Creative ’Ritin' and Philosophizin’
By: The Ol’ Philosophizer
I have attempted to write several trip reports in the past, some with a small portion of success. Although not critically acclaimed, these reports did elicit several reported chuckles, and the bad reviews were discretely kept from me. Encouraged by this, I have resolved to continue my attempts to reduce to words our trips and events, and to circulate the finished product among those who have been injudicious enough to give me their e-mail addresses. It has become a tradition as anticipated as the first mosquito of the summer, and just as welcome, I might add.
I was lucky with my first reports because there occurred just enough incidents that, after fifty percent were removed by my faulty memory, the remaining one-half was sufficient to generate a nice size (in this man’s opinion) story. Being aware that one’s luck doesn’t last forever, I have lived in fear that I would eventually participate in a trip that yield a failed crop of anecdotes, and the resulting story would have to come from the dust bowl of my imagination. Perhaps I am somewhat of a pessimist when it comes to my ability to fill a page; I never anticipated that just the opposite might occur … a trip would be so packed with material that one small essay could not do it justice. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened before, during, and after Roy and Pat’s post-Memorial Day Adirondack Paddle.
Now I had a new problem to deal with: what do I do with all this stuff? Before you criticize me for never being satisfied, put yourself in my shoes, or better yet, at my key board. For one thing, you can no doubt type faster than I can, so having a lot to write about might not be the marathon for you that it is for me. Still, you have a tough web page editor to deal with, one that doesn’t want you to hog all the kilobytes, so how do you keep him happy? Do you leave out an anecdote or four, and if so, whose fifteen seconds of infamy gets consigned to oblivion? Do you want to be the one to tell Bullwinkle that his bowl of oatmeal didn’t make the cut (more on that later)? I didn’t think so.
Now that you understand my quandary, you can appreciate the fact that I had to resort to devious means to get all of this information before you. I know that you are shocked; this is the first time you have seen me stray from the straight and narrow. But desperate rhymes call for desperate measures. I will inform my editor that rather than write a trip report, I am submitting an anthology of Adirondack Tales, although in truth, some of the events occurred far from those magnificent mountains. Maybe I’ll mislead him a bit by claiming that this is a series of vignettes (nice word, huh?) about prominent Malden Yacht Club paddlers, even though the descriptions will be neither brief nor clear. [Note: the new Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary includes among its definitions of vignette, “a brief but clear verbal description of a person” --- see, I can write some fancy, shmansy, high brow stuff]. I will do whatever it takes to make public the full scope of this report, in all of its most embarrassing details, or my name ain’t The Ol’ Philosophizer. Let the rambling begin!
Duel With Diablo
For a group with no standards, we have very high standards in the Malden Yacht Club. That might sound like a contradiction, and that’s probably because it is. Yet it is also true. We profess to be a laid-back, carefree bunch without the slightest desire to live up to society’s rules for commonly accepted behavior, and we are fairly successful at practicing what we preach. Conduct within the group, however, is a different matter. There exists an undercurrent of competition that rivals the Hudson’s for strength and unpredictability. From time to time, each of us falls victim to its power. I witnessed this free flowing testosterone in action at the planning session for the Adirondack trip, and although I was an innocent bystander, I almost paid a stinky price as a result.
The Sunday before we were to leave, the people planning on making the pending paddling pilgrimage plotted preliminary preparations at the park. Perhaps “plotted” is too strong of a descriptive term. We loitered, hoping someone would show up with donuts, while Roy (a/k/a The Wise Man, and Oak Guys Rule) went through the details (see The Plan). At the conclusion of Roy’s presentation, a debate broke out about the time of departure. The exact issue centered on the definition of the word “early”, and within the spectrum of Malden Yacht Club Philosophy 101, it ranked right along side “how many times can you wear a dry suit before it has to be fumigated?” There can be no specific resolution; the answer would vary depending on the constitution of the paddler. Of course, that didn’t stop this debate from raging.
Paul/Splash (Paul-Slash-Splash) got things rolling by stating that to him, 6:00 A.M. meant early. At this juncture, no harm had been done. We could let the comment hang in the air until we had all forgotten it, a process usually less than two seconds in duration, or someone could pick up the gauntlet and challenge this assertion. Don (a/k/a Bullwinkle) responded that 6:00 could hardly be considered early; we had to be on the road no later than 6:00. That did it. The issue had been joined, and the noncombatants stepped back to watch and await the outcome. Splash quickly recovered from the challenge to his earlyhood, and replied that he had misstated himself; he meant to say that 6:00 A.M. was regular, and 4:30 A.M. defined early. I nervously peered at Bullwinkle, wondering if he would see that 4:30, and raise the stakes to 3:00 A.M. Fortunately, he didn’t, but he held fast to his conviction that the rubber better be meeting the road by 5:59::59, or we were all a bunch of wimps. Meanwhile, I’m standing there thinking that I’m on vacation next week, and I was planning on getting on the road about 9:00. After all, we were just going up there to check things out for the big paddle in the future, not circumnavigate the lake. As a sort of last minute compromise, we agreed that we would meet on Tuesday at 6:30 A.M., at McDonalds, and Bullwinkle openly wondered at the strength of our resolve. I left to stew and grumble about the inhumanity of it all.
By Monday morning I realized that there was a pretty good chance that I wouldn’t be able to make the appointed time, so I sent out an e-mail message alerting my traveling companions to that possibility. I thoughtfully included my cell phone number. This cell phone had been forced upon me by my business partners in the misguided belief that it would make me more productive, and I hadn’t turned it on in months. Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure where it was. Oh well, it will turn up. My primary concern remained our scheduled rendezvous time. I don’t want to create the impression that I’m one of those people who can’t get out of bed unless helped along by a stick of dynamite detonated at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. Just the opposite is true. I’m usually up and about by 5:00. So what’s the big deal about 6:30? That has more to do with my trait of stubbornness than with my ability to arise on time.
As I mentioned, I was planning on taking this particular week as a stay-at-home vacation, and one of my goals for the week was to meet an ambitious schedule of exercise routines that I had meticulously planned and coordinated in advance. This was my annual week long campaign to get in “really good shape.” It had always failed in the past, but not this year. This year would be different. I was going to stick to this schedule come Heck or high water. Tuesday morning called for a run, so run I must. There could be no deviation from this plan, not unless it increased the number of workouts to be completed. Decreases were totally out of the question. A scheduled run would not have been a cause for concern if we were leaving at 9:00, as some people wished, but it did become problematic with a 6:30 start time. How could I wake at 5:00, run, shower, pack, load the kayak, pick up Splash and still be at McDonalds by 6:30? There was only one answer … I would have to get up at 4:00.
Monday night I reset my alarm, and went to bed early, so as to make up the time I would lose at the other end. I was surprised to wake up refreshed and raring to go. I was even more surprised to see that it was only 12:30. I turned over, went back to sleep, and repeated this routine at 1:20, 2:10, 3:08, and 3:50. Close enough! I got up, thrilled with the fact that I had already gained 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the Ol’ Philosophizer’s Law of Available Time Expended (LATE) governed my actions: the more time you have available to you, the less you will accomplish. By the time I headed out the door to run, I had lost all but 2 of the minutes I had gained. But I was still ahead of schedule, and I would not keep Bullwinkle waiting.
