Lange: Somewhere Near Water
'Way up in northern New Hampshire, almost at the 45th parallel, is a tiny glacial pond slowly filling in with water lilies. It’s a place I go to when I want absolute peace and quiet.
Little ponds are like that. Ours have been here for about 12,000 years, ever since the ice sheets retreated and left them behind. The best ones, like this one, are places almost nobody ever goes.
It's called Hellgate Pond after a nearby gorge that the old loggers found hellish to drive logs through. It's on a 27,000-acre tract of land owned by Dartmouth College, so it's additionally protected from casual visitors. All the times I've been there, I've never seen anybody else - which is mostly why I go.
We stay in an old log cabin by the river, about half a mile below the pond, which sits in a little wooded bowl open to the north beneath a steep ridge. You can sense the pond before you get to it through the thick fir forest as the trail levels out, and the footing gets rough with moss-covered, tumbled boulders dumped by the long-ago glaciers.
A leaky old aluminum scow lies upside down beside a soggy landing. I've sat on it sometimes for hours, leaning back against a bumpy little spruce trunk and soaking in the silence. There are brook trout in the pond – researchers say their DNA dates to the Ice Age – but they've never grown very large, and I've never seen a single fish rise or a turtle poke its head up. I've fished with flies with no success. Years ago I bushwhacked around to the little inlet and saw below me in the water dozens of tiny brookies. So they're making a living here, all right, but not much of one.
I've often come here in hunting season, too, and sat on the boat with my rifle across my knees, waiting for a great buck to emerge across the water. All I've ever seen is one moose, feeding on underwater weeds. Now I just trudge up here, leaning on my cane, to simply sit and watch. I come here for peace and quiet. Why should I disturb the lives of the others who also choose this perfect, quiet place?