St. Regis Canoe Area, N.Y. - There aren't many places like it left. Where
the owl and coyote try to out-hoot-and howl each other in the evening and
the trout rise before breakfast. Where eagles still soar, and the lonely
call of the loon is an eerie reminder of Indian superstition.
The St. Regis Canoe Area is where you can paddle for days and meet a nary
soul, pillow your head on a mound of lakeside moss at night and marvel
at an infinity of shooting stars. Absorb the panorama of a glacial lake
and cirrus-swept cobalt sky sandwiching an endless stretch of verdant forest.
Capture it in a corner of your mind where you store only the pleasent memories.
The St. Regis Canoe Area is a pocket of pristine wilderness, encompassing
about 58 lakes and ponds, that some think is the soul of the Adirondack
forest. It is painstakingly maintained by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and, as the name implies you can bring in only a canoe. And the canoe you bring you must carry and paddle and carry and paddle some more, if you want to hear this loon and see these stars. And be more alone
than you've probably ever been before.
No motors, electric or gas allowed. And when a tree falls in the forest -
or, more precisely, across a path - no one knows. Because even the rangers
must cut it up with hand saws. No chain saws allowed. There is no noise
in the St. Regis Canoe Area, save the wind whistling through the forest
of spruce, white pine and hemlock, or the occasional slap of a beaver's
tail, the rising of brook trout to a mayfly hatch, or the beat of your heart.
As you sit on a stump at the point of a tiny peninsula that reaches out
to St. Regis Pond, the only sounds you hear are a crackling breakfast fire
and loons, and the soft voice of an Adirondack Guide explaining the haunting
calls of the loon were the voices of spirits.
Here, you're already at the best table in the house, as guide Joseph Patrick Hackett
scoops out fresh oranges for juice, cracks eggs into the cupped rinds and
places them on the fire's coals. And then there's the sizzle, as the brook
trout, which minutes before were at the end of your fly line, cause a bit
of a rumble to rise from the depths of your belly.
After breakfast, you relax on the point, a second cup of steaming Earl
Grey tea cradled in your hands, as you ponder an osprey circling way overhead.
When you wonder what he must see from where he flies, you begin to realize
how privileged you are. Because beyond the forest in front of you, there's
another pond that's a bit deeper; beyond the trees behind you is a pond that's
a bit clearer, and on either side, sliced into the landscape by glaciers
eons ago, are ponds that are just a bit broader than the St. Regis that
laps at your feet. Your mind keys on the glaciers, and your brain waves
slow to an even pace with the pondering ice. You don't even know that you've
slipped away till the brook trout in your dreams start weighing in at 6
and 8 pounds.
Then there's Hackett again, talking almost at a whisper, as he slides the
canoe in alongside your sleeping form.
"Let's see if we can find an early morning hatch along the sunny side
of St. Regis Pond," he is saying. "Then we can try trolling some
streamers on Ochre Pond, and at midday, I know a real productive deep-water
spring in Bear Pond. We can stop for lunch then, and then try to find and
early evening hatch on Little Long Pond."
The canoe gradually cracks the mirror of St. Regis Pond as you paddle toward
the far shore. Half-way across, you see a doe slip timidly from the tree
line, curtsy daintily and begin to slake up water. You stop paddling so
as not to interrupt her. When she's finished, Hackett digs his paddle deep
and with one stroke, points the canoe back on course.
"Ya know," he says from behind you in a voice that rises half-note.
"Ya know. I sure am happy to be here."
You feel the first morning sun on your shoulders and spy trout rising dead
ahead. Blip-blip, the fish sips at the surface from beneath. The Osprey
continues to soar way overhead.
"He won't bother that trout," Hackett says."He knows you
saw it first."
You raise you fly rod and lay a perfect curve line out over the water. It
slides silently onto the surface of the pond. Blip-blip.