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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

Entries in bears (2)


Hit the Trail

In my never-ending quest to understand the complexities of the world we live in, there’s one part of the newspaper I rely on to help it all make sense. The comics page. But there’s one strip I always skip. I’ve tried reading Mark Trail from time to time, but it’s never managed to hold my interest.

It doesn’t help that everything about it seems dated. Even the clothes look like they’re from the Johnson administration. The Andrew Johnson administration. Despite my best efforts, I’d inevitably abandon it in favor of a faster-paced activity. Like watching my fingernails grow.

Recently the Times Union rearranged its comics section and Mark Trail was given a special spot below the puzzles. With its presence nagging at me as I worked the Sudoku, I made a more concerted effort to read it. But the storyline was too boring. Even the Jumble, with answers like “snooze-fest,” “yawn” and “molasses” seemed to agree.

But it occurred to me the problem may be more than the slow pace. Mark and I, it turns out, have nothing in common. He loves seeking adventure in the great outdoors. I, on the other hand, believe if God had intended us to go out and experience nature, He never would have invented the Discovery Channel.

Then, while doing the cryptogram one day, I noticed something different about the strip. A man was bringing breakfast on a tray to a woman propped on pillows in bed. Now here’s a storyline I can relate to.

It turns out the man, Wes, was trying to convince the woman, Shelley, to go camping. Shelley tells him she doesn’t care for the outdoors. Either Wes is hard of hearing or else he’s fond of the celibate lifestyle because he insists she go camping anyway. Then he enlists Mark Trail and his wife, Cherry, to help. I’ll bet if they showed the next panel, Shelley would be trying to smother Wes with one of those pillows.

The next day’s strip shows a plane flying over mountains. Apparently Mark’s idea of a great camping spot is one that’s hours from the nearest first aid station. Or restroom. There’s a bear watching the tiny prop plane as it lands. I can’t help but notice it’s salivating like someone just rang the dinner bell. Good thing we can’t see inside the plane, because poor Shelley’s frantically searching the bottom of her purse for a stray Valium.

Shelley spends a lot of time at first complaining about being unable to use her cell phone. Which means room service is totally out of the question. Things quickly go downhill when, for some unknown reason, Wes and Mark fly off in the plane, leaving Shelley and Cherry alone at the campsite. At least Cherry has the decency to offer Shelley a drink. Unfortunately for Shelley, the drink turns out to be tea.

Then the plane crashes. Now, that is fun! The two men are forced to spend the night in the woods without food or shelter. A pack of wolves begins howling. It’s hard to believe Shelley would rather have stayed in the city than miss this. Wes is too injured to move. Given the luck they’re having, gangrene will soon set in. I’m sure they’ll all look back on this one day and have a good chuckle.

Another pack of wolves is howling near the women’s campsite. Shelley nervously calculates her chances of survival. Meanwhile, somewhere in the woods, Wes is calculating the size of the diamond he’s going to have to buy Shelley when they get home.

Soon, I’m tempted to forego the word search in favor of finding out what’s happening to Wes and Shelley. This week, the wolf pack chases two moose through the campsite. The moose knock a propane tank into the smoldering campfire. Suddenly there’s a huge explosion and everything is burning. Incredibly, Shelley still isn’t having a good time. Boy, talk about a stick in the mud.


Considering how hard the cartoonist is working to portray camping as a fun and safe activity, I can only wonder what Shelley will encounter next. Rattlesnakes? Avalanche? Sasquatch? I’ll have to keep reading to find out. Right after I do the crossword.




Conquering Mount Jo

The day of the family snowshoe outing arrived with warmer temperatures than on our original outing date (See Gearing Up to Snowshoe, March 8), which wasn’t saying much given the frigid conditions in January. But today it was snowing. In February – imagine that. And people wonder why I like staying inside.

Ryan Doyle, outdoor leadership coordinator for the Adirondack Mountain Club, was our guide for the day after apparently having the misfortune of drawing the short straw. My family was the only one signed up for the outing, so he probably figured it would be an easy day. He was wrong.

Ryan suggested we climb Mount Jo on snowshoes. He’d taken a family with little snowshoeing experience on that same hike the week before. Not only had that other family easily completed the hike, they’d had enough time to have lunch then hike around Heart Lake. I guess that’s when my competitive side kicked in, because I wasn’t going to let that “other family” show us up. Or maybe the elastic in my long underwear was too tight and was affecting the amount of oxygen that was making it to my brain – at least to that part of my brain that controls judgment. Because when Ryan asked if we were up for the same hike, I said, “Yes.”


Here’s the thing: Mount Jo is an actual mountain and we were on snowshoes (not to belabor the point about snowshoes, but I want to make it clear that we didn’t have jetpacks strapped to our backs). Outdoorsy types refer to Mount Jo as an easy 710-foot climb. But that’s 710 feet uphill. (And don’t forget – no jetpacks)



We start out by snowshoeing onto Heart Lake. I’m last in line, behind my 6-year-old son. All the fresh snow makes for slow going, so there’s lots of whining and crying. But eventually I calm down and catch up to everyone.



Then we head onto the trail and up the mountain. This is where I begin to wonder when the “easy” part of “easy climb” kicks in – probably back at the Loj when I put on my snowshoes. You’d think that a 710-foot climb would mean Iwould take approximately 710 steps to get to the top. But that would assume that each step propelled me in a forward direction. Unfortunately there were several steep sections where each step forwards sent me sliding several feet backwards. So, after approximately 3,500 steps (give or take a dozen), I made it to the top.



Here are some of the things I learned:

        1)            Black bears in the northeast do not hibernate all winter long, but will wake up during winter         thaws to forage for food. Now they tell me! This provided excellent incentive for me to keep moving and stay with the group.

        2)            The odds that you will meet a snowshoer going in the opposite direction will be directly proportional to the steepness, tightness, and general difficulty of the trail at the point at which you meet them.

        3)            When meeting a snowshoer in above situation, I will fall.

        4)            There’s not much to see at the top of a mountain when it’s snowing.

        5)            When you reach the top of the mountain, you are not done. You still have to get back down.

            Eventually, we did make it back down to the Loj in one piece and without spotting any bears. We’d worked up quite an appetite for our (very) late lunch. And there was no time for a hike around Heart Lake – like that “other family” did – because the sun was getting ready to set at any moment. But my kids had a blast, my husband was a good sport, and I had fodder for my blog. That, and a sore bum.

Here I am, taking a break from looking for bear tracks to pose at the top of Mount Everest, I mean, Mount Jo.