Hot, humid weather continues to cast a warm blanket over the region. The heat has been accompanied by several violent thunderstorms that have left a path of destruction in their wake.
While the passing storms have provided spectacular evening entertainment with fantastic displays of chain lightning, the heavy rains have raised rivers and streams to spring levels. The lakes and ponds are full again and the fish are active.
Rivers with steep gradients such as the Ausable and the Boquet have flushed quickly, while the slower moving waterways such as the Saranac, Hudson and the Raquette, will run high for a while.
With the advent of these severe weather patterns, outdoor travelers should remain vigilant of the possibility for lightning strikes. Whether biking, hiking or on the water for any purpose, danger is omnipresent at this time of year. Get off the mountaintops, lakes, streams or rocks at the first hint of thunder and there will always be another day to enjoy.
Back to camp
"We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven" - Henry David Thoreau
I've spent most of the past week in camp, traveling through a series of lakes, rivers and ponds, where I discovered there is still a little bit of that forgotten heaven. My days have been full of paddling, fishing, hiking and swimming, while my evenings were spent around the campfire, telling tales, sharing laughs and shivering to ghost stories.
Camp is a place where we can forgive and forget the inhibitions of regular life. It is a place where we can relax and be free to shed the normal constraints of everyday society. It is a special place where we can let our guard down, be ourselves and return to our roots. We retreat to camp to escape.
Time slows down, noises become less apparent and our senses are enlivened. Life is less annoying and we are calmed. Stresses of regular life are removed as the days begin with a rising sun and depart with the arrival of heavy eyelids. In camp, a watch becomes an intrusion that's better suited for town than for the country.
An old friend and mentor once offered the finest description of camp that I have ever heard, explaining, "Camp is a place where you can spit, cuss, fart and scratch your butt in public...and nobody cares. When yer' in camp, it just don't matter no more!"
It's been great fun to share these adventures with children and to again experience the pleasures of regular camp life through a younger set of eyes. Any kid that can get away with any of the actions mentioned above, without admonishment, is bound to be in for a good time!
Kids are captivated by the simple chores of collecting firewood, starting a fire or cooking s'mores. Add in a salamander hunt, a frog safari, a bit of fishing and an evening of watching the night sky and you've got a recipe for some tired and happy kids. Falling asleep while a west wind blows, the loons wail and a coyote howls is simply a bonus to the day's adventures.
I have slept with my back to the earth for six out of the last seven days, and I found the experience to be very good for the soul. It is an incredibly intimate experience to sleep in an open camp, with the wind blowing through the trees, the stars sparkling in the night sky and the gentle lap of waves along the shore. In a word, I was "grounded" again and I am better adjusted to life for the experience.
Over the past week, I have camped and fished through the Saranac Lakes, the St. Regis Lakes, the Bog River, Lows Lake and Hitchens Pond. I found the Saranacs rather quiet and the St. Regis also somewhat slow. However, the vast Bog River Wilderness was packed with travelers seeking solitude, which appeared to be in very limited supply.
Regardless of the human traffic, the fishing has been excellent for bass due to a series of passing low-pressure systems. During these 'Dog Days of Summer,' a favorite activity is to pursue bass with a flyrod, in the early hours of the evening. Bumblebee pattern poppers have proven quite effective of late, especially when nothing else seems to work. When the waters grow flat and still, spin fishermen will find similar results with surface lures such as Little Torpedos or Hula-poppers.
Fishing, swimming and camping are some of the finest 'kid friendly' activities available and the current conditions are possibly the most conducive of the season. Taking a kid outdoors, whether for the day or a couple of nights is one of the least expensive methods of fostering an appreciation of the environment and cementing family bonds. Surveys regularly reveal that a 'camping trip' is commonly reported as the most indelible memory of our youth.
New tools for hunters, hikers, skiers and anglers
Outdoor enthusiasts will find a new tool to help plan trips in the Forest Preserve at DEC's Mapping Gateway. The website provides information that allows the public to use Google Earth and other mapping tools to find trails and learn more about the state lands that surround them.
DEC's Mapping Gateway combines existing web mapping applications and map collections with new offerings, such as a full-featured, interactive data inventory and map viewer. DEC continues to expand the availability of "Virtual Globe" data at http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html that provide a variety of interactive aerial map representations using virtual globe software such as Google Earth.
The Mapping Gateway also offers an extensive series of depth charts that are a valuable tool for anglers. Many local waters are featured, including several backwoods ponds.
Additional new features offer information on boating, bird watching, hunting and accessibility to other state lands.
Instructions are available on the DEC website for those needing information about how to download and use the Google Earth software.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.