October 23, 2019

Bidding a Fond Farewell to this Year's Camping Season

We just closed out this year’s camping season at our family favorite – Northampton Beach Campground on Great Lake Sacandaga.  Even though we have a true four-season travel trailer, we always wind down our camping season in September or October – for a couple of reasons.  One, many of the State Parks we favor in the Northeast close down on Columbus Day weekend.  I’m sure that I could find a few private RV parks that stay open later but, since our hearts belong to the State and National Parks, giving up the spacious campsites and lovely natural views that we enjoy so much in public campgrounds just doesn’t seem worthwhile to us.  Two, in our neck of the woods, snow is not unheard of in October.  In order to settle in the Creek Side on its pad up in the back where it spends the winter months, Alan needs to back the 32’ trailer up the driveway, across the front lawn, make a corner around the birch trees, guide it through two gates and squeeze past the boat garage.  Did I mention that we live on the side of a small mountain, so it's an uphill battle for part of the way?  If you saw him pull off this maneuver, I’m betting that you’d just stand right up and start clapping.  It isn’t a feat for the faint of heart.  Once there’s snow on the ground, it becomes Mission Impossible, especially since the turn around the birch trees can be a bit slick in just rain, never mind snow.  And there’s that little embankment to worry about if you do start sliding on the turn.  While our Creek Side would allow us to enjoy winter camping, we always tuck it safely away before the first snow flies.

It was with happy hearts that we set out for Northampton Beach in early October and with heavy hearts that we returned.  (That last camping trip of the season hits me hard every time.)  But this visit was SO much better than the week we spent there in June when it rained.  Nearly.  Every.  Day.   This time around?  Delightfully sunny skies.  Nearly!  Every!  Day!

See what I mean about those spacious and lovely sites at State Parks?

Except for a day and a half of rain, the fall weather was absolutely perfect for the ten days we were there:  Clear, crisp days in the 60’s, full of the brilliant colors and fresh, clean air that mark autumn in the Northeast, followed by cool, but not terribly cold, nights.  Good sleeping weather!  And wonderful daytime weather for walking, biking and kayaking at this lakefront campground. 

Fall brings a sense of tranquility to the lake.

Friends of ours – Patty, Rick and their son, Eric – were also camped at the lake, and we shared several meals and companionable conversations around the campfire.  We have known this family since Eric’s brother, Evan, went to pre-school with our son, Ryan, so it’s a wonderful and solid friendship that we’ve enjoyed for more than twenty years.  We are so blessed.  Cue those campfire stories followed by peals of laughter . . . 

Fewer and fewer boats are left at the marina at this time of year.

On one of those rainy mornings when Alan and I were sitting in our recliners by the big back window and enjoying our morning coffee, a huge bird flew in from somewhere out on the inlet to a tall pine tree about 50 feet from the camper.  It took us only a moment to realize that it was an immature bald eagle and he/she had a freshly caught fish in his/her talons.  As we watched in amazement, the eagle made quick work of its breakfast and then took off for parts unknown.  We’ve been camping at Northampton Beach for 10 years, and last year was the first we had seen bald eagles at the lake.  We don’t know whether the two we saw last fall were neighborhood residents or transients who had begun a migration south to open waters.  Seeing a young eagle this year may mean that the eagle population in the Great Lake Sacandaga area is healthy and growing or that the eagle population in another area is thriving and we may be seeing more transients in the fall.  Either way, it’s always a delight to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures with their impressive wingspan and stately demeanor.

A blurry view of our feathered friend through the rain-streaked window

While we were at the lake, Alan and I took the opportunity to bike another segment of the Erie Canalway Trail.  It was a “good news, bad news” kind of experience.  On one hand, most of the ride was pretty boring since the trail was closed in by trees and foliage for much of the ride.  But, on the other hand, the trail ran right by the Erie Canal Lock #E16 so, being the boaters that we are, we took the opportunity to stop by the lock and see what was happening.  No commercial or pleasure craft were locking through at the time we were there, but it was still fun to stop for a look-see, and we enjoyed the short stretch of trail that ran directly alongside the canal.