I decided that it would be wise to run my 3 mile route, a route consisting of a triangle of 3 roads, each about a mile in length. This would be a long enough distance to satisfy my requirements for a run, and short enough to get me back to the house in sufficient time to make my deadline, assuming I didn’t dawdle. It was somewhat energizing to be running in the pre-dawn again, even though I knew that I was more likely to encounter critters than I would in the gloom of Winter. The first mile was a struggle to get loose, but the second mile was mostly downhill, and the anticipation of today’s trip pushed me faster and faster (in reality, it was “less slower and less slower” but that just doesn’t sound right). Another hundred yards, and I would be on the last road home.
The third road starts with a steep uphill section, and a small, grassy meadow, with several old apple trees, lies at its side. The dawn was breaking by now, and I noticed a stump in the meadow that I hadn’t remembered before. Taking another look, I thought I saw a fringe of white along the top of the stump. That was unusual, but I really wasn’t interested in stumps; I just wanted to get home. Still, better take one more look. This time the fringe of white had changed into a plume of white, and it was standing straight up into the air. Uh Oh! I slowed to a slow walk, and the front part of the “stump” rose up, and it was also fringed with white.
I have run on these roads for close to 30 years, and I have become very territorial about them. I chase off dogs that challenge me, and bears don’t deter me. I even had an encounter this Winter with a pair of llamas demanding the right of way, but they could not block me from my destination. I’m just intractable that way. However, there is only one thing that will bring me to a halt faster than a skunk staring at me with his tail fully aloft; and that is if the same skunk turns 180 degrees and aims his business end in my direction … which was just what was happening now. I was now running backwards, in full but honorable retreat. Safely out of range (I don’t actually know the range of a skunk with a turbo charged propulsion system like the one this giant must have, but I guessed that I was out of range), I waited to see what he would do. Surely, he would be amazed and dumbstruck at my awesomeness, and would make a hasty withdrawal from the meadow. After a brief hesitation, the skunk ambled toward the road in front of me. Now all I had to do was wait for him to cross, and I could finish my trip. I had probably lost the two minutes leeway I started with, but it couldn’t be helped.
Upon reaching the road, the skunk looked across it toward the spot I was hoping it would go, and turned left. No! I have to go that direction, not you! This moving impediment slooowly stepped forward several yards, then turned and chuckled. I just as slowly inched forward behind him. He then took several more mincing steps, his body convulsing with laughter. I did too, but I wasn’t laughing. Eventually, he reached the intersection of the second and third legs of my journey, his four legs blocking my progress. All he had to do was keep going straight, cross the road, and disappear into the weeds. Then I would zip up the hill, and sprint home, hoping to make up the time I was losing. But he turned left, AGAIN! AAGGHH! Could things possibly get worse?
As the Ol’ Philosophizer, I want to warn you that you should never, ever, think this question in times of trouble, because the answer will invariably be: “Yes, they can get a lot worse, you moron!” The skunk decided it was time to toy with me. There just so happened to be a weed filled ditch that runs alongside this third road, and a culvert going under it. The skunk plunged into the weeds, and opted to initiate a game of hide-and-seek, a game I really didn’t want to play. Where was he? If he was in the weeds and I tried to run by, I would get sprayed and have to make the trip tied on the roof along side the kayaks. Visions of Grandma in the movie Vacation came into my head. If he was in the culvert, I could surge past him, and he would end up gassing himself … now that’s a gleeful thought. It was time to go for it, and I prepared my charge.
If I had been younger, I would have accelerated quicker, and that would have been my undoing. As I took my first step, the skunk popped out of the weeds, and started trotting back toward me. Whoa! This sucker had to be three feet tall on all fours, and the plume at the end of his body was bigger than a Clydesdale’s tail. His beady, red eyes bore a hole through my façade of machismo, and reduced me to a quivering wreck. Had the skunk not been convulsing with laughter, he would have quickly overtaken me, and carried me back to the llamas to show as a trophy. But his gloating cost him this opportunity, and I was now heading back in the direction whence I came, at a pace I could hardly believe. The only way home was to retrace my steps, and my “quick” three mile run had grown to a run of four miles. Now I was seriously behind schedule.
The situation had deteriorated to just the opposite of when I awoke. Instead of having too much time, I had too little. One of you young whipper-snappers out there might be tempted to ask: “Hey Ol’ Philosophizer, if the Law of Available Time Expended (LATE) says the more time you have available, the less you will accomplish, then wouldn’t the corollary be that the less time you have, the more you will accomplish?” Of course, my answer would be: “I don’t have time for that philosophical mumbo jumbo now! I’m catastrophically late, and the way I’m running around, I’m getting less done than an oversized hamster on a lopsided wheel!” And that was the true state of it. I quickly packed the car, forgot if I packed something, unpacked the car, found that I had originally packed the object in question, packed my clothes and lunch, and wondered if I had packed all my kayak gear. One more unpacking and re-packing answered this question. Everything was packed ... I think.
I was ready to leave, but for one more chore. Find and turn on the cell phone. That turned out to be the easiest of my tasks, and once completed, it would be time to go. Oh, no! I have a voicemail message. It was probably from Bullwinkle, reaming me out for not being early. Yeah, well he didn’t have to deal with a seven foot, fire breathing skunk! What do I do? Betsy (a/k/a Mrs. Ol’ Philosophizer) walked me through the steps for retrieving a voicemail message, and I impatiently paced as the digitized voice on the other end droned on. Password? How could I enter a password when I didn’t have any idea what it was? As if by divine intervention, the password found its way to my fingers, bypassing my brain altogether, and then I braced for a lambasting from the big guy. Wait a minute. That’s not Bullwinkle! It’s some woman speaking in Spanish! I turned the phone over to Betsy, who spoke no more Spanish than I did, but who seemed to know what to do anyway. She hung up. “That’s just spam,” she said. “I get them all the time.”
With my bi-lingual, spam generating cell phone now buried safely in my pocket, I started the car and pulled out of the driveway. The clock said 6:42. No reason to panic because I set it 8 minutes fast. It was actually only 6:34, but any way you slice it, I was late. I, the supposed leader of the unleadable, was late and about to get a whole lot later. I girded myself for the tongue lashing that was sure to come, and sped down the road trying to eclipse the speed of light, possibly to roll back a couple of minutes from the clock. My mind was awash with scattered thoughts: did I pack everything, had I turned the stove off (I never turned it on), was my fly open, and could things possibly get worse? Just then a deer darted across the road, no doubt in cahoots with Mr. Smelly, and I slammed on the brakes. I must remember not to ask that question anymore! I slowly accelerated to a saner speed, and made it to Paul’s house without further incident.
Paul was standing in his yard with all of his equipment neatly laid out in the precise order it was to enter the car. Inwardly, I marveled at his efficiency, yet wondered that each item was not labeled. As I tried to explain my tardiness, he blew it off as insignificant, and before I could help, the car was loaded. Wow! Things were looking up, although there was no getting around the fact that we were very much late by this time. I turned the phone over to Splash, he being a technical wizard, and he announced that I had a new voice mail message. “Don’t retrieve it,” I said, “it’s only Spanish spam.” It would actually turn out to be from Greg (a/k/a Bad Idea Man), but who knew? We were now on Route 32, heading toward McDonalds when the phone rang, and Splash answered. I could hear his side of the conversation, and it was obviously an inquiry about our whereabouts. On ending the call, Paul started laughing. “That was Pat (a/k/a DiploPat, a/k/a Mrs. Roy),” he announced. “It seems like we’re not the only ones who are late. Bullwinkle overslept … so he and Greg aren’t there, either.”
What! Bullwinkle overslept! While I was out fighting my battle with a prehistoric Pepe LePew, he was safely ensconced in the comfort of his sheets! I started to wonder what else could go wrong, but I caught myself. This was actually good news. I might arrive technically late, but I was not practically late, and that was all the loophole I needed in which to plant a seed that I could cultivate and grow into an overripe tall
tail tale. This was going to be a good day after all.
