robbery."

There are two parts to the Ausable Chasm trip: (1) walk to the river (roughly two miles), then (2) ride a raft or tube down the river (about one mile). A group of women were in front of us, and we pretty much stuck together the whole time. One of the chicks had a camera and got behind me to copy every shot I took. Wow, was that annoying. The difference between her and I was that I clicked a few frames for almost every shot and moved on; she clicked one frame and constantly said "I hope that comes out ok." I want a 20mm lens.

The Elephant Rock thing was neat.

The first half of the walk was acceptably nice, but wholly uninspiring. You follow a path through the woods, getting an occasional view of the chasm. Eventually we got closer to the chasm and followed the green railings right along the walls of the chasm, which made for some excellent views. Below us was the remains of the previous railings; the 1993 flood had destroyed them and, in fact, washed most of them away. I want a 20mm lens.

Near the end of the walking-half, we got to see the nifty contraption they had to lower rafts to the launch area in action. See, you ride a raft (or tube) down the river, then some guys come and take the rafts back to the beginning, where this contraption lowers them to the launch position.

Sherree and Mike From Ohio took tubes down the river, and I took a raft with a dozen other people. I recommend the raft, as the guide gave a wonderfully informative talk about how the whole thing was formed and how the 1993 flood changed much of the area.

After the three of us met up (taking the tube took much longer than the raft), I found out they had a rather adventuresome time. Halfway down the river Mike From Ohio realized he had his checkbook in his pocket. (It didn't completely dry out until a week later.) Going over some small rapids, Sherree hit a rock and feared that she ripped a hole in her shorts. (No holes, luckily.)

We got a bouncy bus ride back to the chasm entrance, and realized the trip was pretty much over. We headed back to Sharp Bridge to pick up Mike From Ohio's car, but stopped along the way for a picnic lunch. After picking up Mike From Ohio's car, we all headed back home to Connecticut.

Aftermath. Postscript. Whatever.

Light-allowing, Fuji Velvia is really the only film worth shooting. Unfortunately, my experiences with Velvia didn't begin until this trip. I only brought two rolls and blew through them in just a few hours on Sunday. I also shot some Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Sensia II 100, but they just don't compare to the Velvia. I now have a 'fridge full of Velvia for whatever occasion pops up.

I need a 20mm lens.

I had intentions of going back to Sharp Bridge in the fall. I wanted to photograph the whole "leaves changing" thing, as well as walk some trails. I never made it. Next year.

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Older Comments (3)

Dan & Sherree & Patrick currently uses Facebook for comments. Older comments are still here for readers, though. Read old comments »

i was thrilled to read of your trip. and I especialy enjoyed your pictures of our family property, blue ridge falls, I hope you do get back to the hills some autum. God bless

Looks like you had a wonderful trek, I especially enjoyed the commentary that accompanied it. The photos are priceless. I no longer live in the area, but its nice to have some photo ops when I can't make it back for a while.

I can't believe ol' Brenda is still camping at Sharp Bridge. I remember her from when I was 9 years old, about 20 years ago. You guys were smart not accept the invitation...She invited my parents over to site around her fire, and they spent the evening watching her eat, not being offered a morsel.

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