I crawled out of bed and stuck my hand in the open window to feel the crisp air waken the nerves in my palm and fingers. When we left Boston, it was a stark ninety degrees. In Ray Brook, it felt closer to a mild eighty; complete with the smell of pine and long grass, what you don't get in the city. After breakfast, "Jello" asked "Unity" if she wanted to join us, and she did. Our plan was to hit Beer Walls in Keene Valley, hopefully with the rest of the crew who didn't travel to Rodgers Rock, which, by the way, are the only pictures I have from the damn trip. It would be nice if people picked up the slack and sent me some Beer Walls photos (HINT, HINT).
However, I was unsure if we'd meet up with "Jesus", "Naples", "Lucky" and "Bikeman". The area seemed large, as in "Rumney" large with several different sections of crags available for everyone to pick and chose. I also didn't know if people were simply pairing up and taking off into the woods, only to be seen again as dusk settled in over the mountains the crackle of the campfire roared to life in North Hudson. I was mostly concerned, however, that my pals from Friday would not have a ride to the crag. I tossed and turned in my head the thoughts of going straight to the crag and heading to the campground to see if they needed rides. In retrospect, this sounds selfish and I should not have second guessed going to pick them up. But my main problem was not knowing how far away they were during the day without traffic from "Jello"'s place, and how far away again they were from the climbing site. In fact, we passed the climbing site on the way back to the campground, so the thought of missing valuable climbing time was pressing whatever lobes in my brain make decisions such as this. In any case, I decided to head to the campground just in case someone needed a ride.
I was lucky in the sense that if I had not gone back to the campground then everything would have been as confusing as I had thought it would be - with many places for people to hide and possibly, as a result, missed opportunities. We we approached the "Sharp Bridge - 1000 Feet" sign - a sign, by the way, "Jello" took offense to because there was no way the entrance to the campground was more than five hundred feet down the road from the sign - I was completely expecting to drive all the way in to the back of the campground to see if anyone was stranded. As it sometimes turns out, timing is everything (Yogi Berra would be proud). Sitting at the Ranger's office were two cars full of excited campers ready to go climbing. There was "Bikeman", "Jesus", "Wrongway", "Red" (btw - in an earlier post I had given the nickname "Red" to a person already, but upon seeing this new "Red", I realized I needed a new nickname for the old "Red". The old "Red" will now be known as "Sherpa" - story to come later),"Sherpa", and "Ankle". We smiled. We shook hands. We greeted one another and kissed our fingers to the sky as a sign of respect to life as we knew it to be. In short, we were damn lucky we had met when we did, because if we didn't meet at that moment in time then we would have had a helluva time finding each other at the crag.
After our greetings, it was noted that the campers had to stop at a general store to pick up supplies for the day and that evening. We all got in a line and drove to what turned out to be the local "Jellystone Park" campground, complete with Ranger Smith, Yogi, Boo-boo and bags of ice, water and goody snacks to be munched on later. But this wasn't without some adventure.
I was driving the third and last car in line when the first car, presumably driven by "Red", banked a right turn toward I-87. Not knowing where we were going, I followed "Wrongway" up a small hill and around a quick corner where, oddly enough, I found him sitting on the right side of the road with his left blinker on. "OK," I said. "I guess we should have followed "Red"." We turned around and headed toward I-87 when I was looking at something (not the road in front of me, and definitely not the car in front of me) and heard "Jello" shout "They're...they're...STOPPING!" I slammed on my brakes and went into full skid mode. "Wrongway" leisurely turned into Jellystone, where "Red" had turned, and I flew right past him, happy that his car had turned when it did because my car had neither the distance to turn nor time to get out of the way. (btw - because he had gear in the rear window, he never saw this happen). After scaring the shit out of my passengers, I calmly backed up and took the only remaining parking spot left (the handicap spot) and waited for us to head off again. When we finally did, I was happy to see that, in fact, anti-lock brakes do not leave skid marks. This required me to recite the conservationist mantra of "leave no trace" with a grin on my face not shared by my passengers.
But this wasn't the end of our little adventure. Far from it in fact. Once on the interstate we were all aware that we needed to take exit thirty to get to Beer Walls. We drove for a few miles in tandem at about eighty miles-per-hour until I, the second car in line behind "Wrongway" noticed that exit thirty was approaching. I also noticed that "Wrongway" was not slowing down and was still in the left lane. Here is the conversation that transpired:
Greg - Is he going to pull into the right lane?
"Jello" - I don't know, maybe he doesn't think he can squeeze in front of you. Trying slowing down.
Greg slows down..."Wrongway" does not.
Greg - Do they see it?
"Jello" waves both hands through the sunroof. He points, waves, even shouts a bit - not sure why as it was an interstate and he was more than listening distance away. "Wrongway" does not slow down nor does he pull into the right lane.
Greg and "Red" take exit thirty. "Wrongway" keeps driving. "Jello" confirms that exit thirty-one is a long way down the road and does not intersect with Route 73, where Beer Walls is located
Greg and "Red" drive to the Beer Walls parking lot. Greg suggests everyone heads in because it is going to be a while before the others show up. "Red" notes that, other than "Jello" and myself, "Wrongway"'s car has not only all the other leaders, but also all the climbing gear. Greg is intrigued by the fact that "Red" has all the food...mmmmm
But then all was well. No more than five minutes later did "Wrongway" surprisingly show up coming from the same direction we came. It turns out that "Wrongway" has a set of nuts (pun intended). He didn't need no stinkin' exit thirty-one, not when there are more than enough of those handy "authorized vehicle only" turnaround spots to use. We laughed, collected our gear and followed "Jello" into the woods.