Sunday, July 23, 2006

Meeting Maggie!!!

My parents got a puppy today, and WOW is she cute. Maggie is a 7 week-old lab from the Utica parents drove down and back today, and we spent the afternoon and evening playing with her.

After looking at the pics, I couldn't think of a thing to say...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Middle Saranac

We went on a nice paddle the other day, from Marcy's bridge into Middle Saranac, down the river, through the lock, to a cliffside lunch spot, and back up again to our cars.

We've been doing this trip since before I was born, and it never gets old...the rievr at the beginning is beautiful, Middle Saranac is gorgeous, the lock is cool (for those not in the know, a lock allows boats to move from the elevation of one lake to that of another lake without having to deal with rapids), and the lunchspot up on the cliff is both awesome and sorta secretive.

Marcy still loves going on trips with my parents, and it seems one of the few times that she is really with it these days...she's almost 15, and seems a bit vague a lot of the time, but she loves canoeing with Muz and "D".

Once you get through the river, you are on Middle Saranac, a large lake almost entirely owned by the state, and pretty wild. It is a mysterious lake in that often, as was the case today, we have a headwind both coming and going...this picture was taken during a calm moment.

After paddling across Middle Saranac, one enters another little river and paddles for a bit before reaching the lock and caretaker's house (must be a sweet summer-job!!!). On this outing we did not see much wildlife until we were almost down to the lock, when a river otter crossed the river just in front of us.

Once inside the lock, the guys manning the lock operate the gates and sluices that allow the water to leave the lock (or in the case of coming upstream...enter the lock)...this equalizes the level of water, so that my canoe can paddle right out of the lock, depsite the 5 foot difference between one side and the other. There is a set of rapids that goes around the lock, and one year I did run my solo-canoe down the rapids...I took on some water, but made it okay.

Not too far below the lock is a great lunch spot above the river on a can be reached by a hidden trail known almost exclusively to the Sheffield Family...We love stopping here, enjoying our lunches, and looking down (both figuratively and literally)on the motor-boaters zooming by down below.

After our lunch, we repacked our boats, and paddled back up the river, through the lock, across Middle Sarnac, and back to our cars...another great trip!!!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Rainbow Lake

We added another new trip to our portfolio a couple of days ago...Rainbow Lake...we put in at the bottom of of Clark Wardner Road, carried in to the lake, and paddled up and over to a narrow flow called..."The Flow"

It was a beautiful still day, and we had a great time paddling and enjoying the feeling of a route that we hadn't explored before.

We stopped for lunch on a pretty little island...after lunch, Ben played hide-and-seek with all of us, having a great time despite the lack of hiding places to be found.

Muz and "D" paddled with Marcy, a 15 year-old Lab who is getting stiffer and less comfortable in boats, but still loves coming along for the ride.

After the paddle, Gail grabbed a book while Ben and I did some serious swimming...

...and Zeke parked it on the dock to do his "solar-dog" thing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Musings on a hot day...

Today was hot...for the Adks...which means upper 80s. Gail and I went for a drive to explore the central part of the park (we purchased a tiny piece of land in Newcomb, and are enjoying the excuse to roam this previously blank spot on our personal maps). I had a hike in mind that was between Olmstedville and Schroon Lake on route 24, and it didn't take much to convince Gail that we should point the CRV in that direction.

The pull-off was indistinct, but geocaching has trained my eyes to see parking spots most people would drive right by, so we found it easily. The "Jeep Trail" had narrowed to wheelbarrow width, and shortly turned into a streambed (which felt nice on my teva-ed toes), but not before taking us across a rotted wooden bridge that had long ago (too long ago???) replaced the collapsed stone bridge that crossed a pleasantly noisy stream.

The walk, and woods, got wilder and wilderthe further we ranged from our car. White pines that would have taken 3-4 of me to reach around grew into the sky, and any semblance of "road-i-ness" disappeared beneath my feet as the brook both broadened and deepened. Clouds lurched in front of the sun at the moment that I came around a bend, and saw the cemetery seeming to grow up out of the forest.

