Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the Adirondacks

Part 2


If you wake up in the middle of the night on the shores of Low's Lake, you'll hear it: the plaintive voice of a loon. You'll never forget its strong and trailing voice, coming out of the misty waters of a still lake.

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And now comes the low point of the entire Adirondack adventure. The moment of disagreement. 

To understand the momentousness of this, you have to know that Ed and I, being so different in so many ways, never disagree. We each engage in acts the other wouldn't dream of pursuing, but our common path is steady and peaceful.

Camping area number 27, where we overnighted, turns out to be the only place during this entire Second Journey where I am able to pick up a cell signal (admittedly I don't try very often elsewhere). I have enough battery life left to check the weather, which so far, as you can see, has been incredibly generous to us. Sure enough, the promise is of storms. Well, it's a speculative promise: 50% chance, the entire afternoon.

If weather were not an issue, we would pack up (leaving the beautiful number 27) and head out on a side trip -- down Bog River to Bog Lake. Then we would look for a site to pitch the tent closer to the tip of the lake (where we came in and from where we would be leaving the next day). The lake is so empty! Maybe another magical site would present itself to us.

All good ideas for a good weather day. But I do not want to be in a canoe in a storm. If the skies seem okay, I think we should do a quick excursion and come back. In the alternative, skip the excursion and head out now in search of a new site. Ed wants to ignore the whole weather issue.
If the storm comes, we'll wait it out by the shore.
You know there are no landing spots for long stretches of shoreline!
We can pull over and ride it out in the canoe.
That's not safe!
Nina (no "gorgeous" when he thinks I'm being irrational and it affects the direction we take), it's a lot safer than driving a car.
But I'll be scared and it'll ruin it for you!
Do you want to stay here and I'll explore Bog Lake alone?
What if you don't come back? 
I have no answer to that (..very stupid question).


After I'm done shedding tears of indecision, I take a look at the sky and see no sign of trouble.

We eat breakfast -- nice, very nice... 

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No threat yet and the lake is absolutely still.

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I take a deep breath and agree to pack up camp and head out together. (It is our history: when I turn braver than I feel, Ed turns gentler and more willing to accommodate my foibles. And I know I'm nursing an irrational foible.)


The lake crossing is memorable: not a single ripple, not a wave or a shudder. Just us and the loons.

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Let me introduce you to the names of the lakes and rivers around us: Otter, Iron, Horseshoe. Beaver Brook, Big Moose Lake. Marian Lake. I'm sure when they named a lake "Marian," it's because someone had a sweet spot for a Marian in his life. And Otter Pond had otters. 

And Bog Lake has the bog.

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The floating bog is easy to pass. A few shallow spots, a few murky moments, but all doable.

Thereafter, we pick up the slow moving river, which meanders between bogs, lilies, pickerel weed, and fallen timbers.

Suddenly the population of black flies explodes! The dragon flies, our most precious friends and warriors are outnumbered. They try, they really do. But the flies rule vast stretches of the river.

After a half hour of constant battle, we turn back. However pretty Bog Lake may be, it's a messy paddle to it. 

Alright. We're almost out. Pass the floating bog and we'll be on Low's Lake again.

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(with dragon fly friend)

And now I relax, because I know we can beat whatever storms come our way. My biggest fear throughout has been not the currents, winds, flies, sites, navigational quagmires, but storms. My sailor guy has no fear of them, whereas every encounter with lightening and thunder in my life, when exposed and outdoors, has left me shaking.

I know now we'll pitch the tent before a storm will find us.

It is a huge relief.


Now is the time to see if the prize of all prizes (in my opinion) - the lovely tip of an island at the head of the lake, with pine needle beds and water every which way, and a beautiful beach to the side -- is unoccupied.

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It is! (If you're ever on Low's Lake, it's number 18 -- a stunning place indeed!)

We pull out the canoe.

Among the pines, there is a beautiful fallen log: lean against it, sit on it, contemplate the entire lake before you. Like all the wilderness camping places, it's immaculate. Leave no trace behind. No one has even carved his or her initials on the naked log. When you sit on it, you are part of something greater than just yourself.

