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What does this all mean? Warning signs of things to come at the Renegade Craft Fair, June 22-23rd.

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This past summer some friends and I went upstate to Little Pond campground, which did indeed feature a lovely namesake watched over by bored, frightningly tan teenagers. Nearby was Big Pond campground, where things were a little more loose; there was no lifeguard telling you not to let your dog jetski or go drunk fishing.


Yes, come shop at Wally-Mart and enjoy the ice-creamed products at Dari King- totally independent shops with no affiliation to nationwide chains at all!


The Devil looks like he just got back from Burning Man.


Between the rock snot and the bear warnings, upstate New York truly impresses you with the peaceful beauty of nature.


I was kicked out of Scouts for trying to reassure an idiot bunkmate who was freaked out bears would eat us because of the handful of acorns I collected. I calmly pointed out this was silly because a) they do not really eat acorns, b) we were ‘camping’ between two highways in central Jersey, not exactly their turf and c) we were in a solid wooden shack with a lock on the door, not a flimsy tent. However, the kid’s parent was troop leader and just as dumb, and booted me out for endangering the group. With a handful of acorns. In a room just off Route 18. Ironically, I now have a constant camping phobia of bears eating me. I have not even watched Grizzly Man so there is absolutely no excuse. Imagine my terror when the first thing seen upon entering the campground was the above sign. Terrified, I asked one of the two friendly older ladies working the entry booth what we could possibly do if confronted by one of these malevolent beasts. “Oh, just wave your arms around a bunch and make a lot of noise. That usually scares ‘em off.” Ah. There hadn’t been any bear sightings at Little Pond that year, but the ladies aimed to keep it that way through the season.


Driving back home we came across a covered bridge. Take that, Madison County! Upstate New York has several, and an aficionado informed us one had been completely swept away by the flooding, only to be found downstream mostly intact. Inside, the beams were covered in years and years of carvings.


This was the oldest visible year carved in – 1937.

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If you find the heat and noise of New York City particularly taxing during the summer, why not take a note from history and head upstate? Many (generally well-to-do) families shipped out of the cesspool that is New York during the months of glare and heat, with breadwinners commuting in or staying alone in their apartments. It’s even the plot of ‘The 7-Year Itch’!

Even by highway traveling up the Hudson River Valley is gorgeous. The lush greenery and rolling valleys spread out before you as you climb into the mountains, with roadside oddities increasing in strangeness the moment you leave NYC. For example, this rest stop. At first it appeared like any other stop with a variety of chain restaurants and coffee shops for your snacking pleasure. However, a woman standing in the parking lot in front of a chained-off section under a sign reading ‘DO NOT PARK’ directing us where not to park with neon batons was the first bit of strangeness. Second was noticing the road to Woodstock is paved with hippies. Silly, silly hippies:

Hippie Transportation
The inside dashboard was also peppered in Moe, Phish, and Bonnaroo stickers, along with a bobble head Grateful Dead bear.

Oddly the dichotomy betwixt hippie and redneck is found often further north:
Red Nek

Standing on line for caffeine, I turned around and found this…useful tidbit staring at me:
Milk
Milk! Wow! Actually New York isn’t so special; of the states that DO have a state beverage, most of them are milk, with the following awesome exceptions:

Alabama: Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey
Maine: Moxie ®
Nebraska: Kool-aid

Rhode Island offers a variant called Coffee Milk, made with Autocrat syrup, rarely available outside of Rhode Island with the exception of the bodega around the corner from me. Go figure.

Now, pretty as the scenery of upstate New York is, my principal reason for driving up is that my love of shiny objects knows no bounds. Worse than the magpie, sparkly stuff calls to me with a sweet siren song, one that obliterates the ridiculousness of me paying someone for the privilege of breaking rocks in the hot sun all day. That’s right, I went to the Herkimer Diamond Mines!

Firstly, Herkimer diamonds are not real diamonds. They’re a rare geological phenomenon where quartz formed into perfectly faceted shapes within dolomite, far more exciting than real, boring diamonds. Dolomite, as I found out the hard way, is one of the toughest rocks there is. Good job, Dolemite, it’s not just a clever name.

Only a few places in the world have pockets of faceted quartz like this, and the largest and most famous vein is in Herkimer, NY. The ‘mines’ are actually several outdoor fields filled with dolomite rocks. For a small fee, you get access to the fields, free hammer rental, and get to keep whatever you find! Visions of sparkling gemstones flashed before my eyes; I would smash open every rock in the place and return home victorious with overflowing bucketfuls of diamonds!

Toiling in the Diamond Mines

Above are the mines on a Saturday, with 2 Girl Scout Jamborees descending on the place (apparently it’s the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts or something this year). The day I went was a weekday, not crowded at all. Just me and a handful of professional diggers and retired couples. If you’re planning on going, here’s what you’ll stare at most of the day:
Herkimer Diamond Mines general view

After a solid hour of smashing rocks to bits, I whacked open a wee, tiny pocket:
DIAMONDS!

Sweet victory! That is, until some fat kid and his family, TOTALLY NOT OBEYING THE WARNING SIGNS, just walked right in, climbed up the side walls, and the fat kid found a Herkimer diamond 2 inches across ‘just sitting there!’, he yelled. Not a good time to have a hammer in hand.
Herkimer Diamond Mine warning sign
IT SAYS STAY OFF THE LEDGES! Demoralized and weary, I took a break in the mine’s store/museum. I asked the ladies working if they had any advice, and they said breaking rocks was hard work; try just sifting the ground. Victory! Indeed, sifting the pre-smashed dirt for gems proved quite successful. In the remaining hour I had I picked up over 20 wee diamonds! Hooray!

Here they are looking rather unglamorous in a plastic bag:
Diamond Bag

A few of the choice fellows:
Sparkle Sparkle!

Big Boy

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