At the gate to the St. Lawrence
22. 9. 2016
The day was divided between the Adirondacks and Alexandria Bay. The Cascade Lakes properly belong in the Adirondacks section, but I annexed them here as they were part of the drive and for esthetic reasons…
Losing my Breath - Cascade Lakes
I said good-bye to the nice lady at the Draper’s Acres Campground, paid her the third night stay, got some last tips for the road and headed on the #73. I considered stopping at the magical lake that struck me like a lightning with its beauty on the way here, despite the knowledge I have a long driving day ahead. Later I found out the lake is called “The Upper Cascade Lake”.
It is hard to “swallow” that much beauty just with the eyes. There’s that need to “do something” about it, through the camera or by climbing, submerging, bicycling, whatever. In my case that “something” was obvious. I pulled over, took out the swimming gear, hid behind a rock to change and got in.
I’ve never experienced anything similar. My breath was literally taken away. The magic pond put a spell – don’t invade me! Never felt such cutting cold. The effect on my lungs was immediate and drastic, but, in a few seconds that felt like forever, my breath resumed…
Plans for crossing to the other side were dumped there and then, and I just paddled a bit around my entry point, too fearful to venture further. The soul of this lake is tied to its glacial origin, to the primeval ice age. I got out, took a deep breath and a few photos of this divine location, aware that you could never enter the same lake twice. In some situations, cameras can only hint at the actual experience!
22.9.16 Alexandria Bay, Thousand Islands Campground, night
On the Move and a Bit of Unpleasant History
Several people recommended the 1000 islands, including an Israeli I met at the beginning of my first trip. I keep recommendations in mind. For simplicity’s sake I chose this particular camp because of its name – Thousand Islands Campground. The location seemed central and convenient as well.
Seven hours to get from one campground to the other. Should have taken three, but I stopped at the magical lake by Keene (above), and then the GPS led me in the wrong direction. The rest could be explained by slow driving and many stops. Roads with names like “Otter Brook Road”, that have no landmarks but trees, don’t help, and you start worrying about the gas tank.
Otherwise, the driving was enjoyable and even instructive with the radio alternating between the relax channel CNN and CBC. The Canadian channel, CBC, had a talk show about the white-black schism in America. Being more impartial, they did an intelligent analysis, a rarity on common U.S. media. There were riots in Charlotte, N. Carolina for two straight days. The talk’s guest explained how lynching was used by whites in the south to destroy the Blacks’ will, and how those were later substituted for the “official executions” of the death penalty.
The interviewee said that perhaps some of the cops today simply keep trying. His organization collects soil from lynching sites to erect a memorial for the lynched with their names. This hit a note for me. “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, that I am currently reading, describes the disappearances of people murdered in jail by the Iranian regime, their existence obliterated, their names forgotten… Books like Nafisi’s keep their memory and names alive… Apparently lynching continued in America into the sixties….Amazing…
Johnny Depp in my Bathroom - Thousand Islands Campground
This is also a private campground, but how different from the previous. Draper’s Acres was located in sheer forest, but here it is mostly grass with a few trees (I put up the tent under one of them due to the threatening rain). For $3 extra you can get electrical connections on the site. I paid that and am now charging both tablet and cell phone.
Rustles and crackles. Things are moving around. When I got back to the site from the bathroom, there was a raccoon in front of the tent, small and divine. It was too dark to see clearly, but it looked at me and I looked back at it until the animal chose to retreat into the bushes.
This campground is on another level. The light in the bathroom turns on with half a switch and lights an entry room to the women’s services equipped with several fluorescents. In that entry room there are shelves with an exchange library. Most of the books fit the category of “girls lit”, as my ex-husband would disdainfully call it . Every cover has a hugging couple featured in shiny colors, and on the back it says “He saved her baby” or such, but there were some deeper books there as well. When you get past the entry room, you reach two sinks. Surprisingly, the femininely decorated mirror is on the side, while a large super sexy poster of Johnny Depp is right above the basins!!! To see and die…
Perhaps some humans come to this campground only to walk their dogs and read these novels. Fine. They don’t hurt anybody. I forgot to mention that the percentage of youth in the camping grounds is very low. By now even the families are less present, and most of the crowd are retired couples.
On another wall there was a seamstress prayer on a tapestry:
“O Lord, as I work life’s chart section by section, grant this stitcher thy special protection, keep my needles unlost, my stitches all crossed. In one single constant direction. Amen”.
Further inside there was a stylish toiletry table!!! I should have taken the picture, but, alas… I’ll keep the stitchery of this diary without that particular stitch…
Just Another Camping Night
Again, total darkness. I got used to it by now. Turning off the lantern/flashlight, there is only residual glow at the edge of the sky. Not cold. I put the tent up speedily, pegs at the end, as it started to drizzle, but regretted and stopped. It’s a magical evening.
So I am now sitting by the picnic table with the lantern, reading “Don’t Call Me a Racist”, a book of quotes about the relations between blacks and whites in the U.S. since slavery and until 1998. As I read, I mark the interesting passages. The sounds of the night alternate with the car sounds from the road.
I picked this book up in Grand Isle Campground.Many campgrounds have small exchange libraries for the travelers. As I keep reading the quotes, I think of nice, liberal Americans I know, who would still innocently say things like:
Why don’t blacks in America go to Africa?
Why do you, Israelis, insist on living in a place where everybody hates you?
