For three straight days, a thin red line in the thermometer on my back porch has retreated well south of the zero digit. I believe it would have disappeared altogether if I hadn't cradled the tiny bulb in my fingers in a weird attempt to make the cold morning air more bearable.
"Ahhhk ..." was the only noise I could mutter as I choked on my first sip of the cold morning air.
I swore, and muttered to myself, "Remember the chill in the middle of August, when sweat's rolling off the brow and there's less than a hint of a breeze in the still, muggy air."
Saranac Lake guide Herb Clark poses atop a peak for a portrait with George Marshall. Clark will be honored as the original Adirondack 46er in a memorial ceremony at 10 a.m. May 26 at St. Bernard’s Cemetery in Saranac Lake. The public is invited to attend.
However, on such cold mornings, there's always evidence of a breeze. It becomes apparent with every breath, as I watch the tiny ice crystals slowly float away.
Much later, in the still silence of the dark evening air, I could hear the lone moans and occasional pops of ice setting up on the brook out back. A faint reminder of what waits in store, but far removed from the thunderous rumbles and grumbles that often growl from the region's larger lakes and ponds.
Living as we do in a land of snow and ice, I've grown accustomed to hearing the odd, natural sounds that signature the seasons - whether it's the low rustle of leaves sweeping across the forest floor or the faint bark of geese far above, winging their way south for the winter.
My ears are attuned to the seasons even when my heart cares not to listen. There is no way to escape the familiar hints evident in the sweet notes of a solitary song sparrow in the spring, nor the horrible roar of a Canadian clipper passing over the peaks on a dark, dismal December's eve.
On such nights when winter's wrath causes me to shutter with cold thoughts, I'm usually quick to disavow any plans that may have once tickled my fancy for outdoor adventure.
And as alternative plans begin to plunder my mind like funnels of whirling snow over a raw landscape, I tend to retreat ever deeper into my seat.
Ice fishing? Naw.
A quick ski out back? Unbearable.
A slow snowshoe jaunt through the deep cedar swamp ... awww, what 'da hell! Why not?
Despite sights, sounds or even good sense, there is simply no way to escape the diversity of Adirondack seasons, and often for good reason. Up north, they are so well defined that each has a unique character, and each delivers a host of new, intractable attractions.
Sure it's cold, and yes it's windy, but there's still plenty of snow and winter only comes around once a year, so get out and enjoy it.
Banff film fest returns
For the 14th consecutive year, the Banff Mountain Film Festival will return to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the event are $19 in advance and $22 at the door, if available. Be advised, this event has regularly played to sold-out crowds for over a decade.
The benefit event, hosted annually by High Peaks Cyclery, will kick off at 4 p.m. with an opening reception at The Guide House, adjacent to High Peaks Cyclery.
Featuring free beer, refreshments and snacks, the opening reception will include a preview of the festival's films, while providing similarly minded, outdoor adventurers an indoor opportunity to mix, mingle and swap stories.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival is a favorite of true adventurers and armchair adventurers alike, and it always serves to get the adrenaline pumping with a steady mix of skiing, climbing, biking and paddling adventures.
The event will also provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to participate in a gear raffle with all proceeds going to benefit trail development initiatives in the area, including the Barkeater Trail Alliance, Dewey Mountain Ski Center and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council.
The original 46er
Herb Clark passed away on March 3, 1945 in the Saranac Lake General Hospital, and was laid to rest in a family plot at St. Bernard's Cemetery on the shores of Lake Colby, with his wife Mary and his sons, Herb, Jr. and George.
In life, he was a strapping young man who had left his hometown of Keeseville in the late 1890s to seek work on the Saranacs, and he soon landed a job as a night watchman at Bartlett's Carry.
After a few years, he took up the oars of freighter guideboat, hauling supplies between Ampersand Bay and the carry. He earned a name for himself by rowing a single load of 2,200 pounds and for having covered over 65 miles in a single day, with 24 of those miles at the oars of a freight boat. Years later, he earned the reputation for being one of the fastest oarsmen in the region.
However, his fate was eventually sealed in the summer of 1906, when he was hired as a guide by the Marshall family, who owned a camp at the Knollwood Club on Lower Saranac Lake.
James Marshall later explained in a letter to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "Our guide, Herb Clark, was one of the finest people I ever knew, a fast and secure man in the woods, a splendid fisherman and hunter, and a tireless rower. We learned much from him, and his company was always a joy."
His brother Bob Marshall added, "At the age of 51 he (Clark) was the fastest man I have ever known in the pathless woods. Furthermore, he could take one glance at a mountain from some distant point, then not be able to see anything 200 feet from where he was walking for several hours, and emerge on the summit by what would almost always be the fastest and easiest route."
The Clark family is still well represented around town, but several generations have passed since Herb first began hauling the young Marshall boys across the Lower Lake to begin a process of tackling the Adirondack High Peaks.
Since those early days, when Bob and George first began chasing their long legged, tireless guide up both trailed and trailless peaks, there have been more than 7,500 others chasing the same dream. Most of them belong to the Adirondack 46ers organization, which continues to record a steadily increasing number of peak-bagging enthusiasts.
Initially, the Marshall brothers were recognized as Adk 46ers number 1 and number 2. However, the honor was later bestowed upon Herb Clark, the original 46er. Herb is now listed as Adk 46er No. 1.
Recently, I received a note from Joe Ryan, a 46er who lives in Saranac Lake. His note included an invitation from the Adirondack 46ers to join them in honoring "one of New York State's historical figures" at a ceremony to be held on May 26, 2013.
I contacted Mr. Ryan to learn how the plan transpired, and he explained, "I was laid up for most of the summer with a leg injury, and I really needed to get some exercise. So one day, I needed to take a walk and I ended up visiting Mr. Clark's grave. What I found there was just a plain stone marker. There was no mention of his accomplishment for being the first Adirondack 46er, and it disturbed me because he had earned that honor.
"So I brought the idea to the 46ers executive board during their fall meeting," Ryan explained. "And the board decided there should be a memorial stone honoring his achievement as the first person to climb all 46 of the High Peaks.
"Then I got in touch with Amy Catania at Historic Saranac Lake, who put me in touch with Jim Clark, who's now the family spokesman. And the family was thrilled to learn that after all these years, Herb was finally going to be honored."
I am pleased to report the Clark family and the Adk 46ers organization wish to invite the residents of Saranac Lake and surrounding communities to help celebrate the unveiling of a memorial stone honoring Herb Clark, the original 46'er.
The event will be hosted at St. Bernard's Cemetery off Ampersand Avenue at 10 a.m. on May 26.