My family introduced me to the natural world at a very young age. Both of my parents love exploring the outdoors, though I doubt they could’ve known that this passion they instilled in me would become such a driving force in my life. The summer before my first birthday, my family visited Lake George in the Adirondacks and kicked off a tradition. My mom had been visiting Roger’s Rock Campground at the north end of the lake since she was young, and it became an annual vacation for the initial half of my life. We no longer get the chance to go every year, but regular journeys to Lake George are still important to me and my siblings.
This year, I rushed to finish my grad school work so I could join my family and friends upstate without any worries or responsibilities bogging me down. I ended up condensing multiple weeks of due dates into a few days of work, but it was absolutely worth it. Andrew Kate, Jamie, Matt, and I made the drive up on Friday afternoon and pitched our tents just before the sun set. We spent the first evening relaxing outside my parents’ RV. Somehow, the campground is still in a shadow zone with no cell reception, which makes it extra peaceful and removed from the world’s hustle and bustle.
On the walk back to our own site, I kept my ears pricked for nocturnal noises. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to hear the songs of loons or coyotes echoing across the water, and there were a few forest birds I hadn’t yet heard this year. The darkened woods were quiet the whole way back, so I settled into my sleeping bag and passed out. At around 2:30, I was awakened by the hooting of a Barred Owl pair down the road. Surprisingly happy with the unexpected disturbance, I laid back and enjoyed their duet as I drifted back to sleep. I never get tired of hearing the wild calls of this vocal species. I’ve carried out many a conversation with Barred Owls in the past, as they often respond vigorously to impressions. This crowded campground during the wee hours of the morning was neither the time nor place, and I let the pair continue talking among themselves without my interruption.
Saturday brought a beautiful morning out on the water. We went tubing, swimming, cliff jumping, and boating with some family friends we haven’t seen in a while. There were many drinks and plenty of food, so spirits were riding high. Koda seemed to enjoy his first visit to the lake, even though he spent a good chunk of the day lounging in the shade. An afternoon rainstorm sent us into town for ice cream, and the skies cleared for dinner outside at my folks’ site.
Dad had mentioned hearing a few Whip-poor-wills during the two nights he spent before we arrived, but they’d been strangely silent since I got there. The sites along the tucked-away road where they’d been singing had since been filled, so we suspected the birds had taken their songs elsewhere. I excused myself at dusk to walk down to a quieter spot in the hopes of locating the nightjars. It took enough time that I feared Eastern Whip-poor-will would be a blank space in my year list, but eventually I was able to just barely make out the distant, rolling chant this bird is named for. S’mores by the fire and beers on the beach made for a fine end to the day. Standing on the shoreline with the boys, I watched meteors streaking through the summer constellations and satellites tracing their orbit around the Earth. Pure bliss.
No one really wanted to leave on Sunday morning, so we dragged out our departure as long as we could. A few extra hours lounging on the lake in my friend’s pontoon boat were well-worth a late arrival home on Long Island. More drinks, more swimming, a couple of sunglasses lost and found in the water, plenty of people dunked off an inner tube…all the ingredients for a great day on the lake. I even spotted a loon fishing off the boat launch and a Bald Eagle passing overhead: two species that were quite uncommon in the region until recently. Lake George is huge but hugely popular with tourists, and even within my life time I’ve seen wildlife gradually reclaim old haunts in this gorgeous landscape. It’s nice to see some successes in conservation every once in a while, especially in a place that’s such a big part of my life.
Year List Update, July 25 – 333 Species (+ Barred Owl, Eastern Whip-poor-will)