Our Little Great Escape

“Let’s just follow the guy with all the bamboo plants,” I said to Anthony. We were sitting in bumper to bumper traffic waiting to pass through the gates of our Northern neighbors. This time, we were headed to Cabinscape's "Auburn Cabin." I’ve never driven through America’s Northern or Southern borders, but Anthony has memories of crossing up into Canada as a kid. He’s told me stories about piling up in the car with his brother and parents and driving up to Niagara Falls. It’s been twenty years since and border control policies are much more strict now. Naturally on that Monday in August, Canada was celebrating a civic holiday which meant grocery stores would be closed. We swung through a food store in Alexandria Bay and suddenly had a car full of firewood, fruits, and veggies. To say the least we were completely freaked out about getting pulled over and being searched. We figured that a guy with a backseat full of bamboo plants would somehow overshadow our firewood and bananas. Alas we were next. We’d been over our itinerary several times. I pulled forward over the thick yellow lines and security cameras up to the booth. The agent held his hand out and I placed our passports in his palm. He asked us what brought is to Canada and we told him we would be staying near Sharbot Lake in a cabin. He didn’t think too much of it. He passed back our documents and wished us a fun time.

The roads became country roads and led us through small towns that looked like an extension of Northern New York.

We pulled out of there with a huge relief. We never had anything to worry about. Except the next stage of our journey. No international plan means no cell phone, which means no GPS. Anthony and I are notorious for missing turns because we have a hard time following directions and conversing simultaneously. We continued on the freeway with about 80 miles ahead of us. We cruised past lush green grass that encircled small lakes. I had never been to the East side of Canada. The roads became country roads and led us through small towns that looked like an extension of Northern New York. Eventually we made it to route 7 and were only 15 minutes away from our little great escape.

Eager to arrive, hazard lights began flashing and the chain of cars ahead slowed to a stop. We were hesitant to deviate from our route for fear of getting lost. After waiting another 15 minutes, people began to leave their cars and investigate the hold up on foot. It didn’t look like anything would move along for some time and other cars started turning around. The sun was beginning it’s decent in the sky, so after a brief deliberation, I cranked the steering wheel and pulled a 180. We trailed close behind 13 cars or so around the other side of the pond. These were certainly more rural roads, that curved swiftly and pulled us up and over hills. Within 20 minutes, we were right back on route 7, but passed the accident.

We kept an eye out for route 509 and hung a right. On our left about 5 or 6 minutes up the road, we saw Penyck Lake Lane and the Cabinscape sign! We finally made it!

We crawled along the dirt road through the woods until we came upon the Auburn Cabin. It sat down a semi-steep pebbled driveway, nestled right by the motorless lake. We jumped out of the Caliber and before anything else, we skipped straight down to the water. At the water’s edge was a red canoe pulled up on land and a charming dock that shifted from side to side with the water’s current. It was obvious that the first thing on our agenda was to go for a paddle around the lake. I saw a few paddles leaning against a stack of chopped wood and grabbed the two tallest. A couple seconds later we sat face to face in the canoe. It definitely is not the most practical way of paddling, but it was nice to inhale each other’s amazement. The lake was incredibly quiet. It felt disruptive to even dig the paddle through the water.

We puttered around the lake into the early evening and decided to get a fire going to cook up some dinner. Anthony swiftly steered us up alongside the dock. We stepped out one at a time to keep the canoe steady. Together we pulled the canoe up onto the land and flipped it for it had been raining on our way up. One of the great things about the Auburn Cabin site is that there are two fire pits: one down by the water and another uphill just outside of the cabin. That night we kept it simple since we had endured a long and eventful day. Over the coals and into the cast iron pan, we tossed in an assortment of vegetables and settled for veggie tacos. The sky fell dark so we poured ourselves some whiskey and watched the fire burn down. With a commitment to rise with the sun, we went inside for the night. The Auburn Cabin had two double sized lofted beds to choose from. We went for the one on the right which gave us a view of the fire pit out the kitchen window and the dock out the bedside window. I laid my head down and thought how lucky we were to be in this special corner of the world.

It was clear that our time here would be peaceful and thought provoking.

The next morning I woke up with a handful of mosquito bites on my legs which is not surprising in the least, when we’ve spent an evening in the woods. I climbed down the ladder to the main floor to find Anthony outside taking photos of the morning fog lurking over the lake. We walked out on the dock and breathed in the misty air. It was clear that our time here would be peaceful and thought provoking. It was early and coffee was a must, so back at the cabin we opened the garage-styled window and slurped down our dark roast. We brought enough groceries from below the border to feed us dinner and breakfast, but we needed to replenish the mini fridge for dinner that night. I had memorized the few turns that would take us to the grocery store: Right out of the dirt road, Left on 7, Right on 38.

In 15 minutes we found ourselves in Sharbot Lake. It was a quaint little town with all the essentials. We gathered all the ingredients to make Paella. Anthony knew he wanted to go fishing when we got back but we grabbed some shrimp too, just incase we were unlucky fishermen. We passed by a local tackle and bait shop and pulled in to pick up some worms. The lady behind the counter took our American dollars and wished us good luck.

Back at the cabin, we put away our groceries and set out for the lake again. The fog has evaporated, and the sun beamed down on us. I paddled us over to a spot where trees hung out over the lake. We had seen fish jumping there the evening before. Anthony cast a few lines, but nothing took the bait. So after about an hour, we paddled toward the center of the lake where we saw a floating dock. We figured that we’d lay out in the sun and rest for a while. Anthony threw a line out just for kicks and sure enough, some serious nibbling went down. In a matter of 30 minutes, Anthony pulled up seven Perch fish. He threw all but two back, because they were too small for a meal. Perch fish are very boney so you need to catch the big ones. They were about 8 inches in length. We paddled back to camp with our bucket of fish.

With the fire raging by the waterside, Anthony filleted the fish while I cooked up the rice. Naturally we added Canadian beer to the rice. Soon enough the shrimp were fried and the tomatoes were fire roasted, and the rice was ever so slightly crunchy. With the rice on standby, Anthony laid out the fish fillets in the cast iron. The white fish sizzled with such satisfaction and didn’t take long to cook. We plated the perch and chowed down immediately. We’d really worked hard for that one and that’s why it tasted so good. As we finished dinner, we sat side by side on a bench and watched the sun set behind the mountains in the distance. It really was a “little great escape” and we dreaded our 8 hour drive back to Brooklyn the next day. Why couldn’t we stay there forever. We joked to each other that we could really live in a tiny cabin like that for real. It had an indoor and outdoor shower, a stove, a mini fridge, an extra bed for guests, and a grill on the deck.

On our last night, I admired all the trees that had been standing tall around us the last two days; cedar, maple, and oak. I was going to miss this place. And in the morning we packed up the Caliber and began our journey back to New York. 

Photos + Video: True O'Neill, Anthony Garito

Words: True O'Neill

Thank you to our friends Laura and John at Cabinscape