Remember the Andy Griffin Show, set in good old Mayberry? That small town was a metropolis compared to where I grew up.
How small is Degrasse? There are no sidewalks. No post office. No stores. No stop lights. No convenience store or corner grocery. No city water. (Well water has a bouquet all its own, and it’s not one that anybody wants to bottle and sell. Nobody really wants chewable water.) No cable. No bars on the cell phone. No WiFi. No library. No Starbucks.
Degrasse sits smack on the edge of the Adirondack Park, whose website says: The Adirondack Park was created in 1892 by the State of New York and is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park combined. The boundary of the Park encompasses approximately 6 million acres.
But ask someone who lives there and they’ll say living in the Adirondack Park means you can’t fart in your own yard without a permit or three.
I do love taking my children to Degrasse. There’s a river you can still swim in, lots of lakes and ponds and streams to play in. There are mosquitoes galore…everywhere, all the time, bloodthirsty and huge. I told them we only have three mosquitoes in the entire state of Colorado, and we’re forced to share. Deer abound. Literally. Damn things are always bounding into the road, narrowly avoiding cars. Wild turkeys are pretty common, too.
Turning on a faucet up there is something of an adventure. Everywhere you go, you’ll either get water hot enough to kill your average lobster straight out of the tap, or water that defies physical law and is somehow below the freezing point but still flowing. This makes for very interesting showers, speedily taken.
There’s also an obscene amount of humidity in the North Country at this time of year. I’m sure it was drier when I was a child. I’m sure I could cross the road without busting a shirt-soaking sweat that has nothing to do with age or exertion. I think there’s a conspiracy and one of my favorite brothers-in-law is quietly shipping excess humidity pods from Little Rock, Arkansas to upstate NY.
But we did more than sweat in NY. We also ate cheese curds, a local delicacy, so fresh from the dairy that they squeak against your teeth when you eat them. I believe there was at least one order of poutine consumed–a sumptuous, artery-busting dish that takes a large quantity of really good french fries, tops them in cheese curd and then drowns the whole dish in gravy. We had Glazier dogs, with a red skin that snaps when you bite into them, and Croghan bologna, a locally made spicy ring bologna. And there might be a gallon of pure maple syrup in the back of my minivan, making the trip back to Colorado with us. But there might not be, because I’m not the sort to just wantonly share my maple syrup.
And the first morning at my mom’s house, my younger daughter got up, walked to the hill at the back of the yard, and picked her fill of raspberries for breakfast. That’s a memory she’ll always have, and that’s worth more than a cup of anything Starbucks has to offer.