(Housekeeping - I split this up into two because it's pretty big. I did this for you dear readers. I also wore a really fetching beige t-shirt and a pair of shorts that have been worn for 6 days straight. You're welcome...)
This past week I took my family to Wellesley Island State Park in the Thousand Islands to go camping.
First off I should make it known that Wellesley Island is principally made up of spiders. I have never in my life seen so many of them. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that if you put something down - including yourself - it will be traversed by spiders within a minute. Any attempt to sit peacefully in a chair involves brushing spiders off your face and legs every quarter-minute or so. It's particularly annoying that their preferred location to hang out is the exact place where the neck of the shirt meets the neck. I don't wear baseball hats but everyone present who did was repeatedly jumpy as spiders kept launching themselves off the peak. My tent in particular seemed to be made of the exact material that spiders and ants thrive on. The fly above the tent-proper was festooned with them. And no matter how diligent we were at zipping that door shut it still resulted in us lying awake in the baking humidity each night very aware that an army of ants was making it's way right across the neck. The ants in particular liked my cooler - trying their absolute best to make a genuine ant-nest on it. We left the island nearly 24 hours ago now - and yet my car is still so commandeered by spiders that it seems very much like Jeff Daniels' house in Arachnophobia.
Anyhoo - the place itself was decent enough. If you've been to a state park (in New York at least) then you've pretty much experienced them all. The campsites were a decent size. My tent is on the left of this shot and not up to the edge at all. The one in the back right is halfway onto my site. My son is sat at the back there - presumably repeating his desire to go home.
The bathrooms were tolerable (the fact there were some is nice after all) if not down-right horrifying at least once a day. Our only real shocks in there were my wife seeing a mink running around, and the morning I went over after walking the dog to find what appeared to be a bunch of half-eaten chicken wings tossed into a toilet bowl. I did try and take a photo of that. It didn't come out (thankfully) but I did capture my own expression after encountering said incident to give you some idea of how perplexing that was.
As far as wildlife goes there were no bears. Well - there were LOTS of warnings about rabies-infested racoons and porcupines. The complete dearth of bear warnings suggested they hadn't ambled over from the mainland (and there are loads of the bastards just over the river - so it was a logical concern). There were some other interesting creatures fluttering about in the undergrowth. One morning whilst walking the dog I encountered this delightful island creature nestled in the grass. I haven't checked my illustrated book of American wildlife yet - but I'm assuming it's some sort of land-based jellyfish.
There was a nice beach for swimming. I have no photos of that. Personally I thought it might look odd for a thin, ill-shaven man with a shocking t-shirt tan to be strolling about the beach taking photos of people in bikinis. Still - near the beach was a store with reasonable prices for ice cream (and lots of ice on hand for coolers) which was odd for a state park. There were also lots of places for my daughter to ride her bike around (dragging very sweaty relatives along with her) while I ran the five miles to the front gate and back for some much-desired respite each evening. There was a very nice playground right across from where we were set up (we chose our site intentionally for this purpose). A three minute walk away there was a boat-launch beach - with perhaps the most precarious launch ramp you'll ever encounter. I'm sure you all can hear the sound of boats being scraped very loudly just by looking at it.
Now you might be thinking that beach doesn't look like much. But it was actually so amazing that some of the fish appeared to have thrown themselves out of the water in a lustful attempt to spend some quality moments (admittedly their last) nestled amongst the discarded can lids and empty Mountain Dew bottles.This Perch below is demonstrating just how ace he thought the beach was with some aplomb.
Those stones are quite slippery by the way. Here's a photo of my daughter after slipping whilst trying to take a photo of the sunset - after which she twatted her camera into the ground. I think all of us were certain it was broken. Nope - as can be seen it was totally unaffected.
As far as flora and fauna goes - imagine where you live except instead of everything you can replace that with oak trees. My son spent inordinate amounts of time each day collecting acorns and then painstakingly shunting them home.
Thankfully there was no sign of poison ivy. Although if I'm honest while I think I could identify it if I saw some - I wouldn't be certain it was poison ivy. It would mostly be guessing. Nobody else warned people about it though so I'm confident there was none (mostly because nothing itches any more or less than it did before I left). One thing that did alarm me though was that the nature center has taken to growing a massive pile of nettles - some of which have "escaped" from the enclosed area they are in and are making a run for it. Call me alarmist but adding stinging nettles to the North East sounds like a spectacularly stupid idea. There's enough stuff to be aware of as it is without that. Every British person can name countless incidents when they fell in a pile of nettles and it felt like they'd been stung by a hundred bees all at once. Then pointlessly rubbing the irritated area with what they thought were dock leaves only to be wrong and making the whole area itchier than before. I myself can recall with astonishment my just-met wife bounding like a helium-fillled happy deer up from a beach near Caswell Bay in South Wales through a an entire field of waist-high nettles spread over an area the size of a football pitch - completely unaware that in ten seconds her happy afternoon was about to turn to shit.
Not a lot of mosquitoes mind. Which was fantastic. There were an alarming number of butterflies. Ironically there was a Butterfly House surrounded by butterflies - but with less of them actually in it. It was near a decent Nature Center that had activities that strangely only my kids and one other family a day took advantage of. At which the host would tell a few stories, teach the kids about whatever topic it was that day, do a craft and then go for a short hike to see whatever thing it was. Here I am with her butterfly on a stick (or Butterflycicle, if you will).
You can't quite tell from that photo but this photo is taken by a spider. Another one is holding the butterfly on a stick. That's not a tree in the background either but a massive spider descending from a web. And I have shaved. What you can actually see are thousands of tiny spiders communing in a scruffy (but strangely sexy....) pattern on my face.
That should do it for Part One. Part Two will include the stuff about how much it sucked. But I have to tidy it up so it doesn't make me sound like a pissy, little baby.