Leaving the Adirondacks… never easy, save for the happy anticipation of seeing friends, colleagues and students again! There are only so many good stories I can invent while watching loons!
But on my last full day here, I floated down a little bit of heaven while shooting frogs and turtles — not literally, of course, but with my trusty Nikon. They seemed stunned to have so much attention, these backwater creatures whose idea of a hard day at work is to jump from a log to the beach to the swamp. While most swamp things skitter away, the two in the photos above just sat there staring at me with those doleful eyes. Or maybe they were as happy with the day as I was…. I was even able to sit back and lounge for a while in the boat, feet on the deck, see above. That’s not my usual pose when on the lakes! But this particular stretch of the Raquette River — which has big, wide, breezy showcases in Tupper Lake, Long Lake and Raquette Lake — is a more desultory, winding and narrow stretch that ambles through the heart of the wilderness.
Feeling at one with the water and sky and passing scenery and wildlife… this is the kind of balance most of us do not have time or the inclination to pursue most of the year. Yet, I find it to be the most peaceful, regenerative activity possible.
Until the motor boats blast along, piercing my happy karma with their noise and smelly exhaust! Yes, even on this very narrow waterway, far from roads, I was startled to see two motorboats zoom on by, their skippers completely ignoring the wildlife and human life glaring from the pools underneath some overhanging trees. (Last week I wrote about the lessons I’ve learned from kayaking — and here’s one I forgot to mention: no matter how well prepared the paddler, no matter how calm and beautiful the day, there will always be some guy in a big powerboat who zooms past heedless of the wake he causes that can swamp a smaller boat. I seem to spend a lot of time, here and there, trying to keep my small boat stable as the big power machines race past. Just thinking.)
Even with the “forever wild” laws that ensure the permanent wilderness areas of the Adirondacks, the forest, rivers, lakes and wildlife are in grave danger because of the effects of human activity. Power boats may come and go, but acid rain, chemicals and raw sewage dumped into streams, and degraded air quality all affect even the smallest parts of nature. Global climate change, similarly, can have a devastating effect on wilderness areas as drought or winds or devastating storms displace wildlife and destroy trees.
As readers can gather from reading my Adirondack Chronicles, this annual sojourn in the wilderness is a time for me to reflect on environmental concerns and to observe, in a very limited way, the rhythms of nature in wild places. I return to Washington and to Trinity with a renewed eagerness to see that we address these issue more directly, in our curricula and programs, and in the various activities in which I participate in the community. In that regard, I’m pleased to say that I am co-chairing this year’s Potomac Conference for the Greater Washington Board of Trade which has “green business” as its theme. Look for more on that in future blogs, as well as more specific thoughts on the ways in which Trinity will continue to address these issues in the days to come.
For now, as I tie-down my kayak on top of the car and head off to the Northway, I am grateful for the privilege of a few days in the woods, watching the small creatures, listening to the wind through the trees, and basking in the glory of creation.