Picnickers Abroad

Picnickers Abroad

I select friends based on how well they adventure and how well they picnic while adventuring. It's important to picnic well, because a good adventure involves two things:

(1) Working up an appetite
(2) Being far away from restaurants, Starbucks kiosks, and even vending machines

Inevitably, you will wish you had a small smackerel of something, and that's why you must think ahead and pack a picnic. Sometimes, to tell you the truth, I think first of the picnic, and then I think of a place to go that necessitates having one.

One place that I've been meaning to go for years is Chimney Bluffs, and, happily, I found a friend in the same predicament, so we went together. Like Mt. Hope Cemetery, Chimney Bluffs are the Laurentide Ice Sheet's gift to western New York. From a distance, they look like a gothic castle. I kept being reminded of wosserface from The Mysteries of Udolpho, that godawful Victorian novel. It did not feel like New York. This adventure occurred back in early July, when summer had literally just started. We had a terribly dark, cold, rainy spring, and the sunshine that day seemed foreign and unlikely. The water was as tropical a blue as Lake Ontario gets. And the view of those bluffs was surreal. Much like Miss Emily St. Aubert (I looked her up), I could've wept and fainted.

Took at those turrets!

This is one hour away from my home, but I felt as if I had been transported to a distant, nameless place. The fact that it was the first day of a three-day weekend may have contributed to my giddiness. Strange things come over me on paid holidays.

Weeps, faints.

Strange things, like the desire to photograph weeds. But even the weeds were beautiful in this magical place! Or is it just that everything looks lovely against a backdrop of two-toned blue?

It looked like a good place to rendezvous at twilight., in a novel.

I'm going to need you to imagine all of these photos as if they were taken with a good camera, obviously. Anyway, there's a path up to the top of the bluffs that's about two miles long. Unfortunately, that rainy spring/summer/forever had saturated the ground and in some places even flooded.

Something about this reminds me of the mid-eighties.

Given this amount of water and the fact that the land was made up of basically sand, parts of the trail along the edge of the bay had just . . . washed away. We made it about three-quarters of a mile before we decided to turn around. It's proven in nature that anxious people live longer by not taking stupid risks, that's how we justified being chickens.

The more direct and less deadly route to the bluffs was to drive up the road, where there's parking and bathrooms and a helpful sign telling you to stop driving before you drive into Sodus Bay. Also, some evidence of the erosion that was giving us anxiety.

See? People past the age of thirty understand that life is precious, nature is treacherous, and one must make good decisions because there are so many picnics to be had in the future. Which is why we also didn't make it all the way out along the top of the bluffs. People were running back and forth - children! children were darting around like it was nothing! - on this terrifying ledge. So we went as far as seemed safe, took pictures, and climbed down to breathe into a paper bag.

Since it was on the way home, we also stopped at the Sodus Point lighthouse. Much like you can't leave your dog or your kid in your car on even a warmish day, or like you can't live very long on a planet with three-thousand-something extra gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, you cannot spend a lot of time at the top of a lighthouse in the summer. It is unpleasant. And since you're looking out over water, it's not like the view is much better from three stories up. It's just . . . more water. Nevertheless, I'm a sucker for a Fresnel lens. If you look closely at the image at the top of this post (or on the bottom right below), you can see the bay reflected at the top of the lens and a cloud in the sky at the bottom.

When adventuring, it is always a good idea to bring enough for two picnics. Maybe three. You never know what will happen. I once picnicked six times before breakfast.

This was a two-picnic day. We picnicked first before our aborted mission on the trail to the bluffs. You need to get your energy up before hiking great distances of two whole miles. We picnicked second on the lawn of the lighthouse, where they happened to be having a concert, so there were lots of people. We were charmed by a golden retriever puppy who nearly destroyed an historic racing canoe on display by bouncing his roly-poly self right underneath it while attached to a leash. We were amused by how many dogs, uh, christened the exact same spot in the garden in succession, all with great dignity, as if they each thought they had claimed it for all time. And we were talked to by an elderly gentleman. Wherever you go, you can be certain that if you stay still long enough, an elderly gentleman will talk to you.


What will also happen, if you picnic in public, is people will look at you longingly. They are thinking, Heavens, why didn't I think to bring a picnic?! In these instances you can do one of two things: try to never make eye contact, or adopt an air of smug superiority. Indeed, why didn't you think to bring a picnic? You fool! But the best thing really is to picnic in isolation so that you just have the grass, the trees, the sky, perhaps the sea, and, if you are very lucky, a good friend to enjoy it with.

Photos are by me.



Medicinal Reading, Waffles, Revisions, and, Unexpectedly, both Kafka and Plato

Medicinal Reading, Waffles, Revisions, and, Unexpectedly, both Kafka and Plato