LOCALadk Magazine

LOCALadk Winter 2018

LOCALadk Magazine

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Page 25 of 71

26 Winter 2018 LOCALadk Magazine LOCALadk It stands on the outer perimeter of all that falls within the Blue Line, like the cornerstone of a fortress. It remains wil- derness and is designated as such, an emerald isle floating in a lake large enough to run the border of two states, a lake large enough to inspire some to dare call it Great. Less than ten miles from one city and twelve from another, it is at once a paradox and a declaration of all that wilderness is, can be, and why it matters. And for a few glorious weeks, sometimes months, when na- ture allows, a short cross-countr y ski across a straight of Lake Champlain's frozen waters reaches Valcour Island's shores from civilization's portal—the State boat launch in Peru. It is no wonder then that between Januar y and late March the win- ter winds whisper Valcour in my ear. It calls to me as I gaze at it from the summit of Whiteface: Valcour, Valcour. And I gauge the winter in my mind, judging how thick the ice might be, and how long it might last, letting the tension build. Then on one windless bluebird day, I am there, standing on the ramp at the Peru boat launch with my skis in hand, gazing across the ice. A big gray, primer-coated truck rumbles like an orner y bull and then belches down to the edge of the boat ramp. There is a slushy hole at the edge of the ramp. It is big enough to swallow a wheelbarrow. But this is the Adirondacks, where ownership of a beat-up old truck with still working four- wheel drive, is license for all kinds of foolishness. The guy at the wheel guns the engine, as if standing at the starting tree of an NHR A drag event. Then, sensibly, he eases the beast onto the ice. The back right wheel dropping into the hole is his green light at the Lake Champlain drag races. He guns it. The big block V8 roars to red line. Slush, snow, and water fly through the air and Mad Max is on his way. Somewhere near the lighthouse on Valcour he really opens it up, thundering across the snow-covered ice. There are no speed limits on the lake, and he's loving it. In a few minutes he'll either be in Vermont or sinking into the ominous crevasse that's beginning to open just beyond the island. Ten-dollar ferr y fee saved, either way. As his rumbling rig fades into the distance, I scan the horizon for snowmobiles. No noise, no objects darting across the ice. Quietude settles, and once again I hear the breeze whispering, Valcour, Valcour. Sanctuar y beckons. My daughter Cassandra and her mother have joined me at the edge of the ice. Cassan- dra looks at the hole, and then me, signaling trepidation. "It's just from the downforce of trucks hitting the ice," I explain. The rest of the ice is solid, and the temperatures the last few nights have been cold enough to keep even the surface firm. So we strap on our backpacks and begin the journey. Cross- ing ice on skis always speaks of adventure. This is a tenuous path. Its textures define the temporar y in nature. Cr ystalline ice crumbles underfoot. Re-glazed thaw melt-pools turn ski- ing into ice-skating. Powder y islands of wind drift in-between grips the skis. Valcour Crossing By Michael Zeugin

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