The trees had turned spectacular colors since our last visit; buttery yellow oaks, shimmering crimson maples. There didn’t seem to be any space left green.
“I think we hit the peak of foliage season,” Charlie mused. We were on the trail leading to the upper boat landing. The ferns glistened with morning dew. As we rounded the last curve, Charlie, who was leading, suddenly stopped. I did too, beside him. From a high knoll, we took in the expansive view: Mt. Marcy rose in the far distance, the curvaceous, colorful Adirondack range beckoned. A loon sounded, that strange noise that instantly made me feel alone, despite Charlie’s presence. The morning sun was already hot in the eastern sky. But looking west, I noticed dark clouds that looked like they could be trouble if they came closer. I licked my finger, and held it up, tried to gauge which way the wind was blowing, like Dad used to. I had no clue, it was oddly still.
“Look,” I pointed, “there’s a family of mergansers near the canoe.”
Charlie nodded, smiling. He loved nature possibly more than I, fought the land management company when our squatter’s rights were challenged. He’d argued that the land had been in our family since Grandpa Howl was 20. “No commercial timber company deserves to profit from such pristine land,” he’d said at the time.
“Have you ever seen such a gorgeous lake?” Charlie said. I look sideways, he was wearing one of my Dad’s favorite hats, a trucker’s cap: Fly Rod Shop, Stowe, Vermont. There was a rainbow trout drawn on the front. Since Dad passed in 2002, Charlie had slowly morphed into shades of him. Used his hats, smoked his tipparillo’s (keeps the bugs away!) and fished with his favorite fly rods.
We continued to walk toward the point, the pungeant scent of decaying leaves and the familiar sound of the water lapping against our boat registered. We spooked the family of ducks. They beat it down the lakeshore, making a huge ruckus that made us chuckle.
“You’d have thought we were dangerous,” Charlie chuckled.
I placed the oars into our Criss-craft canoe. “The lake is so still this morning,” I noticed. “It’s almost haunting.” A loon echoed my remark, the fog lifted in sinewy shapes. “Why don’t you get in and I’ll push us out a short distance. The water is really shallow at the shore.”
“Okay!” Charlie said. His agile body bounded onto the deck. He angled his feet into the canoe.
“Go slow, Chuck,” I cautioned. “She’s easy to tip.” I wasn’t sure what significance that would have, not until later that afternoon, miles from our cabin, when the Nor’easter would surprise us. But for now, as I glided the canoe away from our cabin, the stove reflecting the glint of the morning sun creeping through the fog, I thought, life is good!
Bits of memorabilia traipsed through my mind: the first time Dad and I canoed from Tippet Point, the aluminum canoe in which my sister, Debbie, and I were stuck during an electrical storm on Tupper Lake.
“Look! There’s that loon!” Charlie squealed. And I felt his boyish enthusiasm, admired his zest for life, a thousand times more magnified than mine.