By all indications, it appears the spring season has finally settled in across the North Country. The recent dark skies and heavy rains have given way to a warm sun, green grass and an abundance of wild flowers.
Beyond such comforting events, though, looms a clean-up of winter's typical debris, along with the considerable mess the recent storms brought to the local rivers, ponds and trails.
Warm days and chilly nights are a trademark of this season and muddy trails and sloppy portages provide a punctuation mark.
This aerial picture of the dam at Duck Hole was taken at the peak of the flooding. There have been numerous concerns regarding the integrity of the structure, but it appears intact.
Snow-capped summits will remain evident on the far horizon, as river and stream waters flow full and cold. The spring whitewater rafting season is in full swing, while anglers mix easily with paddlers on the ponds.
The monotonous monotones of winter will be rapidly replaced by a full spectrum of greens - from the deep, dark boughs of the hemlocks to the brilliant tinges of lime-colored pitcher plants in the bogs.
Spring brings life back to the woods and the waters, as forests sprout leaves, meadows blossom and birds and wildlife venture forth. Spotted fawns will test their wobbly legs as red fox kits venture from the dens and kingfishers chatter up a storm along the riverbanks.
The air is again fresh and crisp, and as clean and sweet as the burgeoning wildflowers that emerge from under leafy cover.
Regeneration and restoration is ever evident, carried everywhere with familiar bird songs that whisper from the woods or with an owl's throaty call that rides far on the night air.
Soon, Adirondackers will begin offering that old, familiar wave to welcome back the first black flies of the season, which terrorize unsuspecting tourists and locals alike.
Although the flying pests are an unwelcome inconvenience, many general stores rely on annual sales of bug dope to buff up their bottom lines. When the bugs come back, the store's bottom line is usually in the black.
Paddlers should note that the annual Round the Mountain canoe and kayak race scheduled for May 21 in Saranac Lake has been canceled due to unsafe conditions.
Additionally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that the upper and lower locks on the Saranac chain of lakes will remain closed until further notice, due to debris and damage resulting from the recent high-water conditions.
Furthermore, the Coreys Road is still closed to protect against rutting during the mud season and the suspension bridge is out on the East River trail to Mount Adams. The cabin atop Mount Adams has still not been repaired after high winds decapped it last summer.
Despite record high-waters condition, the dam at Duck Hole has remained intact, as evidenced by a recent aerial photograph.
Fortunately, there were no reports of any bridge failures throughout the vast Moose River Plains Recreation Area.
The fishing report
To date, the fishing has been rather spotty on the ponds and local lakes, where waters remain cold and levels high.
The state has been stocking local rivers and streams as water levels return to normal, but the water temperatures are a bit cooler than expected. Anglers should exercise caution while wading the rivers, as the river bottom has changed considerably in places due to scouring from the floodwaters.
In places, the river banks have been undercut and some of the deeper holes have filled with sediment. Ken at Jones Outfitters in Lake Placid reports that fish are being taken primarily with streamers and nymphs on the river and that Lake Placid has already produced a few impressive lake trout.
On the Saranacs, anglers are advised to exercise caution due to floating debris. The folks at Blue Line Sport Shop in Saranac Lake reported some nice salmon taken on Lake Colby and a few nice brookies from pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area.
Further down river, Frank Tuthill at River Road Bait and Tackle in Bloomingdale offered a report of some fine lakers taken on Moose Pond, while walleyes and northern pike are the primary species of choice on Franklin Falls and Union Falls ponds.
As always, River Road has a fresh supply of live bait available, and a fine selection of rods and reels for the kids.
I expect river conditions will be back to normal on the AuSable just in time for the return of the 12th annual AuSable River Two Fly competition on Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21.
Paddle out of the gym
Fitness buffs, and even lazy sloughs, can benefit from the fitness opportunities available at the skiing end of a canoe paddle.
Increasingly, athletes and those who want to be are taking an interest in paddle sports for the opportunities paddling provides for those seeking a low-impact, full-fitness regimen.
Tired of hanging out in the sweaty, smelly gym, listening to the banging of free weights and the screech of pulleys on the Universal machine?
Maybe it is time to take a paddle in hand and begin pumping wood at a a watery, open-air gym that features natural light, fresh air and a soothing, complete surround sound system.
You don't have to race. There are no time trials and not even a mandatory set of reps required. This is exercise that is done in the open air, on the fresh, flowing water, and can be pursued individually or with a group.
There is no samba, no lycra and no pounding beats beyond that of your own heart. There is a completely natural, total surround sound system that features an endless loop of enjoyable music, performed live on location in an atmosphere that is always great.
You can easily adjust the degree of resistance training according to your own personal needs, depending on wind conditions or the river's current.
Paddling is an exciting and relaxing low-impact activity that is easy on the joints and provides a complete body workout. Best of all, the gym is almost always open and there is no monthly fee. You can become your own personal trainer or exercise with a partner.
Canoeing and kayaking require the use of different muscle groups than most other sports. It is especially good for the shoulders, back and abs. Paddle sports athletes are often defined by broad shoulders, tight abs and tiny heinies.
One of the key benefits is that people are willing to exercise on a regular basis, since canoeing is fun. It also helps to know that four hours of paddling burns about 1,600 calories, reduces hypertension, builds upper body strength and enhances feelings of self-worth, confidence and adequacy in participants.