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Spring returns to the north woods

March 21, 2009
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Bucket and sap lines have again sprouted in the sugar bush, as steam pours from sugarhouses across the North Country. If maple season is already at full boil, mud season can't be far behind.

The snow base is rapidly diminishing, especially on south facing slopes - although it is still holding up quite well in the higher elevations and in the snow belt around Paul Smiths.

Can-Am Hockey tournaments have taken over the Lake Placid Olympic Arena and the Saranac Red Storm Girls U-16 Team has captured the NY State Championship. Congratulations go out to a spirited group of young ladies and their coaches.

Article Photos

The Lady of the Lake resigned from public service in the 1990’s, when she was purchased by Brian Arico as the personal companion for Camp Minnowbrook on the west shore of Lake Placid.

Ice shanties have disappeared and Saranac Lake's once grand ice palace has been reduced to a mere pile of giant ice cubes. Lake Flower is already sporting open water and the winter season is surely on the wane.

Bird songs greet the morning sun, as flocks of geese retreat into the sunset. As the opening of trout season approaches, adrenaline flows in anglers' veins like sap from the maples. Saturday's Drake Flyfishing Film Festival, beginning at 7:00pm at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, will surely add fuel to the fire.

Never before have I been so willing to trade my ski poles for fishing poles. I'm anxious to find open water and wet a line. It may be just the bright blue sky and the warm sun. Or it may be as a result of a visit I recently enjoyed with my old friend Fran Betters, the Dean of the AuSable, and now a member of the Flyfishing Hall of Fame.

I stopped by his AuSable River Sports Shop in Wilmington earlier in the week where Fran continues to share stories of his adventures accumulated over many years on the river.

Few anglers have attained his knowledge of the river, its trout, its beauty and its various attitudes. But mostly, Fran knows its history and it is forever entertaining to listen to his tales. And although heath issues have limited this once agile angler's mobility; these concerns haven't lessened his enthusiasm for the sport.

As I listened to him recount stories of his favored haunts and 'fantastic fish', an old familiar spark glistened in his now faded eyes. He may no longer have trout at the end of a flyrod; but he'll always have them in his mind. It's a similar passion that continues to draw all of us back to the streams, to begin that search for open water on the ponds and to listen for the first call of the loon announcing that the ice is finally out.

Mud season confronts

a sad old lady

Just down the road from my home in Ray Brook, a proud, elderly lady rests along the roadside. Long and slender, with a thin waist and strong shoulders, she stares forlornly at the still waters of a small pond - wondering, I expect, if she'll ever taste fresh water again.

She's a North Country lass, born in 1924 upon the shores of Alexandria Bay at the Hutchinson's Boatworks on the St. Lawrence River, in the shadow of the Thousand Islands where she once toured under the name of Commander.

Her services continued on the big river until the 1950's when a complete makeover restored her girlish good looks and she became the proud matron of Lake Placid, serving at the pleasure of Mr. Charles Grote, who renamed her, The Lady of the Lake. For over 50 years, she was an icon of the lake, flaunting her long, slender lines across the mirrored surface of the lake, with Whiteface Mountain looming in the distance.

She continued offering her proud services for several generations of tourists, departing daily from a home at the Lake Placid Marina. Although the islands she skirted on her daily jaunts were drastically reduced to only three, the scenery was certainly more picturesque.

The Lady of the Lake resigned from public service in the 1990's, when she was purchased by Brian Arico as the personal companion for Camp Minnowbrook on the west shore of Lake Placid.

Although her strong frame and powerful innards can easily handle upwards of forty guests, her passenger rating was reduced to a mere 19 guests. Her many years of service as a public passenger vessel were endangered when her carrying capacity was greatly reduced in the wake of state regulations enacted as a result of the tragic Ethan Allen accident on Lake George.

Mr. Arico, a graduate of Paul Smith's, explained, "When I heard that the boat was going to be sold, I hated to see her go. It belongs on Lake Placid. It's gone by my camp four times a day for 20 years."

"We had rented it over the years for weddings, receptions and other special events. It's really neat and nice to use, a very special boat."

"However", he continued, "when I decided to put our camp up for sale, I thought it would take a few years; but it went immediately. And now I don't have the 44 feet of docking space necessary to keep it."

After attempting to sell the boat on eBay and entertaining several offers, Mr. Arico removed the Grand Ol' Dame to Ray Brook for winter storage.

Anyone with a passion for an elegant, elderly lady, who still maintains a firm body and slender lines should contact Brian Arico at (914) 456-2550. The asking price is $20,000. I'm sure she's anxious to return to familiar waters.

New York State Outdoor Guides Association

annual rendezvous

The NYS Outdoor Guides Association will return to the Hanah Mountain Resort in Margaretville, for their annual Rendezvous from March 26-29.

The 27th annual gathering of New York's outdoor professionals will feature programs of interest to aspiring guides, licensed guides and their families and friends.

For those interested in acquiring a guides license, the opportunity to achieve the requirements necessary for licensing will be available, including First Aid, Basic Water Safety and refresher courses beginning on Thursday, March 26.

The Department of Environmental Conservation will administer a guides licensing examination on Saturday, March 28. Applicants must register in advance by calling DEC at 518-402-8838.

Throughout the weekend, guides from across the state will attend educational and informational seminars, as well as business meetings, a grand banquet and board meetings.

This is an ideal opportunity for prospective guides to network and research employment opportunities or simply gain insights into the occupation.

In the 26 years since NYSOGA's formation, the guiding profession has experienced tremendous growth. Currently, nearly 15 percent of the state's licensed guides are female.

Currently, the DEC licenses guides in six different categories, with the basic written exam covering Hiking and Camping. Additional written exams are required for specialty areas such as Fishing, Hunting, with additional field competencies necessary for Rock and Ice Climbing and Whitewater Rafting and Canoeing.

Today's guides still function in traditional roles of cook, guide, counselor and storyteller, but the profession has become more specialized. Some guides provide a select type of service, which has become their trademark.

Yet, most guides work seasonally leading rafting trips in the spring, offering flyfishing tours and instruction the summer, guiding hunters in the fall or skiing throughout the winter season.

Guides have also become more specialized to fill specific niches for such activities as birding, nature interpretation, bow hunting, kayak touring, trail running, ice climbing, women-only trips, llama trekking and animal tracking.

As modern society continues to become further removed from the natural environment, the services of guide will continue to be in demand.



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