A busy weekend at Green Lakes State Park. Families from Syracuse and Ithica getting back to nature in a safe and comfortable way. There is a constant tang of barbeque lighter fluid in the air, pickups parked in every campsite, tattoos and beer bellies on parade at every turn. More tattoos than I have ever seen in one place actually and on bodies of every age and size. A tanned, legless man in a wheelchair had what looked like a fascinating life story inked across his back, with dates and places and faces needled into his skin. Several young men had tattoos on their bellies and I wondered what they would look like once time, beer, fast food and gravity had pulled them out of shape. Five minutes later, in another part of the campsite I had my answer… er, not great.
But enough of that. We were determined to get on our bikes today and explore and so we did. For a while at least. The moderate trail we struck out on turned out to be pretty steep – rather too steep for a seven year old still getting to grips with a new bike. He was resolutely enthusiastic about it, but the idea of going deeper into the wilds with Tom spending more time pushing his bike than riding it did not appeal. So eventually we turned our wheels downhill and headed for the lake beach instead.
Just sometimes the state park system really knows how to suck the life out of a place. There was a hint of this when we set out this morning and some kids were picking and eating blackberries. A Ranger in a car drew up and told them to stop, before driving on. They looked embarrassed and went back to their campsite. Brilliantly handled I thought and with luck they will be deterred from eating fruit in the wild for life. But it was to get even better.
Green Lakes is named for the two beautiful glacial lakes at its heart. On the tip of one is a suspiciously sandy beach with areas roped off for swimming, and no less than seven lifeguard stations perhaps thirty feet apart. The rules are comprehensive. This is the only place you are allowed to swim and they are rigorous about whatever else you do. Every so often a loudspeaker system kicks into life and a young voice intructs those gathered to check where their children are. “They must be kept within ten feet of their parents at all times”. Obeying the ten foot rule I took Tom over to a diving area and after the lifeguard had interrogated Tom as to his swimming ability we jumped in and climbed out to do it again. The lifeguard told me that if we wanted to keep jumping in and out we must go to the other side of the beach as THIS side was for people who wanted to jump in and then swim. I looked into our stretch of water where there were no other people at all. I looked back at the lifeguard who said “they could be swimming under the water”. Right. So off to the other side to do some jumping in. Then I made the mistake of sitting on a railing to watch T perform. Another lifeguard raised a bullhorn “SIR you cannot sit on the railing”. OK, another man further along made the mistake of putting his toddler on his shoulders “SIR you must remove that child…’. Then the speaker came on again; children must be tethered at the ankle to a large stake, frisbee throwers would be shot etc etc. Honestly. Its a LAKE. People will want to mess around in it, and on the whole they will probably survive.
Tom threw himself into all beach activities with his usual gusto all the same and had a grand old day while we lazed about and read and splashed along with him, guards permitting. At one point a thick gray cloud billowed up at the end of the lake bringing a curtain of water in our direction, we felt the first few spots and rushed over to the concession stand for some fast-lunch. The rain had vanished and the sky had completely cleared by the time we got there. I think the lifeguards scared it off.
Tomorrow we head into the Adirondacks and I am looking forward to it. It feels a bit like camping in the suburbs so far. Pleasant and fun and all that but we could be in someone’s back garden. I’m looking forward to getting into the wilds a bit and exploring with fewer rules…