Letters from Camp(1)

Avo head stoneI read books out loud every summer around the campfire, or in the “Imp” (the name of our summer cabin in the woods).  “A Girl of the Limberlost” by Gene Stratton Porter gave her name to Elnora’s Loft, when we built the bedroom above the master bedroom for Annalisa.  The planks laid above the great room loft where four or six boys slept was named the year we read Mark Twain’s, ” The Prince and the Pauper”.  It was  called London Bridge from that moment.  One year we read, “Freckles”, another year “Tom Sawyer”.  I had seven boys and wanted them to enjoy whatever I was reading.  I sought out the music  of the spoken word, and I would never pick an author whose writing did not enunciate fluently.

This summer I walk Chester around the hamlet of Eagle Bay, wondering at the trees that look down on me.  They have grown, some are dying, some have matured.  They have seen me in bathing suit run up these hills at the noon siren to get my tomato soup and hotdog for lunch. They have watched me bicycle over to Roaches’ grocery store for a 5 cent fudgesicle .  They hovered over the teen walks groups of us would make around the park laughing  at  horse play til we decided which campfire we would take on for the night. And those maples and oaks, birches and beech trees now nod in the wind as Chester and I resume a path familiar and old from the Imp to the public beach, around Eagle Point Road to the little beach, up Forest Lane, around West Avenue where the Ballet Camp was, and then across route 28 to the Imp.  What stories those trees could tell…

The Adirondack Park is a nature preserve, but those of us with property have been “grandfathered” in to continue to  live here.  Large areas continue to be nature preserves where we hike and camp, lakes are everywhere, there is still logging going on, and there is the typical tourist trap in every town.  Those that live here try anything to survive.  Those of us with cabins that have lives elsewhere pay the price with high utility bills, unbelievable school taxes, high water bills, land tax, and insurance.  We have a volunteer fire department, no hydrants, so the pumper gets water from the lake.  The closest hospital is one hour away, and the volunteer EMS are super well trained, but just don’t visit if you are sick.  Get well first, then come up.

The Imp had no TV or electronic devices for years.  I did have a radio, but few stations.  I brought a movie player one year, so we could rent movies in case of rain, but we always had puzzles, crafts, toys, paint and paper, coloring , books,  cards and games. Never at  a loss for fun, and there were often children we met at the beach we could visit or invite over.

Fishing is often best on a rainy, overcast day.  Licenses are required after age 16, but some of my boys were young enough to fish anytime.  Jeremy was always out fishing.  He would borrow a friend’s kayak and be gone for twelve hours, or  he could fish in shallow water and bring back a stringer full.  We once visited the St. Lawrence Seaway, he was gone for a few minutes and  hand caught a foot long white fish.  Once  he retrieved a hook and line, was catching fish while we were at a rest stop.  At the park I once thought I had lost him, but sitting down in the weeds by the shoreline saw his dark-hair bowl cut, he was spotting fish.

I crochet or knit while I sit in the cabin  or at the beach.  If I overdo, I get tendinitis  during a rainy cold summer.  We also attend first run movies here.  Too bad they took out the WWII airplane hanger they used for the Inlet Movie theater, the Gaiety.  Inlet is only 2 miles away, and we would  go to a $2 movie matinee at the drop of a rain drop.  The Brown Strand Theater in Old Forge is 8 mountainous, winding miles away, not always safe driving in dark, rainy nights.

The drive from Cincinnati is a full day, 750 miles or so.  Follow route 71 all the way toward Cleveland, through Pennsylvania to route 90, then Thruway 90 from Buffalo to the Utica exit.  Utica to Eagle Bay is about one hour travel time, unless you get behind a slow moving vehicle.  There are no fast food stores, no department stores, nothing like home.  If you want to do some regular shopping, you stop at the Riverside Mall in Utica just before you head up the mountains, and stop at the Walmart for anything you might need at camp.  There is a Pro-Bass Shop and an Applebee’s, and then say  “good-bye” to logos you know from the city.

As you leave the Riverside Mall, is a beautiful three lane highway in the “city” of Deerfield.  There is no “city”, no houses, no cars, open area, fields, but to the observant driver  hidden police are everywhere.  DO NOT  speed up, in spite of clear roads, perfect weather, they will get their quota, and you will pay DEARLY!  I believe they put such a lovely open highway there to pay for their community, and it works.

My Mother loved the area for many reasons, many because of Ballet.  She disliked Cincinnati’s climate in the summer, and felt athletes and dancers should not breathe smog or humid air while they dance.  Tree packed  mountain air was best, being cool and high in oxygen, while extra activities, such as swimming and hiking, would round out the dancer/athlete.  In Germany she would take her dancers out of Berlin each summer and head for the North Sea.  It is in the same vein that she sought out a summer resort early to our arrival in America. To be continued…