The headstones were, of course, there before the trees, but as the woods around me seemed so undisturbed and natural, it was the stones that seemed out of thought they had marched in one day, and then forgotten to leave.

The oldest ones I could read were from the early 1830s, and the most recent were from the early 20th century; many of the older ones were marking the passage of children who hadn't made it out of childhood.

A few were for civil war veterans, and it was touching to note that someone had made the trip out on Memorial Day to clean these headstones and leave a flag nearby.

Not to wax too philosophical, but the walk and the stones and the flag and the woods got me thinking about life and death, and as you've read this far, you're likely to finish this here goes...

Time, and its passage, is marked by the winning and losing of battles, both big and small. The importance of these battles is entirely a matter of perspective.

The lives and deaths of the people in this beautiful cemetery was of profound importance to them, but go largely unremarked by the world at large, especially with the cemetery itself buried in these "Forever Wild" woods. Their lives were made up of battles that they won and lost, with accompanying joy and pain, ending in the final loss that we all face (not me though, but more on that further down).

The relatives of the people buried here fight an ongoing, and ultimately hopeless, battle with the woods. They keep the trail somewhat open, clean the headstones, tilt and prop them perpendicular to the ground each spring, and leave flags to memorialize some distant ancestor's service in a long-ago series of battles. The woods will win in the end, the Pine trees towering over the cemetery will outlive the people tending the headstones and memories by hundreds of years, and bury them in needles and fallen the hard winters heave and chip the headstones back into the rocks they were before men tamed them with chisels.

I've been in cemeteries before, not often, as I generally find them creepy places; this one didn't strike me as such. I've never cleaned in a cemetery before, but today I did...I picked up cigarette butts, brushed the needles off of some (not all, but some) of the headstones, and righted fallen flags in front of the headstones of the civil war veterans.

Most cemeteries seem to me to be parking lots for headstones, where the feeling of death and battles won and lost is tamed by orderliness and mown grass and handicapped-accessible parking. The people buried in Hoffman's Cemetery fought their battles and eventually lost; their relatives are still fighting to preserve the cemetery...a battle they must eventually lose as well. The thought of someone caring enough about people they never met to walk 3/4 of a mile through mud and muck and water up to their shins to place a flag or dust off a stone moved me...and, for today, I joined the battle.

It isn't about winning (or losing) our battles that is the important thing in the end...rather, it's about how and where and when we choose to engage...knowing that the final outcome will be the same for all of us, and that enough time will erase the name from every headstone. I would like to choose and fight my battles well, regardless of their importance and outcome.

I passed the frog above both on my way in and out...he was swimming back and forth in a puddle about 10 by 5 feet, convinced that I couldn't see him when he swam to the far side, and doing his frog stuff. I took his picture, wondering if he ever got a smile on his face doing something as simple as brushing off a piece of stone, or if he simply ate flies when he got hungry, and left philosophy to the toads.

Monday, July 10, 2006

3 Days in the ADKs

The last 3 days were nice ones, so I thought I'd share...I apologize in advance for the "super-sized" nature of this entry...

Saturday was a beautiful and still day, so we took Eileen and her Daughters, Kathleen and Hilary, on one of my favorite canoe trips...Floodwood. Starting at the top of Floodwood Pond, we paddled down through a series of narrow streams and tiny ponds until we got to Upper Saranac Lake. This trip always delivers wonderful paddling and nice wildlife.

The day was very still, and it was a bit like we were paddling between two layers of the same image, one above and one below. It was a quiet day on the little streams between the top and the bottom of our trip, we didn't run into many other paddlers along the way, and you could see everything in the clear water.

Ben and Gail paddled in Gail's Loon, a great boat made by Old Town...slicing through the water with barely a ripple, and often getting close to wildlife along the way...including one of its namesakes.