We arrived at McDonalds and saw a strange sight. Roy and Pat were there, and no one else was present. This has never happened before. Pleased as punch, our beaming leaders were positively bursting with joy at the fact that they had arrived first. The only downer to this accomplishment was the reality that by doing so, no one was present to witness the triumph. As Roy grinned, Pat filled us in on the situation with Don and Greg. I would get more details from Greg later, but for the time being the upshot was that while Don was peacefully snoozing, Greg was in the scarlet red level of agitation. He had been up and about for hours, and was doubly flummoxed by the non-arrival of Bullwinkle and his inability to contact anyone (he didn’t have Roy’s cell phone number; he had mine, but as you know, I wasn’t answering my voicemails). Nearly at wits end, he dispatched Shirley (a/k/a The Not Quite So Bad Idea Woman) to McDonalds to apprise everyone of the situation. This she did perfectly, but we would later learn that when she arrived, no one was there. Apparently, Roy and Pat were also late, and Shirley only found them on her second attempt. AHA!
Given this state of affairs, it was agreed that I should program Roy and Pat’s phone number into my cell phone. But agreeing to do something and doing it are two different things. As Roy recited his number, I pushed various buttons, and nothing happened. After multiple attempts (Splash was inside McDonalds getting coffee and trying to persuade the owners not to call the police on the congregation of trespassing kayakers) I ended up with an entry for “Rowwwxx.” It wasn’t the right number either. Pat then suggested that she call me, and I could add the number from an incoming call. She quickly dialed my number, and we had a brief telephone conversation while standing two feet apart. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I handed my cell phone to Pat, who now held both. Pat finished the operations necessary to accomplish our objective, and then, being ever polite, said goodbye in one phone, and answered goodbye in the other. The cell phone mind meld now complete, Pat hung up both phones … but only after a brief conversation with herself.
As I pocketed the phone, I heard a screeching of tires and saw Don’s truck fly into the parking lot. Don bounded from the truck somewhat sheepishly, but as we only pick on people when they are up, no one mentioned his time of arrival. Instead, Greg bolted for McDonalds for a restorative coffee, while Don mixed sugar into the vat of the same liquid that he had brought with him. Paul had since returned to the scene, and the two of us speculated on the possibility that having a plastic bag containing sugar in his truck might be a complicating circumstance in the event of a traffic stop. However, in light of the events of the day, we decided to let this one slide. Greg emerged from the restaurant, and for the first time today, we were all present and accounted for.
The coffee seemed to restore Greg’s power of speech, and he was ready to tell his tale of horror:
“The alarm went off at 4:30. I woke up at 5:00. I wasn't worried because I had made all preparations for getting underway the night before. All that remained was to make lunch. Shirley was up early and I thought it was nice of her to get up and see me off on the Adirondack trip. As 6:00 rolled around I was ready for Bullwinkle to pick me up according to plan. At 6:10 I was still ready. At 6:20 I called on the phone and said a single word, ‘Don’. There was a reply on the other end about the alarm not going off, and a promise to be right there. At 6:30 I was still ready. Shirley, seeing my confusion offered to ride to McDonalds to tell the assembled crowd that we were running late. At 6:37 she called to tell me that no one was there yet. Oops, I guess we weren't that late after all. After a few minutes she called back and put Roy on the line. I was telling him not to wait when Bullwinkle pulled in.”
Once Greg told his woeful tale, we all chuckled and any pall over the proceedings had been lifted. It was time to refocus on the trip before us, and put our “plan” into action. So far, the extent of the plan was that we would get on the Thruway, exit at the Northway, stop at the first rest area after the twin bridges, and then proceed to the Silo for breakfast. That was it, except for the fact that I would go first. The natural order of things having been restored, we got in our vehicles and started our engines. It was exactly 7:30.
We zipped up the Thruway, our spirits buoyed and our convoy intact. We were a precision truck team, each signaling in sequence to announce to the rest of the world when the Malden Yacht Club was about to change lanes. We continued in this fashion until exit 24, where Don and I pulled over to pay our tolls. Roy saw this as an opportunity to seize power, and he zipped through the E-Z Pass, thereby grabbing the lead. He had waited patiently for this chance, and I instinctively thought of the Grinch song, only instead of “you’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch,” the words were “you’re a sly one, Mr. Roy.” I made a mental note to write this as a Christmas song in December, knowing that most of my mental notes are written in chalk that gets washed away long before they can be acted on. Maybe I’ll remember this one.
Our tolls paid and our wallets lighter, Bullwinkle and I set off after the Oak-mobile, and managed to pass it just before we stopped at the rest area. I may have mentioned that there is an element of competition within our club. We milled around the parking lot, and for the first time today, had an opportunity for relaxed conversation. The adolescent spirit of the Malden Yacht Club had taken hold. Noticing for the first time the magnificence of the day … cloudless, azure blue skies, humidity banished from the atmosphere, and temperatures hovering between invigorating and balmy … I decided to push the re-start button and get this morning off on the right foot. I circulated among our band of travelers, exchanging pleasantries and a little good-natured ribbing. Pat also must have been seized with this feeling of friend-fueled security, because she took this opportunity to confide in me a secret.
Roy and Pat are the veteran kayakers in our group, and much to their dismay, we look upon them as our roll models. Pat will take on wind and wave conditions that give me pause, and to say that kayaking provides her a tremendous amount of pleasure would be an understatement. Unfortunately, a recent development has cast a shadow over this activity. It seems that Pat has developed a pinched nerve, or some other species of localized, intense discomfort that doesn’t allow her to sit still for more than an hour. This makes traveling long distances difficult, causing her to fidget and squirm to such a degree that Roy refers to the actions as “Passenger Pilates.” Sitting in a kayak is worse.
Pat has tried many remedies, and as of last Sunday the most effective was sitting on a tennis ball. I assumed she meant that the ball was placed in the small of her back, but no, she would sit right up on the ball. At the rest area, she rushed over to me, her eyes sparkling and her face flushed with the thrill of discovery. “’Ol’ Philosophizer,” she exclaimed “I’ve found a cure for all my butt-ache. I sit on an apple!” I made another mental note that should Pat offer me an apple later in the day, I would give it to Bullwinkle. This one I wouldn’t forget. Later, I got Roy alone, and quizzed him on what he thought of Pat’s new home remedy. “I don’t mind,” said the Wise One. “My only worry is that she will sit on it too long, and it will become imbedded. Then we’re gonna have to stop and do an emergency apple-dectomy.” I suggested that he check the local Yellow Pages for tree surgeons, but that was the best I could do to ease his concerns.
Once again back on the road, we raced up the Northway. In the battle to be the controlling influence regarding the speed we travel, appetite won out over judgment. The thrill of closing in on our objective affected us in different ways. In our vehicle, I observed that my hunger pangs were noticeable, but the effect on Splash was otherwise. He fell asleep. Whenever Betsy travels with me, she falls asleep within 10 minutes and remains unconscious the duration of the trip. I always thought that this was a phenomenon peculiar to her, but now with Splash slumbering in the passenger seat, I had to wonder if the cause might lie with me. I’ll have to remember to make a mental note to write a philosophical treatise on this subject.
We honed in on the Silo, and were there in less time than it takes to read one of my inspirational e-mail messages. It was time to eat (we may not be great kayakers, but we do know how to operate a fork and a bottle opener; since we were having breakfast, the use of the latter tool would be postponed for several hours). Pat, Roy, Paul and I have been to the Silo on previous paddling excursions, but this would be a new experience for Greg and Don. I was sure that they wouldn’t be disappointed. The waitress knew better than to stand in the way of six robust, but starving paddlers and their food, so she just pointed at a table and cowered in a corner as we rushed by.
