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Still waiting for that first whiff of spring

April 27, 2011
By JOE HACKETT, News Outdoors Columnist
I am pleased to report ice-out has finally occurred. The ponds opened up last weekend. However, there are a number of local lakes that remain socked in, including many of the upper-elevation ponds.

Most area rivers and streams are running high, cold and roily, with a combination of rain and spring melt. I expect water levels will continue to rise. There’s still a significant snowpack in the high country and skiers will be making tracks on Mount Marcy for some time.

Spring was slow to arrive this year. The hillsides remain dark and blank, and the grass is still matted. Most trees haven’t begun to bud and browns dominate the scene.

Although birds are in the air and loons have reclaimed the ponds, it just doesn’t feel like spring. My nose tells me the seasonal transition is, as yet, incomplete.

I can’t define it, but there is a particular odor that always hits me in the spring. I smell it first as I step off the back porch into the yard. It is an odd scent and although I can smell it distinctly in my mind, there are no words to describe it. I wish I could bottle it in some way, so that it would never go stale.

It is a fresh scent: watery and quite faint, as opposed to the pungent, sweet mustiness that accompanies autumn’s gradual decay. When I first smell it wafting by on the wind, I am immediately transported to another time and another place.

It returns me to childhood days and I am instantly a kid again, if only for the moment. I await it with an anticipation that was once reserved solely for Christmas morning.

Maybe it’s because the scent harkens me back to the safer, less stressful times of childhood. It carries a calming effect, like the return of an old friend and the prospect of continued good times.

The aroma may actually come from an abundance of water, yet it doesn’t retain the freshness that comes with a hard rain.

I’ve always lived in close proximity to rivers or streams. I was born overlooking of the Hudson and was raised on the Saranac. My formative years were spent on the Boquet in a house sandwiched between Barton’s Brook and The Branch. In some sense, I guess I’ve always had water on the brain.

It’s interesting to note that the scent occurs only during the very early days of spring. The smell is likely a mix of freshly growing grass and plants and aerated dirt, accompanied by a particularly indescribable woodiness.

I’ve smelled it since childhood days. Research indicates that  olfactory memories (smell), are the longest lasting and most vivid of all our senses.

The first whiff always sparks a compulsion to take a bike ride around the neighborhood or apply some Neatsfoot oil to a baseball glove. And despite my considerable girth, the occasion delivers a particular sensation of lightness, like the gravity-defying phenomenon that occurs when shrugging off a heavy backpack after a long hike. It’s almost as if I can lift off.

It prompts a unique giddiness in me, with laughter that comes from the belly. I wish I could control the sensation, but it remains a fleeting experience. I guess it’s like chasing a rainbow, the closer it appears, the farther removed you become.

Despite the fact that autumn will forever remain my favorite season, I long for the advent of spring and the opportunity to again enjoy just a few of those wonderful fleeting moments. They serve to restore both my heart and my spirit and, most importantly, they give me a true taste of what it’s like to be a kid again.

Even though I hear the bird songs, the frogs in the bogs and the loons on the lake, spring never really arrives until I catch a whiff of that wonderful scent on the breeze. It is a moment that I hope will continue to haunt my senses until I am no longer able to take a breathe.

You deserve a good paddlin’

The season always accelerates with the advent of ice-out. I’ve already put in a couple of days on the water, with just one lone brook trout to show for my efforts.

While it’s usually the weather that prompts us to get out, there are a number of upcoming events that should get the juices stirring, beginning with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail Film Festival, which returned to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 28.

There’s also the annual Adirondack Paddlefest in Old Forge over the weekend of May 20-22. It is the largest on-the-water canoe and kayak sale in the country.

Over the course of three days, paddlers have the opportunity to test drive hundreds of different models of canoes, kayaks and whitewater boats. Paddle sports reps and paddling experts will be offering seminars and clinics and there is always a festive atmosphere.

The event, sponsored by Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, is always a great way to launch into the new season.

There will also be two popular paddlers events returning to the area after a short lapse: the Rushton: Return to the Adirondacks and the Adirondack FreeStyle Symposium.

The Rushton: Return to the Adirondacks is a gathering of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association at Paul Smith’s College and will return to the shores of the Lower St. Regis for the 32nd annual assembly from July 13 to 17.

The Adirondack FreeStyle Symposium will take place over the week of July 10 to 15 in Ray Brook. Freestyle paddling has been called “obedience lessons for your canoe,” and it involves an intricate display of paddlework that is choreographed to music.

Simply put, FreeStyle Paddling is the equivalent of a water-based ballet performed by contortionists armed with a paddle. It is a beautiful event that involves great athleticism, graceful moves and superior paddling skills.

Best of all, the clinics and performances will be hosted on Wolf Pond in Ray Brook, a small, placid water body that is tucked in behind the Sherwood Forest Motor Inn. Sherwood Forest will be the base of operations for the event.

Article Photos

Photo by Joe Hackett
A lone angler ponders the morning’s opportunities along the still waters of a remote Adirondack pond.



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