steep walls of Kyser Lake
Thursday, September 11 2014
location: west shoreline of Kyser Lake, Herkimer County, New York
Late this morning, after coffee on the dock, we locked up the dogs in the cabin and went for a kayak north up the reservoir, past the place where tiny cabins crowd the shoreline to the part where the lake is clearly just a flooded gorge with walls too steep to develop. Gary the cabin owner had told us that this section resembled that canyon scene in Deliverance, and he was right about that. The walls of the gorge were too steep in places even for trees to grow, and exposed rock (it mostly looked to be shale) was common enough to give the false impression of desert. Further up, we came upon some abandoned cabins on the east bank in a place where the topography had somehow permitted the construction of an access road (43.081787N, 74.773571W). It was great site for a camp, so we beached and briefly got out of our kayaks to explore. Despite the gorgeous setting, the rusted steel drums and ruined furniture gave me headaches when I ran the mental simulation of a cleanup. Then I saw a lump of brown material next to a wad of rained-on toilet paper and realized someone had landed here and defecated, and that their product was one of the freshest things at the camp. As we kayaked back home, we got caught in a light-to-medium downpour, though it wasn't enough to soak us or make us miserable. Back at the cabin, we were delighted to see that Ramona had not busted out.
Our cabin has running water, but it's lake water, so it's only good for flushing toilets, washing hands, taking showers, filling water bowls for the critters, and washing dishes, though it's a little strange to take a dish that is still wet from washing in lake water and then do something like pour hot coffee into it and drink it. For actually making that coffee, preparing pasta, drinking, and doing a final rinse of lettuce, we've had to bring our own potable water. But we'd only brought a little because we'd heard of a public spring in Dolgeville that we could use to get more. We'd brought a big five gallon jug just for filling at that spring. Today while Gretchen stayed back at the cabin working on her poetry and petting Celeste the Kitten, I drove with the dogs north to Dolgeville. The village is every bit as depressing as I expected, with a lot of shuttered storefronts and a Dollar General near downtown (which is never the sign of a healthy population center). There was, however, a fancy Masonic lodge, which was a little unexpected. Following a crude explicitly "not to scale" map that Gary had drawn, I went in search of the spring, crossing the iron bridge over East Canada Creek and continuing down 29A for over a mile in search of a "bank," that is, a building containing a place where money is deposited and borrowed, where supposedly the spring could be found. I gave up, drove back to Dolgeville, searching again, this time with my mind open to the chance that the spring would be coming out of a different sort of "bank," the kind where the slope of the ground turns steep for a short distance. I missed it again, but doubling back for the third time I finally saw it, a metal pipe pouring forth a steady stream of water nearly into the ditch on the side of the road (43.10727N, 74.767764W). It was coming from the second sort of bank, the kind having more to do with dirt than money. Water coming out of an iron pipe is always suspect, but in this case there was an unmarked fence uphill from it suggesting that the source of the water was being informally protected. So I took the opportunity to fill all my containers, including that big five gallon one.
While I was in Dolgeville, I had a second to-do if at all possible: get a few groceries and perhaps a more natural sort of dish soap than the kind Gary had stocked his cabin with. (Neither Gretchen nor I can stand the clingy chemical smell of mainstream cleaning products such as Palm Olive and Dawn.) So I drove up and down the two main roads of Dolgeville looking for some sort of supermarket. Having seen that Dollar General, I didn't have much hope, but then I saw a sign on Main Street informing me of the Big M Supermarket on a side street.
The Big M was a good place for buying overlooked items such as onions and a clove of garlic, but though the refrigerated foods section had veggie burgers, they were not vegan, so I didn't buy any. As for all-natural cleaning products, evidently there is no demand for such products in Dolgeville, where it seems people are perfectly happy with a trace of Palm Olive fragrance on everything they eat. But they did have Murphy Oil Soap, which is marketed as "98%" natural. I remember Murphy Oil Soap from Harkness, the hippie co-op dorm in Oberlin, so it must not be too offensive, though I don't actually like the way it smells. Still, as a less-offensive replacement for the dish soap in our cabin, it seemed like a winner. On the way out of the Big M, a guy walked in who looked like half his face had been removed by a suicide attempt with a shotgun. Again, in Dolgeville, this was not a surprising thing to see.
Gretchen went for naked swim yesterday and I think she went for another one this afternoon. Gary's cabin is private enough that it is possible to like naked on his dock without being seen. There are cabins directly across the lake, but they are a quarter mile away, and the neighbors on our side of the lake are not here and, even if they were, they'd be hidden away behind trees. It's not as private as Betty's place (the first cabin we stayed at on Lake Edward), but it's pretty close. It also helps that mid-week in September is not primetime at an Adirondack lake. On a weekend in early August, though, I'll bet Kyser Lake becomes redneck central. The noise of all the motorboats must be oppressive. That's another reason to love Lake Edward, a lake where battery-powered boats are as motorized as one can get.
In the late afternoon, I went kayaking down to the south end of Kyser Lake, looking at he cabins along the way. Gary has a reasonable road to his cabin, but the people with the cabins further to the south have to contend with an increasingly steep escarpment. Some have dealt with this by building long wooden stairways and even motorized inclines running on tracks drawn by electric winches. One cabin at the south end of the lake has an especially fancy incline complete with two benches and even a framework to support a roof. It goes from the cabin (at the top of the slope) down to a dock, though the expense of the incline might be the reason that the cabin's siding is made of Tyvek.
This eveing Gretchen and I made an Italian meal featuring pasta in red sauce. As I had been the night before, I served as prep cook, doing the cutting. Gary's cabin is equipped with an especially poor set of kitchen knives, and the only cutting board is made of dimpled glass. The sound and feel of a dull serated knife cutting vegetables on a surface of dimpled glass is almost as unpleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard.
Gary's cabin is full of books, though many of them are abridged Reader's Digest versions that make you feel stupider just by looking at their covers. Somewhat in that vein was a fat tome called The Practical Guide to Practically Everything for the year 1996. I thumbed through it to the computer section, where I knew things would be entertaining. The book was clearly written for people who do not embrace cultural change, though part of what it was trying to do was to introduce people to new things. So it did so it was written in a folksy, imprecise style, one where numbers could be introduced without (or with wrong) units, something that was particularly vexing in the section about computer technology. The word "online" was used as a noun, and the reader seeking to get connected was steered towards the services such as America Online with the warning that the internet itself was really just for experienced computer users. I know that I've always been a savvy computer user, but it's very hard for me to think of any reason anyone would have ever started using AOL once access to the internet became available. Was it really so hard to use a search engine like Altavista?
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