Photo by Seth Dombach (kloipy)
Once again a group of my friends embarked on a journey of epic proportions. Over the Memorial Day weekend we travelled from the wilds of Pennsylvania to the beautiful scenic vistas of New York’s Finger Lakes. This year our destination led us to the banks of Keuka Lake, a breathtaking and serene location where once again we all found ourselves enraptured at the blissful escapism that seems to permeate from the deep blue waters.
When we arrived on Friday afternoon, the weather was cold and it was raining on and off. By the time all of us met up at the house, it had cleared off as if expecting our arrival. The house was beautiful and held even more places to relax than our previous vacation home. It made for a more connected experience where we all had space to sit and talk and laugh.
I walked down the long staircase that led to the water’s edge, which was secluded and contained two canoes, a rowboat, and chairs around a fire pit. I stood on the dock as the small waves lapped upon the shore and stared out unto the vast lake. Staring outward gave the impression that I was moving with the flow of the water and made me feel at one with the landscape. We stayed up late into the early morning hours playing a drunken game of ‘ASAP’. We fought over the validity of cucumber sandwiches and the yelling turned into raucous laughter. We thought of the possibilities of having Jeff Goldblum and Shia Lebouf together in one film that would probably sound like
‘Life uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh finds a uh way’
We also discussed the use of the phrases such as ‘bro-sauce’, ‘bro-ting’, ‘lil’ bit’
The next morning, my wife and I woke up early making a breakfast of scones, muffins, scrambled eggs, copious amounts of bacon, and some pancakes; all of which was washed down with some strong coffee and some Bloody Marys. The day was beautiful with large clouds and bright blue skies with a cool breeze moving through. In order to enjoy ourselves fully we had rented a limo for the day to take us on another wine tour.
We stopped at Dr. Franks, Heron Hill, Hunt Country, and Bully Run. At Heron Hill we all were feeling the effects of the tour and had a hilarious conversation with our wine guide, who proceeded to get us even more buzzed with practically full glasses of wine. We then ate and were ready for naps (which some of us took when we got back to the house).
That night we had burgers stuffed with pepper jack cheese and onions. This then led to copious amounts of beer. We had a conversation about our sequel idea for E.T. which involves a psychotic ET who is a drug addict, wants to harm Elliot, and at some point guillotines a whole slew of cats. I also introduced them to my idea for a joke involving ‘Air Bud: Golden Receiver’ that worked out nicely. At some point we started dancing again and eventually the drinking probably resulted in this photo, which my recollection of is quite hazy.
On Sunday, our last full day, saw our now annual tradition of the splitting off between the women and men. The girls all went out for the day to a small town, looking at antiques and going to a café. The guys did what we do best, which was absolutely nothing. I think the girls may have worried about what we could possibly get up to.
Most of what we got up to was the following: drinking, playing lawn games, going to the lakeside and throwing rocks into the lake trying to hit a raft, and then sitting in chairs. This was literally a 4-5 hour period where we did nothing other than sit around getting up only to throw more rocks or grab more beer. And I will be honest; I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon on the edge of a lake.
When the girls returned we had a large lunch of a delicious spinach salad, grilled sausage, and honey mustard chicken and veggie kabobs. We all realized that our trip was almost over, and just how quickly it had come upon us. We took in all the conversations, all the laughter, and held them close to make sure they wouldn’t leave us when we returned home. That night we had the best tacos ever made and then sat by the fire underneath a full moon.
The next morning we all got up and going early as we had to make our way home. Having to say goodbye for the year was once again a somber occasion as we all packed our things and left one by one. Since we left early, my wife and I decided to make a detour on our way to Watkins Glen State Park, which is a breathtaking place filled with giant waterfalls and a perfect hike up the mountainside. Then we drove home, picked up our daughter, and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon; once again refreshed.
The first year we did this was incredible. It bonded us all together, and it was to all of our surprise that this year’s trip was even better. The previous year had been a bit more wild, but this year was perfect, and cemented all of our relationships. There is a transformative quality to the lake. It grabs you with its magic. It has this power to transfix your mind and to show you the importance and beauty of life and friendship. This year was filled with so many memorable experiences, ones that I will not forget. I only am left with the feeling that I want all of us together again soon, so we can share some more excitement and life together.
Oh yeah, and I am almost definitely sure I spotted a UFO while looking up at the stars. No one else was looking. But it was there, I swear.
All photos by or property of Seth Dombach (kloipy)
Author’s Note: I want to give a very special thank you to Marina for the suggestion for this post. This was a lot of fun to write, and I’m proud of this one.
All Photos by Me (Seth Dombach)
Every once and awhile I’m captured by a moment of sheer spontaneous drive in which I become compelled to do something out of the ordinary. I wouldn’t say that I’m an obsessive planner but I also like to map things out. I like the comfort of timelines, which is why I’m perpetually early to everything I do. If something starts at 8:00am, I’m likely there by 7:45 so that I do not miss a thing (being late is one of my biggest pet peeves). I like knowing what I’m going to do and usually if there is a deviation from that it really sends my brain into a whir of irritability and chaotic preservation.
