In Praise of Quiet Waters: Finding Solitude and Adventure in the Wild Adirondacks won the 2016 Best Memoir Award from the Adirondack Center for Writing. This second book by Lorraine Duvall is a collection of personal essays centered on her experiences paddling Adirondack lakes, ponds and rivers; the history of these waters; and the advocacy of the many men and women who helped save and preserve them. Her memoir, And I Know Too Much to Pretend, won the 2014 Best Memoir Award from the Adirondack Center for Writing. Duvall lives in Keene and is on the board of Protect the Adirondacks.
In March 1848 a colleague of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harrison Gray Otis Blake, sought out Henry David Thoreau to help him on his spiritual pilgrimage, recognizing Thoreau’s need to live a “fresh, simple life with God.”
Thoreau wanted to live his life free from the trappings of the commercial world, enabling him to enrich his inner life. He escaped to his Walden Pond to experience “nature as goodness crystalized.” » Continue Reading.
As an advocate for quiet waters, on August 18, 2018, I joined with 36 canoes and guide boats on a Canoe-In to Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond to lobby for no motors on these pristine bodies of water (cul-de-sacs of the Saranac Chain of Lakes.) As we paddled toward the channel to Weller Pond nine powerboats lined the shore of nearby Hungry Bay. We chanted “All we want is 2%: You have 98,” referencing the amount of the waters open to motors on these lakes. The entire 17.5- mile route from Lower Saranac to Upper Saranac Lake allows for the unlimited use of motorboats.
The motor-boaters held signs urging that Weller be kept open to them. After hearing about the Canoe-In, they had sponsored an advertisement in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on August 11 encouraging “Motorboat owners and boat enthusiasts to come and show your support in preserving and protecting our rights on the water.” » Continue Reading.
We paddlers are impatient to be on the water now that the lakes, ponds, and rivers are becoming free of ice. One paddling enthusiast recently shared photos of his kayak in the snow in Lake Placid, on the path from Averyville Road to the Chubb River, with a view of the open waters of the Chubb.
“Couldn’t the Adirondack Park be considered an Intentional Community?” I asked Ma’ikwe Ludwig at her presentation November 1st at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center. She said she did not know enough about the Park to address the possibility, but a few of the 40 students, professors, and community attendees thought the idea was intriguing. “Many of us live in our communities ‘intentionally’,” said a woman from Saranac Lake. “I try to live cooperatively with my neighbors, look out for our joint welfare, and live responsibly for the planet by keeping my carbon footprint at a minimum.”
I attended this talk by Ludwig, a longtime sustainable community activist, because of my interest in the history of Intentional Communities, specifically those located in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
“We just completed our nature therapy training in May,” Helene Gibbons said when I met her last week at Origin Coffee in Saranac Lake. “We learned how to guide people to open their senses to the forest, to become immersed in the sights, smells, sounds and textures of the natural world.” As Helene is a yoga teacher, I saw how she could apply similar principles to meandering through the woods. She’s been guiding students through yoga poses and leading them into meditation for years.
“Suzanne Weirich and I traveled to Chicago for a seven day training at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois,” she continued. “With this Forest Therapy Guide Training we’re ready help people immerse themselves in the natural environment, called Forest Bathing.” » Continue Reading.
In honor of the tenth anniversary of Women’s History Month, I want to recognize the work of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national grassroots organization dedicated to protecting wilderness and wild lands. This organization was conceived by older women who love wilderness, giving voice to the millions of older Americans who want to protect their public lands as wilderness for this and future generations. The group prides itself on the thousands of hours (37,857 last year) people volunteer to care for the environment. Based in Durango, Colorado, their on-the-ground work happens throughout the country, with 36 active chapters in 16 states. » Continue Reading.
My favorite activity is paddling quiet waters. I cherish the experiences I’ve had on the lakes, rivers, and ponds in Adirondacks, including canoeing on the Boreas Ponds. I think the spectacular view of the high-rising peaks to the north is unmatched.
I also believe that reasonable access to these waters is in the best interest of the public, while minimizing harm to the environment. However, the definition of reasonable access and minimizing harm varies among the stakeholders, primarily centered on the use of the existing Gulf Brook Road – a 6.8 mile gravel road from Boreas or Blue Ridge Road (County Route 84) to the ponds.
A couple of weeks ago I drove up Gulf Brook Road for 3.2 miles as allowed by the state’s interim access plan, which is 2.5 miles from the ponds. I wanted to orient myself to the access issues raised in the many articles in the media, including the Adirondack Almanack. I parked my car at the parking lot, skirted the stop sign, and walked about a half-mile toward the ponds. Looking at the trail register I saw the names of two friends who had been to the ponds recently, and decided to email them, asking how they experienced the 2.5-mile carry on the road and the ponds. » Continue Reading.
