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Day in the woods FAIL

>> Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday, I woke up in a vile mood.  I stayed up too late Saturday night fiddling with a new (used) stereo receiver we were trying to hook up but which refused to work properly, and then reading.  Sunday morning dawned fresh and bright outdoors, but it dawned indoors for me with wafts of rotting fish mixed with something worse (garbage?  dead things?) as the hounds tried to get me up because they were bored.  I know, they desperately need their teeth cleaned, and that would help with the horrific dog breath.  I'm too broke for that at the moment.

Woof.  Woof.  poke - poke - poke.  Wiggle.  Nudge, nudge, nudge.  Poke.  LIIIICK.  lick, lick, lick.  lick, lick, lick, poke.  wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, pounce!  Mreeeeaow!  Purrr, knead, knead, knead.

Great.  It's a conspiracy and the cats are in on it too.  Once that happens there's really no hope of going back to sleep.  *groan*

All I really wanted for my weekend was some relaxation and a jaunt in the Adirondacks, up a high peak and back.  But there was way too much on the weekend schedule, and despite the intoxicatingly lovely weather, we were stuck with spots no more than about 45 minutes from home.

I figured that it didn't really matter where we went, the woods would be restorative.  It's always lovely to spend some time with the bugs and birds and plants and sun - we'd feel better after a walk.  So we rounded up the kids and camera, and drove over to Green Lakes State Park.

I shall post some pics of general autumnal sorts of things in another blog, but first I'd like to vent about the miserable wretched human who actually made a walk in the woods make my day worse.

Green Lakes has a campground, a couple of cool geologically interesting lakes, some fields, and a decent patch of woods.  It also gets an incredible amount of traffic.  There are boat rentals and swimming, and trails for hiking and mountain biking.  On such a gorgeous day it was very crowded with walkers, runners, bikers, and dogs.  Green Lakes isn't the sort of place one really goes for solitude in the woods.  We didn't venture very far (not much time) but wandered along a trail that winds through the fields, and through a little snippet of woods right along the edge of the campground.

In that narrow little wooded strip sandwiched between camp sites and picnic tables and playgrounds on one side, and a high voltage power line on the other, we were delighted to find some cairn art.  Some ambitious folks had come through and constructed a series of little stone cairns along the side of the trail.  They were quite appealing in a natural arts sort of way - at least to me - and I hoped as I looked at them that some kids had had fun building them while camping, and would want to spend time in the woods again.  I actually took pictures because I liked them so much.

We wandered past the power lines and through the fields a bit more, and were sorely disappointed on our way back through to discover that someone had decimated all those stone cairns.  Every last one had been violently dismantled, and the stones hurled into the woods.  It made me sad, so Spouse volunteered to rebuild my favorite cairn for me, since we had a picture of it still:

Part way through the rebuild, we encountered the individual who had destroyed all the cairns.  I expected teenagers, but so much for stereotypes.  Instead, what I got was a tall, paunchy, middle aged, aggressive creep of a man.  He announced his presence by running down the trail shouting at us: "Don't you know you're violating state law by doing that?  That's against the law!  You can't do that!  It's against the law to disturb anything in the woods!  I'm a citizen of New York State, and you're violating state law RIGHT NOW!" etc.  Seriously.

My reaction was to turn to him, look at him, and say "You're kidding, right?"

That, apparently, was the wrong reaction.  He proceeded to scream, yell, rant and rage at me for at least 5 minutes.  It felt like 20.  He got in my face and in my personal space.  He tried to physically take my camera from me (over my dead body) and actually threatened to sue me, and threatened to send park rangers to get me.  While I thankfully cannot remember the full extent of his commentary, the choicest bits I remember are that I "am one of those people who is DESTROYING the natural environment by building those disgusting human MONSTROSITIES" and that "the world doesn't need people like" me.

Oy Veh.

Spouse was hovering inches from my elbow through all this, adrenaline pumping through his body, wondering if he'd have enough reaction time to deck the guy the instant before the creep hit me.  It certainly seemed like creep was about to start raining blows on me.  Meanwhile, I was standing there wondering how much of my Tae Kwon Do I remember, and why he was screaming at me when Spouse was actually the one rebuilding the cairn.  I was also feeling incredibly sorry for the man's kid.

Because he had a kid with him - a shy young girl of about 9 or 10, with Down's Syndrome.  She was dressed in ragged clothing, hung back a little ways up the trail, paced nervously, and looked very worried and upset the whole time the man (presumably her father?) was shouting belligerently.  When I finally convinced him (I had to shout it to be heard over him and the frantically barking dogs) to go get his stupid park ranger to arrest me and leave me the hell alone, he stalked off down the trail, yelling back at me over his shoulder about how the world would be better off without people like me, yelling at the little girl to follow him, and walking way too fast for her to keep up.

It.  Was.  Horrid.

