campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
My Perfect Paddling Moment

I feel one single moment of paddling perfection is worth any number of other moments. My particularly perfect paddling moment took place on Sysladobsis Lake, one lake in a chain along the St. Croix River near Calais Maine.

Sysladobsis Lake
Sysladobsis Lake

Several paddlers from various states all over New England met for a rendez-vous at a state-managed campground here one recent summer weekend. My paddling buddies Scooter and Hal were up north from the Boston 'burbs, along with many other friends I met for the first time around the campfire.

We left the campfire and gathered in the cove in the hour before midnight, and climbed into our canoes for the short paddle out onto the lake. The air was warm, with a gentle breeze on the calm water.

The tree-line was etched in the light from a gibbous moon hovering over the campsite on the shore. Stars shimmered in a cloudless sky.

Scooter and Hal traded stories with Dick and Carp, with hoots of laughter punctuating each punch line. Some of the stories were actually true. Others were told in a blend of bullshit and bluster so that no one could tell the difference any more.

The moon slowly glided down the sky and melted into the forest with a final magical glow. It cast subtle shades and back-lit shadows on the trees, and on the boats and boaters weaving on the water.

Sunset on Umbagog Lake, Maine

We sat in silence to enjoy its fading radiance as the stars stepped in to provide their own tapestry of infinite luminescence, reflected in rippling mirrors to all sides of our boats.

In the far cove, a single loon called, a haunting longing that echoed to all corners of the lake. Other loons joined in from their own sheltered harbors. Each reply stirred emotions that had lain dormant far too long.

In response, the crest of the hills over the easterly shore began to glow and pulse in waves of pastel electric green, a color only the aurora borealis can display. Soon the shifting, parting curtains climbed high into the sky, flaring and unfurling in celestial harmonic.

A perfect paddling moment - one that is indelibly imprinted on my memory, a serendipitous conjunction of good friends, a midsummer's eve and a quiet lake up north. I recall and revisit this perfect moment whenever I wonder what it's all about.

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