I was in the Adirondack Park last week and while I did not have a chance to visit Lost Brook Tract I did get into the back country, climbing Mount Adams (which I highly recommend) and doing a little bushwhacking in the newly acquired MacIntyre East Tract. But it was another place, not as remote as the MacIntyre tract yet as far removed from the world at large as any place I’ve ever been, that called to my consciousness in my hour of need. No such call could resonate more deeply in me than that of Osprey Bay.
I’ve been having a little trouble with Adirondack affairs lately. Details of our planned move to the park remain frustratingly uncertain and my work on the numerous park issues I’ve become involved in has proved sometimes to be hard to deal with from afar. I discovered just how much stress I was feeling during this trip, when the pure joy I always experience from simply being in the Adirondacks was muddied, made harder to feel. Even hiking on the MacIntyre lands for an extended time and breathing balsam and cedar laden air did not release me from my burdens as it typically would. Lost Brook Tract could have given me the salve I needed, but it was too far away to hike. No matter: even more than the pull from my beloved tract I felt a need to drive to Blue Mountain Lake and find a canoe.
Osprey Bay is not so-named in any official record, or even known by that name in local lore, as far as I know. But to my family it is an indelible feature of Blue Mountain Lake. Osprey Island, the lake’s second largest, presents its straight, long face to Blue Mountain Lake’s north shore. This is the side of the island that faces civilization: the north shore is dotted with some of the finest camps on the lake, including the one our family rented throughout my youth. The other side of Osprey is separated from Long Island by a shallow, shoal filled inlet, guarded by a small, forested island and a couple of small, rocky protrusions with stunted trees that dot the passage. This is the uncivilized side. For all the years that I reveled in my time at our summer camp, Osprey would beckon across the water. The front side, uninhabited and untouched, was an invitation to leave the world behind. The back side, reached via canoe around either side, was the promise of that invitation fulfilled.
At the point that where Osprey closes to within a few dozen yards of Long Island, the shoreline suddenly curls inward in a perfect concave shape. Only a few feet deep at the most and sheltered by Osprey’s western point as well as Long Island, the water in this little recess is always calm and clear, even when West Bay is covered by whitecaps. Lilies proliferate along the sheltered arc, backswimmers dance across the surface and the most delicate plants take residency along the fragile zone where the shoreline meets the water. This is Osprey Bay, no bigger than a few paddle strokes in any direction but big enough to envelope the reverent visitor in a place entirely apart.
Osprey Bay is the very emblem of peaceful, wild intimacy for me and has been so for my family for generations. My father’s ashes were laid there, at first reposing on the sandy bottom in a perfect circle, now long faded into nothingness. There was no place he cherished more. It was one of the great love affairs of his life: a deep connection to quiet and to nature. To commune with the confectionary plant life in the shallows was profound; to break the silence with a careless paddle stroke or a frivolous burst of conversation was a violation.
There are undoubtedly thousands upon thousands of such places in the Adirondacks, named and claimed by someone who loves and covets them as though they belong to no one else. Or maybe it is not sense of ownership as it is a private exclusivity: “others may come here, but no one cherishes it as I do.”
It is no secret that my truest special place is Lost Brook Tract. But that love affair is yet a young one. My love affair with Osprey Bay spans more than five decades and in a real sense the power of a connection with that kind of longevity cannot be equaled. I don’t feel old – not yet – but it is not lost on me that there will come a time when visiting Lost Brook Tract will be impossible. Yet in my last dying days I will still be able to be helped into a boat and taken to Osprey Bay. Then as now, I will need it, as only the wild can be needed.
Photo: approaching the bay, Osprey Island, Blue Mountain Lake