Long day on the River, tired and sore, more work to do at base, washing and putting away all the gear. Guests are happy and satisfied with a fun day of play and are milling around the food tent scarfing down BBQ chicken and salad. In the kitchen, the cook has prepared something special for us guides. She calls it Guide Surprise. It could be anything laying around the kitchen that needed to get used plus a few delectable ingredients ordered just for a guide surprise dish. It is always delicious, hot, dripping with cheese and/or gravy, full of carbs and fat, and it gets completely devoured by hungry guides. We LOVE Guide Surprise! It is the best comfort food ever!
Every summer there is one day when all the white water raft guides on the Hudson dress up in a costume to run the river. This is dress up day, highly anticipated, actively enjoyed! This year, Fate was on my side and I ended up guiding a raft full of some amazing women including our photographer. Our costumes were varied, colorful, and fun. Mine was a combination of several costumes from previous years. I looked absolutely ridiculous, which was the point. It was a blast! We stopped at the Narrows so Mel could take pictures of all the rafts. We all sat on the rocks beside the rapid and cheered at everybody who came through. It was like a white water parade! Its the kind of fun where happiness just emanates from every pore, the essence of your being is full and content, where you know that right now, right here, all is good and right with your world. It is the kind of feeling that I tuck away into my psyche to use later in the coldest darkest days of winter to remind myself that the sun will shine again!
I awaken before sunrise, first light seeping over the lake in pale yellows and paler pinks, and soft pastel blues. I slip into my kayak for a short paddle around the island before anyone else is awake, before the harsh noise of the day invades this quiet time. I am the only ripple in the mirror still water, not even the slightest hint of a breeze stirs in the cool morning. The sky reflects on the lake, in the distance it is hard to discern one from the other. This is the time of day when it is easy to be one with the universe and all its creations, to feel the vibrant energy of the omnipresent life force around you, this is the time of day when you can hear God’s casual reply, see and understand how life hangs in the balance of the wing beats of a great blue heron taking flight and the call of a king fisher as he swoops and dives.
Hammock is hung from the perfect trees, with a perfect view of the lake, bug net is hung around the hammock for perfect protection against the malicious buzzing mosquitoes and vicious no-see-ums. Darkness has fallen peacefully, slowly blanketing the forest and water with a warm, humid, velvety purple haze, starts are dazzling in the clear night sky. I have bathed in the cool lake water one last time before climbing into my hammock bed. I am ever so slightly rocking, drifting off into the fantastical neverland of dreams when from the gentle darkness comes the sounds of loons. They aren’t just plaintively calling in that lonely tone, but gregariously happily babbling to one another. It’s a loon party out there on the lake tonight! Apparently the Whip-Poor-Wills and Barred Owls were invited too. I listen for over an hour as they chorus together in a summer night time extravaganza!
I’m on another Hobbit Adventure, traveling through and filling in some blank areas on my own personal internal map of the world. I am guiding 23 teenagers on a 3 day canoe trip across Lake George! It’s an amazing sunny warm day, the kind of day summer is supposed to be full of, but this summer has been miserly on delivering. Excitement reigns everywhere, bubbling out of all the participants, babbling into the clear blue sky and sparkling blue water. Loaded down with camping gear, we pull off the beach and paddle into the mayhem that is Lake George: wind, sun, colors, and sounds accost us from all the pleasure boats, motor boats, pontoon boats, tour boats, boats dragging para-sails into the clear bright sky, boats flinging water skiers tither and yon, jet skis whizzing, and multi-million dollar waterfront mansions in private developments. Here we are, bobbing up and down on the whims of the waves, watching the world go by slowly, to the rhythm of canoe paddle blades slooshing through the water.
I wake to the startling sound of something crashing through the jumbled dead leaves and detritus on the forest floor, I open my sleepy eyes to early morning mist with water drooping from the trees. Groggily I think “that was something big”, so I sit up to see out into the blue morning dusk. Ten feet away is a mythical moose! This is the first time I have every seen a moose, so I have been calling them, mythical for many years. He is a young male with tiny antlers just appearing, thin, muscular, and all legs. He stands taller than me, but I believe he is small for a full grown moose. He is twitchy and nervous, he knows I am there, but isn’t sure what to make of me. I watch transfixed, mesmerized, excited, all sleep immediately gone from my fascinated brain. I watch him for many long minutes, hardly daring to breath. He eventually calms when no immediate danger presents itself, and he walk a little away, turns to look at me through the tent screen, takes a few more steps. He is silhouetted in a small clearing, his dark shape outlined by a brighter area of forest. After a few more steps, he has passed out of sight in the misty blue half light of predawn. I have seen a moose! Later when I actually get up, there are moose prints next to the tent platform where he was walking under the tarp when he startled and jumped into the dead leaves that woke me up. How many times has he passed this way before?
Hanging out in Thurman with other guides, waiting for people to come rent canoes, kayaks, and inner-tubes. The wet, rainy, cool summer has kept people off them water, but we are still having fun. One guide brought her hula hoops and she is (trying to) teach me some tricks. She is amazing when she gets going, she dances with the hoops like they are part of her. It is mesmerizing to watch! She has shown me two moves, that can be expanded into more, but I need to get the basic move down first. Hoops go flying and whizzing through the air, twirling and skittering across the ground, and thunking down on my body parts. I’ll have some bruises tonight… But I’m learning. It will take many long practice sessions to get this down pat. It feels good to work at something and see yourself getting better at it the more you try.