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Camping on Stillwater Reservoir

My husband and I pulled into the parking lot at Stillwater Reservoir around 3 pm on a warm September day. We were surprised to find that it was only half-full. The last time we were there, about three weeks earlier, trucks and boat trailers lined both sides the road for a half-mile. We selected site # 6, one of two sites on Long Island, and registered. Although the other site on the island, # 5, was also occupied, we never even knew that anyone was there.

We finally launched the boat, but the closer we got to our destination, the cloudier the sky became. We unloaded the boat under the threat of rain, and as we started setting up the tent, it did rain. Not a downpour, but enough to get us wet! By the time we finished setting up, the rain stopped.

We had time to take a short nap before boating over to the shore for dinner at the Stillwater Restaurant. We had a delicious dinner – I had French Onion Soup and homemade rolls. Nathan had the cheese ravioli. The hosts were very friendly and accommodating. We had a nice visit while we ate, and they told us that they have rooms available as well.

Going back to the site was a bit hairy, as darkness fell too quickly. Thanks to the moonlight, we found it without too much trouble. Nathan built a roaring fire and we sat by it for quite awhile, listening to the silence. We could hear crickets and the fire burning, and sometimes the water lapping at the shore. That's it. No sounds of human activity at all.

It was easy for us to imagine that we were the only people around for miles. Three campfires on the opposite shore winked at us across the water, but they were the only signs of life, and they were pretty well spaced out.

It was nice and warm in the tent. When I awoke early in the morning with a headache, I opened the flaps to find a strange world. A thick fog had settled over the reservoir, making the water and sky look as if they were one. I stood transfixed for a moment before I made the way to the boat to find pain reliever. The tent was even more inviting when I returned, warm and toasty after my trek outside.

Later, we heard a duck loudly quacking at us to get up and feed him. A few minutes later, we heard what sounded like an entire flock landing in the water and joining in with similar requests. We stayed where we were, even when we heard one come ashore. They must have left shortly after, because I soon drifted back to sleep.

When we arose, the sun was out and the sky was clear. The water, the trees, the skies - they were all so beautiful that it almost hurt my eyes. We ate a quick breakfast and then headed out in the boat for a "three-hour tour".

The leaves had just started to turn, and most were a kind of pastel yellow or lavender, accented here and there by patches of blazing red. It made me impatient to see what kind of display a few weeks would bring. We took the boat around the island, and waved at our neighbors on the other end of the island. We saw a great blue heron and found a hidden waterfall.

At times, I leaned out over the front of the boat to scout for stumps and watch water bugs skiing crazily across the water, as if they were trying to race us. I enjoyed the wind in my hair, and the occasional shock of cold drops of water as the spray hit my face.

We saw a flock of wood ducks and checked out some of the other campsites, mentally bookmarking ones we liked for the future. We also accidentally startled a pair of loons, and were treated to an aggressive display as the male protested our presence. He was a big fella, and came right up to the boat, the closest I'd ever been to a loon. After he finished, and had returned to his mate, we started up the boat and meekly crept away.

All too soon, it was time to return to camp. After a lunch of tomato soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we just sat and enjoyed the view, the quiet, and just being there. But soon real life called – our son, our work, our other existence.

So slowly, regretfully, we began to break down camp. It seemed much harder than setting up, even though we had less to pack now. Early fall was upon us now, and winter wasn’t far behind. It would be months before we’d be able to return to Stillwater.

The Stillwater Reservoir is located in the West Central Adirondacks. For more information, visit: Stillwater Reservoir.

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