Sunday, July 6, 2014

Only Bites

I've been planning for awhile now to take my 8-year-old nephew, Nathan, out on one of my monthly camping trips.  I let him in on the plan back on Father's Day...and he's been pretty excited about the prospect ever since.  How, exactly, I came to the conclusion that this past Wednesday-Thursdsay, in the aftermath of our Foundation Day celebrations for St. André's, would be the right time to go, is a mystery even to me.  And yet we set out...

Back around Memorial Day, I had checked out the lean-tos near Osgood Pond, determining that they'd be a great spot for this adventure.  So that's where my sister dropped off an eager Nate late Wednesday afternoon.  Unfortunately, we weren't the only ones who thought it would be a good night to stay in that neighborhood: a loop on the "Red Dot" trail (about a mile and a quarter, I'd guess) soon revealed that all three lean-tos were full.  Nathan was already getting blisters (rubber boots were a bad idea), but still pretty intent on spending a night in the woods, so his quick-thinking uncle had to come up with another plan.

Not too far away was the trailhead to Grass Pond, where I'd stayed solo back in February (and which I've visited on a number of other occasions).  I knew the area doesn't get too much traffic...but Nate was going to have to hike a good bit more.  After discussing our options, switching him into his Crocs, and entering into a "no whining" pact, we were on our way...again.  The trail register told us that we shouldn't find any other people in the lean-to, but the millions billions of mosquitos, black flies, and horse flies had somehow failed to sign in and make their presence known in advance.  These were clearly mutants, too, since they we clearly completely immune to our bug dope (my legs still look like I have a bad case of the chicken pox), but we pushed through to our new destination, arriving in good time.

Even after hiking 3 miles that afternoon, Nate was ready to pitch in with the camp chores, particularly collecting fire wood and filtering water (more on that later), but I couldn't get him to do the dishes after supper.

After a couple of card games, we were both ready for bed.  Little did I realize what a restless sleeper my nephew is.  Even with separate sleeping bags and sleeping pads set up 4-5 feet apart, he kicked me all night!  The lean-to just wasn't quite big enough for the two of us.

Despite all of my planning, these outings of mine always come with their wrinkles...and finding the planned lean-tos already full wouldn't be the only one this time.

I thought the "purified"water didn't look quite right the night before, but it's hard to tell by headlamp and we weren't going to need it until morning.  But when the sun came up over Grass Pond, my fears were confirmed: the water was brown and smelled funky.  The filter had failed.  Thankfully, I always pack iodine tabs for just such a situation...and this only added to the sense of real adventure.  Once the water was safe, Nate enjoyed his hot cocoa and rekindling the fire while I cooked up our oatmeal.

Nathan's heart was really set on going fishing while we were out in the backcountry.  Unfortunately, Grass Pond is really more of a swamp--at this time of year, anyway.  I knew our "no whining" pact would be history if he couldn't get his hook in the water, so we made a plan for after we got off the trail.

We made great time on our way back out to the car, and Nathan did the honors of signing us out in the trail register--his first night in the woods a success.

From the trailhead, we drove over to nearby Mountain Pond so he could get his fishing fix.  He got a few nibbles, but only pulled "seaweed" out of the water.

We then made our way to Saranac Lake, picking up sandwiches at the Lakeview Deli (my favorite!) and enjoying them at a picnic table on Lake Flower where we got to watch another fisherman catch a beautiful bass.  By this point, I had one very happy but tired camper to return to Mom and Dad.

Thanks, Nate, for joining me on this adventure!

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