It was in tourist country, the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area that is not a wilderness anymore because it is severely overrun by tourists. As beautiful as the High Peaks are, they are not worth sharing a few miles of trail with fifty people trashing it and even actually crapping on it.
Milling around on the summit, they think it is their duty to ask you a dozen questions about yourself, while not volunteering much of themselves, if anything, on the same topics.
You from around here? Oh? Where? I know that town, on what road? Been there a long time? Originally from this area? What do you do for a living? Retired. From what? Working. But what kind of work? I can’t tell you. It’s a matter of national security. Oh. I see, Been retired long? Do you give oral?
Kidding on the last one, but all the other questions are truly typical, and are nothing I would ask anyone before becoming a little better acquainted. Like for fifty years. Well, maybe less if we naturally click. Information like that naturally comes up in conversation voluntarily without being probed for it. Probing innocent strangers is rude. Then again, I’ve been told I have a tad of a misanthropic streak, too.
This is the misanthropic side of me talking about strangers too feeble-minded to start a nice, friendly conversation with something like, “I noticed the fire tower has new stairs since I was here a few years ago. But do you know why it’s gated and locked?”
To keep you out. Go back to New Jersey and stay there.
Sorry. Just having a little fun at humanity’s expense. (Not sorry.)
Around fifteen years ago, I decided that when a stranger does that to me, I will answer each question politely, then, before they say anything else, immediately ask them the same thing. It works great. They don’t like it, and go away.
When I was out there in Klondike Brook, I was the sweetest, gentlest, most tolerant person you know. Or a lot closer to it. Nature immersion makes me more human, and more human-tolerant.
Despite being a Sunday in August, the worst time to go within 20 miles of Lake Placid and the High Peaks, I had a real hankering for a good creek walk, and the Klondick Brook prospect had been tickling my imagination for years.
Ages ago, a few people I knew liked walking up or down the middle of easy creeks just to see what was there. Sometimes we coupled it with canoeing, stashing the canoes in the woods when the navigable water ended, and walking on. We shot some nifty little waterfalls in those canoes.
Since those bygone days, I have decided there are not enough easy creeks/brooks. I do any walkable water until it says I can’t. It’s a blast. I see stuff you never see on a trail.
I knew about Klondike Brook and a bridge at a trail crossing over it, only minutes from the trailhead. I decided to launch upstream from the bridge, and escape everybody and the possibility of anybody. I thought I could go an hour or more without touching other trails, at probably half a mile per hour, because it is not just walking. It is picking along in rapidly flowing water through all sizes and shapes of rocks, from gravel to boulders.
I risked human encounters by doing it on a Sunday in peak tourist season, though confident the risk was minimal.
Buddy, the Prince of Balsamea, accompanied me (he had adopted me two years earlier). It was not easy for him to walk a long time on rocks of all sizes from gravel to boulders, so he occasionally retreated to dry land.
Click a pic to view full screen.
Maybe an hour into our exploration, we arrived at a spectacular spot with a roughly circular pool about 4 feet deep and 15 feet wide. On the right bank, the pool glittered at the foot of a tall, vertical rock wall decked in greenery, speckled in sunlight. The water spilled into the pool from a wide flat bed of rock spanning the brook. The pool was surrounded by various rock formations on the other two sides, including nice places to sit.
This is the way the pool looked when I arrived.
She smiled. I asked permission to take her picture, because, I said, “Nobody is going to believe this.” She understood and was happy to stay put for two shots, the second one from above, on the left bank rocks.
This is Kelly. In a brief chat before she left, she said that she had never seen anybody there before. I said, “Especially not coming up IN the brook.” On the left bank of the brook, the rocks ended at the bottom of a steep, almost vertical climb through dense trees. The trail for normal people was at the top, she told me.
I had been on that trail a few times before, when I camped near there for ten days in September 2002. Now I knew exactly where we were. It explained why, when once hiking that trail in the past, I heard people down in the brook from the top of that high bluff, but I could not see the brook from there.
When I left, I climbed from tree to tree, using them as hand-holds. Buddy, of course, just sauntered up, having four-wheel drive and studded tires. We got back to the car in maybe half the time it took hiking up the brook.
When I arrived at the pool, Kelly was just standing there with her arms out as shown. She never got her hair wet. She did not move, but she smiled seemingly continually.
I felt like an intruder. I know for sure that if I were in her shoes – or her whatever – a surprise human would have been annoying to me.
