Family reunions and joint camping trips to Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake were a big tradition for our entire family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins getting together in adjoining campsites for a week or two. These are some of my fondest memories growing up. One such particular camping trip also involved a couple of guys from New York City, and setting a trap for a mischievous black bear.
My grandfather, Irwin Klippel and his brother, Wagner Klippel, had two campsites that were not quite adjoining. A couple of younger men from New York City occupied the spot separating their two camps sites. The two men had driven up to spend a week in the Adirondack Park. Being very friendly, and since they were camping between two contingents of our family, they just naturally kind of joined in. They’d brought all the best camping equipment money could buy, as well as a great selection of food including steaks, hot dogs, ground beef and bacon. They were set for the week. It was late in the day, so we all sat around a campfire and visited a bit. When the fired died out, everyone headed off to get some sleep.
The mischievous bear …
That next morning the two city men arose to discover that during the night, a bear had raided their cooler. They stored the cooler under one end of the park-provided picnic table. The cooler’s mangled cover was now laying a few feet from the cooler, which was quite empty. The bear ate everything. Everything, that is, except the hot dogs, which now lay discarded near the cooler’s cover. It must have been a very hungry (and stealthy) bear. Amazingly, nobody had heard a sound! We had a lot of fun joking about the fact that the bear would not eat the hot dogs.
After the initial excitement wore off, the two young men took off Indian Lake to restock their supplies at the Grand Union. They also decided that it would be better to put their new cooler in the trunk of their car when they went to bed at night. While the two men were off getting groceries, we sat around talking about the bear. The focus of the discussion was what could be done to discourage this bear from conducting future raids on our campsites. By the time the men were back from the Grand Union, we had devised a plan. The two city guys thought our scheme was a pretty slick idea as well.
The spaghetti trap!
That night after supper, we gathered up all the dirty pots and pans from cooking the various family supper meals. We then stacked them up, one on top of the other, on the picnic table in the two younger men’s campsite. With several large family units, the supply of dirty cooking pots more than adequate and they made a quite an impressive, however slightly unstable, tower. My grandmother (we called her Nanny) had made spaghetti in a big metal pot (much like the turkey fryer pots of today). That big pot, with the left over spaghetti and grease from cooking the ground beef (used to make the spaghetti) went on the very top.
Then, my Uncle Wagner tied a length of twine to the handle on the bottom pot and strung the cord all the way over to his car, where he planned to sit and wait. His idea was to turn on the car’s headlights after pulling the string at the opportune moment. All the kids gathered up flashlights and climbed into cars. We all planned to stay awake and see what happened when the bear came!
The trap is sprung …
All of a sudden, we heard a loud crashing, bashing sound. We had all fallen asleep, but the horrible noise woke us up quickly. Several flash lights snapped on and pointed toward the picnic table. Uncle Wagner flipped the headlights on in his car. There, right in the beam of the headlights, sat a big black bear with a very befuddled look on his face. There were pots and pans scattered all around him. Greasy left-over spaghetti covered his head and hung from his ears. The bear let out a bawling kind of grunt and took off running into the trees. Our bear trap had worked!
My grandfather later told me that he had talked to a park ranger at the campground sometime after that, who had told him that they did not see that particular bear in the campground for at least six months after we sprang our trap.