Our first major trip (at least our first trip with photos). We've become less inclined to take photos lately, placing more emphasis on enjoying the moment than trying to have the camera enjoy the moment. This one was a three-day trip that was semi-planned, a coworker of mine grew up in this area and told me where to go and what to see.
In the tame
We set out after work on a Friday afternoon and drove North until it got late enough for us to want to sleep. We then spent some time driving around looking for a Walmart. (Edit: we later figured out that we can park in hotel parking lots, which are quieter and easier to find). Many WalMarts allow overnight parking and one can usually be found only a short detour off your highway route. A suitable store was soon found and we slept in the parking lot, away from the main entrance, and to our surprise we were far from alone. There were other RV's, there were pickup trucks with people sleeping in the front seats, there were some full size trucks with sleeping people too.
I cannot say that this was a very quiet experience, there are usually engines running, starting and stopping within earshot all night, and periodically a street sweeper would drive through the parking lot, polishing the pavement. We were of course very new to this so we didn't sleep that well, worrying that we'll get kicked out. Our standard equipment includes the built-in pull-down shades for the living quarters, and pop-up shades (incidentally, from Walmart) for the windshield and front side windows. Once these are all up it is fairly difficult to see inside the vehicle, especially once the lights are off inside.
Morning soon came, and sure enough - we did just what Walmart was counting on - we stumbled into the store and bought stuff. Oh well, it is only fair.
In the wild
On we went and soon made it to the "primitive" road that my friend described. It starts out paved but soon becomes a dirt road, then a rocky dirt road, then a rock crawling exercise. In places it is so beaten up that our sideboards were grinding down boulders, bending and giving slightly. Certain places required several attempts to get through. Branches were continuously hitting the sides (and at times, the front) of the van as we went on and on.
The road is actually only a mile or so long, but it certainly seems longer when you cannot exceed 5 mph. There were no cars on the road, and the only vehicles that braved it were us and a few pickup trucks, mostly raised and with off-road tires. Technically our van is a RAM truck with a bulky body, but it is definitely only 2 wheel drive. In the end, we made it to the end. The end has a small parking area from which people hike into the Pharaoh Mountain area (about 2-3 mile walk, before you get to the base of the mountain). We spent the day hiking around, and then it was time to find our night-time location, which I chose to be along a small road that seemed to go off our already not-so-large road. We drove off into the woods (about 80 feet) and promptly got stuck on fluffy pine needles and uneven terrain as I was trying to maneuver into a flat location among trees.
About an hour of digging and attempting to use truck straps to pull the van out yielded no results. As I was digging with a small folding shovel (I was at least somewhat equipped) I started hearing voices in the woods, which I initially assumed were not... well, real. The voices persisted. I soon became aware of two dark figures gradually appearing from the woods, approaching us. They were backpackers, walking through the woods in the Adirondack mountains with no lights of any kind. Fortunately for us, the couple offered to help, and together we easily dislodged the van from its trap. The couple walked off into the darkness as if they were never there, and the whole idea of two people appearing in the dark when we needed them and then disappearing just as quickly seems a little ... well, made up. But either way, we were no longer stuck.
This was the most peaceful night ... ever. Animals were even pretty quiet. We were so far from just about anything man-made that we heard not a single thing that does not belong in a forest, if anything at all. It was nice to wake up and look outside and see the forest, and nothing else. That is pretty much the whole idea of this exercise.
Van under super-extra-safety netting
This photo shows me being super concerned about mosquitoes getting in through the cracked windows... I used some of the mesh netting from our deceased gazebo, stitched them together (on a sewing machine) and threw it over the van. This may have been a good idea for that time of year - it was hot enough to want all the windows fully open. When it's not that warm, cracking the windows seems to be fine bug-wise.