Kelly offered a delightful, cheerful demeanor, whether she felt unhappy about me showing up or not. I had to try that water, but I would not dare get in while she was in it. That would have annoyed me even more if I were the solo bikini-wearing hiker. (Finding myself alone at a place like that, I would have been wearing just the water.)
DISCLOSURE: I avoid posting pictures of people unless I have permission, or it is clearly within the fair use doctrine of copyright law. Kelly is not her real name, and running image web searches on this face produced no matches. In places where I do find her by real name, she has no photo connected with it. She’s been smart about her web privacy. These photos are 13 years old. I took the pictures in a public place with her permission and no discussion at all about limitations on usage. I own these images and all rights to them. Still, for her privacy, I did due diligence to determine whether these could be connected to other images of her, or to her name. At the scene, I offered Kelly copies of the pictures. She gave me her postal mailing address for it. I sent them. We have had no further contact.
I don’t recall seeing her face without a smile, except during our little chat just before we parted, when talking and broadcasting that beaming smile were physically impossible to do simultaneously.
Hi Kelly. Always good to see you, with no regrets about your being there.
I took off my pack, left it there, and told her I wanted to explore up to the top of that wide flat slide. Buddy and I went to the top of the slide and a bit beyond, until we reached an impassable steep gorge full of boulders. Our absence left Kelly at least that bit more privacy.
Buddy and I descended the slide as Kelly got out of the water. I asked her to shoot a picture of me in the water, as further evidentiary support for the story, which she did gladly. Not immune to vanity, I hate the picture, but it’s part of the evidentiary record, I guess. I’ll probably delete this later.
This was before Earth let me trade in my alien body for a human one.
The water was unbearably cold. Walking in the normally shallow brook, less than knee-deep, often merely to the ankle, had been okay, but I could not stay submerged in it more than a few minutes. Buddy would have nothing to do with it. He visited with Kelly.
I still felt like an intruder, because, actually, that’s what I was. I got out of the water on the upstream side, put on my shirt, and gave Buddy a snack. I took a gulp of water. Meanwhile, Kelly put on a shirt, while sitting on a towel on the big rocks at the downstream side of the pool.
I asked for one more picture. A bad shot from a distance with a confused lighting situation. Maybe I was still shivering. Since then, I have learned to keep my camera on multi-shot mode, especially since I now have hand tremors.
Thanks, Kelly. You made presumed unwanted human contact a real pleasure. As I said then, and now again, I apologize for crashing your party. And thanks for not probing me with undue questions about my life. You’re a class act.
View of the pool on its own:
MUSIC APPRECIATION & HISTORY MOMENT, BEFORE YOU ESCAPE:
From 33Evenstar’s YouTube video page for the Brian Hyland song …
In August 1960, Brian Hyland scored his first and biggest hit single at the age of 16, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. It was a novelty song that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, (#8 in the UK) and sold almost a million copies in the first two months of its release, and over two million copies in total.
[A MILLION COPIES IN TWO MONTHS IN 1960! A MUSICAL MOON SHOT FOR A 16-YEAR-OLD KID’S FIRST HIT.]
Hyland is an American pop recording artist who was particularly successful during the early 1960s and continued recording into the 1970s. Allmusic journalist Jason Ankeny states, “Hyland’s puppy-love pop virtually defined the sound and sensibility of bubblegum during the pre-Beatles era.” Although his status as a teen idol faded, he went on to release several country-influenced albums and had additional chart hits later in his career.
Hyland’s other major hit during this period was 1962’s Sealed with a Kiss, which reached #3 in 1962 on both the American and UK Singles Chart. It stayed on the U.S. pop chart for eleven weeks. In 1975, Sealed With a Kiss was reissued as a single in the UK and became a surprise #7 hit.
Hyland went on to chart just two more Top 40 hits, Gypsy Woman written by Curtis Mayfield, and a cover of Lonely Teardrops in 1971. Gypsy Woman reached #3 on the 1970 U.S. pop chart, making it the second-biggest hit of his career, selling over one million copies, and being certified gold by the R.I.A.A. in January 1971.
From 1960 to 1977, Hyland recorded a total of eleven albums for several different record companies. A twelfth album, Young Years, was a reissue.
I don’t care what anybody else says, Itsy Bitsy was his lifetime greatest hit.
It is against the law to attempt a treatment of Brian Hyland songs without the 1971 corny tearjerker, So Long, Marianne.
“… wash my eyelids in the rain …”