Camping in the middle of nowhere

The first thing you hear, after the sun sets and the woods get so dark that you cannot see your own hand six inches in front of your face, is the pure sound of quiet. Punctuated, of course, by the occasional cry of a loon or the rustling of bears and deer foraging for food. It's the same at dawn, with birds singing and a few small critters silently scurrying through the underbrush to start their days. The smell of the forest is pervasively encompassing; the breeze off the water is cool; the mountain air is crisp.

Central New York may have a few such places, minus perhaps the bear and loon, but the particular spot described above lies about 170 miles northeast of Syracuse.

Thirty-seven Boy Scouts from Troop 61 in Skaneateles joined several other area scout troops in the Adirondack backcountry during the first week of July at the Sabattis Scout Reservation. Established in 1958 and situated on the shores of Lows Lake at the border of St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties, Sabattis lies roughly 18 miles west of the nearest accessible paved road, Route 30 north of Long Lake.

To put this in perspective, if you were to hike due west from Sabattis, you'd have to bushwhack through about 50 miles of woods and mountains before you'd get to a paved road -- Route 812 between Indian River and Route 3. Hike due north, and you'd find no trails taking you the roughly 15-20 miles to Childwold on Route 3. Southbound? Try a pathless 20-mile trek through the woods to Raquette Lake.

Roughing it

In short, Sabattis lies smack-dab in the proverbial middle of nowhere. It's the perfect place for a scout camp since few modern inconveniences, like TV, cell phones and video games, can intrude and distract. There's no electricity at the troops' campsites -- most everything runs on wood or batteries, with a little help from an occasional propane tank. There is running water for showers and trough-like sinks, but the outhouses remain comfortably primitive.

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