Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Lake For All Seasons

The following is the text of a guest blog posted today at Coös Networks, – – a community website serving the far northern precincts of New Hampshire. Coös Networks has become an important meeting place for the exchanging ideas, sharing information, while "deepening relationships across disciplines and geography, and building regional vitality." I thank Coös Networks for giving me an opportunity to contribute this guest blog.
In the 1989 film "Field of Dreams," a disconnected voice instructs an Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner to mow down part of his corn crop and construct a baseball diamond. "If you build it, he will come." I won’t spoil the film for any of you who may not have seen it yet (you should). Suffice it to say, he does . . . . and he does. The film’s tag line states it plainly. "All his life, Ray Kinsella was searching for his dreams. Then one day, his dreams come looking for him. Like Kinsella, I went looking for a dream on my first visit to northern New Hampshire over twenty years ago. I was not sure I knew what I was looking for, but I knew I would know it if and when I found it. And I did. This dream came to me in the form of a small 231-acre lake nestled just below Prospect Hill and the height of land that forms the headwaters of the mighty Connecticut River and demarcates the US-Canadian (Québec) border. 

On that first trip to northern New Hampshire in early 1994 I drove the 18 miles of macadam that is US Highway 3 as it bisects northern Coös County between Colebrook and the peaceful hamlet of Pittsburg where Lake Francis is impounded behind the 117-foot earthen Murphy Dam built in 1940 as part of a flood control project. From there for a distance of 14 miles I continued to follow the forest-fringed highway roughly paralleling the Upper Connecticut River and the three Connecticut Lakes.

First Connecticut Lake (ca. 3,000 acres at 1,638 feet above sea level) and Second Connecticut (ca. 1,100 acres at 1,866 feet above sea level) two miles upstream are also both impounded behind large concrete dams with flood gates. The Connecticut River connecting these two lakes and Lake Francis is considered some of the best trout and landlocked salmon waters in New England, if not the United States. The river narrows the farther north one travels and it is fed by several small tributaries. Five miles above Second Lake, and just north of a marshy area known as the Moose Flowage, is Third Connecticut Lake (2,188 feet above sea level), the lake of my dreams. One mile beyond that lake is the international border and the terminus of US Highway 3.  

On that first visit I pulled off the highway at the small gravel boat landing - the only mark of man on the entire lake - and
parked in the shade of two ancient trees near the water’s edge. From there I could survey almost the entire surface of the lake and the surrounding hills. Somewhere just below the height of land beyond the far shoreline is a small two acre pond - Fourth Connecticut Lake - the actual headwaters of the Connecticut River situated at 2,670 feet above sea level. I was the only one there and I felt that in some small way I had arrived at a place I had to share with no one. The lake was quiet. Just a couple of loons out in the middle minding their own business. The only sound was the wind rustling the leaves as I watched clouds scud over the distant ridge line. This was the spot I hoped and dreamed I would find.

I have returned to this spot dozens of times over the intervening years. At all hours of the day and night and during every season. I would go there to just be alone with my thoughts. I have sat there and watched storms brew with lightning stabbing the roiling lake as thunder echoed through the hills. I have gone there to revel in the myriad autumn colors as I fished for lake trout. I have parked my car above the lake in the dead of winter when the ice is thick and snow covered as are the surrounding forests; my car buffeted by the wind as snow dervishes terpsichored across the ice, or as a blizzard slowly arrived over the ridge line from Canada. I have returned at the height of spring which comes late in this northern country. The winter ice rotten and soon to sink to the depths of the lake. The loons had returned and it was time to dream of a quiet evening fishing for trout.

All of my life I had searched for just such a special place. I can’t help but think this lake was created solely for my enjoyment and peace of mind as I always enjoy it in solitude. It is the only way I can imagine it, either when I am there or when I dream about it and wonder what I will see and feel upon my next visit. A disconnected voice comes to me. "If it is there, you will come." I always do. I always will.