Brown Tract Ponds, (day two) mile 638


It was blissful to wake in almost complete silence this morning. No yelling kids, no engines, no cars, no people talking loudly as they walked past, just the quiet swishing of the breeze and eventually a slightly indignant Tom saying; “Guys, it is eight thirty five…” An excessive lie-in by his standards.

I threw on some clothes, hopped on the bike and went down to the ranger’s hut to book another night here, and then came back for a fry-up. Eggs, sausages, mushrooms and fried bread – coronary-inducing bliss! It was a cool morning with rain spitting around us and threatening to dampen proceedings but we fired up the magic bus and got back on the track towards Raquette Lake. It turned out to be a tiny little place with a church and a bar and an old steamship docked on the lake – well worth a poke about but not right now. We had an appointment with Bald Mountain and fifteen minutes later we were heading up a muddy track thick with exposed tree roots. Tom immediately ran ahead like the labrador he really is. It was an easy – and popular – walk; winding up through mature trees and scrambling over big smooth rocks. Sometimes we emerged onto the cliffside for a sweeping view over the wooded hills and long blue lakes with tiny houses sitting at the water’s edge.

It’s Bald Mountain because there is a rounded rocky summit complete with a tall fire tower standing sentry-like at the top. We climbed its open stairs to the viewing platform and looked for fires. Thankfully there were none, because I have no idea what we would have done if there was. Back down for lunch in the rv and then a trip back to Old Forge so I could have my haircut. There was a hairdresser with a sign that said “come in – we’re open” but they weren’t and I was FORCED to kill some time in one of the many hardware stores instead. I have never been to a town so packed with purveyors of fine hardware. One advertised itself as “The Adirondacks Most General Store”. You could get any bit of hardware you could possibly imagine from toilet plungers to wind chimes. I got Tom some hiking shoes, and a stick-on light for his little bed space. I kept going back to the hairdresser and there never was a sign of life, despite her notice which said she was open all day. Philippa spotted her later loading stuff from her car into the salon and asked if she was in fact, open. She said she might be tomorrow.

On the way back to the campsite, back on the rutted track, we stopped at a tiny little hut with a sign over it saying “Joan’s Scones”. Inside there were cakes and cookies and all manner of delicious little mouthfulls set out on shelves like the pages from a baking magazine. As we were looking, Joan came across the road from her house. She was a friendly, smiling lady with the chesty chuckle of a smoker. We chatted to her about travelling around America. She and her husband had been to Utah, Montana and Wyoming last summer and we had many places in common though she thought the southwest was too hot and after five of the six weeks they had given themselves they were ready to come back to the cool damp Adirondaks. I can see how those big dry expanses might be a bit of a shock to the system for anyone living here. This is a place full of foliage, muddy streams and broad lakes; the roads twist through tunnels of trees and rain never seems far away. You can feel comfortable here, while in much of the landscape of the west just walking about can feel like a fight for survival in a hostile terrain that could brush you away in a moment. That’s the thrill of being there of course but its a very different feeling to these quiet hills.

Joan filled a couple of brown paper bags with lemon cakes and chocolate chip cookies and blueberry scones for us and we set off for the lake for Tom to have a final swim. With a strong wind blowing, PT and I chickened out but true to form he was straight in, splashing about in the golden glow of the late-afternoon sunshine.

We had one small problem in that we were out of water. The campsite has loads of taps but none of them have threaded ends on which to attach a hose so eventually PT and I used a saucepan and a funnel to get what we could into Harvey’s fresh water tank. Just enough to wash up and make tea in the morning. Tomorrow we head north again into the heart of the Adirondaks. I could very happily stay right here though…

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