East Coast Camping

Hello from Upstate New York:

I’ve broken out of the grip of the cultural whirlpool that NYC is and am now actually beginning to make my way home. Needless to say that’s a good thing.

Last night I spent in my first campground in a state park on the east coast. State parks are on a different model out here. More preserves for nature, I think the philosophy must be, than windows into it. Or at least that was how it was explained to me when I first discovered, years ago, how rarely parks out here have campgrounds. This is the first time I’ve actually stayed in a campground in a park east of the Mississippi. Here’s my personal journal entry from this morning:

“The park is laid out on a hill (small mountain, perhaps, by eastern standards) north of NYC overlooking the Hudson near a little town called Stoney Point. Three deer just walked by. Deer on the east coast walk funny, not the familiar, careful selection of hoof-fall and then the shift of weight, but sort of a more careless advance, not paying much attention to the ground. Run very like ours, though, except their tails seem to shoot up with each leap the same way a person’s toes do automatically when you take a step. Saw a fox last night., very bold, on his way somewhere. He passed within a car length of me as I talked on the phone outside the car in a parking lot.

“Stoney point apparently has a lot of stones. That’s the main fence building material around here. At precisely 7:00 a.m. a machine started nearby that sounds like it does something industrial with these rocks. Trees, if not planted by man, look as if they were. All about equal age, maybe twenty or thirty years, and in almost straight rows, widely spaced. No underbrush. Might just be the result of one season’s very selective cut, followed on with persistent management of the groundcover.

“Last night when I came in late, probably five cars were visible, none with fires going, nor was there the smell of smoke. The late registration dude (I don’t want to call him anything official: he was fat, tattooed, playing game boy, and borderline surly) insisted I go out and get my license number off the van and was very clear on the fact that he assigned sites and I had no choices. I’d not driven past the “registered campers only” sign to view the grounds, so I assumed there weren’t many sites available.

“Wrong. The whole site is a long rectangle, about two football field lengths wide and four or five times that long. The place has pits for maybe 200 fires. The site I was assigned is not one I’d have chosen. It’s twice as far to a working bathroom as to a dysfunctional one, and there’s no level spot to park on. But it really doesn’t matter that much. This morning I can see that all the sites are pretty much the same. Yes, I can see them all, almost, from right here. Last night I thought the punk wanna-be must have had an attitude, but today I suspect he was following strict company policy (I’m assuming that, like home, most of the campgrounds are run by private companies). Campers appear to have been assigned to maximize distance between occupied sites. That makes sense, knowing how densely people are packed out here.

“Even the pits and tables resemble the layout of the trees, widely spaced and in approximate straight lines, sort of a mirror of the famous New York City grid a few score miles away, only in a more natural setting. The boundaries of the campground are visible at the edge of the active maintenance. Beyond the camps the forest is less managed and the underbrush goes unhindered. The effect is sort of like a patch of tall grass that’s been mowed to make a nice permanent spot for a picnic.

“Some sites have wooden platforms with high two by four railings that, I presume, allow canvas tops in the heavier trafficked summer season for flatter, more sanitary (away from dirt and bugs) sleeping than tents would. I can only speculate, but I’ll bet this is a favorite summer camp locale for city kids. The scene must be similar to a huge slumber party in the back yard. This place, when fully populated, would look more like an army bivouac than my idea of a campground. The Dutch would be in awe of its natural surroundings, what with the real forest and everything. Otherwise, it’s a lot like the parking lot campgrounds I often saw there back in 1986. I find it mildly depressing because it reminds me of how far removed from Gaia we’ve come.

“I wonder what percentage of the world’s population has ever seen real natural settings, other than on TV or in pictures? I’d guess far less than ten.”

I’m working my way slowly back, spending most of the day after 10:00 am in libraries, where internet is usually freely available on WY-FY (sp?) and the tables are big and flat. Much to do. This job never seems to lighten up much, although it’s very good to be out from under the big deadlines that so often seem to come with the territory.

Found a serious glitch in the web page last week: you couldn’t order books through it account of a wrong e-mail in one of our codes. It’s fixed now, so give it another try if you were frustrated before. Hell, give it a try whether you tried before or not. The speculation value alone has to be better than a lotto ticket. Remember, I’m trying to change the world, here. How valuable is one of these books going to be if I actually succeed?

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