Tuesday, December 6, 2016

To Old Forge

It would be a long drive to Old Forge, NY, and back.  To keep Jean from having to make the long drive back alone, Laura, our daughter, agreed to take a day off from work to make the trip with us, and ride back with Jean.  Her employer only owed her about a thousand days of accumulated time.  We picked her up at 0630 and left Carlisle by seven.

I had been watching the weather forecasts for the beginning of the NFCT every day for a couple weeks.  To minimize weight, the issue was to take only the gear needed, as my trip plan revealed that there was a potential 189 miles of portaging.  The NFCT is sometimes referred to as a portaging trail with occasional opportunities for paddling.  That is an exaggeration, somewhat, but still one certainly shouldn’t want more weight than absolutely essential. 

When the rain stopped, we drove out of town to capture the
beautifully carved welcome sign.
The weather was making a freak change that would leave me unprepared for unusual cold.  It quickly became obvious that both my outer wear and sleeping bag would be underweight.  We were driving north, but it wasn’t long before the sudden temperature changes were becoming uncomfortable.  After breakfast, we stopped at a Bass Pro to replace my existing sleeping bag and add a thermal bag liner.  The weather was going from uncomfortable to abysmal.  The rain was torrential, and was blown sideways by 20-25 mph winds and gusts of 35.  I have no idea what the wind chill was, but it was cold.  Just standing outside to pump gas felt like we were back to mid-winter. 
By mid-afternoon, the talk was all about the cold, and Jean insisted I stop at another Bass Pro to get a fleece jacket.  The staff there was as unprepared for the weather change as I was, as all the winter apparel had been removed from racks for storage and replaced with light spring/summer clothing.  The sales clerk asked what I was looking for, and I pointed at the full-zipper Columbia fleece jacket she was wearing inside the store.  She had to go to the warehouse to find one, but came back with it.

The Old Forge covered bridge just above the historic dam.
We had lunch at a nice Italian restaurant in New Berlin, NY.  Once we arrived at Old Forge at 5:30, we checked into the Clark’s Beach Motel.  Just before dark, the wind and rain simultaneously turned off for a couple hours.  We ran outside to get a few pictures, and to walk over to the launch and sign in at the NFCT kiosk.  Tomorrow was going to be an early start, so we hit a couple of stores before they closed.  It wasn’t easy to accomplish the requisite tourist shopping.  Their tourist season still hadn’t started, in spite of it being the second week of June, and most businesses were still closed.  In talking to the locals, we got an entirely different picture of the weather than what the official forecasters had been giving us.  One lady said, “Oh, you missed the snow.  That was yesterday. But, rain, high winds, and snow are still forecast for the next five days.”  I began to get that sinking feeling, like I had just swallowed a bag of lead fishing weights.
We had dinner at Slickers, which due to the weather, was more than appropriate.  I got a Smutty Nose Ale from New Hampshire with dinner.  That was a new one.  With the cold weather giving me continually running nose, Smutty Nose was as close to reality as possible. 

Laura and I by the NFCT kiosk and launch site.
As we were driving through town on Main Street, I noticed a couple deer to my left coming from between a couple houses.  They were obviously intent on coming right across the road, so I stopped, as did a car coming from the other direction, and another stopped behind me.  Apparently this was normal, as everyone just sat and waited patiently. The deer slowly sauntered across between the stopped cars.  The second doe was only two feet in front of the truck, and it stopped to look intently over the hood and into the windshield as Laura took its picture. With the photo op done, it casually carried on as if it had the rest of the day to get wherever it was going.  It was getting dark, so it was time for us to settle into the motel.

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