Our coffee cups having been filled, refilled, and refilled once more, we set about obliterating any evidence of the piles of food placed before us. That food might just as well have been in the Bermuda Triangle, because it vanished without a trace. It was like the old nursery rhyme: Roy flirted with the waitress, Greg fell in love with his toast, and the dish ran away with the spoon. The last reference is to the speed with which Bullwinkle’s oatmeal disappeared (I told you we would get to this later). While most of us opted for a judicious mix of protein, fat and carbs, Don decided to stoke up on jet fuel. He supplemented his oatmeal with several orders of whole wheat toast, so that by now, he had been ingesting a volatile mix of caffeine and complex carbohydrates for several hours. The chemical reaction could be explosive when we finally got to the Lake and he started his ignition. Once the catalytic glycogenic converter kicked in and his massive pistons started pumping, he would fly across the water like an errant missile. He could be the first paddler in history to generate a roster tail, and no one would catch him. This gave new meaning to the name “Silo.”
Before we could leave, there were several errands to perform. In recognition of her morning’s actions, above and beyond the call of duty, Greg purchase a jigsaw puzzle for Shirley. He claims that she loves them, and I hope so. The one he purchased was difficult enough to cause spontaneous apoplexy (not to be confused with an apple-dectomy). While Greg was doing something nice for Shirley, Pat and I were doing something nice for ourselves: we were partaking of free samples of fudge … and it was good. Then it occurred to us why we had made the trip in the first place, so we decided to join the others. We had also reached the end of our official plan.
The Malden Yacht Club tends to be an unstructured organization. We do things spontaneously and try not to get caught up in details. “Planning” is not a part of our vocabulary. Not that we don’t try. Just this previous Sunday we attempted to formalize a proposal for this outing, but we weren’t entirely successful. On that day, Roy gave a presentation on our pending trip (Splash says it was a “power point” presentation because Roy seized the power … I never should have given him that “oatmeal” shirt … and did a lot of pointing). Spreading a dozen or so relief maps over half of the park’s picnic tables, and using his brand new paddle as a pointer, Roy described the terrain we would have to paddle over (wet), as well as the distance we would have to travel. The last bit of information was somewhat vague as Roy would interchange driving distances with those measured “as the fish swims,” but the consensus was that we would paddle somewhere between 5 and 50 miles, “as the bullfrog bounces.” Roy kept us spellbound with his voluminous references to scientific information … water temperature, wind currents, sunspot activity, etc. … and the presentation was accorded the utmost respect due to his position (Oak Guys Rule). Roy concluded by laying out all of our options, but when pressed for a recommendation, he refused to make one. That left it for this group of bewildered explorers to establish a consensus, and you can imagine how that went. Now that we were close to our objective, so he had to do something. Procrastination, though preferable, was no longer an option.
As I understood the situation, we had two choices. We could travel to exit 25 and get to the lake quicker, or we could get off at 24 and take the scenic, but slower route along the lake. Pat was all for the exit 24 option because it would give us the opportunity for nice views of the lake. It occurred to me that we would be spending half the day on this very same lake, but I can’t say “No” to a woman as nice as Pat, and I agreed. Exit 24 it would be. We hurtled up the Northway, and exit 24 appeared in a flash. Actually, it appeared in a blaze of orange. Immediately after we exited, we came upon a crew of orange clad utility workers lining both sides of the road as they installed power lines. The reactions in the various vehicles were mixed.
Splash offered the opinion that if they employed bikini clad woman as flag persons, cars would go slower. I agreed, but pointed out that there was also a greater likelihood that someone would drive into the cherry picker. Bullwinkle thought that the Northway had been invaded by an army of Benny’s brethren (he of Mr. Tangerine man fame), and Greg stared at the jigsaw puzzle, chuckling at the prospect of Shirley trying to assemble it. In the lead car (yes, Roy grabbed control again) Pat and Roy never noticed the workers, so enchanted with each other they remain after forty-five and one-half years. It has been said that it is good to be different, and in the Malden Yacht Club, oh boy, are we different!
In a short time, we arrived at the top of a hill, and spotted the lake. Then we drove down the hill, turned left, and couldn’t see it any more. So much for the scenic route. We continued along the long and winding road, and made fairly good time until we suddenly caught up to a tractor trailer proceeding at a snail’s pace. This proved to be too much for Splash. “What the %#$& is he doing on this road! He should be on the %#$&!*@ Northway!” It sounded like a case of nap interrupted to me. We crawled along, frustration mounting, until we saw a road sign indicating that we were close to our goal. Then I spotted another road sign that exhibited an incredible amount of perspicacity by Adirondack highway officials: “Steep downhill grade next 2 miles - Trucks use lowest gear - Avoid a crash and aggravate Splash.” Amazing!
At the bottom of the hill, Roy turned into the parking lot of the Hague town park and boat launching facility. Don and I followed suit, and we were finally within a stone’s throw of the water. Once again, an upbeat atmosphere surrounded us.
To kayak on Lake George was, after all, the real reason we came up here. Roy’s car was no sooner stopped, when Pat set off in search of the local official in charge of this station. We were all confidant that Pat would ease our way into an unrestricted use of the facilities. It would have to be a tough nut who would not yield to DiploPat’s charms. We needn’t have been concerned. In a short time, Pat returned with the official in question, and he turned out to be every bit as friendly as Pat was. He also had the unique ability of being able to match her word for word.
I didn’t catch his name, but that doesn’t really matter because I would be most likely to forget it anyway. That partially explains my habit of assigning new names to those who enter my circle. For better or worse, our new friend would become Gregarious Gary. We gathered around Gary, and it was spooky to watch he and DiploPat in action. Instantly on the same wavelength, they started a verbal dance, DiploPat leading with questions and Gary following with the answers. Soon, as the tempo of the verbal tango increased, information swirled around the parking lot at a dizzying pace. DiploPat’s initial inquiries were preliminary in nature, and instantly yielded the info we needed for the rest of this day: yes, we could launch; no, there wasn’t a charge; yes, we could park in the lot, but only on the West side as the East side was reserved for permit holders (note: there were no other cars in sight when we had this conference); and yes, there were changing facilities with running water. I congratulated Pat for striking the mother lode of knowledge, but she was not done.
DiploPat and Gary escalated the rate of data exchange, and my mind grew numb trying to keep up. Under DiploPat’s incessant probing, Gary spewed forth facts and opinions on any topic that could conceivably relate to our future trip to paddle the entire lake. He gave us a rundown on the hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, even including the YMCA. Then he moved on to reviewing restaurants, and paid particular homage to The Firehouse, which had the best wings Northeast of … well, just about anywhere (hot wings served at a restaurant called The Firehouse must be smokin’). While I witnessed the exchange of data between these two verbal main frames, the rest of the group was more productively employed. They were getting ready to paddle. DiploPat and I finally noticed the preparations under way, and decided to take our leave from Gary. He had certainly been the prototype for a civic minded public servant. I admired his helpfulness and the noticeable zest for his work. As we parted, I thanked him for being so courteous, and remarked that his duties must make him very busy in July. “I wouldn’t know,” he replied, “this is only my second day on the job.” A cynic might be tempted to opine that Gary will be a changed man in two months time, but I will disagree. My bet is that if we come back in August, he will be just as helpful as he was in May. We may have to return and find out.
