I woke before the sun was above the horizon, although the sky above the trees is alight with sunrise pastels. I am curled in my camping hammock, bundled in heavy fleece and my warmest sleeping bag. I know know its cold out there. When I peaked out from under the covers, skin on my face tingled, and I can see my breath as I breathe. Unfortunately, as comfortable as it is in the hammock, sometimes you don’t have a choice about getting out of bed. I lay there as long as possible in the cozy warmth of my sleeping bag. I planned every step of the maneuver out ahead of time to minimize my exposure to the cold morning air. Groaning, I fling myself out of the hammock, find a tree, do what I need to do, grab some warm neoprene paddling clothes from the dry bag, and get them as a quickly as possible. Anybody who has ever worn neoprene knows how slow putting it on can be. Brrrrrrrrrrr. Do some jumping jacks to warm up and head over to the camp kitchen to get breakfast started, stopping on the beach for a few moments to gaze contentedly over the quiet lake enjoying the sunrise. In the kitchen area, I get the stove going and go to put the pot of water left over from last night on the burner. I notice that the water in the pot has a cover of ice on its surface. Wow! I laugh out loud with amazement, I guess I was right about it being cold this morning!
It has been a long chilly day. Although the sun was shining it was a wicked windy day to paddle across a lake with a group of college freshmen, some of whom have never been in a canoe before. They did well and their spirits are soaring. It is the beginning of everything for them and their enthusiasm is palpable.
Earlier we were supposed to portage the canoes about a mile through the woods to camp on another lake. We carried all the gear first to check out the trail (I haven’t been here before but already know I want to come back). This group of students will be switching places with another group of students who hiked in to Fawn Lake. Once we all realized that the boats were just going to get carried back through the forest in the morning (by the other group) we didn’t see the point in bringing them over at all. We made camp on the lake where we were. Once it started to get dark I was very glad to have made that decision because the site across the lake we were supposed to camp at had a campfire burning. Which means we saved ourselves from dragging big heavy canoes a mile over a game trail, paddling across a second lake in a headwind, only to find the site occupied. We are happier where we are!
Around sunset, the wind died down and the lake became a sky mirror. It was one of those sunsets that gets painted on canvas and put into a museum. Red, orange, gold, coral, pink, salmon, outlined by the dark images of trees along the shore, all reflected in the still water of Fawn Lake. Standing on the beach watching the sun set and the moon rise, feeling the dew settle in the quickly cooling evening, breathing in the orange glow of sunset, icy water chilling my bare feet as my toes curl and dig into the soft wet sand.
As darkness fell silently around me, the indigo of night creeping ever westward as the last colors of daylight slowly faded, stars start their twinkling above me, one by one. There suddenly, silently, it flies in a sliver fiery arc across the sky, the movement caught and completely reflected in the dark mirror of the lake water. A spectacular shooting star, I as too breathless from wonder to even make a wish. Maybe to have seen that star itself is all the wish I need.
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
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!
One canoe sliding quietly through the water, two glow sticks on the bow and stern, two paddlers ambling along whispering in hushed awe, one lake smooth as glass mirroring the night sky, one cool clear night, no moon yet, velvety darkness envelopes the island and mainland, the water still, deep and dark, its secrets well kept. The dark purple sky is alight with zillions of shining, twinkling, sparkling blue white stars, the milky way glows brightly arched across the sky. We point out the constellations we know and talk about life, the universe, and everything. The summer sky and warm night offers up infinite possibilities. Life is beautiful, friends are amazing, and we are wondrous! The star’s fire glows in my eyes, mind, and heart!
Grey day, foggy, cool, and raining. We are dressed for the weather in warm and waterproof paddling gear. After breakfast, we climb into the canoe and glide out through the dripping mist onto a deserted lake. There are sings of life in the houses on shore, glowing yellow windows, and smoke drifting lazily from chimneys, once or twice the faint smell of sausage or bacon cooking. We are the only humans braving the rain to be out on the lake (there are loons, gulls, great blue herons, king fishers, and ospreys too), calm still air full of raindrops. Each droplet makes concentric rings where it hits the grey water, rings merging into a cacophony of chaotic minuscule waves. The sound it a hissing that intensifies and decreases as the rain fall picks up and lets off. We watch and listen to the rain hit the lake as we paddle across it through a narrow channel and into another lake. We paddle until our arms (and backs) get tired. The wind had picked up, so we let it blow us back the way we came. An hour or so later we are back at our campsite with a blazing fire, bundled in warm fuzzy fleece, the rain has more or less stopped, but we are still the only ones out and about on the quiet rainy day.