One clear winter day, John planned a trip across Brant Lake. Of course, he could drive the short distance in his pickup truck, past Point O’ Pines, until Route 8 intersected with Palisades Road. There, he would make a quick right and follow the road until he came to Seminole Lodge––his destination. But the ice on the lake was black, with hardly a ripple in the frozen surface, and the night’s wind storm had blown the lake clean. It was almost like a hockey rink cleared by a powerful Zamboni. Yes, the ice was smooth as glass, an uncommon occurrence at Brant Lake, where usually wind created mounds of snow that transformed the winter lake into a moonscape.

So, instead of driving, John went into his garage, cluttered with all the necessary items for living in the North Country, from wood splitter to snowplow. And, hidden behind a dented aluminum rowboat, John found what he was seeking. An ice boat! In a good year there might be one day when Brant Lake is satisfactory for ice boating, when the sun’s rays reflect off a crystaline surface, and this was the day.

Lugging the cross shaped plywood frame to the frozen sand beach at Sunset Mountain Lodge, John affixed the orange and yellow sail to the frame and waited for a puff of wind before settling into the basket seat. The breeze came but only for a minute. Brant Lake has a reputation for tormenting sailors. In fact, there is a theory affectionately called the Big Puff–Little Puff theory. For those unfamiliar with this theory, dating back to a time when only Native Americans inhabited the area, it may be explained as follows: On certain days Brant Lake may succumb to the force of the wind. White caps cover the surface. Tumultuous waves rock boats moored at docks and our dog Coco bays at the ferocious sounds of nature. Those who have waited for this day hoist sails and prepare to cast off. At precisely that moment the wind dies down and the water is flat. That is the theory as found in the Theoretical Book of Theories. A postscript adds—sailing may have a calming effect.

So, John waited, and waited, and waited. Suddenly, a ferocious wind blew over the deep, (Biblical words). He was off. Skimming over the ice. Racing. The iceboat perilously tilting on one skate. Man, he was flying! Soon, Seminole Lodge came into view, and the boat, sensing its destination just off starboard—or was it larboard, (an old middle English word), continued to fly. John intended to stop at Seminole Lodge for a mug of hot cider but the boat wasn’t thirsty. Instead, the orange and yellow sail, full of the wind, hurtled forward refusing to put it in at Seminole Lodge, and, veering off to the right, climbed a bank, went under a mass of electric wires, cut off a Ford Explorer on Palisades Road and concluded its own wintry exploration hung up in the branches of a white pine.

When John finally returned home, his persona covered in pine needles, he appeared to be the only walking evergreen in the history of Brant Lake. According to John, there were many explanations for why his iceboat became a land vehicle. The rudder failed. Someone had greased the ice. Palisades Road should never have been there, etc. etc.

But I knew the simple explanation; namely, before you start on your travels in life know how, when necessary, to end the journey.

Especially if you are traveling with the wind!

Brant Lake

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