Years ago I got “arrested.”
I was in grad school at the time and a few buddies and I decided to head up to the Adirondacks for a weekend of camping.
It was mid fall and the mountains were exploding with color. Three days of hiking, surrounded by fiery foliage and that perfect fall perfume of dead and decaying leaves, pine, and a crisp chill were a much-needed respite from the rigors of an intense semester of writing and shooting.
(Disclosure: I have a master’s in journalism and stumbled onto photography while in grad school.)
We got a late start leaving Syracuse, home to Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and arrived to the Adirondacks in the evening.
We packed our gear into our backpacks and as darkness settled, headed into the woods.
A few miles into the hike, we discovered the bridge spanning a rushing river was closed for repairs. The trail continued elusively on the far side of the river.
At this point it was dark and we were tired from a long day, so we backtracked away from the river and found a spot in the woods to set up camp. We’d hang out there for the night and in the morning return to the car and continue hiking the following day.
In the inky blackness, we explored the woods and found a boat shed with beautiful hand carved, wooden canoes next to a lake. We made a fire (of fallen branches, not boats), drank some whiskey, and called it quits in the still of night.
“Get up, get out of your tents” a voice growled.
I unzipped my tent door and peeked my head out. A bearded guy in green with his hand resting on a holstered gun was yelling at us to hurry up and get up and out of our tents.
We were “under arrest.”
Bleary and dehydrated, we emerged into the gloomy morning and listened to this guy bark about trespassing on private property.
We had no idea.
He was like a paparazzi shooting photo after photo of us with his cheap point and shoot.
He watched and hurried us as we folded up our tents and packed our backpacks. He loaded us into the bed of his pickup truck for a ride back to the security office.
Is it legal to ride in the bed of a pickup? You can’t argue with a guy with a gun.
We were under arrest and his office was our future prison. The four of us were in disbelief.
The walls of his office – a small shed with dirty windows – were plastered with photos of other campers who must have made the same mistake by camping on the Ausable Club’s property without even realizing it.
Part of the trail we were on included an easement through private property, a common occurrence in the Adirondacks but something totally unknown to us.
The security guard, always keeping one hand on his gun and eyeing us disgustedly, called the state police. After a short while, a trooper arrived and apologetically said he had to ticket us. The doofus security guard was pressing charges and there was nothing the police – or we – could do.
If my memory serves me correctly, the fine was $198 payable to the local court. We could challenge it but that required a 5-hour drive back to the Adirondacks and we all agreed wasn’t worth the hassle.
So now I’m a convicted misdemeanorer and learned my lesson: watch out for stupid people prowling the woods and if they’re gonna get you, steal some great photos (on their private property) before getting the boot.