Now, should we have been off the trail?  Nah, surely not, although we were only about a foot and a half off it.  Should we have been rearranging the rocks?  Uh, again, no, prob'ly not.  But Green Lakes is not exactly pristine wilderness, and we were virtually in the much tramped-over camp ground that is intended for bringing people closer to nature.  Had we been in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks I admit I wouldn't have gone off the trail at all, much less rearranged the scenery, so a part of me has to admit the guy had a point.  But then again, the Adirondacks High Peaks are full of cairns, marking the herd paths up the trailless summits. 

I wanted to ask the guy what kind of car he drives, what kind of light bulbs he uses, how he heats his home, and where he gets his food and clothing.  What impact is his life really having on the natural world?  Because it strikes me that a small stone cairn along the side of a path in the woods is a lot less impact on the natural environment than an average American's daily existence.  I'm no angel when it comes to the environment.  No, I don't yet have a hybrid car, but it's not an SUV and we do at least car pool.  I'm not great about turning off the lights in the house as Spouse can attest (it drives him nuts), but they are CFLs.  I occasionally buy a piece of fish from Alaska or coffee beans from South America, but most of our food is local and organic.  We have a long way to go, but we really work at it.

I wish all humans could stand back and assess our lives from that orbiting-Earth-in-a-space-shuttle sort of perspective to recognize what our real impact on the planet is.  I wish it were easier to understand how all our little impacts add up and what the consequences are.  I also, however, refuse to believe that how we treat our fellow humans doesn't matter.  When it comes to the Golden Rule, that creepy dude gets an F-.  And don't even get me started on that poor little girl, and how much it worries me that she's with him.

It took a couple of hours for the adrenaline to fade from my system.  He definitely prevented the woods from doing their therapy-for-the-human thing that they usually do to me.  I very seriously considered filing a report at the rangers station about the guy, but in the end lost my resolve.  I was frankly afraid I'd cry if I tried to tell the story, which may have garnered me sympathy, but which would have made me feel pathetically female on top of feeling outraged, angry, frightened and violated.  Instead, we finished rebuilding the cairn (on principle), crept back to the car and got the heck away from the place.

Oh, and the icing on the cake of my day was that we all came home covered in TICKS.  Ugh.  I hate ticks.  The give me the hot-and-cold-crawly-all-overs.

Well.  I shan't be returning to Green Lakes any time soon.  Or building any more cairns.


Sneaksleep November 16, 2009 at 11:07 AM  

Oh, I'm so sorry your much-needed dose of woods was ruined by that self-righteous (scary, violent) creep. Thank goodness you didn't have to confront him alone, without dogs or Spouse. Maybe you can take a little walk around a park near work? Or stroll around your village tonight? I know it's not the same, but maybe it would help a little...

Ellen Rathbone November 16, 2009 at 11:50 AM  

WOW! What a day you had! It's hard to come to terms about such people. We get them occasionally at work, too, but fortunately I can claim refuge behind the front desk, so my personal space isn't violated. And then we just have to let them rant. Luckily, my boss has no qualms about putting such people in their place.

RE: dog breath. What I found worked wonders with my dog was getting him onto a raw food diet. He gets 1/2c raw meat (usually ground beef, but sometimes lamb or chicken) with his kibble (PHD) - 3/4c, and 1/4c veg or fruit or leftovers (rice, pasta, whatever is on hand). He gets this once a day (dinner), with a b'fast of 1/4c yogurt. You can also try marrow bones. Raw. Chewing on bones is a natural dental visit for dogs. Never feed cooked bones - they splinter. Oh - and parsley might help, too, with the halitosis. :)

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: November 16, 2009 at 4:30 PM  

Spouse and I have been talking about switching the hounds to raw for a while, but just haven't quite made the leap. I'll put another chalk mark on the "pro" side, for sure. Cost-wise, it seems like it would be a lot more expensive, even though we feed them pricey feed (Taste of the Wild)? I really ought to do the math.

These two were fed only canned food for the first 2 years of their lives, and Simon refuses to chew anything (other than shoes) so he has tartar like you wouldn't believe. Lucy's breath is generally better than Simon's, but takes regular dives into horrific gag-me range when she eats poo... which she tried to do at every opportunity. Ugh. I suspect raw food won't cure her of that?!?!

Holly November 16, 2009 at 6:26 PM  

I thought the cairns were awesome. Good night. Some people are so... weird. I feel sorry for the guy. It must be exhausting to be that passionate about the exquisitely small stuff.

Ellen Rathbone November 17, 2009 at 10:36 AM  

"They" do make stuff that you can add to your pooches' diet that (in theory) make eating feces (coprophagy - don't you love that word?) distateful to the dogs. I don't know how it works, but I've seen it in the Drs. Foster and Smith catalogue. Just a thought.

As for the expense of a natural diet for the dogs, yes, it isn't cheap, but it isn't terribly expensive. I, actually, feed my dog organic meat (finally - found a "local" source for highland cattle ground beef - grassfed - healthier than the factory ground beef at the grocery store). So, Toby eats as well as I do (well, better, in truth), but that's as it should be, IMHO. :)

If Simon prefers canned food, he might not have too much trouble transitioning to ground meats (turkey, beef, lamb). And, who knows...he might prefer it!

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