discovering Ontenora Lake
Friday, May 23 2003
What's wrong with this picture? For one thing, these hip young people are not being ironic. They are, as the New York Times Magazine will tell us on Sunday, "Hipublicans," hip young people who forego bashing gays so they can better advance their cause: Retardocracy (look at their tee-shirts!). For another, the guy second from the left looks a lot like Matt Rogers, back when Matt Rogers still had a full head of hair. These Hipublicans are all white of course, but there's no big surprise there. Who am I to complain? There were only two black people at my wedding, and one of them was an African non-American. While the ranks of my wedding party weren't swollen with Hipublicans, there were more Republicans present than African Americans. Following advice provided by Clarence Thomas, we packed them into a small plane and flew it into Yale, but our liberal guilt is not yet assuaged.
Today Gretchen and I finally got around to hauling away the trash leftover from the wedding party. It had spent most of the time since in the back of my pickup truck emitting a progressively deteriorating fragrance. We also took a bunch of bottles to the beer place out on route 28 (in that convenient strip mall with the alternative video store, the wine shop, the coffee shop, and an exceptional pasta retailer). As usual for places that Gretchen discovers and patronizes, the beer place loves Sally and keeps a stock of doggy bones for canine visitors. Unfortunately, a good number of the beer bottles we'd brought to recycle had been bottled at microbreweries in Charlottesville (Root 66 rootbeer and Starr Hill beer) and brought up by Nathan and Janine for the wedding. Like most right-to-work states in Redneckistan, there is no deposit collected on the sale of Virginia beverages, and bottle deposit refunders have a way of knowing alien bottles just by glancing at them.
We'd had a plan to spend our refund money at the nearby coffee shop, but since we only recouped $2, we were forced to dig into our wallets for our cappuccinos (I don't normally drink fancy coffee beverages, but for some reason I was in the mood). I was reading an article in a month-old copy of Time Magazine about the SARS epidemic when I looked up and saw an Ulster County sheriff's deputy had parked on the edge of the strip mall parking lot so as to provide his K-9 companion an opportunity to take a shit. Like most cops going about their police-related business, this particular deputy undertook this action with as little walking as possible. He simply stood around beside his vehicle while his charge (a big fluffy black dog with pointy ears) sniffed about in the bushes. It was at this point that I realized he was standing at the head of a marked Catskill State Park trail. The big triangular green shape you see in the Catskill region on maps of New York State indicates the park boundaries, but most of the land within that triangle is privately-owned. Indeed, at this particular strip mall on Route 28, it's the ugliest form of commercial. But at various places within the green there are slivers of state-owned land. Evidently one such sliver began here at the southeast end of the strip mall parking lot.
After we were done with our cappuccinos, we decided to go for a little walk down this trail. It was a dreary grey day with temperatures in the fifties and occasional drizzle, but when you're sufficiently curious, any day is a good one for a hike. Sally had been waiting patiently in the truck, but now was her big opportunity to have fun!
It turned out that the trail went through an old abandoned bluestone mining operation past a small sixteen acre body of water called Onteora Lake. It looked like a natural lake and had several Canada Geese swimming around on it, some followed by the tiny little fluffballs of their freshly-hatched offspring. The shoreline of the lake ranged from thickly-forested swampy to mudflats rich in poison ivy (interestingly, I've never seen poison ivy anywhere near our house). The lake area had been outfitted by park employees as a proper primitive campground, and it seemed swimming, boating, and offleash dog walking were allowed, although a recalcitrant litter problem had necessitated the banning of overnight camping. This was precisely the sort of place Gretchen had been hoping to find, and here it was, walking distance from her favorite pasta store! She couldn't contain her excitement. Then again, it's not like Gretchen ever makes any attempt to contain her excitement.
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