Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Only a lunatic would go canoeing on a day like this...

Another day of pouring rain, but I was feeling stir-crazy, so I decided to head out to hide a new geocache, and paddle in the downpour.

I threw my solo-canoe on the roof of our CRV, and headed to the Upper Saranac Lake Boat Launch...

The rain picked up in intensity as I dumped the canoe and my stuff into the water. A guy sitting in his pick-up watching the rain was looking at me as though I must have lost a bet to be canoeing in this kind of weather.

I didn't see another soul the entire time I was on the water, except for a barge chugging slowly across the water loaded down with a huge Volvo crane...the pilot stuck his head out to ask if I needed help (I don't know exactly how he could have helped, but it was a nice to offer).

I don't think that this picture really captures the droplets floating on the surface of the water during one stage of the downpour...the rain was falling and droplets bounced back up and would float on the surface for 5-10 seconds before the surface tension of the droplets, or the lake...or both...would be overcome and the droplets would join with the lake.

While on the topic of rain...let me talk for a minute about the variety of rain that I encountered during my morning. At no time did the precipitation stop entirely, although, to be fair, neither was the air ever completely replaced by solid water...
  • there was mist that seemed to go sideways underneath the brim of my hat, coating my glasses in seconds
  • there was light rain that sounded like wind in the trees (I know that it was not wind in the trees because there was absolutely no wind)
  • there was a a slightly heavier rain that fell into the still water making a sound like a gazillion tiny brass gongs or bells
  • there was a heavy rain that sounded (and felt) like somone spraying a hose on my neck and head
  • there was a really heavy rain that made the last bit of paddling an awkward race to see if I could reach my island destination before there was as much (or more) water inside as outside my canoe (the tricky thing about this sort of race is that once there are about 2 inches of water in the bottom of your canoe, it get slower and harder to steer and tippier...which seems unfair when you are hurrying)

I landed just in time, hopped out, and flipped my canoe over to keep it from filling while I explored Green Island and hid the new geocache. The theme of this geocache was for it to be an easy find across diffult the finder of this geocache needs a boat, to be skilled in bushwhacking and climbing steep rock (wet and slippery steep rock on this particular day), while at the same time being able to find the cache easily once these challenges are surmounted.

The location provided all the terrain challenge that I needed, and some day-glo paint helped me help people in locating the cache once they get in the general area (note to geocaching novices: most cache containers are camouflaged so as to blend in with their surrounding...not actually glow as this one does in anything brighter than darkest night...the halo you see around the cache in the photo above is real, not the product of photo manipulation).

Having placed the cache in both the center of the island and at its highest point, I slithered and slid back down to my canoe and set off the rain. I had not paddled far when I heard the beautiful and haunting cry of the Adirondacks unofficial mascot, the loon. I looked around and the large bird had popped up about 50 feet from my boat and was munching on little fish, preening its feathers, and occasionally stretching its wings in a witless attempt to dry off (they're lovely birds, but not the sharpest fish in the woodpile, if you know what I mean). I can see the loon (read - tiny black dot) in the middle of the right-hand side of the photo above...I brought my waterproof (read - the one without zoom capability) camera today, a wise decision, but somewhat limiting in loon photography.

After floating for a the the middle of Upper Saranac Lake...the rain slackened a bit and I decided to head for Tommy's Rock, a cute and tiny and rocky island that I used to frequent as a child for picnicking (sp?) and rock-jumping fun. I had no picnic, just some Dominican cigars from my waterproof 1st aid kit, but I decided to make the best of it...until my lighter wouldn't work after a brief upturn in the amount of rain soaked it.

A minute later, the rain stopped, replaced by the strange horizontal mist I mentioned earlier...this allowed me to do some rock-jumping and swimming. I don't know if it is due to:
  1. the time
  2. the place
  3. the family
in which I grew up, but I find swimming in the rain unnerving, unnatural, and generally freaky. The lake was surprisingly cold once I got under the top foot, which I assume was warm because it fell as rain in the last few hours...but the swim was refreshing, the jumps off of the island exhilarating, and the slippery scramble up the rocks reminded me of being 8 years old and skinning my knees on the very same rocks.

All in all a superb morning!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Summer Begins...

