Boot 'n' Paddle Features

Boot ‘n Paddle: Fire and Ice in the NoCo

BY: ABAGAEL GILES

COLUMNIST

This break brought a return to something I hadn’t realized I missed: quiet. During the winter months, the North Country freezes. The Adirondacks freeze and the living things that inhabit them, having long shed their leaves or grown thick, downy coats, slink off into the depths of the snowy landscape to wait. They sleep and sit and what’s left, except for the occasional birdsong, is silence.

Despite, and perhaps in spite of seasonal change, campus chugs along, day after day and week after week in the usual, wonderful way of a train. It plows through snowstorms and frigid winter days, winter storm warnings and windchills that threaten frostbitten noses. We hunker down in routine, make our own holes and grow another layer of dense, Dana Sit inspired insulation, and wait out the winter.

There are those who defy the elements and venture forth to brave steep slopes and chilly winds at Whiteface. There are those who hike high peaks, strapping on spikes and crampons, metal weapons that cut ice like prosthetic claws. There are those who skate on frozen ponds, and those who simply walk. All, save a few, return to campus at the end of the day, to a warm bed.

In the winter months, we students stick closer to home. Those of us who yearn for the woods struggle to find safe overnight accommodations. The sheer inconvenience of winter camping drives even the best of us back to our dens at the end of a January day in the Adirondack woods. We miss the solace and yes, the silence a night spent off of campus can offer in the fall months.

The new break brought students to cabins all over New England. Skiiers stayed in North Conway, skiing mountains such as Hale, Washington, and Cardigan by day and feeding woodstoves by night. Still others chased powder and the occasional beer at Jay Peak, hitting snow and icy winds day in and day out.

For my part, I spent my days on cross country skis or by foot, and once, by a little hole in an icy pond in Northern Vermont, at the Wheeler Pond Camps. Instead of speeding up, on this trip we slowed down.

I also tried ice fishing, a venture with, in my opinion, questionable merits. After a day of unsuccessfully chasing unseen fingerling under the ice, luring their cold souls to the surface with bits of bacon and fat, juicy worms on ice-coated lines, something magical happened (and no, I did not catch a fish). As my friends began to cook dinner inside and stoke the fire and hunker down for the night, it began to snow. It snowed in fat, lazy flakes that fell, one by one across the ice. The silence was deafening, and the snowflakes seemed to pierce the frigid air, dancing across mountains in the background to land at my feet.

Strapping on skis, I skated to the middle of the pond, and as I pushed, kicked and slid, the snow fell harder. It fell like crisp zaps of static, tickling my eardrums and dancing in the moonlight. After some time, the static faded. The last of the glitter fell. The wind died. The moon shone. And all was still.

Opening the cabin door brought a wave of laughter, warmth, and the smell of sizzling garlic and onions. Music played through a pair of traveling speakers and voices echoed. Socked feet slid and skid across wooden floors. It was as if the underlying hum, that constant buzz of campus activity and energy, had traveled with us. And though sanity may require occasional encounters with true silence, I feel that friends and good company, not to mention the occasional cheer of “Send it!”, are also beautiful and entirely natural.

May mid-semester breaks to come bring many more nights spent in wintery solitude, and infinitely many more in good, raucous company, on campus or off.

About the author

Olivia White '17