By this time, everyone else had completed various stages preparatory to launching their boats. In fact, Greg was already paddling back and forth along the beach, and Bullwinkle was about to follow his example. I was seriously behind, and once again, the faster I tried to go, the slower I went. I eventually had my kayak near the launch, with my lunch, spare clothes and equipment shoved some place inside. It was time for severe trepidation to set in. It wasn’t being on the lake that made me nervous, it was being in the kayak. The boat I had is relatively new, and I had yet to spend more than an hour and a half at a time in it. To make matters worse, I had been prone to developing leg cramps after an hour, and the prospect of spending a long day on the lake was daunting. There wasn’t much I could do about that now, so I jumped in.
I paddled away from the dock, and my unease skyrocketed. I had never felt so uncomfortable in this seat before. This did not bode well for the rest of the day. Man, this doesn’t feel right! Then I remembered that I had thrown my pump on the seat and forgotten to move it. Summoning Splash to my assistance, I asked him to steady my kayak while I performed the first off-shore Ol’ Philosophizer pump-from-rumpectomy. Ooohh, that is much better. I made a mental note not to tell Pat about this. Somethings are better just kept to yourself. At last the lake portion of our trip was about to begin; I checked my watch and it was 11:30 … almost time for lunch.
Pat and Roy have been coming to Lake George for eons, first to camp and canoe, and more recently to kayak. Despite their long association with Lake George, they cautioned that they were not totally familiar with the North end. That was not a problem. Paul and I had each been on Lake George once before, so we knew everything. It was Greg and Don who were the true rookies here. I decided to take Bullwinkle under my wing, partly because I still felt that he bore some responsibility for my early morning encounter with my noxious nemesis. With an air of surprise, he exclaimed that paddling in this crystal clear water, with no waves and current to buffet him, seemed to make the boat feel less stable. I can explain that, Don. You see there isn’t any sediment in the water like there is in the Hudson, so being less dense, the water doesn’t support your boat as well. Bullwinkle peered at me from under the brim of his hat.
A short time later we paddled over a section of water that became dark and foreboding. “Did you see that?” asked Don. Sure I did, and I can explain this too. You see these spots of dark water signal when you are over the notorious vertical caves of Lake George. Some of these caves are 900 feet deep, and are home to the infamous fresh water lamprey eels. You don’t want to fall out of your kayak above one of these caves, because one of these monsters will shoot up out of the depths and latch onto one of your cheeks. Locally, they are referred to as the Lake George Butt Suckers. Bullwinkle received this information with some equanimity, and then gave a look that wavered between skepticism and “get out of here.” I seem to get that look a lot.
While I was feeding Don misinformation … I mean providing enlightenment … Splash was assuming the role of savant. Gathering Greg and Don to his side, Splash remarked that when you look down while on Lake George, you see the bottom, but when you look down while on the Hudson, you see the top. That sounded very philosophical to me, and I considered giving him the name Socratash, but for the fact that I never liked lima beans. Besides we don’t need more that one philosophizer in this club. It’s bad enough that I have to keep one eye on Roy, I don’t want to have to keep another one on Splash. I only have two, you know. Enough of the digressions of a diseased mind; time to get back to the story.
The conditions were as spectacular as they were the last time Roy and Pat took us to the lake. How can you describe “perfect” other than to say it was perfect? The sun provided an abundance of warmth that was tempered by the cooling effect of the prevailing breezes. If any perspiration was generated, it evaporated instantly. A total absence of haze and humidity created the prospect of being able to see forever, or at least until your vision was impeded by one of the many sturdy peaks surrounding the lake. We had been dropped into a watery bowl signifying paradise to paddlers, and we intended to take every advantage of our opportunity.
There aren’t as many islands in this part of the lake as there are farther south, but there are enough to provide an immediate diversion. Darting through the channels between the nearest islands, we returned to the days of our youth when the greatest of pleasures could be found in disappearing from the sight of a playmate, only to reappear in an unexpected location. Greg and Don became especially giddy, this being their first time on the lake, and we could not reign them in. While Pat and Roy maintained a steady course, the four of us darted off in directions pointing North, Northeast, and Northwest. All planning stopped when we left the shore; we were on water now and anarchy was afloat. Roy even had a shirt to prove it.
To the uninitiated, this free steering concept might appear to be dangerous, but in reality it wasn’t. Each of us had a miniscule attention span, and as we headed for a point of interest, we would be instantly distracted by another fascinating object, and a course alteration would be made. The result was that the individual zigzag trails that we generated intertwined and interlaced in such a manner that, if placed over the path of Pat and Roy and viewed from far above, it would appear that we all paddled in a very thick straight line.
Our immediate objective was to reach Roger’s Rock (a/k/a Roger’s Slide, a/k/a the home of the [CENSORED] Indians; Note to reader: you must ask Pat to tell this joke as only Pat can’t tell it). As we passed through a channel separating a large island from a smaller one, we noticed two things. Roger’s Rock was ahead on the left, and the large island we just passed had a metal framework that was pulled out of the water at a 45 degree angle. Greg speculated that it was a missile launcher, and I could only conclude that the owner was in some type of border dispute with his neighbor across the lake. We decided to check it out.
We paddled to the East side, and once there, passed under Mad Anthony’s nose. No, I’m not making this up … that is the actual name … and you thought Butt Suckers was bad. From this vantage point, we were able to look directly across the lake at Roger’s Rock. It was certainly impressive, but not nearly as much as it would prove to be later. Paddling along this shoreline, we spotted another “missile launcher” pointed in the opposite direction as the first, and a rope dangling from the sky into the water. This made us stop. On closer inspection, it was determined that the rope didn’t go all the way up to the sky, but rather was fastened to the top of a very tall tree sticking a fair way into it. Behind this particular tree was another giant of the same species with a small platform mounted three quarters of the way to the top. This was either the rope swing from Hades, or an impromptu gallows. I guess they take their land disputes very seriously in this neck of the woods.
From time to time, we would gather for pictures, and then set out in close order formation. The sun was so bright, and the water so clear that when I glanced to my right I noticed a 17 foot long fish swimming along the bottom of the lake. It was really the shadow of Don’s boat, but it did give me a jolt. The time passed quickly, and it wasn’t long before hunger set in. We would have to think about finding a place to stretch and have lunch. I was pleased to realize that I was not the slightest bit uncomfortable despite this being the longest period I had spent in this kayak. Maybe Lake George water is softer than Hudson River water.
We were closer to the East shore, so the logical choice was to try to find a spot on that side where we could take out. We hoped to go as far North as we could today, so the alternative of backtracking to the public beach South of Roger’s Rock was not the least bit attractive. That would be our fall back option. We scanned the shoreline for any evidence of a public access, but nothing looked promising. Greg notice a house with a red roof and suggested that it might be a Red Roof Inn. It wasn’t, but there were three men moving about the premises, so I decided to see if they could be helpful. I was somewhat apprehensive due to the large number of Posted signs and “missile launchers” we encountered, and I hoped that if they started shooting, the first shot would be a warning shot.
