It was 2020. A worldwide pandemic had emerged, which changed the nature of school work and play around the globe.
And still the river flows.
The memory of our really efficient and engaged Northern Forest Explorers trips still bring a smile to my lips and pride to my heart. To see everyone come back to the river each year, a little older, a little wiser, and with increasing wilderness skills is something I look forward to each year.
The logistics have been fun these past few years. There are enough familiar faces from previous trips to really push our goals and abilities into new challenges. Last summer’s crew will doubtlessly recall our forced march from the Deep Hole lean-to to the “Ghost Camp,” an abandoned logging camp I discovered deep in the woods along the Raquette River during a previous hunting season.
I’ve never seen a motion from the floor come up so fast … after busting through a mile or so of really thick forest, we arrived at a place of rusty decayed wood stoves, old glass bottles and Balantine beer cans. Ruby’s hand shot up immediately, “I suggest we don’t stay here overnight but return to the lean-to.” After a discussion of our options, the group agreed and we returned — to our peril. The squirrels never refrained from pelting us with pine cones from the very tops of the white pines; we needed helmets to cook dinner.
We always do find opportunistic adventures to have along this well-traveled route on the Raquette River. With favorable winds, this group managed to set up — not just arrive — on the north end of Long Lake at 2 p.m. This after leaving the state launch, nine miles back, at 10:30 a.m. They’ve become a strong bunch of paddlers. Amy and I are already consulting with the spirits of Noah John Rondeau and French Louie on suitable challenges for this year’s trips.
Luke will remember walking away with the trophy (a 1/3 bottle of hot sauce called PAIN) after eating a pancake doused in it. We’re getting ideas from a YouTube show called “Hot Ones” on a plethora of new hot sauces to consider; currently, we’re checking out “Da Bomb” or “Zombie Apocalypse” for this year.
Although our repeat travelers are all gracious, well-mannered and very welcome, it has been our pleasure to welcome some new campers each year in this group. I really like to see the mixture of local kids that are attending the same small schools I attended as a child growing up with people from other parts of New York, Richmond, Baltimore and even the UK.
As someone who grew up in Long Lake — actually Whitney Park, as Long Lake was a big step towards “civilization” for me — I can appreciate the value of incoming and outgoing people; of meeting your neighbors from other parts of the state/country and being ambassadors of the Adirondacks to people from outside the Blue Line. It’s a special place that we live in, and following some of these historic roots helps one build the foundation of place.
We look forward to welcoming friends old and new on the trips this summer. We will continue to follow appropriate cautions and safety procedures to minimize the risks of our current pandemic.