Even though the darkest days of winter have come and gone, the past week proved to be a dismal time for members of the guiding community, as news of a tragic car accident involving two local guides began to trickle out.
The accident occurred on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas on Tuesday, Feb. 5, when two vehicles collided head on. Captain Walter Boname, 56, of Cape Vincent was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead on the scene.
Wayne Failing, a veteran guide from Lake Placid, was a passenger in the vehicle. He was seriously injured in the accident, and is currently recovering at the Albany Medical Center.
This altar of pines provides a natural setting for restoration and replenishment.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
Boname and Failing often guided bonefishing trips in the Bahamas during the winter season.
Walter was a gregarious, easygoing fellow with a perpetual smile and a honest laugh. He had a good word for everyone, and enjoyed life to the fullest.
He was also a genuine river rat, and he operated a charter service out of Clayton on the St. Lawrence River for more than 25 years.
Walter was also longtime member of the NYS Outdoor Guides Association, and he lived by the motto, "Fill your days with life, not your life with days."
He was a good guide, a great friend, and he will be missed.
Walter leaves behind a wife of 36 years, two daughters and an extended family who wish to honor his legacy by offering contributions to the Kids to Camp Fund, a New York State Summer Environmental Education Camp. Donations may be sent in his name to: NYSOGA, Craig Tryon, 2365 Olanco Road, Marietta, NY, 13110.
Healing alone in the woods
In trying times such as these, I am always grateful to have a convenient retreat nearby that makes the grieving process much easier.
I have always preferred to be alone with my thoughts, my sorrows and my memories, and I believe this is true of most men.
From a young age, we have been groomed to hide our tears and to control our emotions. But alone in the forest, it is safe to sob and to acknowledge the pain; or to simply remain quiet and listen to the magnificent silence within.
Not all men are heartless, even though we are often expected to be, at least on the outside. However, when we are enveloped within the safe, quiet confines of tall pines, it becomes much easier to let our true emotions loose - to cry and to ache and to acknowledge the true pain.
Humans need nature, and even a little bit of it can provide big benefits. It is restorative and replenishing, and it enlivens our senses of happiness and sorrow, peace and pain.
Natural settings allow us feel more, to sense more and to be more in tune with our surroundings. Recently, while visiting a natural cathedral of huge hemlocks on a nearby ridge, I had the unique sense of connecting with something far greater than just a simple human community.
I am enriched by spending time alone in the forest. The experience provides a chance to enjoy traveling among the unimproved works of God.
However, I also realize that even when there aren't any humans in sight, I'm never completely alone, and I'll never be able to achieve complete solitude but I'll always be surrounded by thousands of other living creatures.
The woods will always be crowded, and the best I can hope for is to simply shake free from humans for just a day or two.
Camping and woodcraft
At the turn of the 20th century, the Industrial Revolution was producing a stunning selection of technological advancements, including the steam engine, the telegraph, the horseless carriage and, most miraculously, a modern self-contained water closet that soon made chamber pots obsolete.
Inventors such as Ford, Edison and Bell were focused on developing the newest, quickest and most convenient means of construction, transportation and communication. The country was forging a brave, new world.
But as society focused on the future, there was an entire class of travelers who were devoted to the past. They wanted to pursue the hardy life in a self-sufficient and primitive manner.
"Roughing it" was their mantra, and George Washington Sears (aka Nessmuk) was their prophet. Through his letters, which were published in numerous national magazines, Sears popularized the concept of taking canoe camping vacations in the Adirondacks.
In 1906, Horace Kephart, an admirer and protege of Sears, published a manual on the subject, titled "Camping and Woodcraft: A Handbook for Vacation Campers and Travelers." He dedicated the publication to Nessmuk.
Kephart offered advice on assembling a camping party.
"In any case, be sure to get together a company of good-hearted manly fellows, who will take things as they come, do their fair share of the camp chores, and agree to have no arguments before breakfast," he wrote.
Kephart also warned campers about the prospective dangers of city life, and the necessities of returning to nature.
"To many a city man there comes a time when the great town wearies him. He hates its sights and smells and clamor.
"Every duty becomes a task and every caller is a bore. There come visions of green fields and far-rolling hills, of tall forests and cool, swift-flowing streams.
"They yearn for the thrill of the chase, for the keen-eyed silent stalking; or, rod in hand, they seek that mysterious pool where the father of all trout lurks for his lure."
Kephart had great distain for modern city life circa 1905, and he was possessed by the call of nature.
"This instinct for a free life in the open is as natural and wholesome as the gratification of hunger and thirst and love, it is nature's recall to the simple mode of existence that she intended us for.
"Our modern life in cities is an abrupt and violent change from what this race has been bred to these many thousands of years.
"We come from a line of forebears who, back to a far-distant past, were hunters in the forest, herdsmen on the plains, shepherds in the hills, tillers of the soil, or fishermen or sailors at sea."
He continued to praise self sufficiency, and damn city life when he revealed, "The best vacation an over-civilized man can have is to go where he can hunt, capture and cook his own meat, erect his own shelter, do his own chores, and so, in some measure, pick up again those lost arts of wildcraft that were our heritage through ages past, but of which not one modern man in a hundred knows anything at all.
"The self-dependent life of the wilderness nomad brings bodily habits and mental processes back to normal, by exercise of muscles and lobes that otherwise might atrophy from want of use."