The official start of summer may have been the 20th of June, but for me it starts on the last day of school, which was last Friday. It's currently raining like the sky got it on sale, and has no place to store it (like the case of TP that we got at Sam's Club that one time), but the whole weekend was sky from one end to the other, temps in the 70s and not much humidity.

Ben's Aunt (pronounced "Ont") La-La came for the weekend, and we picked her up Saturday at the Adirondack Regional Airport...which is conveniently located about a mile from our house. We went for lunch at the airport diner, and watched La-La's plane land.

After greeting her at the "baggage claim area" (which also serves as the car rental area, the security area, the passenger lounge, and a sweet travellers' lending library), we returned to the diner to finish up our lunches and then headed home for some running around, and showing La-La all of Ben's toys (she hadn't visited our house since 2003).

Ben and La-La hung out a lot, reading and playing and watching Ben's favorite movies...

{La-La and Ben reading on his bed in the super-cool "Tropical Mango" colored bedroom}

{Ben watching one of the hidden gems on the Mulan DVD, a video of Jackie Chan performing Ben's favorite song from the movie, "I'll make a man out of you." Mandarin}

Sunday was beautiful, so we headed out, 2nd or 3rd thing, to do some geocaching with La-La. In a move that will live in infamy, I grabbed the Burt's Bees Bug Bane (the last bit of alliteration is mine) to be applied in the woods once we arrived at the parking for the geocache I had selected. It was a good thing that we brought the bug dope, because the mosquitoes were out, and came ready to play. The herbal bug stuff smelled great, but didn't seem to work very well, which seemed contrary to my recollection of past applications until La-La noticed that I had indeed grabbed Burt's deodorant...ulp!

Ben found a cool toad hopping across our path on the way to the geocache, and we all stopped to appreciate him (her???) for a minute before continuing.

La-La had a great bug-proof shirt and hat that she wore on our geocaching adventure...Ben thought that it made her look (and sound) a bit like, "Darth Vader White". Once we got to the general area of the cache, we all appreciated the woods and waters around Sunday Pond, found the cache, signed the log, and made our trades...the theme of this cache was rocks, which Ben absolutely loves, he traded for a cool fossilized shark tooth.

Using my phenomenally cool gorillapod, we took a group photo, with my camera attached to a tree at the right height without my having to worry about the camera falling over or even moving while I make the silly "Father/Photographer Dash" to join the rest of the group. We emerged victorious, if a bit bug-bitten (see deodorant issue above...), from the woods, and decided to continue on to the playground in Saranac Lake.

Ben had a great time showing his playground to La-La, and a good time was had by all, especially Ben...

Ben was feeling adventurous enough to try some new stuff at the playground, including the firepole (with a little help from Daddy).

He also played on the teeter-totter with La-La, slid on slides, played on balance and strength elements, and ran around in small circles until he got dizzy.

Towards the end of our visit to the playground, everyone went over to have some group fun on the swings...we then went home for a lunch of PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches (2 options, not one...although it doesn't sound horrible).

This morning, on the way to drop Ben at childcare and La-La at the airport, we passed a large snapping turtle laying her eggs in a shallow nest by the side of the road...We stopped for a minute to watch, and Ben and I will return to look at the spot this afternoon.

It was obviously a fun weekend, and a great way to start off the summer!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day, Addendum

This afternoon, it got up to 95 degrees, and after Ben's nap, we all went to Hoel Pond for a swim. The great things about Hoel Pond are: the sandy bottom, the shallow sloping bottom, and the constant breeze. We had a great time swimming and splashing away the hottest part of the day.

Ben can't really swim, but he likes to run and paddle and waggle while wearing his life-preserver, and we figure that it's good training (I'm much the same, except that I don't wear a life preserver). The swimming was great, and now that he is more capable in the water, we'll certainly have a great summer!

Father's Day!

Finally, the rain has least for the moment.

For Father's Day, Gail asked me what I wanted, and the first thing that came to mind was a morning to myself of geocaching and the like.

This morning started out nice, but quickly got hot and humid...up to the 90s in heat and humidity.

I set out at 7:30 and headed over to Paul Smiths to do some maintenance on a couple of geocaches. The light was beautiful and the water was as still as glass.

I fixed one cache and archived/reclaimed 2 others that have not been successful for one reason or another.

My Jeep also had a bag full of books ready for distribution via, a distributed online network for sharing and finding used books for free all over the world, so I dropped those off during my morning's adventures.

