Friday, January 24, 2014


While this blog will mostly be about the positive aspects of daylilies, the first few entries will focus on what daylilies have stolen from me.  Specifically: camping.  Spending all spring, summer and most of fall in my field messing with daylilies doesn't allow time for traveling to the wilds of northern mountains.  While I'd love to take a week off midwinter and canoe the Everglades, it just wouldn't be the same as visiting the Adirondack locations I'd learned to love through spending 2 weeks, sometimes more, every year for 35 years. 

Reading about the magnificent views from the mountain tops or finding Moccasin  flowers along a trail wouldn't be of much interest, especially since I never had a decent camera for with which to illustrate.  Stories of encounters with wildlife, however, might be amusing.  I hope.

Dad and I, and sometimes my younger brother, frequently camped on an eutrophic pond called Mud Lake.  It was accessible by a narrow channel running off the Piseco River and bordered on 3 sides with floating spaghnum moss anchored by sheep laurel and dotted with Pogonia orchids and pitcher plants.  I suspect it was the remoteness that attracted Dad more than the fishing.  We got a little bored of sitting around the campfire one night so decided to take the flashlight out in the canoe and see what we could see.  The water was pitch black and utterly still. It felt like we were paddling through heavy oil when we suddenly heard a loud, low bellow.  It was a sound I recalled from a trip to Florida when I was 8: an alligator.  Of course, it couldn't be, not here in the Adirondacks.  The bellowing persisted.  Dad pointed the flashlight toward the sound but we were too far from the shore to make out what it was so I paddled as fast as I could and rammed the front of the canoe smack into the spaghnum.  Dad was just 2 feet from a standing black bear.  Must have been 8' tall.  Mist puffed out of its nostrils like the engine of my Lionel train.  The bear huffed, fell to all fours and ran in the other direction.  We bounced in the canoe as the whole surface of the lake shook.  Dad refused to ever go out in the canoe with me at night again.

One year, my husband and I carried into Clockmill Pond in the same area of the Adirondacks.  At full speed without a load, it's a 45 minute hike.  With Joe carrying the canoe and me doing the trail twice to carry in all of our stuff, it was 2 arduous hours.  That night, Joe nudged me awake to hear awful barking and howling.  We had read several reports of wild dogs in Buffalo and elsewhere in NY attacking children that summer.  The howling was coming closer and closer right down the mountainside and straight towards us.  At the time, wolves were thought to be extinct in the Adirondacks so all we could think was: wild dogs!  We jumped into the canoe, pushed off  and floated in the middle of the pond for hours.  The moon was full and illuminated the forest edges but we didn't see any movement.  There was only those horrible sounds.  The dogs sounded like they were fighting with each other.  Then abruptly, all went silent.  We packed up the next morning and spent the rest of the week at Little Sand Point, a public campsite on Piseco Lake.  The ranger there told us they didn't have a wild dog problem and it must have been the coyotes chasing down a deer.  

Along the Piseco River.  The hill on the left is Mud Mountain against which Mud Lake is nestled.  

I took a college roommate to Mud Lake one year.  As we approached the beaver dam (the only reason the lake still existed), she turned around and announced she was not getting out on that dam.  Found out she had snake phobia so any time we crossed the dam, I had to turn the canoe around (luckily, it's only 15' 'cause a 17 footer would not have made it) and approach it backwards, get out and scare the sunning snakes away.  After we set up the pup tent, we saw another canoe making its way to the other side of the lake.  I was disappointed.  In all the years of camping there, I'd never seen anyone else spend more than a few hours on the lake.  These new people were staying.  Rats!  So much for the wilderness experience.

We were awakened that first night by the sound of gunfire.

The next morning, the 3 old geezers from across the lake came over and said they'd been surrounded by coyotes and they had to shoot at them and they were leaving and we had better, too.  Even my roommate laughed.  We spent 3 pleasantly quiet days on the lake before packing up.

Now, this has never happened before or since, but wouldn't you know it, when we pulled up the ground tarp, there was a poor smooshed snake.  My friend turned ghostly white and fell against a tree.  She was twice my size so no way could I have dragged her into the canoe.  I grabbed a can of soda, ready to toss it on her.  Happily, she did not faint dead away.  But we never went camping together again.

There's a pond near Silver Lake in Wyoming County, NY that was once so full of water snakes you could pick them up with each paddle stroke.  I never took my friend there, either.  The Morton Salt Factory is nearby, and close to it is a pond that was so overpopulated with Painted turtles, the shoreline was encrusted with the shells of their deceased.  Curious weasels, fattened on turtle eggs no doubt, would pop in and out among the cattails.  My brother and I used to catch 200 or so baby Painteds each year and sell them for 50 cents apiece to a local pet shop.  We'd get a quarter for the baby snappers but the store would only take 10 of those.  The way it worked was: my brother would spot the turtle nose peaking from the duckweed and I'd paddle us over and he'd scoop up the turtle in his hand.  Sometimes the turtle would dart underwater and Dennis would have to move fast to catch it.  The thing of it is, you can't tell the size of a turtle just by its little nostrils among the floating vegetation.  When one darted away, my brother reached down and felt what he thought was a log.  For some reason, he decided to lift the log with his paddle.  He had turned to say something to me when I saw a humongous snapper head, mouth wide open, just inches from his hand.  Well, that explained all the 3 legged turtles we'd been catching.  We never went back to that pond again.            

One year I camped alone on Spy Lake, also accessible via the Piseco River but, unlike Mud lake, springfed and clear.  Half of the lake is private and hosts 3 summer cottages; I camped on the half owned by the International Paper Company.  It's the only place I've observed waterscorpions (also known as water stick-insects) and bald eagles fishing.  I was lying on my own private beach when I heard a commotion in the underbrush to my left.  If I hadn't moved fast, I'd have had a mink hat.

While I'm mostly writing this so that I can reread it in my doddering elderly years, I do hope some readers will be entertained so I'll take a breather here.  There will be more bear stories, plus moose and lynx encounters in my next entry.  Hopefully, my writing style will improve by then.

 Normally I wouldn't publish a photo of myself but, since this was taken over 30 years ago, it's not really me anymore.