Forked Lake at sunset.
Forked Lake at sunset.

We’re trying something different this time, something I’ve been considering for a long time as an accommodation to my photography and writing, and this time, to the company of our kids. Instead of moving nomadically from place to place every day, camping in a different spot each night, we’re base camping. When we were here in the Adirondacks last September, the forecast looked a little gnarly, so we compromised on our original backpacking plan. We went instead to the gorgeous Forked Lake, and pitched a tent about half a mile in. We resolved to bring our boys back here the following summer, and canoe in to one of the more far-flung spots.

This isn’t really wilderness, I don’t think. But it’s certainly backcountry, and it is sufficiently remote, which pleases me. But anyway, what is one to make of the concept of wilderness in the age of drones and Google satellites? The best I can do — other than being sheepish about using the term at all while reading anything by Farley Mowat or Dick Proenneke — is that it’s a function of two variables: first, the conditions you find there, and second, how stuck you are with them. This doesn’t cover the field completely, though. Even Proenneke had a friend with a plane who supplied him every two weeks. A friend of mine says it’s a function of how far you are from the nearest Starbucks. By that definition, we’re definitely in the wilderness. Our conditions here are a massive, nearly empty lake environment, and at least half an hour of physical exertion to escape it. Not as stuck as I’ve been before, but perhaps just the right amount with two kids.

I think wilderness is somewhere to the side of Edward Abbey’s formulation:

In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe. Probably not.

I get it, Ed. The wilderness is not my backyard. There are no cacti here, but we have bled. And we’re seeing a thing or two.

Forked Lake was nearly empty when we got there, with the exception of a tent or two across the lake. I don’t understand this, _DSC0231cbecause the weather is glorious and the bulk of the blackflies are gone. But I don’t care why other people don’t want to be here, only that the lake feels like it’s mine.


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