Pictures are a beautiful thing, especially when we use them to capture the essence of the Adirondacks. And how could we not? From high peak views to mysterious black Adirondack lakes, rapid rivers, flawless flora, stunning sunsets, and serene snow, I often find it difficult to put my camera down! Can you relate?

Being a seasonal employee of ADK presents the invaluable opportunity of living in the incredible settings that become the photographs I look at longingly when I’m away. In my most recent season, I was coming directly from a semester in New Zealand. While abroad, I worked as a multi-media blogger, and upon returning to ADK, my job involved capturing video of various programs and the places they take place. But after living out of a backpack in the backcountry of New Zealand every weekend, living in a tent full-time was starting to lose its allure. I was burnt out, and consequentially I was starting to see the world though a camera lens. As much as I hate to admit it, I was going through the motions of a job, and I had become numb to my surroundings.

One evening, I was feeling especially detached. If you work a desk job you are probably all too familiar with the state of lethargy that we’re often faced with when trapped indoors, so you can understand my reluctance when a friend kept prodding me to go paddle boarding after I had spent the entire day editing videos. Finally, mostly out of impatience, I agreed. I didn’t know it at the time, but my hesitant acceptance of this invitation would turn out to be the best decision of the summer.

Moments later we were barefoot and shoving off onto the mist-covered lake. Now, if you’ve been to Heart Lake, you know it isn’t very big as far as lakes go (walking the entire loop around it is about a mile). But its majestic quality comes from the fact that it is surrounded on all sides by pure beauty. From the center going clockwise you have the shores of the Adirondak Loj, then Wright and Algonquin, Street and Nye, and Mt. Jo, all just in the immediate surroundings. But this night in particular turned out to be especially spectacular.

When Bill McKibben started his epic walking journey from Vermont to the Adirondack High Peaks to write Wandering Home, he describes the start of his experience on Mount Abraham as “… almost too much- a Disney overdose of glory.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this August evening on Heart Lake, except maybe a Disney overdose of glory, HD/Blu-Ray. First were the colors, like some painter got frustrated and tossed his entire pallet over the globe that encompassed us, only to scatter the brightest and boldest shades on the spectrum in every direction possible. Over Street and Nye the sky was a deep, dark blue, over Mt. Jo a rich orange that shifted to dark pink, over Algonquin neon blue with emerging stars, and a setting sun left a golden tint above the deep green pines.

Then the wildlife: a loon emerged in the water just meters away from our floating boards, a beaver swam between my friend and I, a falcon soared overhead. Then a rainbow shot out of the sky above Mt. Jo, enormous puffy clouds melted over Street, a streaked glowing blue-tinted cloud hovered over the Loj. Every time I turned a different direction, a new mini miracle took place. It was so surreal that we couldn’t be pulled away.

But the best part of all of this was my camera: I didn’t have it. My initial reaction was regret, but it didn’t take long to realize that this was a priceless moment that I got to be totally enraptured in, and I didn’t have to capture it to share with anyone else. What an incredible opportunity, to be in the 21st century and be completely mesmerized by a sequence of events that are 100% natural. These incidents are undoubtedly too few and far between.

Needless to say, I fell back in love with the Adirondacks that night. I share this story because pictures are great, but I think it’s equally important to focus on where we are once in awhile without the help of a camera lens.