From tears of sorrow to tears of joy. Isn't it always like that?

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It's early afternoon when I set up camp (I let Ed rest a bit -- he does all our cooking). We have nowhere else to go, no exploring, no climbing to do.

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We read, I write, we swim.

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What're you doing, gorgeous?
I'm running along the island beach ready to plunge into Low's Lake! -- I shout back.

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The wind picks up, a few puffs of clouds roll in. We meet a couple of passing paddlers from Mystic. We compare notes on sites, on the water conditions, on the wonderful roaming ranger woman. We feel like oldtimers.

And the afternoon waves bang against the shore and if there is peace to be had ever in a life that sometimes gets too complicated, it is here, on a log, facing Low's Lake in the Adirondacks.


Our last dinner in the wilderness. I'm half tempted to build a fire: someone has neatly stacked kindling to the side of a carefully cleaned out fire ring. But like Ed, I prefer the simplicity of doing none of it.

He lights his ancient stove and boils water. We eat our pouch dinners in the fading light of the sun. 

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And the storm? It rumbled past, just south of us. Ed wanted to watch a display of lightening on the lake, but all we got were beautiful clouds, playing hide and seek with the sun.

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And a farewell sunset.

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In the morning, we shower to the music of loons. A long, clean note, a quiver. Ed says -- people come here for this sound. Maybe we did too?

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A last breakfast. We're down to Cliff bars. And coffee for me.

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We pack, efficiently, rhythmically.

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And we pull out and make our way toward the river, we feel a gentle wind on our backs. The current, too, is with us this time.

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(loon family)

It took us four hours to paddle down the river to the tip of the lake heading out. It takes us just three to paddle back.

But in that time, everything above us changes. At first, a solitary cloud moves in from the west. Halfway down the river, the sky becomes overcast.

And the rain comes down. Initially it's gentle. Just a tease. We do the portage, past the dam, without fuss, experts now, each in our roles of carrier and mule.

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But as we paddle into our final hour, the shower turns into a steady, relentless rain.

How funny, really! I had so trusted the sunny forecast, that I pushed my rain jacket to the bottom of the bag. I had to dig for it now. Ed has his on as well.

And yet, despite this miserable (from one perspective) weather, we encounter paddlers heading out toward the lake: a group of three canoes, heavily loaded with coolers, as if for a never-ending feast. Then a couple: she is in a bathing suits and life vest. He's in a t-shirt (and vest). They greet us cheerfully. Looking at us in our jackets, he shouts out -- someone's afraid of getting wet!

I have to laugh. Everything downward of my jacket is soaking.
No, not afraid! 

 And so the Second Journey ends.

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If I were a New Age type, or inclined to meditation, I'd write about such things as inner peace, finding one's center, touching eternity. The week of camping in the Adirondacks grew each day -- from just an adventure, to something that became really grand and extraordinarily beautiful. Calming any tumult that I brought along with me.

But I'm not inclined in that direction and so I'll leave that thought, to dangle here for your own contemplation. 


We overnight at the Dartbrook Lodge, in Keene, New York. Just east of Lake Placid.

It's not really a lodge. There are a few Adirondack cabins, neatly tucked into a landscape of wild flowers.

Our is just gorgeous!


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And all around:

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Normally, I'd settle in and enjoy the detail of this rustic but so very comfortable little gem. But I can't. I gave my soul to the outdoors this week and I'm not ready to part with it all.

Ed naps, I go for a hike. To these falls and back (toward center left, there is a guy fishing on the rocks -- to give you some perspective on their size).

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Not more than a couple of hours, there and back. The falls are nice, very nice, but they are only an excuse. The goal is to connect all these strands of thought and move forward. And I do.

We eat dinner at the village cafe. It has a menu that's remarkably similar to the one at the Long Lake place we ate at our first night in the Adirondacks. Again we split a roasted chicken. With salads. I missed my salads!

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Ed falls asleep soon after, but I find myself already gliding into routines from home. A late night, an Ocean post and only then -- the comfort of a bed. A big bed, a crispy linnened bed.

I am acutely aware of the fact that there is no breeze blowing through our night. No stealthy movement of a curious animal. No music of a loon out on a lake.