Commentary

Loons in the North Woods

UPPER ST. REGIS LAKE, NEW YORK – I write to you amongst the mountains and lakes of the Adirondacks in New York state. It is awfully scenic this time of year, with blue skies, green trees, and loons abounding. My journey up here was somewhat odd, as a relative won this mysterious and sprawling camp in a charity auction. It took nearly an hour to find the estate due to shady directions, and navigating the unpaved mile-long driveway was no treat, either. Apparently, the region is experiencing a great deal of land turnover, as estates, known as the Great Camps, constructed by the wealthy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have recently faced demolition due to increasingly hefty taxes and maintenance costs. Others burned or were destroyed during wretched winters. Although extensive preservation efforts have gained steam in recent years, only two of the camps are open to the public. Development in the region is rather stagnant, as almost all of the privately-owned land is still regulated by the state. Impressively conscientious of unintentionally evicting the loons from their natural habitats, the powers that be, namely the Adirondack Park Agency, have limited construction. Such restrictions, though, have kept the lakes stocked with fresh bass, pike, and trout, which imaginably is great news for maladroit fishermen who may now proclaim their position among the great fishermen of all time, whoever they may be. The house, on Upper St. Regis Lake, was one of the few in the community accessible by land, and we learned from mercurial locals that ice fishing was commonplace in these parts in the winter. Ice fishing is a strange practice, as wooden shacks are erected in the middle of frozen lakes, and holes are created within the ice contained by those shacks, and then fished through. Apparently, the most avid ice fishermen retain satellite dishes, miniature refrigerators, and space heaters and spend days upon days on the lake, resembling increasingly the Gorton Fisherman or Ted Kaczynski in the process. This journey was not solely for frivolous purposes, though, as family scheduling snafus necessitated a trip to Vermont to pry a sibling from camp. Trips through northern Vermont and New York inevitably contain sightings of border patrol, cows and empty Labatt Blue bottles, which are real authentic treats, straight from the North Country. However, on our return drive through Essex Junction, Vermont, a city not exactly known to this writer as a crime-infested slum, a presumably inebriated individual threw herself in front of this writer’s car. We stopped, and then she ran back in front of the car, unleashing a slurred torrent of epithets. A man with a pad and pen was shrouded in the darkness, presumably taking down license plate numbers. Ideally, I would have exited the vehicle, armed with a pen, notepad and fedora, but extenuating circumstances prohibited extensive reporting on this Phillipian exclusive. Despite the occasional harrowing midnight trip, the Adirondack region tends toward tranquility and provides much-needed relief from the hustle and bustle of everyday life elsewhere. Perhaps you, too, will come visit.