When I had paddled within earshot, I hailed the work party. Maybe it was because we were a strange sight, maybe it was because we were an excuse to stop work, or maybe these three men were naturally good natured, but whatever the cause, the received us warmly. Quickly satisfying the question of a public access … there was one about 2 miles North … they started peppering me with questions. How cold is the water, where are you from, what’s the water temperature, where did you start, is the water very cold, and would the lady like to borrow their motor? I sorted our their inquiries and tried to answer them in a logical order. We were from Malden, well Saugerties really, and they had never heard of that metropolis. I didn’t have any idea about the water temperature, possibly 60, maybe not, and I was a bit put out that they continually harped on that subject. The implication was that I must spend a lot of time in the water, and that was a sorry review of my apparent paddling skills. As for the lady borrowing their motor, I assured them that Pat could out-paddle most of us, and such a loan was totally unnecessary. It would be like the government paying the farmers not to grow corn. They seemed to understand that concept, and solemnly shook their heads as they bade us goodbye. We resumed our trek North and soon spotted a sandy beach. Paul inched ahead, and when he had gained a sizeable advantage, yelled “let’s race.” Only Pat answered the challenge, and I must sadly report that she placed second. Roy, Don, Greg and I were satisfied cruising to a slow stop, and we were happy to set foot on dry land.
The beach we selected turned out to belong to a park of some sort. Brightly colored slides, swings ,seesaws, volleyball posts and a basketball support had been carefully laid out thirty feet from the shoreline. Farther back were several picnic tables, and we headed for one of them. It is startling how fast a group of almost senior citizens can move when food is involved. Within seconds, lunches were unpacked and headed for their intended destination. Don, Greg, and I had obviously made our own lunches, because we entered into a spirited discussion on the merits of peanut butter. Don claimed that peanut butter and jelly was the perfect food, and I was forced to agree. Greg was of the opinion that peanut butter and beer was the breakfast of champions, but I couldn’t bring myself to jump on that bandwagon. Meanwhile, Roy sat serenely at the table, listened to our conversation, and waited for Pat’s Deli to open.
Having paddled with Pat before, I was aware that her kayak also serves as a cornucopia of treats and delights. Pat’s special of the day was a vegetable wrap (assembled on sight) with a side salad, followed by an assortment of fresh fruit, and topped off with teddy bear cookies. The last item she had purloined from her granddaughter Olivia’s stash, but since Olivia can’t read yet, it is probably safe to divulge this secret. As expected, Pat had brought twice as much as she and Roy could ingest, and she generously passed around the surplus. We all accepted the invitation and thanks to the efforts of Greg, Paul, Don and myself, her supply of edibles started to disappear, although nobody took an apple.
Greg then showed why he is The Bad Idea Man by extracting from his rear hatch a contraband six pack of beer. He offered them to us but nobody accepted, except the Ol’ Philosophizer, and he only did so to be sociable. Beside, it was only a small beer … and after a long morning, it went down gooood. We had reached the point in time where appetites are fairly well sated, and the rate of food consumption starts to slow; a time when excited conversation experiences a similar slowing. A strange silence settled over the park. Perhaps to break this spell, or perhaps to be polite, I shouted a “Hello” to an older gentleman who was now walking along the road and discretely watching our proceedings. I assumed he would nod or wave in acknowledgement, and then continue on his way. I was wrong.
The stranger stopped and turned, and placed us under his scrutiny. I instinctively placed the beer behind my back in case it would be considered a violation of the sign that said “No Alcoholic Beverages Allowed.” His cursory inspection complete, the stranger initiated what would become a lengthy conversation with our group of intruding flatlanders. This is indeed the affable Adirondacks. Everyone we had met so far seemed thrilled at the opportunity to engage us in a lively dialogue, and our new friend was no different. The Winters must be very long up here.
Pete, as that is his name, was coaxed to come over to the table, but it did not require much prodding to achieve this result. On determining that we were kayakers, Pete realized that there was common ground between us. He volunteered that he owned a kayak, but it wasn’t the long, sleek type like we were paddling. He owned an Acadia. Bingo! Welcome to the brotherhood, Pete. I quickly let Pete know that I had paddled an Acadia for nine years, and had only recently switched to the Bluyak I am now using. Like a pair of long lost fraternity brothers at a reunion, we compared notes and determined that we had the same, reverent feelings about the Acadia. Despite its short length and wide girth, it was a boat we both loved. Pete claimed that it was the Swiss Army knife of kayaks, and I nodded in agreement. An immediate bond between us had been forged.
With Pete now at ease with our group, it was time for Pat to change into her roving ambassador alter ego. DiploPat reemerged and took control of the situation, fishing for bits of information and using the remaining morsels of food as bait. Pete was offered an apple and promptly declined. Initially, Pete confined his disclosures to items that had a bearing on our trip. We were in the Town of Ticonderoga park, and we had reached the top of Lake George. Certainly, there remained water to our North, but that was “bad” water, cloudy and turbid, that would narrow down until it eventually became the La Chute River. Along the way were several dams and waterfalls that would but a dent in our proceedings if we weren’t wary. Having provided us with the necessary logistical information needed for us to “plan” the afternoon’s course of action, Pete then divulged bits and pieces of his colorful past and his long association with this part of Lake George.
Unlike the conference at the Town of Hague park, there was no need for speed here. DiploPat conducted a thorough interview of Pete, who did not appear very reluctant to satisfy our curiosity. DiploPat’s detailed report is now being made an official part of this C.R.A.P., and it goes like this:
“Pete introduced himself over the fence. He was revisiting the area and staying with friends which he does often. His present home is in the state of Washington. He asked us where we were paddling from and told us that we were at Ticonderoga Town park (I think). Pete gave us some interesting facts about the Lake George area, Anthony’s Nose, and Roger’s Rock (or ‘Slide’). He told how centuries ago, Roger was able to escape from Indians pursuing him by throwing his knapsack over the edge of the rock slide (now known as Roger’s Slide), and then walking backwards in his snowshoe tracks to make it appear as though he had slipped, thus, throwing them off his trail.
“Pete was born and raised in New Jersey and went to college in Vermont. He frequently visited Lake George as a boy in the summer with relatives. As a youngster, he did scuba diving for scrap metal to make money to buy air for further diving. He once found a model ‘T’ Ford at the bottom of the lake. It had been burnt. The Ol’ Philosophizer suggested that it probably had been on ice for ice fishing, caught fire, and sunk. Pete nodded affirmatively, as he seemed to instinctively accept what the Ol’ Philosophizer said as being a true fact. We all feel that way, although Bullwinkle sometimes has his doubts.
“Returning to his diving adventures, Pete revealed that he also retrieved a brass radiator which brought a lot of money. He found a British ‘Brown Bess’ (not Betty), that according to Greg was the standard issue rifle for the British soldiers in pre-Revolutionary times, and left it with a friend in Florida, where he lived after his divorce. He hinted that it was illegal to take artifacts at that time, so this confession was his reason for not telling us his last name. [Ol’ Philosophizer’s note: DiploPat has the power to make us confess to crimes that never happened; she must only use that power for good, and not evil]. All the while we were talking, Pete would gaze across the water and stare at Roger’s slide, as if drawn there by a mysterious force. Pete told us that when he was in the Explorer’s, he had a leader who was a mountain climber, and one day he decided to scale the slide with no equipment other than his boots and bare hands. Several years later, it became a “right of passage” for the local youth to do the same upon graduating from high school. Pete resisted the pull as long as he could, but at the age of 55 he gave in, and climbed Roger’s Slide. He described to us the best ways to ascend it, and noted that not all attempts are successful. He chuckled as he added that the local rescue squads have had to devise a procedure for plucking stranded climbers off the rock. My brain is fuzzy and this all I can offer for now.”