At Boreas Ponds, access is an issue, as it has been with most of the publicly-owned lands and waters that contain valuable natural resources. Restoration (or preservation) of these resources into a wilderness or near-wilderness condition requires careful thought.
An Interim Access Plan recently announced by the DEC will allow public access to the ponds by opening the Gulf Brook Road to motor vehicles for 3.2 miles from the state highway, Boreas – Blue Ridge Road. A gate will prevent further motor vehicle travel to the ponds. » Continue Reading.
A few hundred water enthusiasts showed up last week at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts for the Reel Paddling Film Festival hosted by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters. We watched two hours of the daring adventures of canoeists and kayakers battling North American rivers and the Alaskan wilderness. I learned of a way to test how to hold my double-bladed paddle to fit my upper torso and fitness level. At the raffle of donated goods by local sport shops and the NFCT organization, we won a copy of the three-hundred-page guidebook for the 740 mile paddling trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. » Continue Reading.
In 1920, Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post Cereal Corporation, purchased a narrow sand and gravel ridge, an esker, on Upper St. Regis Lake. Throughout the 20s she built a rustic retreat in the Great Camp style with 68 buildings, including two boathouses on the lake; separate cabins for kitchens, bedrooms and baths, and living rooms; and two buildings for cooks, maids, caretakers, and guides.
For years the camp was accessible only by boat or float plane. Transporting supplies and people the 2.5 miles across the lake from the nearest road was challenging, necessitating the use of boats of varying speed and power, sometimes human. A funicular, a cable railway, provided access to the top of the ridge from the water. » Continue Reading.
My canoe buddies and I decided to camp this year at John Dillon Park, just north of Long Lake, for our annual canoe outing. We were pleased to find many amenities that made for a pleasant camping experience. Six of us stayed in two neighboring lean-tos in a wooded section of the park – very private, shielded from other campers. Each lean-to had plank beds (no pads) and separate fireplaces, with a wheel chair accessible shared outhouse. Paul Smiths students on staff for the summer helped us carry our canoes to the water and schlep our gear to and from the lean-tos in their club cars.
When John Dillon Park opened in 2006 it was the first park in the country designed to provide a wilderness experience for people with disabilities. The 198-acre park is the centerpiece of International Paper’s donation of a 15,802-acre conservation easement to New York State, in honor of John Dillon, retired president of the company. Mr. Dillon has close ties to the Adirondacks – born in Schroon Lake, raised in Newcomb, and a 1958 graduate of Paul Smiths College. He retired in 2003 and frequents the park often, as a proud steward. The easement protects the wilderness character of the Park compatible with the surrounding working forests. » Continue Reading.
Finding the balance between solitude and companionship during a paddling trip is often a challenge.
Looking for companionship a few years after moving to the Adirondacks, I found myself sitting with a group of eight women on a rocky outcrop on Moose Pond, taking a lunch break on a canoe outing. “We went to Germany for three weeks this winter” one of the women said. “Our trip with the grandchildren turned into a nightmare” replied a second. They go on-and-on talking about their travels and grandchildren. What’s happening? Why am I here listening to all this chatter in this supposedly tranquil wilderness, my confused mind shouted. We might as well be in Starbucks!» Continue Reading.
“Here’s Dave,” Ruth yelled across the crowd at the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. “He was our savior on Little Tupper Lake.”
It took me a moment to remember that day 12 years ago when I paddled to shore near where a new house was being built on Little Tupper Lake. I remember hoping that we might get some help for my canoe buddies and me as we struggled paddling across the Lake against the wind and waves during Hurricane Isabel. Dave, the contractor on-site, did indeed serve as our savior. He helped carry our boats to his pickup truck and drove us to where our cars were parked. » Continue Reading.
It had been six years since our first major adventure in our solo canoes, surviving Hurricane Isabel while crossing Little Tupper Lake. My five Adirondack canoe buddies and I (we call ourselves the Isabel-6 because of the Little Tupper trip) are dedicated to going on anniversary paddles every year since then, primarily in the Adirondacks, on occasion in Northern Vermont. We also like to call ourselves OWOW – Older Women of the Water (in 2010, our ages ranged from 72 to 86).
Moving to the Adirondacks in 1998 offered new opportunities to explore the lakes and rivers in my solo canoe near Keene. I first tried Upper Cascade Lake and Chapel Pond, the lakes visible from Route 73 near Keene Valley on the way to Lake Placid. I had admired those lakes for decades while vacationing in the High Peaks.
Launching my Hornbeck at the Upper Cascade Lake was easy as it only weighted 15 pounds. Hugging the south shore, admiring the small streams cascading over the moss-covered rocks at close range was magical. But the noise from the traffic on Route 73, amplified across the lake, caused such an annoyance I soon paddled back to shore in disappointment. » Continue Reading.
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