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Deer breathe a sigh of relief at passing of Allen

February 26, 2010
Joe Hackett, Enterprise Outdoors Columnist

The arrival of the full snow moon on Sunday, Feb. 28 typically coincides with the heaviest snowpack of the season. The moon was called the Hunger Moon by Native Americans, as winter's deep snows often made it tough for hunting and equally difficult for game to find food.

Currently, there is a rather light snowpack across the region, with about 12 to 18 inches on the ground. However, skiing has been excellent with a very firm base layer providing excellent cover for traveling off the trails and current forecasts call for heavy snow by the weekend.

In the High Peaks, Lake Colden has two feet of snow with considerably greater depths in the upper elevations.

Although Lake Champlain ice has already begun to break up in places, most of the inland lakes and ponds still maintain adequate cover for safe angling.

I expect ice conditions will hold up well for the upcoming 26th annual Colby Classic Ice Fishing Derby that is scheduled for the weekend of March 6 and 7. For further information on the Colby Classic, please call 891-3319.

The Game, the rink

and the memories

As the Winter Olympic Games continue to unfold in Vancouver, I have had a wonderful time following our local athletes. It was great to witness Lake Placid's Andrew Weibrecht standing atop the podium with a bronze medal draped around his neck. It was equally thrilling to watch the other local nordic skiers, biathletes, bobsledders and lugers compete.

It now appears that both the men's and women's U.S. hockey teams will be heading into the medal rounds.It's hard to believe that the majority of these athletes weren't even born when the game was played in 1980.

I thought about this as I wandered through the 1980 Rink in the Olympic Center last Monday on the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.

I often wonder if the local population truly appreciates the significance of that historic event. It's likely that anyone over the age of 40 can still recall the moment. It wasn't just a game, and you didn't have to be a hockey player to recognize the fact.

To this day, the 1980 Rink is considered Hockey's Holyland. It is a shrine that encapsulates all that is great about the game.It is easy to forget how fortunate we are to be able to visit the site, to skate on the same sheet of ice and to share our collective memories. For players and non-players alike, the game will always remain a defining moment and it continues to define the community as a place where miracles can still happen.

Farewell to a woodsman

Last Sunday, as I skied in to check on my hunting camp, the surrounding forest seemed eerily silent. There weren't any tracks in the fresh snow and it was obvious that few creatures were stirring in the morning chill.

The early silence was broken only when a random ruffed grouse exploded from the snow cover where it had burrowed for insulation from the evening cold.

On the return trip, traveling through a thick cedar swamp, I came across fresh deer tracks. Although some may think it impossible, I'm certain that I detected a collective sigh of relief coming from a herd of deer that were huddled up in the swamp. At the time, I wasn't sure what to make of the sound and brushed it off as my imagination.

But later in the day, when I learned that Bill Allen, Sr. of Saranac Lake had passed away that morning I understood. Finally, the Adirondack deer could breathe a bit easier. Bill may be a one the region's last, old-time woodsman.He lived through an era when the woods were far wilder than they are today. He traveled the woods widely and often; as his son, Billy still does.

Bill was a gentleman and popular guide. He served as a lock tender on the Saranacs for many years, like his father before him. He was also a family man and an active member of the Saranac Lake community. Most of all, he was a genuine, lifelong sportsman who took great pleasure in sharing his love of the outdoors with others.

In Adirondack tradition, he worked as a caretaker for numerous camps, eventually settling in with the Rosenthal family on Lake Placid, where he finally retired from the occupation at age 86, after 45 years. Like many veteran caretakers, Bill took great pride in "his camps" and was always willing to share them with their owners, when they came to visit.

I first met Bill in the 1990s after hearing stories about his days guiding for Camp Bandana, a "state camp" located on Green Island on the Lower Saranac Lake. Mr. Greenspan, a fabric district executive from New York City, owned the camp and used it for corporate entertainment throughout the 1950s and '60s. I learned of the camp's history while fishing with Arthur Spiro, a former guest of the camp, who was in his 90s at the time.

Although nearly 40 years had passed since Bill Allen guided on the Saranacs, Mr. Spiro always referred to a particularly productive location as "Bill's tree."

When I finally met up with Bill years later, I discovered why it was named "Bill's tree." He explained that most guides on the Saranacs at the time had a favorite "bass den" that they tried to keep secret.

"The bass fishing up the lakes used to be real good, until the state stopped us from putting out our trees," he explained. " We used to go up in winter and drop a large pine onto the ice. Then, we'd tie sacks filled with rocks on all the limbs, so the tree would sink at ice out. The trees made great cover and the bass fishing would be real good for a number of years."

The following fishing season, when Mr. Spiro returned for our annual outing, he showed me where a few of the old trees were located.

In a small cove off Pope Bay, he claimed, "There used to be a big tree right in here." Although it was no longer visible, we motored in to inspect the cove and sure enough, it was right where it was supposed to be, sunk on the bottom in about eight feet of water.

Mr. Spiro was thrilled that he still remembered the location, but I was even more excited when he landed a huge smallmouth bass off the spot. The old tree still paid off.



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