Saturday, September 22, 2018

Two Lakes, Two Days

(my campsite )

The car thermometer registered 87 degrees in Speculator, as I drove to the Lewey Lake Campground.  I knew that it was far warmer back in Albany, but the heat was pretty intense even here.  Arriving in the early afternoon, I asked for a site on the Indian Lake side of the campground.

(A loon swims nearby)

My camping life at Indian Lake began when I was child with my parents and sister and continued through Bill's and my years with our children.  Recently, I had camped here with friends, but this day I was by myself.

At my campsite, I had lunch and changed into my bathing suit.  I couldn't wait another minute to escape the nearly intolerable humidity. Being able to swim from the campsite always feels like a luxury.  Even chilly Indian Lake was not as cold as usual after our record-breaking hot summer.  I swam to nearby rocks and a small island.

When I returned to my site, I took on the next business of camping -- getting my boat off the car and setting up my tent.  No other campers were visible from my site and I was glad.  I didn't feel like socializing and making small talk.  I also didn't want anyone to watch me haul my boat.  I can handle the boat but getting it on or off the car isn't always graceful!

(The sky darkens with an impending storm)

With chores behind me, I decided to go for a paddle along the north side of the lake where a few campsites are scattered between long sections of woods.  When I was a child, my parents preferred the farthest site, #1.  Later, Bill and I took any available site on this side although two or three were top favorites.  In the era before the reservation system, we were always able to secure one of these upon arrival. 

I watched a loon close by.  Like many people who love the Adirondacks, I never tire of seeing and hearing loons.  I noticed that the sky darkened ominously, so I paddled back, had another quick swim, and prepared my campsite for rain.

(Smooth as glass after the rain)

I felt like Nick Adams in Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," without Nick's PTSD and definitely without his canned spaghetti, but with his deliberate slow methodical approach to his camping trip.  I spoke to no one, did what I wanted to do and what needed to be done.  It seemed very satisfactory.

The rain came down hard, but I was snug in my little two-person tent.  What a great feeling to sit reading in a tent, dry and comfortable, as the rain pounded just a thin breadth of fabric away.  When the rain subsided slightly, I decided to walk over to Lewey Lake to see if the southwest sky looked brighter.  Although I could make out the forms of mountains beyond, the clouds still hung thick.

(Early evening sky at Indian Lake)

I walked back to my Indian Lake site through the wooded campsites where my parents camped when they were empty-nesters.  My father had bought a small camper and particularly liked the site where he could drive the car up one side, disconnect the camper from the car, and drive down the other side.

Days were noticeably shorter now at the end of August.  I ate my simple dinner quickly, and then set out for an evening paddle.  This time I paddled on the south side of the lake which offers views of Snowy Mountain, the highest mountain in the Central Adirondacks.  No other boats were visible on the water and I was entranced by the colors and textures of the sky.

Any time I camp at Indian Lake, I make sure to visit two coves on this side of the lake.  These isolated quiet areas attract shy mergansers with their large families, or herons.  Sometimes a deer may come to the water's edge for a drink.  I saw no birds or animals this time.  Maybe they were still tucked in from the storm.

(Water heading into the cove is still)

A bit of red began to show in the sky where the sun peaked through.  The water ruffled with the merest touch of a breeze.  I sat in my boat watching the display.

Darkness was serious now, so I paddled to an empty campsite where I could get out of my boat and watch the sky until the sun set.

After a while, I paddled along the shoreline back to my campsite, got ready for bed, and settled into my tent, reading for a while by head lamp.

(A solitary light shines under misty mountains)

After a night of more heavy rain, I checked my view in the morning.  Tiny breaks in the clouds foreshadowed the upcoming beautiful day.  In fact, I had come to Indian and Lewey Lakes for a reason -- on this day, my father's outing club, the Crooked Canes, were hosting an Irv Boyle Memorial Paddle on Lewey Lake and into the Miami River as a tribute to him.

The "Canes," as the members call themselves, were to meet at the Lewey Lake boat launch at 10:00 a.m.  I packed up my camping gear and loaded my boat onto the car.  I wanted to be there ahead of them and drove the short distance down and across the road, took my boat off and set it by the launch, parking my car in the lot above.  The sky continued to clear as people arrived.

(The morning sky has some breaks of sun)

I knew some of the Canes, but many were new to the club since my father had been an active member.  When all had gathered, the leader, Lenore, introduced me.  I told the members how my father would have loved this outing in his favorite area of the entire Adirondack Park, and how he had thoroughly enjoyed his more than 20 years of Thursday outings with the Canes.

It was a gorgeous day.  The group was friendly.  Many people spoke to me about my father, asked about my mother, chatted about paddles and hikes that they loved, and told me how glad they were that I was with them.  I was touched by the caring and sensitivity of the participants, some of whom had been close friends of my father, and others who had only heard about him.  Over lunch at a clearing with a small beach, Lenore asked for "Irv stories," and shared cookie bars that she was sure my father would have liked. 

(Paddlers head along the north shore of Lewey Lake)

When we returned to the launch and paddlers began loading their boats on their cars, I spoke with each one and thanked them for this day.  One woman said to me, "It has been an honor to have you with us."  But the honor was mine.  I could never imagine a tribute to my father more perfect than this had been.

I had left my boat by the water, and, after good-byes, I told those that remained that I was going to go for a swim and then head home.  The beach at Lewey Lake is shallow for a long way so the water was still quite warm even though the previous night's storms had brought in cool temperatures.  I slipped into the water easily and swam laps.  Finally, I got out and sat on a picnic table wrapped in my beach towel.  Only one couple, Diane and Kurt, appeared to still be loading their boats.

(The Crooked Canes paddle out of the Miami River with Snowy Mtn. in the distance)

Lewey Lake is beautiful, and I gazed across it with gratitude for my personal and family history here, for my solo camping trip at Indian Lake, and for the kindness shown to me this day.

Suddenly I saw motion near my boat and glanced over to see Diane and Kurt picking it up. Diane motioned that they were going to take my boat up the hill.  I hopped off the table, but in a chorus they shouted, "No, no, you stay sitting there!"  Kurt added, "We'll leave your boat in front of your car." There clearly was nothing for me to do but to thank them and sit back on the picnic table.  They drove away, and I was the only person left in the beach and boat launch area.

It is always hard to leave an Adirondack lake on a beautiful day, but it was time to go.  I changed into my clothes, loaded my boat on the car, and drove away.  I would carry my memories of these hours camping alone and paddling with thoughtful people home with me.


  1. Beautiful pictures! I felt as if I was there! Love the “Irv Stories” :)

  2. Nice memories about a special place. Always liked the call of the loon and the solitary light shining down the lake in the twilight.

  3. What a beautiful time you all shared together. Sounds like the perfect memorial!

  4. Wow! Heaven on earth! Your photos make the magic of the Adirondacks so real. And what a lovely tribute to your dad. I'm so glad you have so many happy memories of him.

  5. Every part of this is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing the photos and the words & thoughts.