In summer, our quiet haunts become crowded with visitors. The mountain we think of as our backyard is actually one of the most popular short but strenuous hikes in the southern Adirondacks. Our little beach, which we think of as our personal swimming hole, is really a well-known little boat launch.
July and the heat wave brought out the weekenders, the day-trippers and the second-home crowd, and they all seemed to spend the holiday week driving by our house. When my son and I walked down the road for a quick dip in the lake at the end of a brutally hot day, we found our beach so full of all manner of watercraft and humanity we had to walk another mile to get into the water.
Most of the year our beach — on a three-mile pond between two dams — is popular for kayaks and canoes, rowboats and small outboards. It’s a quiet place for exploring around the coves, visiting the birds and fishing. Then comes summer afternoons and the buzzing of Jet Skis, the motorboats big and fast enough to pull water skiers, and the occasional pontoon boat.
Most of the bigger, faster and noisier boats stay in the big lake on the far side of the dam, where the boat launches are more compatible and the distances more appropriate for a day on the lake. On the other end of the big lake are proper beaches, parks and campgrounds, but even at our wilder end there are spots where you can drop in and float for a while.
We’re not against sharing with the visitors, especially those who want to get outside and see hawks and kingfishers, loons and eagles, or even just feel the wind on their faces while surrounded by trees and mountains. Most of them have just a day or a weekend to get out, when we have all summer, all year to enjoy this place.
We could do without the noise — the engines we can hear from the garden — but my biggest complaint is the garbage. Who goes to spend a day out in nature and decides it’s OK to leave plastic cups, beer bottles, dirty diapers, food wrappers and fishing line on the beach?
The locals can mark time by the garbage. Last weekend, my neighbor and I were trying to figure out how we missed each other when we both had gone for an evening wade after a hot day. She asked if I’d been there before or after the rain, and I asked her if the beach had been clean or dirty.
That narrowed it down — my husband and I had a bag with us and hauled off the garbage that she and her husband saw when they were there with their dog, after the rain but before our visit.
We haul off other people’s trash frequently, because we find if the beach stays relatively clean many people are reluctant to leave trash. If it’s dirty, on the other hand, it becomes a free-for-all. “Everyone else is doing it so it must be fine,” they must think. “Let me drop my sandwich bag and juice container right here next to the baby’s soiled diaper.”
Personally, I’ve met very few people who throw garbage out car windows, and most people who hike and boat and otherwise enjoy nature seem to be the type to carry out their own waste. My husband thinks that some visitors assume that because they are in the Adirondack Park, there must some sort of park cleanup crew that tidies up after they leave, kind of like at Disneyland.
I guess there is. It’s me.
The summer is a beautiful time for exploring. Get out and enjoy the mountains and the lakes and what pristine beauty we still have left in our world.
But you might have to pack an extra garbage bag to help keep it that way.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on July 22. Reach Margaret Hartley at email@example.com or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.