We have paddled up a small winding channel through a dark water lush wetland: lily pads with white and yellow water lilies, pickerel weed with its stalks of purple flowers, pitcher plants, sundews, steeple bush, Labrador tea, sphagnum moss, and tamarack trees. I have promised the campers a treat when we get to the end the creek. Eventually, after many twists and turns, they hear rushing water. Several anxious faces turn to me and ask if we will be canoeing through rapids. I tell them to paddle around the corners and see what’s up there. I wait at the bend to see everyone’s reaction to the sound of water rushing over rocks and encourage them to go see for themselves. Soon I hear shrieks of laughter and splashing water. I paddle around the last corner and up into the pool at the bottom of a small waterfall. All the boats are beached on a rock and the teenagers are playing and screaming like children in the cold tannin brown water pouring over the rocks and ledges of the falls. I too get out and plunge in. The water is frigid! It dark brown water flows through a shaded forest emptying out of a deep spring fed lake several miles upstream. We sit under the pounding water falling over the rocks, slide down the slippery ledges into the small pools, and lay on the sun warmed rocks in the hot sun shine. This spot is one of my favorite places and it makes me happy to be able to share it with others on a glorious summer day.
Another beautiful summer day. I’m in the lead canoe headed across a big lake with distant mountains surrounding us around the horizon, several canoes trail in a spread out line behind me. The air is tranquil and cool, the perpetual afternoon wind I know will whip the lake into white caps later is only just starting to stir this early in the morning. The sun is high, sky is clear, and there are very few motor boats on the lake, perfect for a paddle across, and we are making good time. I glance behind me and realize I have pulled far ahead of the last canoe so I quit paddling and drift. Gentle waves rock the canoe, I am relaxed and warm, so lay back onto the stern with my legs propped up over the gunwales. As the boat rocks and lazily turns with the breeze, I close my eyes and concentrate on my senses: feeling the warm sunshine on my skin, smell the faint damp earth smell of lake water and far off camp smoke drifting in the breeze, hear water lapping at the sides of the canoe, the distant whining thrum of an outboard motor, gulls calling, and happy laughter from other canoes. I breath deeply inhaling the pure Adirondack mountain air and open my eyes. On the horizon in the distance, directly in my line of vision, is Blue Mountain in all her majestic glory. She is tall and green, cone shaped like a child’s drawing of a distant rolling mountain, with a prominent rock face near top on one side. This canoe trip started at Blue Mountain in the crystal clear waters of the lake of the same name at her base. We have paddled about 15 miles and now can see that distance as a physical manifestation of time and place. We are but small creatures on this vast planet, yet viscerally connected to all its living wonder
Early morning sunlight creeps slowly across the lake and into the forest. I am cozy and warm in my hammock and do not want to actually get up. The birds are all awake and serenading a new day. The air is chilly against my face and thin tendrils of mist slink over the lake. The sky is pale pastels in the east that deepen toward the west. Eventually I climb out of the hammock into the cold morning air, pad over to the kitchen area and start water boiling for coffee and tea. All is quiet. I am the first human awake in the campground and it is perfectly peaceful. My kitchen tinkering and hot tea making has awaken my coworker. She is as reluctant to get up as I was. We sit in the lean-to gazing out across the lake, watching the rising mist and the sky get brighter. I suggest that the water is warmer than the air and we should go for a swim before everybody gets up. In moments we are in our bathing suits and running down the short dock launching ourselves through the air into the water. We both stifle shrieks of cold shock when we surface not wanting to wake the whole campground. After a few minutes, our bodies acclimate and the water is warmer than the air. We swim out away from shore making small ripples in the water. We swim out of the small lagoon where we can see the eastern horizon, with the first edge of the blinding silver sun just becoming visible above the distant mountain. I look out across the ripples as we tread water and notice every miniature wave mirrors the sky with all it layers of pastel colors. Every ripple is a mirror reflecting the infinite possibilities of the universe directly into my psyche. We watch the sun rise over the mountain and claiming the sky, promising another glorious summer day. Swimming into the sunrise is an amazing beginning!
Laying in my hammock, any movement sets it gently rocking. There is a glowing pale light illuminating the forest that has grown brighter as the full moon has risen above the treetops. There is enough light to cast silver edged shadows among the trees. The camp fire has burned down to coals and the campers have quieted down into sleep, but I am awake watching the moon slowly arch across the sky visible between dark branches. I drift in and out of sleep, hearing soft scurrings of tiny creatures on the ground below. Off in the distance a single loon calls, mournful longing. An eternity or maybe a moment later another calls back echoing across the lake. Then the air is filled with loud trills, warbles, and soul searching calls all around the peninsula we are camped on. They sing long into the night as I drift in and out of sleep, tracking the moons progress, and listening to the loons call.
We have been canoeing all day, canoes of teenagers strung out a mile across the lakes we are crossing. I am in the lead canoe with another guide. This is her first canoe camping trip and she is loving it! We paddle and talk then stop and wait for the last canoe (with the counselors in it) to catch up. We had lunch at the Marion River carry/portage and are now paddling down the twisting channel through the wetland that will eventually lead to Raquette Lake. All day the sun has been shining, big fluffy white clouds have been drifting by, and a gentle breeze has blowing. It is late afternoon, we are heading in a generally western direction as the sun hangs low in the western sky but still several hours away from setting. Yellow sunbeams spill out from behind the billowing white, blue, and grey shadowed clouds. The bright slanted sunlight scatters off the water and glints in my eyes. I am momentarily blinded as my eyes water. A cool breezes skitters across the water rippling it and sending a passing chill across my arms. I am at peace here, suspended between water and sky, floating among the waves and clouds, buoyant soul song, soaring dreams, thoughts drifting lazily in gentle currents. Life is good!
Camping with a group of teenagers, we managed to get the tents set up before the rain started last night and it poured heavily all evening chasing everybody to their tents right after dinner. It was late by the time the droning of the rain on the tarp above my hammock quieted enough for me to drift off sleep. Then wake up wicked early to start packing wet tents and gear before making breakfast. At least the rain has stopped so I am on hyper-drive trying to happily motivate sleepy teenagers into early morning action. As we pull the rain fly off on one the tents, I notice a dragonfly perched on the tent pole. It had been hiding in the dry space between the fly and tent. It had crawled up the pole as a nymph sometime in the night and had broken out of the shell of its last metamorphosis changing into the magnificent dragonfly in front of us. It is waiting for its wings to dry before it can fly away. We all stand around the tent watching this tiny miracle take place. After a few minutes of wing fluttering it takes flight, zooms around us, and disappears into the new day.
There is a particular grocery store we stop at on the way home when we travel to Albany and back. It isn’t near our house, but has a great selection of everything we like to get when we grocery shop. My husband will often plan a grocery trip around a trip to Albany so we can stop at this store. I was wandering through the open deli/bakery/hot bar/produce area and found a special display of gourmet cheeses for sale. There were wheels of cheese covered in wax, and wedges of cheese of all sizes to choose from. I stood there is awe, my eyes feasting on the yellows and whites, my mouth watering as the tantalizing aroma of exceptionally good cheese wafted around me. I know I could never work as a monger in a cheese shop because I would eat everything in sight! I don’t know how long I stood there, but eventually my husband found me gently cradling a small wedge of plastic wrapped Romano cheese in my cupped hands deeply inhaling its scent, with a blissful grin on my face. He pulled me out of my reverie saying “I guess we’re buying that?”. Yes, it came home with us. I will eat it slowly over time bit by bit and enjoy every morsel.