During this latter part of Pete’s interrogation by DiploPat, I found myself also staring across the water at Roger’s slide, and shuddering at the prospect of climbing to the top. My gaze was interrupted by the sight of a pair of otters swimming North, across the lake; it was time for us to head in that same direction. After taking a group photo as indisputable proof that we made it this far, we took our leave from Pete, and resumed our journey. Rounding a point, we could see that the water narrowed very quickly, and just as Pete predicted, it took on a silted quality. It was about 2:00 when we resumed paddling, so I suggested we go North for half an hour, and then reverse directions along the West side of the lake. This path would take us directly under Roger’s Slide, so it was unanimously adopted. Either that, or no one else had the energy to suggest an alternate route. At the end of the half hour, we found ourselves in what appeared to be a narrower part of the lake, but a part of the lake nonetheless. I had hoped that there would be a red line across the surface differentiating the end of the lake from the beginning of the river, but none was evident. This was very frustrating because we each had vowed to paddle to the North end of Lake George. We needed proof to substantiate our forthcoming claim of success. It was time to resort to science.
Don, Greg, and Roy had the foresight to bring GPS systems with them, and each of these scientific explorers produced his machine on cue. For those readers unfamiliar with GPS systems, the Ol’ Philosophizer will give you a brief science lesson. A GPS machine has both a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter fires particles of the paddler’s DNA into space, where it is collected on a recycled Russian Sputnik. Inside the Sputnik is a specially trained chimpanzee who becomes agitated by the DNA to the extent that he marks (you don’t want to know how) the position of the sender on a piece of graph paper. The chimpanzee then pulls the handle of “the responder” (this action is technically called “flushing”), and a return message is deliver to the first machine. These actions proceed over and over again while the GPS is in “On” mode. It is important to know that the GPS technology has been around for a long time, so that means one thing: the chimps are getting old. Therefore, it is necessary for the owner of the GPS to maintain a pace that will insure accurate results. This explains why the full name of GPS is Gotta Paddle Slowly. Now that you understand how this modern technology works, you will appreciate the discoveries Don, Greg, and Roy made when they consulted their instruments. Greg and Roy were pleased to state that their GPS systems placed us at the most Northern tip of Lake George. Don’s placed us three miles into the woods, surrounded by impenetrable vegetation. Naughty monkey.
There is never a need for a unanimous consensus when dealing with scientific findings, so we applied the Meatloaf rule of “two out of three ain’t bad,” and declared ourselves to be at the very end of the lake. The fact that we were still surrounded by a great deal of water did not alter these findings. Nevertheless, we dispatched our official emissary to the North country, DiploPat, to paddle to, and around, a green buoy North of us (and obviously not in the lake) just to eliminate any possibility of future controversy. As Pat made her solitary voyage to the green buoy, it was Roy’s turn to become philosophical (it seems like everyone is trying to get in the act). Nodding toward Pat, Roy said:
“ I’ve been on a lot of long, hard paddles, guys, and I finished many extensive projects around the house, but their scope is insignificant compared to the fact that Pat and I have been married over forty-five and one-half years. That is a major accomplishment on my part considering Pat's high expectations. Think about it … over the years she has even dropped dozens of hairdressers … most for merely one mistake, yet I’m still around!”
Having said that, Roy just sat and stared into space. The rest of us watched Pat circle the buoy, and hurry to rejoin us. When she did, we all did synchronized sweep strokes, and started South. We also wondered what was Roy’s secret for taming Pat.
The trip back would take us under Roger’s Slide. This geological formation is impressive when viewed from across the lake, but you can not appreciate its size until you are directly under it. From the opposite side of the lake, and even from a distance on the same side, we had nothing in front of the edifice to give us a sense of scale. Then Pat and Splash paddled up to the cliff face, and its size magically magnified. The rock formation reached beyond my field of vision, and gave the appearance of reaching upward forever. I paddled to the base and tried to look up to the top, but vertigo immediately set in … not a sensation one hopes to experience in a kayak. I looked away quickly in order to regain my equilibrium; any view of the top that I would get from this vantage point would only be accomplished by darting angled glances at the sheer wall in front of me. This was the one time during our trip that I felt vaguely unsettled, and I was both glad and sad when I had passed by the Slide. The prospect of scaling its heights was inconceivable to me, but I have always been uncomfortable with heights. Heck, I don’t even like to stand up in the morning.
If the rest of the group felt the same way as I did, they didn’t show it. Don seemed energized by the massiveness of this cliff, and he channeled that energy into his paddling. There he goes again. We had planned on making our last rest stop after passing Roger’s Slide, so Greg scouted the adjacent cove for a place to debark. It didn’t look very promising to me, but Greg persisted and eventually located a spot that he thought would work. He beached his kayak and climbed out just as Roy paddled up and announced that there was a nice, sandy beach right around the bend. Poor Greg. As the rest of the group went ‘round the bend, he was left standing in the cove, his paddle planted in the ground in a futile attempt to claim this land for the Malden Yacht Club. To add to his misfortune, Don discovered that this spot was perfect for the production of enormous echoes; the reverberations of Bullwinkle’s “salute” to Greg’s discovery soon wafted over the lake surface, alerting inhabitants near and far that the Malden Yacht Club was on the prowl.
The park by Roger’s Rock dwarfed the park where we had lunch, just as Roger’s Rock itself dwarfs the surrounding landscape. The beach stretched for a hundred yards, and I landed at the most Northern end, only because it was closest. Greg and Paul would later chastise me for this decision because there were nubile sunbathers stretched out on the South end of the beach, and my decision showed a complete disregard for the welfare of the club. Embarrassed by this oversight, I pledged to be more observant of female fauna in the future. However, in my defense, I did land close to the restrooms.
Pat’s Deli broke out the remaining supply of food, and in a matter of minutes everything, even the apple, was consumed. We had come to the inevitable point in the day when the shadow of fatigue began to blanket us. By my reckoning, we only had to paddle for another half hour, and we would be finished. Piece of cake. Slowly, we repeated the launching process, all the efficiency we had gained by repetition being wiped out by weariness. Any remnants of group discipline were also obliterated; it was not quite “everyman for himself,” but we were bordering on that concept.
We had a wide stretch of water to cross, and then after rounding a point, the end should be in sight. Splash took off in a direction that would yield the minimum distance to the point we were seeking, and Bullwinkle opted to hug the shore on the right. Roy and Greg drifted to the left of Splash’s wake, while Pat and I just tried to navigate within the broad band between Roy and Bullwinkle. For me, “try” was the operative word. We had been beset by a wind from the East our entire trip South, and now that we were in open water, a severe case of weather cocking set in. I tried aiming for a point to the right of my intended destination, but I would involuntarily rotate counterclockwise until I was significantly off course. I would aim for Bullwinkle and end up heading for Roy. Pat indicated that she was having the same problem, but not to the extend that I did. It was becoming dangerous for her to be paddling on my left side because she never knew if I would suddenly lurch left and ram her broadside. We switched positions. That didn’t alleviate the weather cocking, but it lessened the chance the Pat would be sunk by a runaway kayak.
We paddled, and paddled, and paddled some more, but the point we were seeking got no closer. Just as you can’t accurately judge the height of an object on the other side of a body of water, you can’t judge distances either. After close to four hours of paddling, I was fading fast. I looked around to see how the others were doing. Splash and Bullwinkle were almost out of sight, so I searched for Roy. There he was, sitting erect, his paddle smoothly moving through the water and a smile wordlessly describing his outlook. I might have to change that Grinch song to “you’re a tough one, Mr. Roy.” Perhaps sensing that I was nearing the end of my endurance, or possibly because she merely wanted to further record our journey, Pat suggested that we stop and take a picture of Anthony’s nose. This is a rock outcropping across the lake from Roger’s Slide that closely resembles a nose, or so the locals say. It is supposedly named after Mad Anthony Wayne, but at that point I couldn’t care less. I was thrilled to stop.
