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Ghost Lake Rising

I first drafted the poem “Ghost Lake” while working out of Lake Colden’s Interior Headquarters cabin as a DEC trail hand in the summer of ’83, haunted by memories from earlier trips into Colden with my dad.

   On those shared journeys, in the late ’70’s, Dad still had the time & vigor for such ventures. I was still a young teen.

Monroe Family Photos
Late 1970’s
My Dad, Mom, brother Ray & me
I always wore my dad’s old DEC shirts when I worked on the trail crew

We hiked up into Lake Colden several times.

The trail into Lake Colden
As I will always remember it

August 2011
A view of the trap dike
As I will forever remember it
From the trail along Avalanche Lake

On each visit, we would stop at the DEC Caretaker’s cabin that was there by the lake, where we’d share lunch with the Caretaker while he shared high peaks tales of times long since passed.

The Colden caretaker at the time, “Brownie”, showed Dad & I yellowed polaroid photos of guided trout fishing expeditions into the region. Snapshot imagery of ghosts that had long since departed that dead acid rain lake.

***Author’s note: Unfortunately, I do not have any of Brownie’s old Lake Colden brook trout photos. This brook trout image, which is also the one in the header photo, are of a brook trout my dad caught in St. Regis Pond in April 1977 on a father/son fishing trip he and I took in there together. The stringers of fish Brownie showed us in those photo images capturing guided trips into Colden showed stringers full of brook trout as big as this one.

     Haunted by memories – by knowledge & belief, aware that there were still trout around in a few remote spots – in the evenings, alone, after a hard day working those high mountain trails, I would break out my pole and forlornly cast for ghosts on the remote waters of that mist covered lake.

     I departed the mountains after the summer of ’84, and for many years, many reasons, never quite made it back.

      I never stopped believing.  I’ve carried those ghosts with me. My heart never left.

Fishing on Avalanche Lake
August 2011
The Same Rock I cast from as a young man
My Farewell Trip into Lake Colden
Four Days before Hurricane Irene


The Lake Colden Interior Headquarters
August 2011
I penned The Poem “Ghost Lake” While Living and Working out of the Precursor to this cabin


It Happens Each Evening

When All Is Still

Mist Settles Low On The Water

Mingling With Pungent Marsh Air

Mountains Close In

Headstones Marking Industrial Graves

Ghostly Bubbles Surface Silently

Rippling A Pristine Looking Glass World

Close Your Eyes, Listen


Hungry Trout Whispers

Absorbed By Shadowy Cedar Tree Shores

The Solitary Hypnosis Of A High Mountain Lake

Far From Civilization

Piecing Together My Battle Worn Rod

Eyelets Scarred, Reel Dented And Scratched

Calloused Hands Gently Caressing Each Spoon

Carefully Choosing The Evening’s First Warrior

The Ancient Rowboat Groans Softly

Memory’s Journey Begins

Red Squirrels Scold From The Shoreline

A Single Loon’s Eerie Wail

A Vain Search For Food

Nature’s Condemnation

Burns In My Ears

Oars Creak Rhythmically

I Slide Through The Mist

“Hey Old Man!”

“Gonna Catch A Big One Tonight?!”

Giggled Emissions Echo

Across Memory’s Lake

Acid Ignorance Raining

Off Colden’s Cold Shoulder

They Don’t Understand

They Come And Camp

Bringing Saws And Soap

Taking Trees, Leaving Garbage

Their Life Is Electric

Their God Is Green

I Smile Softly at Their Ignorance

Men Of Knowledge

Conquering Nature

What Is It Worth?

When The Vanquished Have Perished

Deftly I Cast

Towards A Favorite Rock

The Spoon Darts Teasingly Back Towards My Boat

Reflecting Dim Twinkles

Light From Below

Suddenly, My Line Goes Taut

A Silver Flash Grabs The Spoon

My Heart Races

My Drag Whines In Response

Rod Tip Up, I Reel

Against The Struggling Trout

It Breaks the Surface

A Beauty!

Ten Feet From The Boat

Net At The Ready

I Skillfully Let The Fish Play Itself Out

A Deft Scoop Snatches My Trophy from The Water

A Pound And A Half, Maybe Two

The Trout Flops Loudly In The Bottom Of The Boat

Protesting, Gasping For Life

I Briefly Admire Its Beauty

Then Gently Release It

A Fleeting Shadow

Wistful Speckles of Hope

One Flip of Its Tail

The Trout Vanishes

Darting Back Into Memory’s Depths

It Gets Harder

Each Time Out

I Cast A Bit Deeper

It’s Futile, I know

Old Love Dies Hard

Memories So Vivid

My Mind Won’t Let Me Rest

I Cry Sometimes

Sad, Angry Tears

Knowing That Someday

My Charade Must End

Rowing Back Across That Ghost Lake

I Reach Once More For Times Past

When Ripples Were More Than Illusions

Trout More Than Dreams


August 2011
The “Hitch ’em up Matilda’s” along Avalanche Lake
A route I travelled routinely
During my time living and working in Lake Colden

  Shortly thereafter, I left the mountains and Lake Colden behind. I kept the poem in an album, the memories in mind, the belief in my heart, and moved on with life.

Then, in August 2011, battling through cancer & once again finding strength- I made the decision to trek back up there with my son RJ & friend Emilio.

August 2011
My friend Emilio & I on The Marcy Dam Bridge
My farewell Trip to Colden
Four Days before Hurricane Irene
I could never have made that trip without him

I was determined to share that spot with my son and cast one more line.

