first night in fisherman's heaven
Saturday, August 10 2013
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
Before setting off for our one-week stay at a cabin in the Adirondacks, I did a massive harvest of kale and green beans from our garden. I also harvested a half-dozen hot green peppers and the only somewhat-red tomato in the tomato patch, the first of the season. Though it wasn't quite ripe, I wanted to honor of eating it all to myself. When Gretchen got back from walking the dogs, she went on to harvest some loose heads of cabbage and a broccolette or two.
We loaded up the last few things in the car (along with the dogs) and drove north up the Thruway, stopping (as we always now do) at Trader Joe's near the Albany Airport. The goal for this grocery run was to buy all the food we would need for the coming week. So we bought things like all varieties of bread (bagels, flat, and loaf), pasta, packaged food, beans, salad greens, fake lunch meat, two different kinds of beer, fake cheese, vegetable pizza, and such basics as onions, garlic, and paprika (we couldn't find chili powder). Though these things only filled a single shopping cart, somehow we managed to spend about $230.
To get to Lake Edward, one has to drive through the neighborhoods of Johnstown and Gloversville, and I'd forgotten how forlorn these smallish cities are. For the most part, the buildings in these neighborhoods are clad with either plywood or Tyvek and slump visibly into the landscape. Very few of surfaces have fresh paint jobs. Compared to even the most economically-distressed places I frequent (including rust-belt Kingston and post-oversprawl Staunton), it looks like a region in serious decline.
Last year we'd stayed at a dreary over-stuffed cabin on a nice private cape on Lake Edward. Gretchen had thought that place a bit overpriced and had found (through sheer power of extrovertism) a second, much cheaper cabin only a couple hundred feet away. That cheaper cabin was where we would be spending the coming week. The only concern was that Gust, the guy who owns it lives right next door to it, seems to be a bit of a chatty Catherine. Happily, he and his wife were supposed to be gone until some time tomorrow.
The cabin was a smallish building with a big screened-in porch overlooking the lake. It had two bedrooms, a dine-in kitchen, a living room, and a bathroom with a shower. It was less cluttered than the cabin we'd stayed in last year, but the big difference was that this place had a decorative coherence and the other place did not. The cabin we were staying in had been decorated as a fisherman's paradise. The walls were crowded not just with framed fishing flies and other lures and barbs, but also with just lures in their retail packaging. (Fisherman might love to look up and see that stuff, but whenever I looked up, seeing all those barbed hooks just made my lips hurt.) There were also a great many fishing poles, reels, hooks, and even various sizes of fishing gigs. There were only a couple taxidermied fishes on plaques and not too many pictures of proud fishermen with their catches. Gretchen didn't want to spend a week looking at unhappy fish being held up by happy humans, so she got rid of all the pictures as we were bringing our stuff in and setting it all up.
One other interesting thing about this cabin was that in some ways it was like a time capsule of the 1980s or early 1990s. There was a CRT-based television, but the only media player for it was a VCR capable of playing VHS cassettes. Every lightbulb in the cabin was of the old-style incandescent variety, the kind that burns four times the amount of electricity to produce the visible light that a modern CF or LED bulb produces. It made me wonder if perhaps Gust is one of those right wing crazies who believe CF bulbs are a conspiracy by the United Nations to take away our rights and perhaps kill us dead.
There were also a great many deodorizers (or perhaps insect repellers) as well as plug-in ultrasonic rodent terrorizers (the latter of which seemed to be doing a good job).
We hadn't been settled in for very long before Anita, Gust's wife, called over to Gretchen from the top of the stairs to their back porch. It turned out that she and Gust had returned a day earlier than we'd expected. Ramona, always eager to meet a new person, immediately charged up those steps and reared up to put her big scratchy paws on that poor woman's chest. Anita is an octogenarian chain smoker and can't possibly be in the best of health, and it later turned out that one of Ramona claws and torn her delicate tissue-paper-like skin, something Anita didn't realize until after we'd had an amiable (but completely unnecessary) conversation. For the rest of our stay, Anita would email or call us and to say passive-aggressive things about the dogs (for example, that there's a leash law in the Town of Bleecker). At first this made Gretchen anxious; at one point she even considered just packing up and leaving. But it seemed Gust actually liked our dogs and didn't say anything about them running around loose, so I soon decided that we could safely ignore Anita.
There were no kayaks with this cabin, but there were canoes and a fun battery-powered raft we were free to use. I took a short canoe ride by myself and Gretchen went for a swim off the dock. Later we went for a walk with the dogs to the end of Lake Edward Road and back. It's not a very interesting walk, although there were a few mealy blackberries to eat.
This evening Gretchen put together a delicious meal of rice noodles and a sort of Thai peanut sauce using various materials we happened to have on hand (these didn't include either sriracha or soy sauce, though she did have a sort of bean & carrot soup to use as a base). We ate our food out on the lake in the battery-powered raft, whose large marine battery has a range (according to Gust) of many miles.
I'd set up my computer and second 1650 by 1050 monitor on the table out on the porch, but after sundown it got too cold to be out there, so I had to bring all that equipment back inside. It being summer, Gretchen and I had neglected to bring our socks (I hadn't even brought a long-sleeve shirt). But even with the door shut, it wasn't really warm enough to walk around barefoot in our cabin. In desperation, Gretchen fabricated some makeshift socks by knotting small towels around her feet. This didn't work as well on my enormous feet, so Gretchen got some electrical wire out of Gust's fully-stocked shop down in the basement and we used that to secure the towels on my feet.
We ended the evening by watching a couple episodes of Orange is the New Black, which I'd brought with us on my computer.
Last year when we'd come to Lake Edward, we'd been able to get a very tenuous WiFi signal from somewhere (and usually not from within our cabin). We'd later learn that the signal had been coming from Gust's place. Here in Gust's rental cabin, it was a bit stronger, but we never got more than two bars. Still, it would allow us to download programs such as the latest episode of Gold Rush or the half-season premier of Breaking Bad.
What a fisherman considers tasteful decor.
A "sportsmen's thermometer" designed to encourage hunting and fishing most of the time.
Some of the decoration took the form of classic "Kountry Korny."
More kountry korniness.
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