[The following is the first in a two-part series on a recent ramble through the Northeast Kingdom and the Green Mountain State (aka Vermont), with stops in the wild Nulhegan River Basin and, later, at the famed Battenkill. Stay tuned!]
Spectacle Pond lies in the heart of the Green Mountain state’s Northeast Kingdom, a remote three-county area of Vermont where deep evergreen forests and glacial ponds and lakes cover the hills and valleys. Located near the modest and unassuming village of Island Pond (a former logging and railroading center now quietly accepting the tourist dollar), Spectacle Pond seems well-suited to representing the wildest and most remote section of this beautiful state.
I found it interesting to read that in 2006 the National Geographic Society ranked the Northeast Kingdom “the most desirable place to visit in the U.S.” I’m not sure what criteria the venerable institution used to determine “most desirable places,” but I’m not prepared to argue the designation, only to explore the place according to my own interests.
The pond is actually a small kettle lake (where ice entrapped in glacial debris melted to form the present-day body) that remains largely undeveloped despite the presence of a state campground and a small campers’ beach with boat rentals. A boreal forest with balsam firs, red pine, and white birch trees surrounds the pond which is also noted for occasional moose visitations and for its loons that pierce the summer nights with avian equivalents of cries and laughter.
I camped out on the pond for several days and used it for my base to explore a little of the wild country to the northeast and southeast of Island Pond village. I would head out on the Nulhegan River Trail to fly-fish on a river I’ve been fascinated by ever since reading of it in my trusty Complete Book of Freshwater Fishing (Parsons) when I was just a teen, a life-long guide describing the Nulhegan as a river that “… Drain’s Vermont’s largest unpopulated area. Wonderful water.”
I camped out on the pond after a night of tenting at Watkins Glen, New York where I had given a reading of poetry and prose to an appreciative audience and then listened to coyotes firing up the camp dogs with excitement. Next day, following a long drive to Spectacle Pond, it felt good to pitch a tent there and unwind.
Wild blackberries fruited only several feet away from my tent site and tempted an old naturalist at breakfast time, for adding to his caffeinated fare. The pond, itself, reminded me of what Walden Pond might have looked like to Thoreau while the writer worked and meditated on its shore. I even heard a train roll by one night, as was often the case when the author of Walden sojourned at his cabin site.
Although I looked for moose and saw only signs of this iconic bog and northern forest dweller (where its numbers are deemed the highest in the state, at more than one moose per square mile), I felt the presence of other spirits here. An osprey hovered with an eye for perch and pickerel; a squadron of common loons fished near the camp site and enlivened the nights with their sonorous, reverberant and haunting calls.
From my campsite I could look across the water to Indian Point and be reminded of a quote about the place taken from an old railroad guide of 1853: “… Marks of Indian encampments and of their trails through the woods still remain; and a point which makes out into the pond… bears evidence of its use as the seat of council fires. The rounded point, clear of underbrush and smooth as a shaven lawn, is overshadowed by a growth of ancient pines, forming a complete shelter from the sun, while on either side and in front, the sheltered waters of this miniature lake are the picture of calmness and repose.”
After taking several walks along the beautiful Nulhegan River (more on that in a future post) and especially before my departure to the tamer realms of Manchester and the Battenkill River, I thought about the residents of sleepy Island Pond. The people I met there were extremely amiable and helpful toward this first-time visitor from western New York. They seemed as modest and civil as the loons were wild and free.
All in all, the village of Island Pond and the wavelets of Spectacle Pond refreshed a summer-weary soul.
Beautiful post, and looking forward to hearing more about your experiences around the fire with a beer in hand. I was just thinking that relaxation is a relative thing: here, in just a few days, I’ll be coming to the Southern Tier to relax–in other words, the place you were looking to relax FROM. I guess relaxation can be found where the work is nowhere near!
That’s just it: “…relaxation can be found where the work is nowhere near!” But actually I’d been feeling pretty relaxed around here since the clean-up from the storm. So in leaving for a bit, I was hoping to find a little more stimulation, especially with the fishing. My relaxation came after the stress of doing a reading and then taking an especially long drive. That was work. So it is all relative. Thanks, and we’ll be seeing you guys shortly!
What an amazing place. And that’s even without fishing. Thanks for the tour Walt.
You’re welcome, Howard, and yes, without the fishing. Though I thought about giving the fish a try, I had enough on my camp dish at the time.
You were well rewarded at the end of this long trail, Walt. The lake really is a spectacle (with great stories to go with the views) and you’ve captured the fading light and surrounds beautifully – the photographs are wonderful. Very happy for you that you were camped out there, even if the moose were shy. Can’t wait for the next part!
Glad you like the pond reflections here, PC. As with any new set up, there were challenges along this excursion with some minor hurdles to jump but, overall, it felt like a reward for something (not sure what), maybe just the celebration of another day on earth. Anyway, thanks, friend!
Peace and solemn beauty is where you find it, Walt. This is a beautiful area and I appreciate you taking us along here, My dreams incorporate places like this……………………….. Looking forward to Part Two.
Absolutely, Mel. If the heart’s at home, then peace and beauty is found there, too. Thanks!
The name most definitely serves it right. The reflection shots are certainly a spectacle.
Rommel, Thanks for seeing that link between the name and the reflections… That was one of my objectives here!
Lovely. I long to be back up there. Reading some Bernd Heinrich right now – keeping with the northwoods theme and all.
Yes, gotta get back! I haven’t read Heinrich yet, but was actually enjoying some more of Thoreau’s “Maine Woods” while sitting round the camp. It seemed to go down easier in that environment. Thanks Bob!
Walt, my brother, everything about this post is magnificent. Places like this, even still existing in such environmental glory, totally blow me away. I’m stunned, and I do mean stunned.
Hey Doug, how goes it? I think that places like this, if they can stun our senses, or stone them to our soul, as Van Morrison might sing, they do so because they’re getting harder and harder to find, at least with an additional sense of solitude. But it was nice, old buddy, quite nice, and I wish someplace similar for your own peace of mind.
What a place! Sounds a bit like Alaska with the moose and loons. Love their call. Kettle lakes are so pure and beautiful. Sounds like a wonderful place to get away from it all.
Hi Mary Anne and the spirit of Alaska! Yeah moose and loons are highly suggestive of the boreal forest and bog country which can put me in mind of our biggest state. Good to hear from you, and hope that all is going well with your new life!
A tent and a fly rod along with an unsettled spirit for adventure can cure much in this world Walt. Poems recited to others for enlightenment or read silently to oneself beside a lighted campfire soften the sharpest of jagged edges in people. Roots, getting back to them and fully understanding that life doesn’t need to be overly complex and entangled to enjoy it. Thanks Walt for an inspiring post. I imagine an Indian spirit gazing out over that point was smiling somewhere. Not everything is lost..
Wonderfully stated, JZ, a fly-fishing poet’s understanding of nature, and I like to think that you are right about the possibility of a guiding spirit looking out from Indian Point. Thanks very much for this!
Much wonderful imagery in this piece Walt, both by word and picture. Time for me to do a little tenting too…
I got into the tenting groove, Les, and wouldn’t mind a bit more this year, if possible, and if the old bones don’t protest too loudly. Thanks, and have fun with it!
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Thanks Rommel. Readers, Check out The Sophomore Slump #400, a fine musical and photographic journey thru the Blogosphere!
Amy, Appreciate hearing from you. Thanks!