Although the local lakes and ponds have been in winter's icy grip for nearly half a year, the season has relented. On Friday, April 22, the ice finally went out and by the following afternoon; it appeared three out of every four vehicles on the road was car topping a canoe or small boat.
Obviously, the enduring winter season was no longer endearing and people just couldn't wait for it to end. It seemed that everyone was out searching for an open pond to paddle or a stream to fish.
Early season adventurers would be wise to scout potential locations, since there's still a lot of snow in the woods, mud on the trails and high water on the streams. Travelers should be prepared for sloppy conditions on land, and cautious of floating debris on the waters.
The combination of spring rains and snowmelt has already served to kick off the annual whitewater season. Rafters can again be found on the mighty Hudson, while kayakers seek out the swollen creeks.
The spring melt always gets me excited, and I have long possessed an affinity for rushing waters. I grew up surrounded by streams and rivers, with a small brook in our backyard and a larger stream, just across the street.
The two flows join with the larger Boquet River, for the annual spring rush to fill Lake Champlain in Willsboro. Fresh flowing waters once filled my boyhood dreams, and they continue to provide opportunities for my adult adventures.
Although I relish the advent of ice out on the ponds, there is nothing I look forward to with a greater degree of enthusiasm than my annual canoe trip down the Boquet. It is a journey that earmarks the beginning of a new season; and provides me with a return to my roots.
By most standards, the Boquet is a small river. It tumbles from the Dix Range in the High Peaks Wilderness in a rage of froth and fury, before settling into an intimate tangle of forests, fields and meadows as it flows gently through the Pleasant Valley from New Russia, through Elizabethtown, Lewis, Wadhams, Whallonsburg, Boquet and finally to Willsboro and Lake Champlain.
Over the years, I've paddled a majority of the river's course, short of the precipitous headwaters above Split Rock Falls. I've enjoyed the whitewater of the Steele Woods section and I've run numerous drops at Little Falls, Whallonsburg and Boquet.
I've been chased down the river by cattle above Wadhams, and watched otters slide on the clay banks near Otis Mountain.
There is no finer method of getting to know a river, than to paddle it, and my first adventure of the new season always involves a canoe trip from New Russia to Elizabethtown.
It is a route that's mostly flatwater, with a few riffles and a couple of tight moves. Invariably, the journey involves a few carries to get around a logjam, or to haul the canoe over a new timber that straddles the stream.
The route always provides an adventure, the thrill of backcountry surprise and the exhilaration of exploring what lies just around the next bend; will it be a deer, otter or beaver.
Unfortunately, the river's once thriving trout fishery, which always produced outstanding opportunities, no longer exists. I can find no one to explain why the upper river appears to be so totally devoid of fish life.
While paddling the same section over the past five years, I have not taken a single trout, nor have I seen any evidence of suckers, minnows or creek chubs.
Bob Marshall, the renowned conservationist, once claimed that, "Each mile on a river will take you further from home than a hundred miles on a road."
Although it may be the case on most flows, I've discovered the opposite holds true. Every mile I travel on the Boquet, brings me closer to home. It is a journey that serves to restore my youthful sense of adventure. The trip lets me be a kid again, if only for a day, and that sure is a nice place to be!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org