“Uncle Roy vs. GPS” by Patrick Sisti
This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Travel.”
As an outdoor travel writer mainly focusing on the Adirondack region of upstate New York, I’ve been really fortunate in my 60 years to have had my own personal outdoor guide.
There’s a man named Leroy Spring who lives in Indian Lake, New York. He’s also my “Uncle Roy” who has taught me everything—and I mean everything—I know about the great outdoors.
My lessons started at about age five and have continued throughout my life, the latest coming just last Sunday. My favorite thing to do in my life right now is hiking back into Adirondack ponds where I camp overnight and fish for brook trout. Well, I had recently taken a course on How to Use a GPS at the Adirondack Mountain Club in Lake George. With my new outdoor skill, I plotted out a hike to a relatively obscure pond. It took me about an hour, calculating, measuring, adding and subtracting latitude and longitude and entering the numbers into my GPS. When I was all finished and felt secure enough to believe my entries, I was ready to venture forth.
But first, I had to call Uncle Roy and tell him about my travel plans, in case something happened to me. I told him what pond I’d be going to, where my car would be parked, what route I’d be taking, how long I’d be gone, and when I would be back out. I gave him all my information and explained proudly that I was going to bushwhack about one-half mile using my GPS since my topo maps didn’t show any marked trails. His reply floored me.
“Well,” Uncle Roy said, “if you go to the top of the hill, there’s an old apple tree there. Next to the apple tree, there used to be an old tote road. You can take that down the hill most of the way.”
He didn’t stop there.
“When it turns right and goes up a hill, you keep walking straight ahead down the hill. You’ll come into some swampy area and tag alders. Keep walking straight ahead. About 400 feet beyond that is the pond,” he said, then added, “Now, I haven’t been there in many years, but look for that apple tree on top of the hill anyway. Call me when you get out.”
I stood silent after we said our goodbyes and hung up. Go to the top of the hill, there’s an old apple tree there. Next to the apple tree, there used to be an old tote road. You can take that down the hill most of the way. He hasn’t been there in man years? I mumbled to myself. At age 87, “many years” could be 50 or 60 to Uncle Roy!
I looked at the GPS in my hand. I looked at the topo map on my kitchen counter with all my markings on it. I looked at all my scraps of paper I used in my calculations. I looked at the five pencils and erasers I used. I looked at my 36-inch straightedge ruler I had used to draw my lines on the topo map. Then I looked at the phone.
Why do I even bother? I should have called Uncle Roy first and told him where I was going and asked him how to get there. It would have saved me one hour of my life. It would have been like being in New York City and flagging down a cab—you get in and tell the taxi driver where you want to go and then sit back and enjoy the view. But in the Adirondacks, you call Uncle Roy. He’d tell me what tree to turn at. Where to go up or down a hill. To go through the hardwoods or the pines. Cross the brook. Stay out of the blow-down. Go around the swamp. Follow the little brook to the pond.
I stood there for a moment, and then smiled. My smile got bigger and bigger until I started laughing. That smile stayed with me all afternoon while I hiked in and out of the pond using my high-tech GPS and my topo map with all my plot lines. Oh, yes! The apple tree was at the top of the hill. And, yes, there was an old tote road next to the apple tree. And, yes, the road went down the hill. And, yes, it turned to the right and went uphill. And, yes, I continued straight down the hill into a swampy area where the tag alders were. And guess where the pond was? Yep, 400 feet straight ahead.
Who needs a GPS when you have Uncle Roy?
Patrick Sisti spent 42 years as a printing salesman until launching a second career as a successful outdoor travel writer. An avid fly fisherman, he loved exploring the Adirondacks near his home of Indian Lake, New York.
Editor’s Note: In late 2012, right before this book was released, Patrick passed away suddenly after a day of canoeing and fishing in his beloved Adirondacks. Patrick was a dear friend to NYMB series founders Ken and Dahlynn McKowen and every year, he sent his Father Christmas holiday cards, a yearly email celebrating his decades of sobriety and took the McKowens on a fun-filled tour of the Adirondacks during their last trip to upstate New York. To read more stories by Patrick, pick up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul.
Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Travel.” The book features 58 travel stories from around the world. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/108SSFD) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1tAGDZF).
To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.