August 2011
My son RJ & I fishing for Brook trout Below the Marcy Dam Bridge
Four days Before Hurricane Irene Washed it out

     We made it to Marcy Dam, which at that point was still intact. 

August 2011
The Marcy Dam Bridge
Four Days before Hurricane Irene
My Farewell Trip to Colden

We each caught several brook trout. 

August 2011
My son RJ
Casting for brookies on the Dam Pond
Four Days before Hurricane Irene

One we kept, cooked and RJ ate.

His first taste of fresh cooked brook trout.

August 2011
Marcy Dam Pond
Four Days Prior To Hurricane Irene
The Last Marcy Dam Brook Trout

“The Last Marcy Dam Brook Trout”

     We worked our way up past Avalanche Lake.

August 2011
My Son RJ and I along Avalanche Lake
The Trap Dike in the background
My farewell trip to Colden
Four Days later Hurricane Irene hit

We picked and ate wild blueberries.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones.

We saw signs of bears.

August 2011
Along the “Misery Mile” enroute to Avalanche Lake
What we were pretty certain was trailside bear scat near the wild blueberries and raspberries
My farewell trip to Colden
Four days before Hurricane Irene hit

I stopped to fish.

August 2011
My farewell trip to Colden
Casting for memories on Avalanche Lake

My son turned his ankle along the way.

But Emilio found him a walking stick and he continued on bravely.

August 2011
My son RJ working his way along Avalanche Lake

We finally made it to the shore of Lake Colden, to the updated Interior Outpost.

August 2011
My son RJ & I at the Lake Colden Interior Outpost
My farewell trip to Colden

The one I remembered having apparently long since been replaced.

By that time RJ was struggling and in need of a break and a bit of first aid.

August 2011
Lake Colden Interior Headquarters
My farewell trip to Colden
Taking a break while rendering my son RJ some first aid

     We made that hike on a Wednesday.

  Four days later, on Sunday, Hurricane Irene hit.

  The storm wiped out Marcy Dam, and the pond, washing any remaining trout downstream to South Meadows and beyond.

August 2011
South Creek from the bridge near the trailhead
I used to cast for and catch brookies there as a young DEC trailhand

     To this day I believe that RJ & I may well have been the last ones to fish or catch trout in the Marcy Dam Pond.

August 2011
My son RJ and I on the Shores of Avalanche Lake
4 Days before Hurricane Irene
My Farewell trip To Colden

“Two Hikin’ Pals”

     Adirondack Life Magazine later published our story in their 2014 ANNUAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT OUTDOORS under the title “A Place in Time”.  Anyone interested in reading more details of that journey can find it there. It begins on page 8Adirondack Life paid me $600.00.  It was my first published piece.

“A Place in Time”
My 1st Published Story
It appeared in Adirondack Life Magazine
The “BARKEATER” selection
It began on page 8

     I knew I’d never get back up to Lake Colden, due to the ravages of cancer and time.  I held that day, and those memories close- embedded deep in my soul.

     In 2017, RJ graduated high school.  That High Peaks adventure must have stayed with him too.  He’s an avid hunter/hiker/fisherman/outdoorsman. He graduated in 2020 with a degree in Wildlife Sciences from Paul Smith’s College.

 RJ now hikes accompanied by friends & his college sweetheart, now fiancée, Carrie.  RJ & Carrie sent me photos from Marcy Dam

The Marcy Dam Bridge
Spring 2020
(PSC grad/RJ’s fiancée Carrie G. photo)

and their route into Colden after graduating spring 2020, as they retraced our steps on their way towards “46”. I don’t think they fished.

Summer 2020
My son RJ on the trail from Lake Colden along the Opalescent, to Feldspar
Following stringer bridges I may well have helped lay during my days working on a DEC trail crew
(PSC grad/RJ’s fiancée Carrie G. Photo)

     Then, one October not too long ago-out of the blue, my cell phone and email began going haywire. RJ emailed & texted-excited. My brother Ray did the same.

Life friends Chris and Dale messaged me newspaper links & photos….

     “Hey -Dick/Brother/Dad- Have you heard?!  They found brook trout in Lake Colden! The DEC just announced it.  It’s all over the news!”

     Sure enough.  There they were – several newspaper articles sporting photos and reports of what DEC fisheries biologists apparently assessed to be a 3rd generation “heritage strain” native brook trout.

     I Wiki-researched the life cycle of native brook trout-then did some math.

     Just as I suspected. According to my calculations, the first generation of those trout was there, establishing itself, in Lake Colden, when RJ and I made that trek back in 2011.   Simple 3rd generation brook trout life cycle math.

     I smiled with that knowledge.  My heart did a dance.

My son RJ & I
Fishing for brook trout Below the Marcy Dam bridge
August 2011
Four Days before Hurrican Irene
My Farewell trip to Colden


     There are brook trout in Lake Colden.

  Realistically, I know I’ll never get back up there to catch one.

To cast one last line.

August 2011
Shore of The Marcy Dam Pond
I must have just caught a brook trout
My farewell trip to Colden

     That’s okay.  RJ will, when he treks back up there someday.

With his own kids, my grandchildren.

  In his own time.


My son RJ & I along the shore of Avalanche Lake
My Farewell trip to Colden
August 2011


There Are Brook Trout In Colden

Mountain Lake Dream

Ghost Lake Rising

I’ve Always Believed


Until our trails cross again: