The Creaking Season

 

Think back to fall.

We started spending more time inside, but talked (happily) about the crisp air, holidays and family gatherings. It’s always a sentimental season.

Now, that crisp air that dries out everything but our floor mats, staying inside and all that blasted gathering have given us cabin fever. And it’s reaching a breaking point.

So, plans are hatched to escape the pre-whistle creak of the kettle, the screaming door hinges and the increasingly weird sounds coming from our own bones. In our cabin, we decided to trade all that for the creak of our boots in their bindings and the shush-shush of cross-country skiing.

And we wanted to go somewhere other people weren’t. We prefer places where motors aren’t allowed and “man and his works can’t remain.” That’s wilderness. Combine it with Adirondack cold (and, let’s be honest here, Newton’s First Law of Motion) and you can reasonably expect the general public to stay away in droves.

So we went to the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness Area—58 ponds, no waiting—and made our way slowly between the high snow banks on either side of Floodwood Road, parked and skied onto Long Pond.

That tiny dot in the center, that’s my wife. Photo: J. Brown

No words can describe the expanse, the bright white of endless snow and the bite of the wind.

Fresh powder covered everything. Our tracks were the only ones we saw, until about an hour later when a meandering line of two sets of footprints—four-legged—hugged the trees along the shore.

We skied along the summer carry route to Slang Pond and then to the campsite where we got engaged. That was a late summer paddling trip a couple years ago. And by that point, I knew that, for her, seeing a loon was a good omen. That day, we counted 17.

None, of course, on our ski trip. They’re elsewhere, on open water. But I imagine loons that summer in the Adirondacks are experiencing their own kind of creaking, too.

Something’s beginning to stir: a longing maybe—or just an inkling—to start the long flight back.

We turned around and began the long ski back to the car. It was easy to think our tracks in the snow were somehow more than that—like a sign saying, “We were here.” But that’s not how it works. After all, there’s no trace now of our passing.

It’s the wilderness that puts its imprint on us. For a few hours we were in a space too big to be filled, surrounded by life—mostly dormant, yes, but almost perfectly silent, too. I was the only creaking thing out there.

And I loved the crisp air and looked forward to getting back home and the warmth you only get in winter.

 

If you go: you better go soon, or wait until next year. And please, go lightly. Remember what Thoreau said: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” It only takes a short time there to realize it holds a key to your own preservation, too.

 

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3 Responses to “The Creaking Season”

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  1. Hank says:

    Beautiful solitude! My wife and I can relate because we just finished a similar experience snowshoeing in Quetico Provincial Park in northwestern Ontario. We were the only two people in the entire park (which is about the size of Algonquin Park). Overnight was spent in a yurt.

    The big difference between your experience and ours is that it took us three days to drive there!!!!

  2. Jonathan Brown says:

    Right on, Hank!

    It’s become a challenge for lots of people to cover the miles (and costs) of reaching a place that offers the kind of solitude they really want.

    We want to go to another Quetico–the Boundary Waters between Minnesota and western Ontario. That trip (if it ever happens) will require (for us) an expedition level of planning and saving.

    It’s another reason we feel so lucky to have the Adirondacks so close.

    -Jonathan, NCPR

  3. Bob Falesch says:

    Sometimes I’ll read a phrase and feel I’ve understood it, but by the time I get to the end of the sentence I’m haunted by doubts. Something about the phrase will strike me as transcendent the moment eyes land on it, but by sentence-end I’m haunted by the fear I’ve missed the essence. So, I’ll go back and re-read in order to nudge this invisible something from the depths of my subconscious “up” into my conscious.

    In this piece, that phrase is “…the pre-whistle creak of the kettle.” Upon hitting that sentence the first time, I only saw “the whistle of the kettle.” Why the significance of the whistle’s “pre-creak” was lost on me the first time through I do not know. I see now that, had I first paid attention to the title, I may have been primed with a better understanding of Jonathan’s premise. However, in my awkward manner think I had more of an adventure :–)