By now, it was sweltering, which worked well with the next stage of my evil plans...hiding 3 hydrocaches. Hydrocaches are geocaches that are hidden underwater. The GPS receivers will take you to the shore, and give you a direction and ditance to the cache...the rest is up to the geocacher. They're fun and challenging in a different way then ordinary geocachers.

The first hydrocache was hidden at Hoel Pond, one of our favorite places to go swimming in the summer, although it was still pretty cold, even this late in June. I walked along a gorgeous trail in the woods until I spotted a nice and sandy entry into the pond...I walked out until the water came up to about my chest, dropped the cache and anchor, and marked the position with my GPS.

The next one was hidden at Follensby Clear Pond, a great paddling, swimming, and camping pond that has been a part of my life since I was born. I found a great spot between the two boat launches, walked out into the cold water, and left the cache; watched closely by two boys in a canoe, fishing. The boys must have wondered what I was doing, but were too polite, or scared, to ask. While I was placing the cache, they amused me by arguing about who was in charge of steerin the boat, and finally decided to switch positions in the middle of the pond...a feat that they miraculuously accomplished without tipping over.

The last new cache was slated for Moose Pond, a great spot just outside of Bloomingdale (the Paris of Northern New York). I walked out to a wonderful campsite I already knew about, using a trail that follows the shore all the way around the pond. There were some kayakers and fishermen enjoying the sun and the nice day. This spot is a little deeper, so I dug my snorkelling mask out of my bag, and scouted out the perfect (or perfect enough) spot for the last of my new hydrocaches. While looking for the right place, I found a couple of fishing lures, a canvas bag, and a cell-phone (and this is a back-country pond way off the beaten track, and reachable only by an unmarked dirt road!!!). The swim was fun and brisk, but drew some attention from a fisherman in a boat on the other side of the pond, who came over to see what I was doing, and if I needed help. We got into a long discussion about GPS recievers and geocaching, and it sounded like this guy may end up trying it out in the near future (although he wasn't sold on the idea of hydrocaches...).

After leaving Moose Pond, I made one more stop with snorkelling mask in hand. I checked up on a hydrocache-stage of a 21 stage multi-cache that I setup last summer. A couple of people were unable to find this stage, so I had come out last summer to replace it, figuring that it was lost or stolen. This time, armed with my snorkelling mask, I was prepared to hunt the are to find remnants of the cache stage, or maybe just the anchor of the one that had disappeared...imagine my surprise when I found found both anchored cache-stages exactly where they were supposed to be...especially given that I hunted for the "missing" one last summer for about 15 minutes...just goes to show you that the old Bratislavan saying is true: "When you're looking for a hydrocache, it's not a bad idea to use a snorkelling mask."

Funny how those old saying so often have a kernel of wisdom that holds true through the ages...

I dropped off one last bookcrossing book at Donnelly's Ice Cream (a must-visit spot if you're ever in the area), and then headed home, pulling into my driveway at high-noon exactly...a packed morning.

Ben greeted me at the door with a big kiss and an excited look on his face. He dragged me upstairs for a Father's Day surpise: a cake that he and Gail made together, and some wonderful cards that they both colored for me. We had lunch, and all enjoyed some Father's Day Cake and Fresh Donnelly's Ice Cream.

It was a pretty great day, and only 1pm...we've got a nap and some afternoon swimming still ahead of us today...go ahead, be jealous!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A "soft" day in the ADKs

Someone once told me that the kind of day we're having today - heavy mist falling through a bright sky - was called a "soft" day by the that we're getting more rain than Ireland, I'm starting to adopt terms from cultures based on prodigious rainfall (like the inuits supposedly having 37 words for snow).

We all got up early, and so were a bit stir-crazy by the time the light broke through, and the rain eased off a bit at 9:30 on Sunday. We decided to go out for a newly listed geocache that was adjacent to a retired railroad bed, so that we could continue on a walk after finding (hopefully...) the cache.

Wet as it was, we had to look all over the place to find the cache, as my GPS receiver seemed to be adversely effected by the rain and wet on/in/above the trees and bushes between me and the container...Ben and Gail and I were in constant motion, to keep away from the bugs as well...yes...Gail has come back, and was out enjoying the mist despite her lingering cold.

We eventually found the geocache, in the foundations of an old railroad station (I had to walk through about six inch deep water to get the container). We signed the log, traded for a matchbox car for Ben, and replaced it in the original location.