The narrow parts of the trip are my favorite...the trees close over your head, and the current makes pretty background noise and lighter work while you enjoy the views. The downed trees and ancient rocks are streaked with green and red from unattentive (or inexperienced) boaters who couldn't thread the needle while enjoying their trip through the alternating sun and shade.

At the bottom of the first stream section, I am talking with someone in our party about the fish we saw, and don't notice the ducks in front of me until I've stressed them out a bit...sorry!

I take a picture of a lovely waterlily flower captured by its complexity and the textures of the flower and lilypads nearby, and get sucked into the single flower for a moment, blown away by its beauty...

After fully exploring the single flower, I look up and notice that this perfect and astounding example of natural beauty is just one of a thousand within 100 feet of my canoe...the feeling is a little overwhelming and also makes me break out in a Christmas Morning Smile (CMS). This is an Adirondack Moment for me, and a metaphor for my life up here (or vice versa)...I have lived thousands of perfect (or nearly perfect) days up here, but I mainly notice them one day at a time...the sum total of all of that beauty and joy can be a little I try to take my ADK days, like my waterlilies, one at a time.

After supper, Ben, with Kathleen's help, fed the ducks that make their begging round each night to the camps along the shore (before you get angry at me, let me tell you that I too am vehemently opposed to feeding ducks bread and the like...but Ben likes I'm lost).

After the ducks had gone, some lake trout moved in on the remaining bread like wolves on crippled deer (that had been bleached and over-milled and stripped of any nutritional value)...we watched the show while Gail snuck downstairs to watch, and photograph, us. From the left, you see Muz, Ben, Me, Kathleen, and Hilary.

Amazingly the girls went swimming after the ducks and trout had polished off the almost 9pm it was still light enough and warm enough,for teenagers, to go swimming.

Sunday was for us, a day of rest (not because or despite its being Sunday, just...because). We read and played in the water around camp and ate and drank and noodled around in boats on the lake and rubbed dog bellies and took short naps.

Ben read with Muz on the boathouse swing...

Zeke came over with us from our house to play in the water (he speciallizes in sticks, but occasionally enjoys a tennis ball as well)...

Gail read and relaxed on the dock...yes, it's Zorro...

Ben heard one of us talking about "toe-jam" once, and now spends more of his spare-time than you would think possible looking for jam between his could you not love that?!?!?

Marcy, our (literally everyone's...she's a global resource) 15 year-old labrador moved from spot to spot wagging and smiling and lying down with terrific thumping noises. (thanks to Eileen for this shot, which is exactly the picture I wanted, but didn't have...)

Ben and I found lots of freshwater mussels, and corralled them into farms/internment camps before releasing them and watching them...S L O W L Y...dig their way into the sandy bottom of Upper Saranac and away from us with their single feet.

Ben and "D" went on a nice paddle up and down the shore of the lake, looking at the camps and waving and "hello"-ing as they went.

Gail and Ben spent a not-quite-napping quiet time in the hammock overlooking the lake...

Zeke is our 9 year-old lab/border collie mix...he has a great time swimming and making sure that everyone is where they are supposed to be...

Ben and "D" also enjoyed a read on the boathouse swing...

Today, Muz and "D" and I tried a new (to us) trip down Kushaqua Lake. Kushaqua Lake is north of our usual stomping grounds, and a bit more wild. The trip was gorgeous, although a bit short...we'll have to work on lengthening the paddle next time.

Muz was, as ever, in the bow of my parents' canoe, and in the lead while we explored this stunning waterway, which has tons of ancient stumps and tiny islands dotting the water's surface. Like with any new trip, there is a feeling of excitement about what could be around each next turn, and the silence and solitary nature of our paddle on Kushaqua today accentuated the feeling.

We had lunch at a beautiful campsite down at the south end of Kushaqua, very near where it morphs into Rainbow Lake.

Kushaqua is connected to Rainbow Lake by a huge culvert put in place more than 100 years ago by what must have bee titans of contruction and engineering. It was 15 feet wide at the waterline, and about 100 yards long...yes, we made yodelling sounds on the way through...we're only human after all...