By Jack McShane

A week long trip up to the wilds of the Adirondack Mountains started with a black bear running across our road, maybe as a hint of what we might encounter up in the mountains to the north. No. Nothing of the kind. No bears. No moose; not even a deer. We did enjoy seeing some minnows in the shallows of a crystal clear and very remote lake called Moose Pond, but no moose were sighted. Whiteface Mountain was shrouded in clouds and the elevator to the peak was being replaced, so no magical views of the high peaks. The Ranger School which I attended back in 1961, and where I got high grades in forestry and surveying, is still there. The small local village of Wanakena is, as it always was, a very proud little place with its historical footbridge over the Oswegatchie River. We stayed at a place called the Hungry Trout alongside the very picturesque Ausable River and, yes, we ate delicious trout, hatchery trout that is, almost every night at the attached restaurant. Nancy shopped in Lake Placid and the town of Saranac Lake and purchased a hand-crafted leather handbag in the town of Childwold where I got my first bear with bow and arrow back in my youth, a great memory. The very best part of the trip was the return to our homestead here in Andes in the Catskill mountains and of course looking to see a bear again. End of my Adirondack riff.

Our beloved Andes is where many locals descend from families who first settled the land and then there are those that have chosen to leave city life and its attendant stresses behind. This is where my camera traps, or secret eyes in the woods, tell me what is going on in the wild when I am not present. It is always a joy to check, often with surprises. Those nocturnal wanderers that are rarely seen in daylight always intrigue me. The cams had not been checked for three weeks and displayed many critters including a family of coyotes, a nice 8 point buck not seen before, a medium- sized bear, a bobcat, a raccoon, wild turkeys, a lot of mice and an out-of-its-usual-habitat cottontail rabbit checking out our porch. What was really cool was an immature great blue heron stalking around in a very muddy pond which made me wonder how he could see his prey; I wished him luck. This photo recording of the many and varied fauna residing and thriving in our woodlands gives us great pleasure and is indicative of a rich and healthy environment.

Locally, there has been a major housing shift for a much prejudiced and maligned community when their multi-storied tenement was dismantled sending a multitude of them searching for new domain. Sadly, one of their new living quarters was a very poor choice, resulting in the death of many. Here is an explanation of just what happened: Nancy and I had decided to begin the arduous task of cleaning out the pole barn of “stuff” that has accumulated over the past 32 years. One of those items was an old metal, multi-shelved cabinet, that stored old blankets and sheets. It had been bound with rope to ensure that no critter of ill repute could gain entry. They did. Upon opening, an overwhelming odor of mouse urine wafted forth and a seeming million leaped out on us and around us, with a massive, panicked and very hasty evacuation by the little critters. They ran far and wide, and I wished them well. Nancy did not.

Shortly thereafter crumbles of foam insulation began to appear below a wall separating our root cellar and the breezeway attached to the house, and as time passed and the pile grew it was a sure sign of the building of a new tenement. Our son, who was visiting, set a few traps and persistently checked and removed the captured (dead). Rebaiting eventually eliminated fourteen of the little furry occupants. I have continued the process and as of this writing the total catch stands at thirty six. The nightly catch now is down to one or two and there is no sign of insulation crumbles. We are lucky that there is no season or limit set on these critters and that the DEC does not require a trapping license for little gray mice, although I would probably break the law in that case.

The archery season opened on October 1st and I just finished butchering, with Nancy doing the packaging, my son’s first deer of the season: A doe taken down where he lives in Kerhonkson. He is still looking for that trophy buck. In case you don’t know, fresh venison is a culinary delight. Gun season for deer and bear will be opening on Saturday, November 17th and will continue through Sunday, December 9th. You may hear some shots fired. Maria, an editor here at the Gazette, sent a great picture of a hawk and asked for an ID. I got it right, a juvenile Redtail. confirmed by my ardent birder neighbors. It looked like it was dining on a small bird.

Only when the last tree has died, and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can’t eat money.” Cree Proverb