And So It Goes

My random online scrapbook

Breaker wall in Oswego
Fall Road Trips

One Dam Photo

Breaker wall in Oswego
Breaker wall in Oswego


The weather of late has been incredible.  On Sunday, I decided to take advantage of the sun to work on some photographs I need to assemble for a digital photography class at Empire State College.  The game plan was simple.  Start with some pictures in Altmar and then swing over to Oswego to capture the sunset on the lake.  However, they say life is the journey and this journey was certainly unforeseen.

Salmon River Reservoir Dam - 08/19/2009
Salmon River Reservoir Dam - 08/19/2009

Early Sunday morning, I dressed for the 12 degree temperatures, packed the car and headed out to Route 22 in Altmar.  A couple of years ago I hiked from the Salmon River Falls to the old bridge on Dam Road.  I got some outstanding pictures on that summer day and had decided that I would use the same subject matter, now covered in snow, to fulfill one of the elemental composition requirements for a current photography class.  Overall the main roads were in pretty good shape, but turning onto Falls Road I found the road conditions to be much more snow covered.

As I passed by the Salmon River Falls parking area, I knew Dam Road was the next turn.  What I didn’t expect was that half way down Falls Road, it would stop being plowed and that it doubles as a snowmobile trail in the winter.  Once I had realized this, it was too late.  The snow was bottoming out on the bottom of my blazer.  I knew immediately that to stop or turn would lead into being stranded.  So, I put the car into neutral (going down the hill) and then into 4-wheel drive low.  White-knuckling the wheel and fishtailing, I made my way to the intersection of Dam and Falls Road.  Unfortunately, Dam Road was not plowed either.

I decided that once I got to the corner, I would swing out and try to make the turn at the intersection and retrace my route back.  I made it ¾ of the way around and my front and rear tires on the driver’s side buried into the snow.  I tried rocking back and forth, but it didn’t take long to realize that I was buried, albeit in the middle of a paved road.

I pulled out the cell phone and called Verizon 411 to get the number of a tow truck company in the Altmar area.  The phone service was very spotty, at best, and after several disconnected calls, I reached the tow company.  Their response — “There is no way I’ll take my tow truck down Falls Road.”  I tried two other towing companies and they had the same response.  Apparently, this has happened before and both the vehicle and the towing vehicle were stranded until the snow melt in March.  O.K. I’ll admit was I was getting a little nervous at this point.

I decided to call the New York State troopers.  Once again I acquired the number from 411 and spoke with the trooper station in Pulaski.  They had a car in the area, but it would be a little bit.  They were also uncertain as to what they could actually do (the same exact thing I was told when they arrived later on).  Their recommendation was so try to find a local farmer with a four-wheel drive tractor that might be able to assist me.  I didn’t look like a very good scenario either way.

I shut the car off and sat in the vehicle pondering my next move.  As looked around I had decided that all of this would be naught if I came this far and didn’t get the photos I set out after.  And I was so close.  I packed up the cameras, some water, the cell phone, a couple of tripods and headed through the snow by foot toward the dam.  In my way of thinking, the car wasn’t going anywhere ….

I’m not going to lie; it was an effort to get to up Dam Road.  It was very cold and difficult walking but I kept putting one foot in front of the other and soon arrived at the dam.  Unfortunately, the bridge was no longer there!  Yeah, I was at the right place, but the bridge had been removed.  I was not a happy camper and anyone within shouting distance must have heard an earful of language that make most mothers cringe.

I hiked back toward blazer and then back up Falls Road until the first house I came to.  The objective had now changed to finding a farmer with tractor.  I began going door to door asking if anyone knew of a local that had a tractor that might be able assist (tow) me out of this situation.

At my third residence, an elderly woman came into the foyer and I began reciting my story once again.  In the background I heard her husband cursing from within the house.  I apologized for the disturbance and began to move on, when she waved me off and said that her husband was working on something else and that I should come in and speak with him.

Just inside the house, a gentleman in his early sixties was sitting at the computer working on a Pearson tutorial — adding fractions.  I didn’t get a word out before he had turned to me and asked if I “understood any of this math?”  Frozen, covered with snow and with much bigger issues on my mind, I answered yes — a little in disbelief.

From the foyer, I began tutoring him on common denominators and assisted him in finishing up the last three problems he was working on.  Then he shut off of the computer and allowed me to update him on why I was standing there melting in his house.

Unsurprised, he took the snowmobile out and drove to the blazer to get a better look.  He came back and said he thought he could get it out with his tractor — an idea several of the neighbors obviously did not agree with.  I hopped on the back, chains in hand and headed back to the stranded vehicle.  Of course the chains on the tires, just in front of where I was kneeling, were kicking up snow and I was soaked to the bone.  We dragged the blazer, backwards, further down Dam Road so I was once again pointing the front of the vehicle up Falls Road.  I drove the Blazer out, handed the gentleman the remaining cash I had in my wallet and was eternally grateful that my wife was not with me.

One the way back down Falls Road, I decided that since I was already there, I would stop at the Falls to get some pictures and try to salvage the day.  Once again I packed up and began to start down the trail when I noticed the rear tire of the blazer was almost flat.  Afraid of being stuck in the middle of Altmar on a Sunday evening, I decided to head back to the gas station in Altmar and fill up all of the tires.  If the tire was now punctured, at least I’d be at a gas station.

I found the gas station, filled up the tires and couldn’t find any leaks.  The day was already eventful so, I opened up the hatchback, poured myself a cup of coffee and checked all the tire pressures again 30 minutes later.   All looked good as I tried to get back on target and headed off to Oswego.

Although the ride to Oswego was uneventful, I was pensive about any hidden damage I may have acquired.  It was the most quiet ride I’ve ever had.  However, I was determined to not return empty handed.  Once at Oswego, I was met with blistering wind chill temperatures off the lake.  Yes, I got a few pictures, but just couldn’t last to capture the sunset as originally planned.

As I document this whole experience for you now, I can’t help but notice that two days later the weather is back into the 50s and there is no longer a snow flake on the ground!  Thank to the folks on Falls Road for their assistance and thank you to the math instructors at ITT.  Without either of them, it may have been a much longer day!


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