Friday, August 23, 2013

On Golden Squam

 Squam Lake in central New Hampshire was the setting for the 1981 movie On Golden Pond, starring Henry and Jane Fonda as estranged father and daughter.    Happily for my family, we get along better than those two did.  In fact, we had nothing but fun together this week when my husband and I came to spend four days with my daughter and her family in a rambling old cottage on this spectacularly beautiful lake.  Although Squam is a huge lake surrounded by mountains and studded with many islands, from our prospect at the back of a quiet cove, with our view framed by the embracing arms of pine-wooded points, the lake seemed quite intimate, almost as if it were ours alone.  Ours and the loons, that is, whose haunting calls could be heard all evening  and again at dawn, when we woke to one warm and sunny day after another. (There's actually a loon floating directly beyond my canoe in the photo above, although it could be difficult to make out.)

Our daughter and her husband have three teen-age daughters and two large Bernese Mountain Dogs, and the oldest daughter had invited one of her college friends to vacation with her this week.  But there was still plenty of room for my husband and me in this spacious old house, one of several lake houses in a private compound owned by the same family for generations.   Our daughter's family is lucky to be friends with one member of this family, and that is how they have come to rent this wonderful place for several years in a row.

Although the house is very large, it is simple and rustic, with a dark interior that smells of old wood and many generations of woodsmoke from the huge fireplace that is the centerpiece of the comfortable living room.  There is also a grand piano in one corner, which our granddaughter's friend put to wonderful use, accompanying another one of our granddaughters as she serenaded us with many beautiful songs.

With our son-in-law at the helm, we enjoyed a tour of the lake, speeding across its vast expanse of blue water, wind in our hair, cool spray in our faces as we bounced across the wakes of other power boats.   These sensations powerfully revived many memories of my own girlhood in my family's marina, roaring across the lakes of my youth in the sleek mahogany Chris-Craft inboard boats my father used to sell.

At this point in my life, I generally prefer to move across the water more slowly and quietly, and I was able to do that, too, slipping along the shore in my canoe.  I was interested to see how the shoreline plants differed from those of the Adirondack lakes I usually paddle.  Most of the plants were the same, with the exception of an abundance of large rhododendrons leaning over the water.  We don't see rhododendrons in the Adirondacks, aside from those planted in people's gardens.

The more familiar Mountain Holly was also abundant, its fruit a rich saturated red.

I puzzled quite a while over this shrub, which I eventually decided must be Witherod, also called Wild Raisin (Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides),with its leaves so obscurely toothed they appeared almost entire.  Distribution maps show it as present nearly everywhere in northern New York, but I seldom come upon it in my paddles.

 On the second full day of our stay, we all drove to another point on the lake where we accessed a trail up a mountain.  It was a relatively easy climb through a lovely forest, but I think even the dogs were glad to rest a while once we reached the summit.  My oldest granddaugher, though, sought an even higher prospect and climbed a nearby pine.

The views of the lake were breathtaking.  I like looking at my pretty daughter, too.

 As our visit drew to a close,  we were happy to take in just one more of the many attractions the area has to offer, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, with many educational exhibits of wildlife native to New Hampshire.  In the heat of the middle of the day, most of the animals (including two large Black Bears) were sleeping in the shade.  These two River Otters were sleeping, too, but one of them obliged us by rolling his sleek and slinky body all over his immobile companion.

Two splendid Pumas were also among the exhibits.  One was soundly asleep with its back to us, its tawny coat hard to detect against the rocks, but this one was merely dozing a bit, holding its head erect so that we could see its beautiful white-muzzled face. 

Once native to all the New England states as well as New York,  the Puma is not known to currently inhabit the northeast, although occasional sightings do occur.  I'm not sure I would want to encounter one of these powerful cats on my walks in the woods, but I certainly would support any efforts to welcome them back.  And I'm also glad I was able to lay my eyes on one as I said goodbye to Squam Lake.  I hope to return some day.

P.S.:  Although the animal exhibits at the nature center were wonderful, I noted many missed opportunities to inform visitors about the local flora as well as the fauna.  So of course I had to speak up to center staffers, encouraging them to think about improving their botanical presentations.  All it would require would be some plantings of native flowers along the trail, accompanied by identifying labels.


Stephen Puliafico Photography said...

Great post. Looks like you had a great trip. I have very close friends that live a stone's throw away from Squam Lake. I love that area. The science center is definitely on my list of things to do up there.

Momo said...

Having grown up in the area, your account of Squam is particularly special to me. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed the lake vista from a higher elevation atop Mt. Percival. My brother created several of the mini habitat settings at the Science Center including the home of the otters that thousands have enjoyed over the years.

Allan Stellar said...

What a special time to have with your family.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, Stephen, Momo and Allan. It pleases me so much to know we can share our adventures with each other. And who could have known about Momo's brother's connection to the Squam Lakes Science Center? Small world!

wgb said...

Jackie, what a beautiful account of our time together. Squam is such a beautiful place. It warmed my heart to have you with our family for such a special time.