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!
My Colorado friend and I are in my regular tent I usually stay in up in the Adirondacks. We are running the Hudson tomorrow and then I will drop her off at the airport to go home. She asked me what could be walking around in the woods outside the tent. I hear it too, I hear it often enough when falling off to sleep. I tell her I believe its probably deer or raccoons or some other night time creature, nothing to get worked up about. Out of curiosity we shine a flashlight out the window to catch the deer in action. Surprise! That thing walking around out there is the moose! It has been out there all summer! He is caught by surprise by the light and just stands looking at the tent about 20 feet away. The flashlight is not a particularly strong or bright one, so we can just make out his shape and form in the darkness. Of course his eye shine is too high off the ground to be anything but a moose. We all stare at each other for many long minutes. He finally decides we are inconsequential and moves on, making noise as he calmly walks through the leaf litter on the forest floor and foraging his way out of sight and hearing. WOW!!
Bright warm sun light pouring from a cloudless immense clear blue sky, gleaming blindingly off the inviting cool calm water of the lake. We are all in the water (kids and adults), swimming, paddling kayaks, playing on the blow up pool toys and inner-tubes, diving, splashing, floating, laughing, enjoying being together. We paddle out to some rocks and bask in the sunshine (while the kids continue their swimming adventure), laying on the sun warmed surface, soaking in the heat, letting our skin dry in the warm air, the smell of water and earth, the feel of sunlight and gentle breezes, talking, laughing, and enjoying time to relax and reunite. This is exactly what I had wanted when I suggested this reunion plan last year. The perfect lake day materialized and life is good!
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.
One of my best friends is flying in from Colorado for a yearly reunion of a few raft guide girls who all started guiding together 26 years ago in West Virginia. This is our 5th reunion and four of us partook in this adventure. I drove to the airport to meet her, got there way too early, not knowing exactly how long it would take to get there. I tried to nap in the observation area, a small parking area a short distance from the terminal to view planes taking off and landing. Lots of excited small children with tired and weary looking parents. Eventually, I drove over to the main gate and waited in the car for what seemed to be an interminable amount of time (about 20 minutes) watching people of all shapes, sizes, ages, nationalities, and abilities entering and exiting the airport. I was impatiently waiting for that one familiar face I haven’t seen for a year, listening to all the airport announcements about strangers, luggage safety, and unattended vehicles. Finally, studying the rear view mirror , she emerged from the automatic sliding, luggage in hand! Tears, hugs, and smiles! Luggage into the car and (although she has been all over the world) I whisk her off into her first Adirondack camping adventure!
Trudging up the hill after a long day, tired and wanting only to take a snooze in the afternoon breeze, I hear voices lilting through the trees. Topping the hill I see several guides sitting on the stoop the tent platform makes under the tarp. I realize they have gathered out of sight of whatever guests might still be milling around down the hill. They apologize for invading my space (it is a perfect place to sit out of the dampness), and although I am slightly surprised, I am also pleased to have visitors. I open the camp chairs, hang up the hammock, invite them to hang out whenever they want. I lay in the hammock, gently swinging, talking, laughing, watching the afternoon sunlight dance through the bright green leaves swaying above my head, teasing glimpses of blue sky peaking shyly between lush branches. This is better than a nap!
Sitting on the porch after the raft trip, all the guests well fed and on their way home, we guides tell our stories of the day. I am lounging on the bottom step, leaning against the step above, elbows back supporting me, legs stretched out, and bare feet rubbing on the small rounded rocks like a message, and toes curling into the warm sand. I am listening to the days events from everyone else point of view, laughing with my friends at the idiosyncrasies of the random people we interact with in this crazy world. I am looking out across the parking lot, letting my skin soak in the afternoon sunshine, basking in the summer radiant heat. There is a breeze blowing through the tree limbs across the way. I watch as they leaves dance and twist, the branches wave, and the tall white pines trunks sway back and forth. I am content, full of life, and happy for summer to finally be here.