Our Woodhull Adventure

This isn’t political, or societal commentary, but it’s fun…

By Ken Carman

 Most of Woodhull Lake exists in the very private Adirondack reserve owned by the Adirondack League Club, the western shore has some non-club camps on private property, but property owners get there through Adirondack League Club gates, now off of the South Shore road.
  During the snow-less season the rest of us have to use what many years ago was a poor walking trail out of McKeever, then it became was one of the few Adirondack trails ATVs could use, then it went back to walking trail only.
  My father’s family was from nearby Old Forge and my grandparents ran Bisby Gate: the original gate for the ALC: a few miles past the road that turns left and heads to the ski lift at McCauley Mountain and where once dances were held for teens. My father; offered a job on Park Avenue during the Depression, left before I was born but would bring us back home for at least a month out of every year. My grandparents would let us through what we all knew as “The Gate.” Every year we rented a cabin from Myra Spinning on Woodhull.
  One hopes heaven is at least as beatific.
  In 1963 we were told we weren’t coming back to Woodhull again and I remember crying as our family headed down the lake in our small Duratech boat for the last time. That summer, before we were told we wouldn’t be back, I had told my father I wanted to live on Woodhull when I grew up. They made up reasons as to why we couldn’t come back, finding out much later my mother had had cancer and it was starting to get very serious. I’m sure Dad was concerned about being way back there with someone who may need quick medical help.
  Of all the lakes I have been on in my life I find Woodhull to be one of the most peaceful and heavenly.
 I have been back to Woodhull several times since, including walking in with a blue merle collie who refused to walk back out. I had to carry an 80 pound collie back down what was, at times, a very rough trail: about 7 miles. Another time I walked in with a blow up kayak and stopped to talk to a few of the camp owners my parents knew. Then I got permission from the Adirondack League Club to take several of my relatives back with me to, basically, reminisce.
  A while back I started a Facebook page called Old Forge Area Discussion Board and this year I posted something about walking the trail with my collie Payson and having to move quickly to one side because some millennials were driving down the one lane dirt path at least 40. Last I knew this was illegal. I even left messages on a couple ranger’s phones. Silly me. How was I to know it was legal to drive back there now?
  There are even a few trailers and tents back there, primitive camping at its best. Unlike my carry the collie out days, I was also told the trail has been vastly improved. It has.
  Many thanks to members of Old Forge Area Discussion Board.
  So, with the leaves about as vibrant as they were going to get this year, I decided to try myself. I was reluctant. One of my concerns was having mechanical problems, or a flat tire. It’s not like there’s a nearby service station, and getting a tow truck back there would be a major headache: no cell reception and I can hardly walk half a mile, my left foot close to ruined by a surgeon who thought he was making it better.
  I’m so glad I went. The beauty! The silence! I miss Woodhull to this day, it was good to see it again, though technically this part was called Wolf’s Lake when I was a kid. Years before I was born the dam flooded two lakes into one, but even in the 60s many of us still called that part “Wolf’s Lake.”
  Then my fears came true…
  About half a mile; heading back down the trail, Payson the collie puppy who was sitting next to me on the converted for dog as a passenger front seat, lost his footing and slammed down on my arm. I held on: accident on narrow path averted. But the front end seemed heavy. Oh, no, not a flat tire? The steering was difficult: expected, but I had close to no brakes. A flat tire shouldn’t do that.
  All these thoughts ran through my head in a few seconds while I wondered what to do next. I looked down and saw it was in neutral. Figuring he had also hit the gear shift I put it in drive. It felt even heavier and less responsive. NOW WHAT???
  Fearing I might end up broke down way back there, still I knew I had to stop and find out what the blazes had gone wrong. Before getting out inspiration hit and I stuck it in park and turned the key. Payson had not only knocked it into neutral, but in that one stumble he had also turned off the ignition.
  What a talented pup when it comes to trouble; almost as talented as his master.
  Sometimes my often very specific sense that something is going to go wrong should be listened to. But looking back I have no regrets, neither does Payson. We will go again.