Sunday, July 22, 2012

By the Shores of Gitche Gumee

By the Shores of Gitche Gumee

Actually, it was the shore of Skenonto--Lake Skenonto in Harriman State Park.

Yesterday (Saturday) I was assigned the Sunday vigil Mass for the Christian Brothers (and attending layfolk), after which I was free for the weekend.  There was a fine forecast (no rain, clear sky, nite temp ca. 65 in Manhattan, which would be 5-10 degrees lower in Harriman; and Sunday temp going up to mid-80s).

So, after checking with Fr. Provincial (the director not being home, and not wanting to abuse my own office of v.d.), I headed off to the woods immediately after Mass.  An hour's drive brought me to the Victory Trail head along Rte 106; I was a little chagrined to see 7 cars lined up at the parking spot (and had passed another 7-8 a half-mile back at another trail crossing).

My destination might be a little crowded.

So it was a bit of a relief a short distance up the trail to see 4 guys camped up on a rise, having a good time.  I also figured some of the people parked there might have gone up to the Tom Jones Shelter via the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, which crosses the Victory about a quarter mile in.  I was more relieved when I met a couple of guys coming from the lake who said there weren't many people there.

A vigorous pace got me to the northern head of Lake Skennonto in less than an hour.  I went down the eastern shore--a paved road--for the 1st time (after 3-4 other trips to or by the lake, always on the western side), to get an idea of how to access camping sites I knew were there.  But they seemed occupied, so I returned to the unpaved woods road down the western shore.

There were several unoccupied camping sites, but I headed for the one I'd used a couple of times with Fr. Jim Mulloy, way down near the southern end, past where the Victory Trail bends away westward and you're on Triangle Trail.  But 3 sites, including the one I wanted, were taken.  So I doubled back to one I'd noted in passing, close by the 1st occupied site (by 2 Army-looking chaps--not surprising, so close to West Point).

By then the sun was near the horizon, but I had plenty of daylight to pitch my backpacking tent and go down to the water (steep descent) for a pot of water and a short, refreshing dip.  It was dusk by the time I put the pot of water on the stove for my freeze-dried chicken stew (not particularly luscious, but nutritious I suppose), followed by 2 little tangerines and washed down with Chrystal Lite.  It was too late to make a fire, in my reckoning, which in a sense was too bad because there was loads of firewood around; my 2 neighbors had a little one going.  I hung the more obvious foodstuffs (like an apple) from a tree limb, prayed Nite Prayer, and retired around 10 o'clock.  Such a fine nite, no need for a rainfly; I looked up at the stars, which weren't many, I'm afraid; maybe the sky wasn't so clear after all.

In fact, it seemed to cloud over during the nite, with only 1 star visible now and then.  But it was dry, and I was snug enuf, even if (as usual) I didn't sleep well.  So nice and quiet, with only occasional bird calls (and early in the evening while I was still setting up, I thought I heard a coyote).  Couldn't even hear any traffic, which is unusual wherever you may be in Harriman.


 I got up at 6:15, with the sun just coming over the mountain on the opposite shore

and a lovely mist drifting over much of the lake.  At the far end you may be able to see the dam that's responsible for the lake's creation.
 

The lake is just pretty--with the mist or in the full sunshine.



It was actually chilly enuf for me to put on a sweater!  But that didn't last long; as soon as the sun was over the mountain it burned off both the chill and the mist.

I had coffee, oatmeal, an apple, and almonds for breakfast, after another trip to the lake for water.

After Readings and Morning Prayer, I just loafed:  reading magazines from my "I'm way behind" stockpile, taking another short dip, and catnapping.  The ideal camping trip?  A couple of hours after breakfast, another cup of coffee and more almonds.
A late morning view of my camp and the lake beyond/below
Dozens of day hikers passed by.  The 2 guys next door packed up and left.  So did a couple of guys on the far shore.  Two pairs of day hikers were so brazen as to come into my site--the 1st pair just to look around and take pictures (only of the lake, I think), the 2d pair coming up from the lake, which they'd approached right along the rocky shore, and he'd gone swimming.  But I was really surprised at the breach of camping etiquette, especially by the 1st pair.  You just don't invite yourself into someone else's space.

I thought it would be good to shoot a video showing a bit of the lake and campsite:
video
You probably can tell that I haven't done this intentionally very often.  I didn't even think to comment.  So all you hear is some birds chirping (neat) and some crunchy-type noises, which may be my footsteps (otherwise, I have no idea).  And when I was done, I thought all I had to do was take my hand off the shutter button, but obviously that wasn't the case, and it keeps running till I eventually shut off the camera.

Around 11 o'clock I got the hungries, so prepared the 2d half of my freeze-dried meal for lunch, with just water to drink and a granola bar for dessert.  I read some more and did some of my packing.  After another little nap, I packed up sleeping bag, pads, tent, and the last of the gear.  I did a visual sweep of the area (I'd been picking up others' litter all along, but the site really wasn't too bad in that regard), and at 1:15 got on the homeward trail.

The trail in was pretty well blazed, and I had only one minor mistep that got me turned around and heading back whence I'd just come--which I quickly realized.  But coming out I went astray twice because of the lack of blazes, or of clear ones.  Still, it took only an hour, without hurrying, to get back to the car.  There was another long row of cars at the area.

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