Dan and the Adirondack Bear Alert

bear map of adirondacks

Hannah and I have come to the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York for her Moss Lake Reunion.  Back in the day (i.e. the early 1960s) Hannah was first a camper at the Moss Lake Camp for Girls for eight weeks in the summer, then later a counselor and a water skiing instructor.

bear hannah at moss lake

Hannah at Moss Lake, August 2018

Arriving at our overnight motel two days ago, the Adirondack Lodge Old Forge, I present my driver’s license and credit card to the clerk.  At that point, she says, Please sign this bear release form.  Bears can get into cars, but they can’t get out.

Really!  Yes, really.

bear release form

The highlight detail is that we are not to leave any food in our car.  Quoting from the release form, The bears are very smart, and they do know how to open doors!!

I am not one of those hikers who just can’t wait to see a bear on the trail.  We hiked in bear country in the Shenandoah National Park and never saw a bear.  Thank you, Jesus.

bear in ferns

Once when Hannah and I were hiking at Rendezvous Mountain just outside Grand Teton National Park in early July 1992, we came across a three foot stump shredded on all sides by a black bear looking for insects.  I couldn’t believe we were that close to bears!  Tepidly, we hiked a half mile more into the mountains and then turned around when our common sense finally kicked in, not wanting to be an afternoon snack for some Rocky Mountain version of Smoky.

bear in tree

Three years later in Denali National Park, we saw a sign at the trailhead, Moose calving, Bear alert.  Seemed like the standard, run-of-the-mill warning.  Not to worry.  Within ten minutes this first week of July, a nearly seven foot moose blocked our path.  A bambino moose can’t be far away!  We knew all the warnings that moose will kill you if you get between a moose and its young.  Again, we pretended that we weren’t bothered by seeing mama moose, but the joy and excitement of hiking in this Alaska Wonderland was gone.  We again turned around within minutes and beat a hasty retreat back to our campsite.

So, when we see the bear release form suggesting, bears are in the neighborhood, I want no part of these ursine creatures.  We clean out the car thoroughly.

Mama didn’t raise no fool!


Dan and Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion at Niagara Falls  Part 2 of 2


NF  1  R and H

Rockin’ Robyn with her Mama

For the Second Annual Woo Girls Reunion (Hannah, Bambi, Maxine, and Wendy – all proud graduates of the College of Wooster in Ohio), we travel to Maxine and her hubby Don’s place outside of Niagara Falls, New York.  Though it’s a 522-mile drive from York, Maine, we give it a comma (by punctuating the trip!) by stopping to lunch with our daughter Robyn near Syracuse.   Over Chinese (Hannah and Robyn) and Mexican (Dan) at the Destiny USA Mall food court, we catch up while scarfing down our lunch; later Robyn gives us a bag of goodies.

NF 1A  Chicken Soup cover

Within the bag is a book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The American Spirit.  Robyn’s a published author!  The story of her time at Give Kids the World and her military service comes alive.  Robyn has a good tale to tell and it just reinforces how proud we are of her.

NF 2A 4 Woo Girls in kitchen 2

Maxine, Hannah, Bambi, and Wendy

Three hours later we pull into the driveway of Maxine and Don’s out-in-the-country home.  It’s been nine months since the Woo Girls got together at our place in York on the Atlantic coast.  Last year we were all pretty much new to each.  During one stretch, Hannah and I hadn’t seen any of the women in 40 plus years.

The four women and I matriculated at the College of Wooster as first year students.  Girls had curfews and three legs needed to be on the floor every time a guy was in a girls’ room.  Freshman wore dinks as part of the freshman initiation.  Hannah was in the local Lambda Alpha Sigma sorority/club and I a member of the local Kappa Chi fraternity.  (When I pledged Kappa Chi, it was called Kappa Kappa Kappa (that’s right – KKK) and the fraternity pin was a white cross!  Really!)  Neither social club is still active at Wooster.

NF dinks

Freshman Dinks at Wooster

NF J and B  and MLK 2

John, Martin, and Bobby

Charismatic and beloved President Kennedy had been assassinated less than three years before we enrolled at Wooster.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy would be murdered while we were at Wooster.  Four students at Kent State were gunned down just 45 minutes northeast of the Wooster campus.

It’s no surprise that we all went our separate ways during such tumultuous times.  But today, as the sun goes down just north of Buffalo, New York, we, all in our mid to late 60s, reconnect.  By the way, we are having Genesee beers which were not allowed at Wooster in the 1960s.

NF 6 Don and Maxine in backyard

Don and Maxine in their backyard

Earlier in the week, Maxine’s Don checked out the entire Niagara Falls hike to see how long it would take and where, if need be, we might cut the hike short.  Did Maxine marry well or not!  After our weekend together, we know she aced this test.

NF 6B  Skip and Bambi backyard

Bambi and Skip

On Saturday morning, Maxine drives the other three Woo Girls in her car the 30 minutes to the Niagara Falls State Park while Bambi’s guy Skip and I ride with Don.  It’s Saturday of Father Day Weekend so the crowds have come to Niagara Falls.