I rafted up with Pat and steadied her kayak as she took two pictures, trying hard not to fall asleep in the process. I was startled to a state of alertness when she shouted “Oh No!” What could have happened? Did someone capsize? Was there a power boat bearing down on us? Pat quickly informed me that she couldn’t find her day hatch cover, that she has never lost it before, well at least not while paddling, that she placed it on her spray skirt but it wasn’t there now, that the cover probably wouldn’t float, that this was awful, and what were we going to do, and these covers were practically irreplaceable. Trying to display a confidence that was totally absent, I assured Pat that we would find it. After all, we would be looking for a black hatch cover in the now dark waters of Lake George. How hard could that be?
My initial thought, very much influenced by the fact that I was tired to the core, was to go through the motions of making a search for several minutes, and then give up the quest as hopeless. But I had never seen Pat so unnerved. This must truly be a disaster. I imagined that it would be impossible to replace this cover, and that Pat would paddle in perpetual fear that a wave would fill up the hatch, capsize her boat, and send her plummeting to the bottom. I initiated the search in earnest. I took three strokes backward, looked to my left, and there it was. It did float. I handed Pat her hatch cover, and sat back to watch the tearful reunion. “Thank goodness” she exclaimed “it would have cost me $20 to replace this!”
This search and rescue mission reenergized me, and Pat and I arrived at the point, doubly relieved. The others were waiting for us, Roy, Greg and Don in the water and Paul on shore. Paul claimed he needed to stretch his back, but he had stopped at the mansion that had the “missile launcher,” and I think he just wanted to thoroughly inspect it. He is a mechanical magician, after all. Afraid of the effect a cessation of momentum would have, I paddled past the others and entered the home stretch. I was the bell cow heading for the barn, so get out of my way. Paul, Don and Greg quickly caught up, and we took off in search of the Town of Hague park.
There it is. No, wait, that’s not it. Over there, by the tree. What tree? That’s not it. Well, it’s got to be here someplace. I was amazed that something so big could become invisible from the lake. The thought entered my mind that we had passed the park, and I started to panic. How could I find a hatch cover and not find a municipal park? Eureka! I spotted my car, and concluded that unless vandals had been afoot, the park would be in the same vicinity. The others had made the same discovery, and the end of our journey was at hand. Stiff, sore and creaky, we climbed out of our kayaks one last time, and started the slow process of loading up the vehicles.
The initial reaction to standing on shore is one of relief, followed shortly thereafter by a sense of immediate nostalgia. We had only been off the water for a matter of minutes, yet we were already dredging up the “memories” of the trip. We took turns comparing our aches and pains much like new mothers compare their labors. There was a fine line that had to be considered. Complain too much, and you would come across as a wimp; complain to little, and you would be labeled a slacker. We each must have struck the right balance because no one was singled out for hazing.
Once the preliminary proclamations of pain had been dispensed with, it was time to get down to more serious business. We had to get our stories straight. We could only succeed in elevating our adventure to a super nova sized legend if we all towed the party line. We all had watches, so calculating the time on the water was easy. We started at 11:30 and it was 5:00 now. That’s 5 ˝ hours no matter how you slice it, and assuming our breaks totaled no more than 30 minutes, we spent 5 hours paddling. Next came the tricky part: how far did we paddle? My guess was 27 miles, but we didn’t have to rely on my estimate. We had science! Once again, the trusty GPS units were produced and the owners proudly stated the distances calculated by each machine. Roy: 14.1 miles, Greg: 14.8 miles; Bullwinkle: 2200 miles. Being the Ol’ Philosophizer, I decided that half a Meatloaf law was better than none, and in this case “one out of three ain’t bad.” We would go with Don’s calculation of 2200 miles. The others, lacking my appreciation for musical scientific principles, overruled me and compromised at 14.5 miles. Disgruntled at being ignored, I sought to burst their bubble by pointing out that if it took us 5 hours to go 14.5 miles, we had an average speed of less than 3 miles per hour. “No problem,” answered Splash. “We’ll just change the estimated time of our breaks to over two hours, and now we have paddled 14.5 miles in less 3 ˝ hours, which gives us an average speed of better than 4 miles per hour.” That appealed to Greg and Don, so it became a fact. We paddled 18 miles in 4.178 hours.
We gradually completed the process of packing the vehicles, loading the kayaks, and changing into dry clothes for the long ride home. During this time, Greg made a discovery that indicated that we were predestined to come to this facility. A plaque was hung on the wall next to the men’s room that honored the contributions of a town employee whose nickname was “Moe.” Larry and Curley would be proud. As tired as we were, there was a reluctance to bring this day to an end. DiploPat suggested that we drive close to home, and then stop for dinner. She had just the place in mind, too: Connie’s Calamari and Compost Café. My plan was to head straight home, but who can say “No” to a woman as nice as Pat? Connie’s it would be.
I don’t honestly remember that much about the rest of the evening, and what I do remember is in bits and pieces. There was another long and winding road, a buxom bartender, and a beer or two at the end. At one point as I drove, I realized that I was starting to get tired, and I had two choices: let Splash drive or drive faster. I drove faster … which led to my being severely chastised by Bullwinkle. What can I say? He was right.
Early in this narrative, I gave Greg the opportunity to expound on the start of the day; it’s only fitting that he get the same opportunity regarding its conclusion. That would make him the Inserting Many Bad Ideas, Book End Raconteur (IMBIBER) of the Malden Yacht Club.
“The BIMBO trail - ( Bad Ideas Man- Bullwinkle Overland ) trail. A journey to conjure with. The strange thing is that it was for the most part quite unremarkable, and nary a Bimbo to be seen. I do recall an introspective discussion as to what a lert was, and why we should keep one. On the way out we drove past Brandt lake. I heard from behind the wheel that ' It looks like good paddle, eh?' I winced at the thought of getting back on the water as I was tired and sore from this day’s paddling. Some other time it might be fun, but not now. Where Bullwinkle gets his moose like energy I don't know. Maybe it's the moose munchies he keeps pulling out of his boat.
“On the way back, at precisely 6:03, an alarm went off on his cell phone. Yup, it was the morning alarm set for 6:03 PM instead of AM. Oops. Mystery solved. Oh well, everyone else was late too. We converged on Connie’s Calamari and Compost Café for food and drink. The calamari was as good as ever, but I felt bad for the Ol’ Philosophizer. I'm not sure how he tasted his burger. While getting a beer at the bar he inadvertently stepped on his own tongue as it was hanging down to the floor. Ouch. Come to think of it, I was doing a little panting myself, and Splash was practically catatonic. There must be a special recruiting service for bartenders with those proportions. That's about it. When we started out there was a hearty HOO -RAH! When we were done for the day all I could muster was a tired hoo - boy.”
That would bring this narrative to an end if I were inclined to let Greg have the last word. I’m not … is anyone surprised? The following morning, Splash coaxed his weary and broken body from bed, and dashed off a message to our guides, Roy and Pat:
“Thanks for organizing a great day of paddling and fun. I don't know how you did it but the people, traffic and weather were all wonderful. I hope we have more days like that. Paul
Ps: also thanks for the backache, and thanks for the shoulder ache.”
Greg, Don and I would all later echo these sentiments, and show our gratitude to the Wise Man and DiploPat. This was the third trip they have organized to Lake George, and the third time everything was perfect. Maybe they could hire out their services to the Lake George Chamber of Commerce. Think of all the beer money we would get! I’ll have to make a mental note to check into that … someday, but not today. Today I’m going to take a nap … all this philosophizin’ can tucker a man out.