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February 8, 2013

Nothing to lose any sleep over

Rick Brockway
The Daily Star

---- — I was camping on Long Pond in the Adirondacks many years ago. We had hiked in just as the ice was going out to fish for brook trout. It was a wonderful night. The sky was clear and there were more stars in the heavens than the average person ever sees.

Suddenly in the middle of the night, we were all awakened by the beautiful, melodious sound of a pack of marauding coyotes. They seemed to be all around us as they sang and yodeled and howled. It was a nature’s concert at its very finest.

Sometimes the things that wake us in the night are not quite so pleasant, though.

One night, we were camping in a wilderness area along the eastern shore of Lake George. While we were sleeping, a giant, earth-shaking boom woke up everything within three miles. A bolt of lightning struck within a few yards of our tent. That was followed by a torrent of rain like no other. The winds howled and the trees creaked. See if you can get back to sleep after that happens.

A few years ago, I was in a lean-to on Moose Pond while hiking the Northville-Placid Trail. Sometime around 11, I was awakened by some sniffing right beside my ear. There was a bear in the lean-to just outside my tent. I quietly picked up my flashlight, put it up next to the thin nylon wall and turned it on. It scared the bear and he went scampering off into the night.

I bring up these little incidents because I had a strange encounter at 3:30 the other morning. No, I wasn’t out in a tent with temperatures below zero someplace in the Adirondack wilderness. I was at home in my own bed, sound asleep.

Suddenly, I sat right up in bed. I heard something, so I sat there for a few moments without moving a muscle and listened. Someone was talking downstairs.

Now I know I wasn’t dreaming. There was definitely the sound of someone in my house.

I thought about getting my gun before venturing down the stairs in the dark, but I didn’t. Even calling 911 flashed through my head for a moment, but I didn’t do that, either.

I got out of bed and headed for the stairs. I didn’t turn on any lights because enough comes in from the yard light across the road. I carefully eased down the stairs, silently moving one step at a time.

I peeked around the corner into the living room, but no one was there. That’s odd. I know I heard someone talking. There was no one in the dining room or the kitchen, either.

The back door was unlocked, so I decided to check out the porch and see if there were any tracks in the fresh snow on the deck. Nothing.

Now I know I’m a little crazy, but I wasn’t dreaming. I definitely heard someone talking downstairs. Still convinced, I went back to bed. Now you know there was no way I was getting back to sleep. At that point, my mind was going a mile a minute, so I lay there and pondered the events of the world.

I rolled and tossed and watched the clock. Then at precisely 4:30, I heard a woman’s voice once more.

“Low battery! Low battery!”

Can you believe it? My smoke alarm talks to me!

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at