I drove home today after a leisurely morning. Day broke cold and sunny, the birds waking at dawn to serenade the sun as it thrust its way over the eastern horizon and filled the slumbering Adirondack forest with shining yellow and radiant gold sun beams, casting tall, wavering, thin blue tree shadows across the intermittently snow covered forest floor. The day warmed up quickly as I traveled south to another doctor appointment in Albany. I parked several blocks away in a free lot and walked across a college campus full of daffodils blooming and young college students full of promise and dreams. I enjoyed the sun, the heat, and (oddly enough) the noise and chaos of the city as it juxtaposed itself in my brain to the serenity and hushed secretive tones of the forest I had been in mere hours earlier. Later, at home in my own piece of tranquility in the Catskills, I found myself standing in the yard, spinning slowly surveying the sky in all directions. Not a single wispy white cloud could be seen anywhere. The sky was a crystal blue dome wondrous to behold, bright, stunning and divine in its open cerulean endlessness, infinite possibilities.
Today, I rode down in another guide’s boat on a one boat trip. The day was spectacularly sunny, no clouds, warm enough and a little breezy. I basically quit paddling early on so as not to over power the guests which was fine by me (and the guide). As I was sitting in the back at customer level, I couldn’t see what was up ahead or how the guide was maneuvering around the rocks and through the rapids; an odd place and situation for me to be in a raft. Knowing and trusting the guide, I decided I didn’t need to pay attention to the River at all. I was consciously keeping my feet securely tucked and my center of gravity squarely inside the raft in case we hit something hard. I had NO intentions of swimming as the water is literally freezing. But not worrying about the water, I was able to concentrate on the gorge itself. I saw features I had never seen before, even though this is my 21st year guiding the Hudson Gorge. With no leaves yet, many things are visible right now that are hidden for most of the season. But when you are guiding, you do not have time to look for them. Today I was able to experience the spectacular scenery the gorge is famous for. As the raft slid through waves and splashed through hydraulics, I was seeing the trip from a completely different perspective. I was fascinated by the way the sun cast tree dark shadows across the blue snow covered steep hillsides on the shady side of the river. I saw how snow was considerably deeper under the shade of the hemlock and ceder trees, and the way ice piled up on the river’s edge making sculptures and formations full of multi-colored hues of blue, green, white, and purple. In some places the ice is piled thicker than a house is tall. The bare deciduous trees on the sunny side of the river had no snow on the bare brown leave covers ground. Through the branches I found secret tall cliffs with intricate and complex rock formations, secluded veiled creeks with cold water splashing over moss covered rocks as it swiftly falls down the mountainside, and hidden animal trails traversing the steep and rocky hillsides. I was completely caught up in the grand and mystical essence of time immortal, of majestic mountains and roaring rivers, I reached out and touched life and the Goddess within me rejoiced.
So I completely understand that rafting season is over for me for this year. Not my idea obviously, but sometimes things are what they are and moping over it doesn’t change anything. I drove up to the Adirondacks to break down my camp. I need to pack everything up, load what I can fit into the car, takes down the tent and tarp, and say goodbye to the incredibly awesome 2017 summer season.
I am actually hoping nobody will be around because I am not ready to share my breast cancer news with anybody yet. I haven’t even told my parents. I am still coming to terms with the idea of surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone treatments. It will be easier for me if I can quietly break camp and wish farewell to the Adirondacks on my own. Maybe I can manage to get myself up here sometime this winter. Who knows?
The whole process went well. It took longer than I was hoping it would, but not longer than I actually though. I have done this many times before, although this spot up in the woods is a different place than the last few years. It is a bigger hill and longer walk to the car for loading and packing purposes. I had more stuff than would fit in the car so I had to employ my Space Goddess superpowers to squish more mass into a space than it can actually hold. Kind of like a black hole…
Anyway, it was a beautiful fall day, crisp, colorful, and cool. I worked hard and left as it started getting dark. I left some gear in the barn (out of the way) and hopefully I can get back up here to get it. If not, it will probably still be there in the spring. Ahhh, the life of a raft guide… It was a good productive day. The tent platform is covers and secure for its winter sleep. My gear is packed and headed home for winter storage. Life is good.
The last night of our kayak camping trip got rained out, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I wasn’t sick on top of it. We have camped in the rain many times before. The other odd complication was the lean-to we were using was scheduled for demolition so we had to pack up and move camp anyway. My friend called a friend, and we stayed there the last night. The house was on the shore of First Lake in Old Forge, very nice. We had a huge delicious dinner and were playing a bean bag toss game outside by the lake when the sky opened up and poured freezing cold rain so hard it put out the bone-fire! After being chased inside, we decided to cut open a watermelon my friend had brought. Still crisp and bright green on the outside, dark red, and gushing juice on the inside. Sweet, sweet watermelon, you are another fruit I miss in the long dark cold winter months. But right now, right here, I slurp this tantalizing melon, cherishing its flavor for maximum enjoyment.
The day started off rough. I am coming down with a cold, all the usual symptoms. Last night, after paddling over to the island in the middle of Raquette Lake, and then setting up camp in the dark (night comes earlier now and I ran out of daylight), I had a hard time getting the fire started, everything is damp from all the rain, and it was very smokey. But I know (unfortunately) my sore throat isn’t from that. Although it wasn’t very cold last night, I kept the fire going to comfort me and maybe dry out the fire pit and surrounding area, so I am very tired as well. My friend will be here later today, so I took my time in making and eating breakfast hoping that lots of good food would make me feel better. I am drinking lots of hot tea as well which feels good in my throat. The water comes from the lake, and I bring it to a rolling boil before using it. I had just turned the flame off on the stove and picked up the still boiling pot when some of the water sloshed out and fell on the top of my foot causing a second degree burn. UGH! By the time my friend showed up all I wanted to do was curl up in a little ball and sleep for several days.
But this is the only time we have together, so with some encouragement on her part and some resisting on mine, we decided to paddle up Brown’s Tract. I haven’t been up it yet and although she had found the entrance last year, a beaver dam kept her from exploring the creek. Of course, it was enchantingly beautiful and exquisitely peaceful. The water in the creek was is brown with tannin, but clear and cold, so I was able to, several times, keep my still painful burn blisters submerged until my foot grew quite cold. The sky was low and heavy with turbulent grey rain clouds which rained off and on, the rain itself being gentle and hesitant. The weather kept most others off the lake and we had Brown’s Tract wetland to ourselves. We paddle quietly up the twist and turns, taking pictures of the last wetland flowers and the first bright red colors of the season all to ourselves. We saw several birds trying not to disturb them as we silently glide by. A few hours later, after crossing several beaver dams and having come up to another we decided to turn around and head back. Evening is coming and it looks like more rain. I definitely will come back and explore this place some more. It is worth the visit!
The open fallow fields and the road sides are covered in Queen Anne’s Lace and early blooming Goldenrod. Mother Nature is wearing her royal virginal white lacy robe with the golden trim. The lacy white doily like flowers and the bright yellow spikes sway rhythmically in the breezes as they blow across the fields. High summer in the mountains means fall is closing in. Queen Anne’s Lace and Goldenrod entice the bees into a last free for all feast before the seasons change again! Enjoy the bright golden flowers in the bright golden summer sunlight. Rejoice in the white lacy happiness of Here and Now!
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.