NF 6A  Woo Girls in backyard

Wendy, Bambi, Hannah, and Maxine

Our starting point is Goat Island, but soon we cross over to the Three Sisters Islands with views of the raging rapids in the Niagara River, just before it tumbles over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.  As a local kid, Don would play in and among these islands, long before fences were built.

NF 4  D and H at American Falls

American Falls in the background

With summer crowds on the paved trails to the 188’ Horseshoe Falls of the Ontario, Canada side, we seven pair off in twos and threes in conversation and mellow hike with no sense of urgency.   The day is warming to near 90F so mellow is the word of the day.

NF 4B  Woo Girls at American Falls

Bambi, Hannah, Wendy, and Maxine

Though there are many on the trails, we can get our pictures by the fence protecting us from the falls.  The fence is right up to the cliffs themselves so enjoy this 22 second video of the 100’ American Falls.

NF 5 Falls from Observation Deck

Canadian Horseshoe Falls in the distance with the American Falls in front

Further beyond there are six booths selling tickets to the Maid of the Mist boat ride for $18.25 per adult.  Since we are just going to the Observation Deck and then taking the elevator down to the sidewalk to the base of the American Falls, we are charged a mere $1.25 each.  Quite the deal!

Though our views of the falls from the Observation Deck are spectacular, there is a 300′ long long line waiting to get onto the elevator.   At noon, as I look below, I see people are not even moving, waiting in line to stand by the base of the American Falls.

NF 6C  D H and Wendy in backyard

Wendy with the Mainers

Never a fan of waiting (both for the elevator and the path to the Falls), I ask the others how they’d feel about passing on the elevator ride to the base of Falls.  Unanimously the other six are on board to forego the wait. It’s near 90F and Maxine and Don’s air-conditioned house beckons.

Hanging out with the Woo girls, Skip, Don, and I know we have hit the mother lode.

Dan and Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion at Niagara Falls  Part 1 of 2


The College of Wooster Fighting Scots

Rather than going to a big time reunion on campus, Hannah and I have come to western New York for a mini-reunion with three of her College of Wooster (Ohio) dorm mates from the class of 1970.

A few years back the idea for the four women getting together crystallized to the point that last year Hannah offered our place in York, Maine for the First Annual Woo Girls Reunion.

NF 6A  Woo Girls in backyard

Wendy, Bambi, Hannah, and Maxine

Here’s the Line-up of the Four Women of Wooster:

Hannah – All she is cracked up to be!

Maxine – Hannah’s roommate during their sophomore and junior years who remains as upbeat and positive as I remember her when I was a classmate of hers.

Bambi – the life of the party at Wooster who to this day brings joy wherever she goes.

Wendy – the steady rock who is the glue that brings us all into conversations and makes us all feel like we belong.


You may have noticed that I referred to myself as a classmate, not as a fellow graduate of these four women.  You see, though I matriculated with them as a freshman in the fall of 1966 at the liberal arts College of Wooster, I transferred out after my junior year to Arizona State University to be an elementary education major.

You might be thinking, whoa, something must have come up for him to jump ship just before his senior year.  Well, it’s complicated.

NF  Heartbreak Hotel

First, after a rocking year of dating during our sophomore year, Hannah and I hit the skids during our junior year.   Going to the Desert Southwest was my response to a broken heart.

Second, I was a political science major!  Please!  What in the world does one do with a political science degree?   At Wooster all I thought it was going to do was prepare me to be a salesman for Proctor and Gamble (as my teammate on the Wooster tennis team did) or go to grad school.  After 21 years of being a student, I was so sick of sitting in classrooms.  Grad school was the farthest thing from my mind.

NF  Age of Aquarius

Third, in light of #2, I wanted to make a difference.  This was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Peace and love, man.  For me, that meant give teaching a shot.

Fourth, I was sick of the snow and the rain of central Ohio; the Arizona sunshine looked awfully appealing.  I would then be just one state away from doing some California Dreamin’.

NF  Uncle Sam

Fifth, this was May of 1969.  The War in Viet Nam raged and shattered the lives of so many.  I had just one year before my day of reckoning with the Selective Service drew nigh.  Unbeknownst to me, six months later I would draw number 78 out of 365 in the first televised draft lottery.  With my college deferment up and the military drafting guys with numbers up to 195, it was clear my future was not clear one bit, with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

Sixth, I just never adapted to Wooster.  That’s on me, not Wooster.  I was kind of aimless.  Duh, I was a political science major!   I loved being a part of Wooster’s tennis team.   Sophomore year with Hannah was off-the-charts.   But college classes?   The traditional lecture method of teaching that reigned at Wooster was killing me.  I needed hands-on, experiential, conversation-based teaching.  After years at Wooster, all I could do was study, test, and forget.

VP 1 ernie and bert

Hannah with two friends

And yet now years later, I think of the College of Wooster as the best thing that ever happened to me.

You see I met and Woo-ed Hannah Kraai.

Married to my own Woo Girl, I joined her in Niagara Falls with three of her classmates in mid-June of 2016.