Risks beyond our control and comprehension

This photo of the High Peaks, as seen from Reber, indicates areas of snow accumulation in the higher elevations. (Provided photo — Joe Hackett)

“There are the times when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”

— George Carlin

The above quotation comes from the late George Carlin, a comedian who had a knack for explaining the unexplainable. The country really needs a good laugh in such times as we are in right now. Unfortunately, political jokes are no longer a laughing matter; they’re just a sad commentary on the current state of our national affairs.

I haven’t witnessed such trying times since 1972, when a similarly dishonest president occupied the White House. The current state of the state is as about as dismal as I ever recall. It is nothing to laugh about, even though the Russians, Chinese and many other nations are more than happy to oblige.

Although I have rarely used this column to editorialize, I believe the time has come. As a parent, grandparent and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, I am saddened, confused and disappointed with the current state of affairs in this country. It appears the moral compass of our society has lost its bearings.

With guns in the schools, concerts, churches and institutions, our very society is under fire, and I expect it will require more than water to put out the flames. It will require some serious national soul searching.

With a proven liar and self-professed draft dodger occupying the White House, it appears we need to learn how to battle the enemy within. Increasingly, homegrown terrorists have been focusing on soft targets such as concerts and schools.

Fortunately, the United States Olympic women’s hockey team gave us something to cheer about when they pulled off the Miracle on Ice II to defeat Team Canada in a thrilling shootout.

Over the course of a long career in the forests and fields and on the waters of the Adirondacks, I realize how fortunate I’ve been to be protected by the great green curtain that continues to insulate this quiet place in the deep woods from the rest of the world. It offers a haven from the hyper-paced, artificial, no-holds-barred places that exist beyond the confines of the Blue Line. It is a bastion of reality in an increasingly synthetic world.

Sense of discovery

The recent cycle of rain and thaw has severely impacted the region’s snowpack. However, there are still nordic opportunities, with a very solid ice base of crust, dust and ice. Most local lakes and ponds were resurfaced with the recent thaw, and ice fishermen and women are still getting out.

However, at this point in the season, travelers should make an effort to avoid traveling in areas around inlets, outlets or other areas where there’s a current. In all my years, I never caught a fish that required a cold swim, and I don’t intend to now.

It appears we will have an early ice out, and I’m willing to wait until April 1.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed participating in a variety of traditional and non-traditional events and activities that have included everything from scuba diving, whitewater paddling, backcountry skiing, rock climbing, ice sailing, cliff diving, bungee jumping, free skating, backcountry skiing and a host of similarly dangerous hair-brained, high-risk pursuits.

The common thread holding this wild tapestry together has been a willingness to accept assumed risk. Typically these risks have been fully considered, although there have been occasions when I needlessly tested my physical limitations and mental capabilities, as most teenagers tend to do.

Admittedly, not all of the risks I’ve accepted over the years have been fully calculated. If that was the case, there would have been no sense of surprise and the spirit of the adventure would have been greatly diminished. There is very little excitement in playing a game that’s been predetermined. The risk spectrum requires a sense of discovery, thrill and adventure.

The most difficult element of the entire equation is a personal risk assessment. How much are you willing to take on, and how much are you willing to share with others? There is supposed to be an element of fear in a risk, for without it, there could be no thrill.

Rock climbers, backcountry skiers and whitewater paddlers understand the concept, as do most thrill junkies. However, despite the most careful preparation and constant awareness, there will always be risks beyond our control. While we are able to protect ourselves from floods, high winds, bad ice and other such natural threats, there appears to be very little we can do to protect our society from heartless killers, whether in a car, a classroom or a concert.

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