Across the Northern Hemisphere, summer officially began Monday, June 21 at 7:28 am. However, if the quality of weather were taken into account, it seems as if we've been enjoying summer since early April.
For a few lucky, summer lasts year 'round. For them, it has become almost a state of mind, it is part of the mystery of the Adirondacks and its residents. We are willing to suffer through a long, hard winter, because we know that when summer comes, time slows down.
It's a quieter, cooler and fresher time, with a late light and a quick night. The pace slows and people return to camp life. It is announced by the late night wail of a loon or the throaty roar of an old, ChrisCraft motoring up the lake in the morning's fog.
In my mind's view, summer begins with the season's first muggy night. It comes at a time when the hoot of an owl can still be heard from the nearby woods. It happens as lightning bugs flicker in the darkness and June Bugs begin to bounce off the window screens. It's the two months that allow us to put up with the other 10 months of unpredictable weather.
Sure, I know the roads will get busy, but often, the traffic is bringing old friends home, whether to a camp, a tent or a childhood home. In an odd way, summer has the unique ability of bringing us all back home.
It is a season of many scents. Likely the most odiferous odor, a smell that continues to conjure up the most memories, is the scent of camp. It is an old smell that lingers inside all the old camps and it has the potency, with just a simple wiff, to make us all kids again.
It is one part woodsmoke aged cedar and one part moth balls, mixed with a squirt of Ol' Woodsman, a wet, wool blanket and the lingering smell of old canvas. It is a smell that can only be duplicated in camp, and it is a scent that serves to transport back to calmer, easier days when the time drifted by slowly and everything was still exciting.
Camp life hasn't changed much over the years. Certainly there are a number of conveniences that have raised comfort levels as the gear is lighter and the chow is better, but time spent in camp is still the time spent in camp. It's more than something in the air.
In the early 1880's, a writer by the name of Wachusett from Long Lake, wrote in a letter to Woods and Waters magazine, "With the Sportsmen who have come into the wilderness there mingles this year a larger proportion than ever before of invalids attracted here by reports of the marvelous healing properties in the air of especial benefits in the cases of lung diseases. "
"The majority of these people derive invaluable benefit from their visit because most of them come in the initial stages of their malady at first capable of the cure."
He continued, "The singular sweetness of the air is apparent to all and is even more manifest in rowing on the water than in walking or camping in the woods. There is nothing enervating and at the same time nothing dangerously bracing about it."
Santanoni Wagon Rides
If you'd like a taste of camp life, with a touch of the grand old heydays of the Adirondacks, it may be time pay a visit to the little village of Newcomb.
Newcomb is home to Great Camp Santanoni, Huntington Forest, the APA Visitors Interpretive Center, the headwaters of the Hudson River and lots of wild land.
It is also the place where Dave O'Donnell is now regularly offering horse and wagon rides into the once grand, Great Camp Santanoni. A winding five-mile journey over a wooded road brings visitors to the camp, located on the shore of Newcomb Lake.
Guests can visit for the day, or pack in gear and a boat to spend the week. And while visitors can still pedal a bike to the lake, the ride in a covered wagon is a far bit easier, and the shaded top seems to keep the deer flies at bay.
O'Donnell, a native of Newcomb, has returned to his boyhood home to take the reins from Ken Helms, who had ably handled horse packing chores in the region for many years.
O'Donnell will continue to uphold the traditions, as did Helms, of packing in hunters, anglers and other lovers of the outdoors. Reservations are available from Santanoni Wagon Rides at 518-582-2360. Enjoy the ride, the scenery at the end of the trip is worth it!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org