Lock E16 has a lift of 20.5', allowing boats to safely navigate the change in elevation.

The best part of this segment of the Erie Canalway Trail!

Sunday of Columbus Day weekend was particularly enjoyable since we had breakfast with Patty, Rick and Eric, followed by a visit from our son, Ryan, and his girlfriend, Anya.  With daytime temps hovering around 60, Ryan decided not to bring his jet ski, but he and Anya shared what was left of our breakfast campfire with us, and took the bikes out for a spin around the immense campground.  Later that day, with the two of them helping to pack up, we made quick work of getting ready to roll, and were on the road by late afternoon.  Normally, we would have closed out our Columbus Day weekend and this year’s camping season by staying one more day, but Alan had checked the weather report for home and found out that he had a small window of opportunity on Columbus Day to get our boat in the water for the last outing of the season, running with the special additive he puts in just before he winterizes it.  So, off we went.

Alan was out exploring earlier in the week.

I felt rather dejected as we were towing the camper home from the lake.  That last camping trip of the year is always a bittersweet one.  Fall is such a glorious time to be camping in the Northeast, but you know that the changing of the leaves marks the changing of the seasons better than any calendar.

Such a wonderful location to close out the camping season!

A round of applause for Rick who not only got their camper winterized before ours, but had the deed done before supper on Columbus Day evening!  Patty and I took on the big jobs of emptying our respective campers for the year.  I don’t know what their house looks like, but we have camping gear in the living room, the dining room and the laundry room.  But, progress is being made on a daily basis!  And, before we know it, spring will be around the corner and I’ll begin the much more delightful task of dragging all the gear back out to the camper for our next exciting adventure.


  1. Welcome back to your warm home surroundings during the winter months. There's a lot to be said for having established your camping style and your comfort zone in the off months. There's comfort in knowing yourselves and the anticipation of both times of year. We're still sort of in the Jell-O; but that's not all bad. Glad your family had a good summer.

    1. We are definitely part timers, Mike, not full timers like you and Sandy. And you're right - this feels comfortable to us. Alan and I both enjoy our "projects" but, while I could easily take many of mine on the road, his usually involve things like tractors or boats or a gazillion tools. They don't make a toy hauler big enough to handle Alan's projects! Seriously, we both enjoy our time at home and try to make good use of it. Enjoy your warm Texas weather!

  2. Hi Mary. Loved, Loved, Loved the pictures! Now I wish we could go there too! I'm sure there is a bit of sadness packing everything up, but you guys stay so busy, it just means it's on to other things for a while. (And plotting for next season too!) Can't wait to hear what the next season holds. Enjoy those beautiful colors, and remember, when the snow flies, there ARE lots of flights South to visit us!

    1. Hi, Joan! There is nothing like fall in the northeast! Busy? Yes! Next up on the list is splitting firewood. Feel free to come north and join in the fun! Alan and I were just working on finalizing next year's plans earlier this week. Still a few more details to iron out, but the best news is that we re-booked the Alaska trip. Yay! Love to you and Tom - hope to catch up with you soon!

  3. Good afternoon, Mary,
    Alan’s backing-in prowess is exceptional. Please post a video of this event next time he does it. I need tips. I loved the pictures of your camping trip and the campground looks awesome. I’m going to go back northeast someday and I’ll put this one on my list. Thanks for sharing. Stay in touch and have a great weekend. Joe

    1. Joe, Alan will appreciate your compliment and, honestly, it's well-deserved. He's been trailering all kinds of stuff for more than 40 years, so it's second nature to him. Not me. He had me back up the log splitter into the garage last week using the tractor and it took me about three hours to go thirty feet. Well, not really, but I'm sure you get my point.

      We love Northampton Beach at any time of the year, but it seems especially peaceful in the fall, even on weekends with families present. It doesn't have a rushing creek like your favorite camping spot, but I really do think you and Helen would love it here!


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