It seems like many good people simply are not very good at putting themselves in other people’s shoes, or in getting a historical perspective, or there’s something else they don’t get I can’t put the finger on. There is a blindness to what I’d call “historical psychology”. It comes from being very cozy and comfortable, taking things for granted, an easy trap if you were born and raised in this country in middle class circumstances.
We are very close to Canada. Another country. The lure is there, for sure, but perhaps not enough time this trip. Will see!
Since the electrical spoon short-circuited, in order to make a simple cup of tea now I need to:
Carry the gas stove from the car
Get out the gas container
Bring: a bottle of water,
a spoon and a cup
Light the stove
Angels in Clayton's Library
23. 9.2016, Friday
Thursday night was rainy and so was Friday morning. I therefore decided “to spend the day on my problems”– the car insurance and the little “accident”. I drove #12 south to Clayton’s Public Library. Public libraries in America are just wonderful, one of the country’s greatest public institutions. High quality, esthetic and free, they offer a variety of services for the community at all ages.
I don’t think helping customers figure out insurance claim forms is part of their training or job description, but, nonetheless, I got the most wonderful heartfelt help from the librarians. One of them, in particular, actually helped me upload the documents onto the insurance form. It was one of those “little” computer know-hows, but if you don’t know which is the right button to press, you are lost. I was so grateful. As it took a while, I ran back and forth to the car to put more quarters in the parking meter, and also to take fresh pictures of the bumper damage.
I asked the ladies if they can help me call Israel, something I wasn’t able to do from any other place – post office, other public building, campgrounds. The nice ladies with the best of intentions helped me figure out how to call the presumably toll-free number I had for my cellphone service, and I had to wait about 15 minutes on the phone for them to answer.
I wanted the company to transfer my line to my prime cellular phone as I could not find my alternate phone that I “dedicated” to Israeli communication. It was weird talking in Hebrew from here, so I took it on my own to continue my call outside the library. After hanging up I was “told” by AT&T that the call cost me north of $30. I tried to contain my annoyance. It was my fault. I just did not understand that perhaps on the Israeli side it was toll-free, but not on the American server. I thanked the ladies profusely and went out to re-park the car on a side street free of charge, so I can see a bit of Clayton in peace.
Clayton on the Water
A sea or a river? The amazing St. Lawrence
Ah, the excitement of large boats crossing borders on the main waterways of this world…
A small town on a river – houses, church, a ghost watching the street from the third floor…
Is there more to that town than I expected?
One restaurant close to the shore had beautiful murals all around it. The artist, Kelly Curry, painted period river scenes from Clayton’s waterfront on a summer day in 1911. The murals tell us that in those days the trains would bring 30,000 people a week to the town. I doubt this is still the situation today. Even the jazz festival did not attract that kind of a crowd. Maybe that is why there is a sadness hanging over that town. Or perhaps I am imagining it.
There’s more to Clayton than Meets the Eye
All in all, during the three days I spent in the area, I found out that the town indeed had a lot more going for it than was first apparent. First, there was the jazz festival starting, lucky for me, just the next day. It was spread over various pubs, restaurants and public halls, as well as over the River itself, an event full of atmosphere and talent.
Secondly, it served as a loving home for veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, as I was about to discover.
Thirdly, the locals have friendly hang-out places that are full of their own atmosphere, but that friendliness also belies much personal unhappiness hiding behind the scenes. I asked a lady who walked down the street where would be a good place to eat. She was very sociable and helpful, happy to be addressed, but smelled heavily of alcohol. O’Brien’s was “the” place if I wanted to get an idea where locals liked to hang out; she promised good food.
O’Brien’s was a bar-restaurant with lots of booze, a river-town atmosphere, some great characters and some not so great, as can be expected. I tried to keep a low profile, eating my fish and something, which was good, but I was not very comfortable with the groups of guys (and some girls) around me. Growing up in a new country when spirits and bars were not “in”, I am still not in my comfort zone in alcoholic situations.
Grassy Point State Park and One Island Posing for a Sunset
I drove back to the campground, looking for a walking opportunity. Grassy Point State Park was indicated to me, but it was fairly boring – mostly grass, RVs, picnic tables, playgrounds, etc. A nice family hangout, but lacking in natural interest. There was one small beach, though, and I took pictures of a spectacular sunset over an off-shore island (my first out of the 1000…).
The river is like a sea. The beach is covered in sand…On a second thought, the “sea sand” we are used to in Israel was also worked out by a mighty river, the Nile. It was brought to our shores by the thrust of the delta combined with the sea waves and currents. So, yes, rivers are powerful.
A middle-aged couple sitting on a bench was also watching the sunset. We started talking. First it was pleasant, but soon I started feeling pressured, as if I was under interrogation. The woman was mostly quiet, but the guy needed to know exactly what I was doing, why I am doing what I am doing, what I do for a living in Israel, and so on and so forth.
It felt familiar – many men in Israel, especially from Middle Eastern background try to “figure you out” as a single woman. When they see an independent woman, they feel an internal dissonance; it is something indigestible to their original culture. They are simultaneously intrigued and attracted. To “solve their dissonance” they feel they must put you in some box, diminish you to size: “Ah, she’s a teacher” (or a nurse. What else can intelligent women do?), or “Her husband is surely sleeping in the tent (or room). She’s just taking a little stroll alone”.
He was a plumber, but here he was doing a fishing safari, like he does every year, and was in his element. I must say, not too many people I met in North America treated me that way. People here are usually more prudent and respectful about one’s privacy, about your right to your own life. Generally speaking, they are brought up to honor personal space, and that includes even women.
Here is the sunset in its glory progressing color by color: