Hatchet – Woodhull Lake, Adirondacks

IMG_3953For the third summer in a row, we were invited by good friends to their place in the Adirondacks in late July. I have written about their wonderful house and their spectacular hospitality before–you can read it as background, if you so choose, here.

As that blog was titled, this place is completely off-grid, though I admit that cell service is now possible at the very end of the dock, by raising your right hand over your head with the index finger pointed at heaven, and the left hand holding something metal, and with the wind from the southeast. Well, no, not really but it was a mystery as to when you would get it and when you would not. You just can’t count on it. So now I guess it is *off-ish* grid

Trailbuilders (adults were allowed to tour it, hence BH…)

This summer, if I had to pick a theme, was the summer of the hatchet (last year was huckleberries, the year before: wonder). One of my kids had just finished the book titled Hatchet, about a boy who survived in the wilderness thanks to a hatchet. After reading the book, my son wanted a hatchet more than anything in the world (yes he got one the next week) in order to make trails, make firewood and whatever else hatchets help in doing. Fortunately our hosts had a suitable assortment of tools and implements, and every morning the four kids would kayak across to an island (club-owned) where they would pull the kayaks up on the shore and head up the hill to cut back brush, small trees and basically make a trail over a tiny eighth-of-a-mile island.

Here come the kids from the island: lunch break!

I have never been accused of being a helicopter mom. I am the opposite, perhaps–what would that be? A submarine mom? Blub-blub what are my kids doing now? Yes, I gave the obligatory instructions on push-off from the boathouse–don’t cut your fingers off, don’t whack your brother on a backswing, don’t annoy yellowjackets, come back when you’re hungry, that about covers it, no? They were fine. And built a great trail with firepit areas, view over the lake etc, that will undoubtedly will all be overgrown by the time we are back next summer. If we are invited back next summer.

What did the adults do in the empty hours of kids across the lake? Read, wandered, occasionally cooked, rowed around in guide boats. It is vacations like these that make me wonder why we’re all so eager to see all the city museums and sights. We were in the museum of the forest–sights were bald eagles, loons and a crazy dog.


Yes, let me talk about the crazy dog. We have a rescue dog named Katie Puppy. At the time of this trip, we never had let her off leash as she tended to run away and into traffic. She is not the smartest dog. But we made up our minds for this trip that with the nearest neighbor a half mile away (through impassable scrub or over water), we would just let her offleash. So coming up from the boat on our first day, we undid the leash and she was off. Gone. Into the scrub. We unpacked the boat and loaded in the food. No dog. Brought in suitcases. No dog. And then the bushes rustled and shook and there burst out Katie with a huge grin, promptly throwing herself on the sunny grass and backscratching to her heart’s content.


Our non-swimmer dog ran straight into the water to try to get a duck. Not a pretty swimmer that Katie–I think she believes it is running through very-hard-to-move stuff. She swam after this duck all the way down the shoreline until BH got a kayak since we didn’t know if there was a moment when she would realize “huh, I don’t know how to swim.” He lifted her into the kayak, and she got out at the dock and took off down the shoreline after the duck. We let her go. She came back.

All aboard! Hatchets, kids and boat dogs

Katie then decided that she was a launch dog. Any time I got into a boat, she would try to get in too. She went canoeing, she went kayaking–she only didn’t get in the beautiful guide boat with her scratchy paws. She sat next to hatchets and shovels to get to the island with the kids.

I hope we go for longer next year–who knows if we get a fort going on that island?  There is nothing like letting a gang of kids in ratty swim trunks, dirty feet, and sunburnt noses loose in a cabin (haha, it’s a bit bigger) in the woods with sharp tools. With two dogs (Lua was the host dog). And sunshine. Also let them jump off large rocks into rivers (without the hatchet–one has to draw the line somewhere). And read books in Adirondack chairs. Drink rosé wine.


The best.

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