Good times and rough roads in a NY State Forest

5 minute read

We had a marvelous time during an overnight stay in one of New York's many state forests that was ended with a somewhat harrowing experience.

We took a lot of images to share with everyone this time!

Our beloved Jeep, Brynhilde, got some mud time!
Behold the glory of our camp!
Our little one was busy investigating the pond.
She found a newt!

We practiced our archery, knife throwing and axe throwing, of course.

When I said "axe throwing" you shouldn't imagine a hatchet. Think full-size axe.

What camp is complete without its fire?
Our intrepid little companion learned much about setting up camp!
We were winning so much that we found a free, unopened beer in a geocache.
The camp is set!
Miriam cooking up the evening's dose of awesome.
The view from camp
What's camping without foraging?  These are wintergreen that have been in too much sun.
And the wintergreen berries we had for dessert!
Partridge berry!  Ok, it's not that exciting.  I'd only eat these tasteless things if starving.
Our daughter, working intently on harvesting wintergreen berries.
Overnight, it dropped below freezing, so we had a frosty morning, indeed.
Warming up by the fire and drawing with a charred stick because why not?
We had such a great time!
Now that was the wonderful camp.  Here is the tale of the road.
We knew there was a long dirt road in, which is nothing new.  When entering a state forest you expect as much.  However, the road was marked "minimal maintenance", so we knew it would be potentially exciting.

Undaunted, we proceeded as planned, of course.
This was the better part of the road.
The recent snow melt had rendered much of the road a pile of mud that my boots sank into several inches just walking on it.  Rocks tall enough to high-center a Subaru stuck out every now and then, and every now and then, there was a tree trunk to move aside, drive over or drive around.

The road in was quite the white-knuckle effort in our 2-wheel drive SUV that Miriam made it through with some rather impressive driving.  It was so bad that we figured we would try to find another way out of the forest the next day.  Therein lies the tale.

We set out before eating lunch, figuring we could take care of that on the road.  The weather was lovely, and the sun was warming the frosty landscape.  Brynhilde, our Jeep, grumbled along the bumpy dirt roads as we set our course using, alas, Google Maps Navigator.

Google Maps apparently hadn't been informed that after Hurricane Irene, an essential bit of road that it suggested we take was closed to all motor vehicles because the Forest Rangers considered it unsafe even for off-road four wheelers and Jeep Wranglers.  Naturally, the road was also not marked as such on the end that we were coming from.  It just looked rarely-used and a bit rough when we started.  It didn't look that way after a while.

The road was so narrow that some pickups would not have been able to squeeze down it, so turning around didn't seem possible once the going got rough.  The rocks became some large and the ditches so deep that we were scraping over them by force of momentum to avoid being high-centered.  Miriam worked the low gears and timed things just right to push that 3000+ pound 2-wheel drive SUV over wet rocks, mud and creeks on a steep incline, the wheels scrabbling for puchase.  We kept going because we appeared to have no other option, and we hoped that the road would improve soon.  It didn't.

Eventually, we got to yet another deep ravine and stopped.  Walking ahead, I saw that the next ravine ahead, which had a lovely stream that turned into a waterfall rolling through it, was clearly too deep for Brynhilde to manage, even with Miriam's expert handling.  We couldn't back down the hill without losing our rear end.  We were stuck.

Now, the first thing we did was take stock of our situation.  We were stuck in a state forest with a full complement of camping gear, running water nearby and plenty of day light.  That's not too bad.  On the other hand, we had no cell phone signal, we figured we'd be lucky if the car has no damage at this point, and the only dwelling we'd passed in miles was abandoned.

We decided to follow the road on foot up the hill to get cell signal and figure out how to rescue our car.  That told us a few things.  First, there is no way we could have driven up the rest of the hill even if we could fill in that trough with rocks to drive over simply because the mud was too deep and filled with rocks on too steep a slope.  It also told us that we had made it within a half mile of a well-maintained gravel road with good cell signal.  But now, who do we call?

It turns out that if you call the NY State Forest Rangers, they will save you if you are stranded, but they will only save you.  The car would be left behind. Since we weren't nearly as worried about ourselves, that wasn't really a huge amount of help, especially considering they told us that we'd have to wait indefinitely because of a brush fire the rangers were currently fighting.  So, gentle reader, you may or may not be able to get some advice from a ranger if you get yourself into such a jam.

We also have AAA.  That was also nearly a dead end.  Whoever was on the phone talking to us couldn't even conceive of a road that you can get stuck on like that.  They also couldn't grasp the concept of a state forest--they kept figuring we were in a park.  Better yet, they didn't know what to do with GPS coordinates.  Needless to say, we eventually got a tow truck to show up and determine that he wasn't driving down there for any money, but he did help us find a place where he could help direct us in turning around without falling off the hillside.  He also gave us his cell number so that he could come into the forest from the other side to try and extract us if we wrecked on the way out.

Then we drove out several hours later.  It was every bit as terrifying on the way out as on the way in, but our SUV and amazing driver rocked it.  We also reported the section of the road to Google with hopes that they remove it.  Another successful adventure completed!