But there are times in which I will subconsciously choose to do something completely unexpected on just the slightest whim. Normally when this happens it turns out to be something that leaves a lasting impression on me. Whereas the normal day to day schedule becomes nothing but a tangled fog in my remembrance; these moments are the ones that stick out and have a clarity that is undeniable of the self-importance of the moment. One of these moments happened on a hike.
It was early spring, before the world had really been kicked into new life. Most of the trees were still bare, but it was warm enough for short sleeves and a long drive with the windows down. I had taken off from home around midday with a lingering depression and needed time to clear my head. I did not want to surround myself with other people, so crowded public spaces were out completely. I needed room to think and the idea of sitting alone while surrounded by the laughter of others, would make my plastic smile seem all the more disingenuous. Though I’m definitely not the first to observe it, it still remains true that there is something even sadder about being alone in a crowd. It makes you feel all the more isolated when you can’t connect to anyone, even if they are standing right beside you.
One of the greatest things about driving a car is the absolute freedom you can feel while doing it. It is the closest to flying most of us will ever get to. You control everything when you are out on an open road, how fast you are going, how loud the music, and you don’t even need to have a destination, you can pick a road you may never have taken before; just to see where it leads. One of the greatest feelings for me is to be driving down an empty back road, without knowing where it is going. Rolling down the windows and letting the cool breeze trail over my arm as it hangs out over the door. You take so much more in when you aren’t looking for a destination; you just soak up what surrounds you as you become just a part of the landscape as your car trails the twists and turns of a country road.
This particular day I ended up at Colonel Denning State Park. I hadn’t been there for years and one of the roads I had taken led me there like a dowsing rod to water. I got out of the car and read the park signs to see what trails were there and which one I wanted to take. I ended up taking the Flat Rock trail, which is about a two and a half mile hike to the top of the mountain, one that ends up at a rock outcrop that overlooks the entire valley. I picked it, not because of the beauty of it, I wasn’t even thinking that, but because it was harder. I made this decision subconsciously. I was going through an extremely emotional hardship, one which tested me each day, and I wanted something challenging.
The hike starts off easy enough, following the beaten trail through the forest. Gradually the grade of the mountain begins to get steeper, and before long I was feeling the effects of being out of shape. When I got to a steep incline which ended in the first of the rocks, I had to sit and take a break. My breathing was labored and I looked up at what felt like a ninety degree angle at what I was about to climb with a little more trepidation. But I continued on. At this point I passed a few other hikers. Some going down, others pushing onward up, and I pushed myself. Most of the climb from this point was all natural rock steps which to climb, you need to step up first then pick your body up. It was tiring to say the least, and quite a few times I thought about turning around, but something deep within kept pushing me, and with as much doubt as the past few months had cast on me, it was surprising the amount of esteem my conscious had in my ability to persevere.
The trail eventually evened out and for awhile felt like smooth sailing. I kept thinking I must be close to the end, but the path kept stretching onward into the forest. I crossed a man-man bridge that went over a mountain stream, and even knowing that it is better to not drink from them, I took the risk and cupped my hand in the cool water and drank deeply. It was rejuvenating and so crisp that my body felt like it was jump-started again. Then I came to the last leg of the hike, which was another seemingly vertical climb up another rock-laden path. It went on further than I could see but I was now determined to go on until the end, to see this hike through.
As I climbed up the last of boulders I became aware of the duplicitous nature of this climb. Though I hadn’t realized it at the start of my hike, at this point where I was tired but euphoric over beating my doubt, I now understood why I was here at this particular moment in time. For months I had felt the weight of life pushing down on me and had wanted more than a few times to give up, to just be done with the constant hardships and feeling like I couldn’t handle it anymore, but I had kept on. Just like here, where more than a few times it would have been easier to turn around and go home, but I knew something better would be at the end of this test. Something that would make the pain worth it. I realized that I had a strength that was more powerful than I had given myself credit for and if I could push myself to the top, I could overcome the other odds and boulders in my normal life.
Finally I reached my reward when the path leveled out to one lone outcrop of rock at the edge of the mountain. I didn’t rush for it, but took my time managing the last of my journey. And then there I was. Standing alone on top of this rock, looking out over a thousand feet up from the valley, taking in the all the miles my eyes could see in front of me. It was breathtaking. If there were words beautiful enough to describe the way I felt inside as I stood there alone, I don’t think I would be able to write them down because then it would somehow diminish the experience. But it was life changing. I sat there for a half an hour by myself just thinking and being. It had started to drizzle just a little bit while I sat there and the rain felt transformative, washing away the negativity of the past year and I felt baptized in it. When my mind had become fully content, I stood back up taking a lasting glimpse of the scenery, turned around and made my way back down.
When I got to the base of the mountain the sun was back out and only lingering droplets of water still clung to the trees. I got in my car, rolled down the window, crested a big hill and coasted the whole way down the mountain; my arm swimming in the wind.
Big thanks to my good friend Therewolf, for once again lighting a fire under my ass to post this.
This Week’s Theme:
1. Dave Matthews Band: Why I am
2. The Paper Kites: Mortal Boy King
3. Ray LaMontagn: Let it Be Me
4. The Head and the Heart: Lost in My Mind
5. Eddie Vedder: Hard Sun