From the Mountains, to the Valley
Just back from our week in Upstate NY. It was a great week, all things considered. Tons of driving, but we broke it up pretty well so there was never too much, with the exception of the 14 hours there and 13 hours back (traffic and construction).
We stayed the first 3 nights at my sister in-laws house in Auburn, NY. They have a great old house that has a pool that kept the kids busy, and all of us cool. Wonderful hosts.
The second leg of our journey was to the Adirondack Mountains outside of Lake Placid. It rained most of the trip, but stopped in time for us to see the downtown area and get some crummy lunch at Pan Dolce. John got a "medium well" burger that was still moo-ing, the kids said their chocolate milk was not good, and the service was sssslllllloooowwww. A much better meal was had a couple of days later by John's family at Big Mountain Creperie and Deli, where they served both breakfast and lunch crepe-based sandwiches.
After a quick run-through of some of the Olympic sites, we got moving to set up camp.
The park was at Heart Lake and was called Wilderness Campground. It was a beautiful campground with way too many rules and signs. You had to register for everything. Register to fish, register to hike, register to park. It was ridiculous. Then, after all we did to get fishing licenses and bait, when we asked how the fishing was in Heart Lake, the park dude just chuckled and said, "Oh you might catch a bullhead or a perch, but it's not very good."
So much for the fishing build-up I did for the kids. If I wanted to catch bullheads and perch, I'd go to Minooka Park at home. We managed to catch Leah her first fish, a small bullhead, so it was not for naught, though that was the ONLY fish we caught there.
We ended up having to set up in the rain. Then we had to cook in the rain. Then we had to clean up in the rain. Actually most of it was done in the screen tent, so, in my opinion, was quite tolerable. Unfortunately, I was alone in my assessment. I must hand it to my kids though, they were absolute troopers who made the best of a bad situation and didn't complain one bit. I love them for their toughness and their adventure spirit.
The hot dogs that we were going to roast on sticks over a fire ended up being boiled and eaten standing up, for the most part. Again, not ideal, but we ate, and everyone eventually was full.
The next morning we had a good breakfast of pancakes and sausage. Nothing better than that in the woods.
We hiked up Mt. Jo, a short walk from camp. It is a small mountain only 2876' in elevation, but gave us a fantastic view of the surrounding peaks, including Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks.
From there we hiked back down and had lunch. After a short rest, we departed for Marcy Dam, a 2.1 mile walk (4.2 total). It was a fun hike, not terribly challenging as it was pretty flat. It ended at the dam where it began raining again. Out came the ponchos. We all managed to stay pretty dry and again, there was very little complaining. I think when you start a trip out as wet as we did, anything less seems trivial. A good thing.
Dinner was a meal of spaghetti and bread. We followed that with a campfire and smores. One of the highlights of the trip was sitting around the campfire and going around the circle with questions like:
What was your favorite part of the trip?
What was your best vacation ever?
Who was your favorite teacher?
What was your best holiday memory ever?
It was so cool to see what people remembered. There were some things I had forgotten as well as some old favorites. You know, it really made me aware of how many good memories we've made with our families, from both sides, over the years. The kids have grown up together and memories like we were making that day still lived on in all of our lives.
As we were pulling out of the park on the way to the Thousand Island Park, Ben got a text that his friend from middle school had passed away. He slumped in his seat and just started crying. Donna climbed into the back seat and tried to comfort him as she cried along. I tried to steer through the tears, and Sarah wiped them from her own face and cried in solitude.
It was a moment of great grief and sorrow. A moment I will never forget. It was a sobering reminder of the life we had left behind, and the after-life we are all speeding toward.
Eventually the tears subsided, then recurred again later in the weekend.
I suspect they'll keep on flowing for some time, for all of us.