Ribbons of fog often cap the summit of Whiteface Mountain during the early morning hours. The sight offers a reminder of what’s to come as the summer season segways towards autumn. The Adirondack summer has always been a dwarf on the annual calendar.
As I grow older, it seems the summer season has become much more fleeting than it was in my younger days, when the prospect of returning to a classroom was a constant lingering threat.
While I understand the rationale behind the concept that a person’s perception of time is altered as they age — It is an odd fact that while some summer days appear to last forever; the weeks and months seem to move faster than a dollar sign at the gas pump.
The inescapable truth is the duration of our days is extended as a result of the quantity of activities we manage to pack into them. A long day may include a morning hike, some swimming, some diving, a lazy canoe float and a bit of casting even if the fish don’t want to cooperate.
But when the fish do decide to provide a bit of entertainment, time stops for a while; or it can even allow one to regress. I’ve known many men, and ladies for that matter, who are reduced to the state of giddy, little kids at the mere shadow of a trout approaching their fly.
This pattern of activity based regression is in fact the definition of recreation, which when broken down is simply to recreate, our spirit, our enthusiasm, and our reasons for living.
Some folks have a need to achieve in order to get their dose of recreation, of which the recent Ironman USA is a classic example. Run, bike, and swim is fine for some, while many others prefer to drink, grill and snooze. To each his own, sport.
I’ve also noticed the lack of time I’ve spent in camp this summer has had a drastic effect on my understanding of the season.
There have been far fewer nights spent around the fire, watching the sparks intermingle with a million stars overhead, as fireflies continue to blink and flicker off and on in the pitch blackness.
The rivers have remained quite high this season, and their waters have been rather cool. However, lake temperatures are now comparable to bathwater and the rope swings have been busy.
The night skies have remained as brilliant as I can ever recall, and the morning’s fog equally as thick. The recent cool nights have offered up numerous examples of nature’s extraordinary ribbony masterpieces, which have been as fascinating to view from the valleys as from the mountaintops.
Such scenes are always compounded by the appearance of a full moon, a brilliant sunset or other natural attractions.
Although autumn will always remain my favored season for a number of good reasons, summer chases right along in a hard second.
It is a youthful season, and one of the most fleeting available in our little neck of the woods. Although it brings with it a myriad of inconveniences which include muggy heat, rain, bugs, clogged roads and busy streets; the summer always serves to brings back our youth. And I wouldn’t trade that for all the Bluebird days of autumn, winter or spring combined.
Where have the butterflies gone?
For me, one of the surest signs of the summer season has always been the preponderance of butterflies in our backyard, which is overgrown with a thick swath of milkweed plants.
To date, I have not witnessed a single monarch in the air or on the plants. Nor have I seen a single yellow swallowtail butterfly, sipping water along the edge of any stream, brook, creek, river or seep.
Often, while wading the Boquet over the years, it has become quite common to encounter a rabble of swallowtails gathered along a wet riverbank. It is always a joy to witness a rabble take to the air, and float along gently on the air currents of a river corridor.
I never realized how much I enjoyed the sight, until it’s been gone. I do hope it is just a cycle with the swallowtails.
However, the dire situation of the monarchs may be a far different matter. Entomologists have discovered a dramatic drop in monarch populations all across North America. It is believed to be the result of last year’s combination of severe weather events, which included droughts, high winds, heavy rains and a prolonged cold snap during the spring migration.
As a result of last summer’s droughts and the spring season’s rains, the massive monarch migration, which extends from Mexico to Canada, was decimated. According to various reports, there is a very real possibility that no monarchs will be found in the northern air this summer, which would be very sad.
However, if you do need to see some monarchs, I highly recommend The Wild Center’s newest movie, “Flight of the Monarchs,” which documents the popular butterfly’s incredible annual journey from the mountains of Mexico to the fields of North America. It is available daily at 11 a.m., noon and 4 p.m.
The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, aka The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, showcases the natural world of the region with a quality comparable to the Adirondack Museum’s display of the human history. They are two facilities that make me wish for more rainy days.
“Normally we have hundreds of millions of Monarchs in Quebec and Eastern Canada, and now we have 90 percent of that at least,” noted Montreal Insectarium’s entomologist, Maxim Larrivée in a recent interview that was published online.
In fact, monarch populations have continued to suffer a severe drop in population during the past seven years, with as few as one-fifteenth the numbers that were in the air just two decades ago.
The familiar black and orange species has been in serious decline for a while, and if populations continue the downward spiral; monarchs may no longer be a familiar fixture of the North Country summer.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.