Camp Make-Do

The Perc

  1. Pack your kitchen bag days in advance.
  2.  Make sure you remember the batteries you forgot last trip.
  3. Forget that the percolator is still in the dishwasher.
  4. Drive 4.5 hours to the Adirondacks to set up camp for 4 days.

You know this story—and if you live on coffee, you will never forget it. The moment you paw through the food locker looking for something in the tote of tools, you realize that the coffee pot that should be there is not there. Your mind plays a sideshow of all the last places it has been. You’ll need a good excuse to tell that person wrestling with the tent poles because You know what? Let’s not do coffee this weekend is just not going to cut it.

4:30 pm in Vermont rural parlance means “closed” or “closing”. We need to get to a general store fast. We drive to a nearby gas station, but they do not have emergency coffee makers for sale. The clerk suggests the Ace Hardware* in downtown Inlet. We choose the cheaper option of a Melita cup filter over a replacement pot and head back to camp.


I bought this pot at a yard sale for $1. Fortunately, I also remembered to bring it with me

Turns out, boiling a pot of water is easier than boiling a pot of coffee. And seriously, who washes a pot that just boils water?


  1. Pack your kitchen bag days in advance.
  2. Agree on the necessary menu and kitchen items.
  3. Assume he’s packed the griddle you ALWAYS use to cook on.
  4. Sleep to a lullaby of loon calls and wake knowing there’ll soon be hot coffee.

When you rouse, you wander around to the food locker to bring about breakfast. But you discover this too—the griddle is not in the trunk. Nor is the cast iron skillet anywhere in sight. And there is not enough coffee on hand to make this situation right.

Ours is not a stick and foil operation. We are gas stove chefs.

“Why don’t we go into town and buy a fry pan,” he suggests. You catalog the weekend’s menu, and the cost/benefit of an additional expense and decide against it.

“I’ll cook everything in this,” you say, pointing to the 2 qt pot that now boils water for coffee. “I can do eggs and bacon in this.”

“But what about pancakes?” We only eat pancakes when we camp.

“I’ll use the dutch oven lid,” you say. “We’re camping…we’ll make do.”

He brought the dutch oven for a dish he was making. I convinced him that the lid was meant to double as a griddle.

He brought the dutch oven for a dish he was making. I convinced him that the lid was meant to double as a griddle.

You love the craft of making-do that you just might camp this way forever.

*This store is an amazing amalgam of tourist, homeowner, and outdoorsy merchandise. It is a true lifesaver, minus the life jackets.


Limekiln Lake Campground

Limekiln Lake Campground

Location: Campground Road, off of Route 28 in Inlet, NY

Type: Overnight camping and day-use area

Camping: 271 tent and RV sites. Best sites are the ones that have direct lake access.

Things to do: Hiking trails, swimming at the lake, kayak and canoe rentals, and fishing at the lake. Shopping and restaurants catering mostly to tourists are available in downtown Inlet and nearby Old Forge.

Amenities: Many bathrooms, free showers, nice swimming area with a part-time lifeguard during the height of the season, ice for sale. Firewood is available at several side-of-the-road locations on the way to the campsite. A gas station with coffee, doughnuts, and camping supplies is less than a 10-minute drive away.

Photo Jun 13, 6 13 12 PM

Our view from the campsite.

Limekiln Lake Campground is a gem of place to stay in the Adirondacks and was our first time camping outside of Vermont. The trip was daunting: the lake was more than four hours away from home, in another state, and close to the location where two violent murderers broke out of a high security prison a week earlier and were still on the loose.

The worst part of were aggressive black flies (bug spray and a citronella torch helped). The best part was the serene Limekiln Lake. We stayed at site #163, allowing us to eat dinners while watching sunsets over the lake.

Photo Jun 11, 3 34 45 PM

I made lots of duck friends.

Seeing or hearing wild animals is an essential part of the camping experience for me. Limekiln Lake has nature in spades; we hadn’t even set up our tent yet when two ducks swam off the lake and wandered around our campsite. The baby ducklings – just little fuzz balls no larger than a small hand – joined the welcoming committee. All weekend, they would make the rounds along the shore of the lake, wandering into campsites looking for visitors generous with their dinners. I swear I didn’t feed them bread – sorry, ducks, I’ve seen that meme! We also saw deer, turkeys, lots of birds, chipmunks, and a baby snapping turtle.

Photo Jun 13, 8 13 32 PM

Phayvanh watching the sunset on Limekiln Lake.

At night, the loons called to each other from between lakes, the cries echoing across the water and mountains.


The food locker and the picnic table.

One animal that we didn’t see is the legendary Adirondack black bear. Bear warnings are everywhere there and we were careful to put our food, our cooking equipment and utensils, and anything that smelled like food in the food locker – a big metal book screwed onto two cement blocks. Each site had one. They only animals interested in our food were ducks.

The view from the top of Bald Mountain.

The view from the top of Bald Mountain.

My father’s family grew up one county over from Limekiln and my uncle recommended that we try Bald Mountain for a hike. The 2,350-foot summit has views of a half dozen area lakes and includes a restored fire tower. Bald Mountain is a steep climb and the path alternates between dirt, bedrock, and tree roots. Still, we saw lots of young kids and older hikers standing proudly at the top. On the way down, one woman remarked that she was getting knee surgery the following week.

Fish and chips & Bang-Bang Shrimp.

Fish and chips & Bang-Bang Shrimp.

The small towns of the Adirondacks have long operated as tourist traps and Old Forge, located about 30 minutes drive outside of Inlet, is no exception. There are restaurants, t-shirt and gift shops, and opportunities to eat ice cream on every corner. Our trip came weeks before the traditional start of the season out there and the town was quiet, quant, and welcoming. We ate at Tony Harpers Pizza and Clam Shack and saw Jurassic World at The Strand, a retro-style movie theater with an impressive collection of vintage cameras and projectors on display.

Photo Jun 13, 9 26 37 PM

Searching for loons during a nighttime canoe trip.

Our camping trip ended with a spontaneous nighttime trip around Limekiln Lake after our camping neighbor, a dad with his two daughters, loaned us his canoe. We tried finding those loons, paddling in the direction of the calls. They sounded farther and farther away, perhaps in another lake.

The canoe floated directionless for a minute. Thousands of ripples darkened the surface of the lake. The sun was gone and we guided ourselves along the lakeshore, watching the campfires enviously in the woods, with starlight and the lake’s reflection of starlight, as our guides.