Using my totally fantastic tripod (it's really too cool to simply call it a tripod, but there isn't another word) hung up in a tree, I was able to take a group shot of our geocaching crew next to a car that must have been abandonned in the woods 50 or more years ago. What the shot doesn't show is my scrambling/diving/ducking to make it through the trees and underbrush to join Gail and Ben for the picture.

We continued our walk along the railbed past streams and swamps in the wet and bright day, with Ben running ahead to point out all of the cool things we always find when we are out in the ADKs.

He found a hole where a turtle had laid its eggs, which had subsequently been dug up by some predator which also marked the spot with a poop filled with egg-shell fragments and fur and tiny bones.

The number of shades of green probably doesn't come across in these pictures, but there are thousands of different colors of green in the Adirondacks, thanks to the 5 weeks of rain that we've had...Ben asked about the new growth tips on all of the trees we passed, and we compared (and sniffed) some of the new tips off of a balsam tree by the railbed.

After crossing one bridge about 1/2 mile in, and checking on a cache of mine a bit further on that someone had reported missing (it wasn't), we turned around to head home for warm lunch...wet and cold, but still having fun.

Ben asked to ride back the rest of the way on my shoulders, and we had a great time looking at the swamps and trees and occasionally turning over a log in search of salamanders (we didn't find any this time).

The light that managed to find its way through the cloud cover and mist lit the groundcover with a subtle and luminous quality that would have made the day worth it even if we hadn't had a great time and a wonderful walk on this, another, perfect Adirondack day.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

One in a long line of rainy days...

I woke up to the sound of steady rain this morning, and the feel of Ben's arms wrapped around my head. He had a nightmare last night, and couldn't be calmed, so he slept with us from about 1:30am. The rain fell all day...not hard, but as if it had always been raining and would always be raining.

Ben and I watched Star Wars (IV...the one I think of as #1) with the lights off..."like in a movie Daddy". When we got to the part when Luke discovers that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru have been killed by Darth Vader's minions, he very seriously asked me a couple of questions:
  1. are those people dead?
  2. does Luke feel sad?
  3. was it his fault?
Ben's been dealing with the death of 2 dogs he was close to: Juniper and Lucy. He doesn't quite get it, but he is starting to frame his thoughts on the subject. We had a good talk about death and sadness and when bad things happen to people (or dogs) you love. He's having a nap now, and I love him so much that I can feel where he is through all of the walls between us with my brain (sorry for the sappiness).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend!!!

Even loving the Adirondacks as much as we do, it is still great to get away sometimes. Last weekend, we went down to Connecticut, where my parents have a house, and spent the Memorial Day Weekend with my parents, my brother Brad, my sister Sarah, and her girlfriend Cynthia.

They live on a dirt road in the northwest corner of CT, and we took some nice walks along the pretty road during the weekend.

Ben helped my dad mow their lawn, a job that was much more fun, if a little slower, when they worked together.

Ben spent a lot of time reading and playing with his Anti-Sarah, who he loves more than strawberry cocoa...which is saying something!

Sunday started off cool and misty, but soon warmed up, and we had a full and fun day!

We started out at the playground, where Ben ran around, spun around, swung around, and rode a mean froggie.

We stopped off at home to water my mother a bit with a new watering-can before heading out again...

Next, we headed over to a nearby farm owned by some friends, and Ben checked out the source of our breakfast eggs up close and personal...

After chasing the chickens for a bit, Ben had a close encounter with a bunch of very friendly of whom tried to give him a kiss with a hugely long tongue.

On Memorial Day, we went into Cornwall to attend the parade, speeches, and awards. We explained the meaning behind the event to Ben, although he was most impressed by the fire engines in the parade.

We drove back home after a great weekend, stopping just 2 miles from home for one of the oldest rites of summer I can cream at Donnelly's!

The ice cream is creamy, the cones are huge, the view is fantastic, your choice is easy (just the size, the flavor is already chosen for you, based on what day it is). Memorial Day was Pistachio and Vanilla Twist. Ben shared my cone with me, sat on my lap, ran around on the grass, dripped all over his whole body, and loved it!

Everyday when we drive past Donnelly's (which I grew up calling Crystal Springs) he asks me if we can stop for an ice cream...we'll probably have one every week until the close again around Labor Day.