At first I thought I saw a Stellar’s Jay bobbing through the wind high above the lake, but then as it curled its wings into it chest and spiraled into a sharp dive I called out, “Eagle diving outside.” I pointed to it through the sliding glass windows as the friends I live with quickly came over to the window. Higher than I had ever seen a bald eagle soaring above the lake, this eagle had spotted a small trout near the surface of the water more than five hundred feet below. Spiraling several times and leveling out to control its speed, we watched at it dove past a backdrop of steep mountains. The dive was long enough for me to get my binoculars on it and watch its feet plunge into the lake. I saw no fish thrashing in its talons as it turned and labored towards the shore, but its bright yellow feet hung below it the hole way across the lake.
I watched the eagle slowly cross to the edge of the lake and turn west. It was climbing harder than usual, making me think it was headed to somewhere specific farther above the lake, perhaps a nest. Perhaps it did have more success than I could see from a mile across the lake. After making several switchbacks above the forest canopy, the eagle abruptly turned into the forest and swooped up to a dark mass hanging on the side of a huge cedar several hundred feet above the lake. We have a nesting pair of eagle just across the lake from where I am living!
We knew they nested on the lake here, but no one I have worked with has known the whereabouts of a nest. I waited fifteen years to see my first bald eagle staring down at me from its perch atop an old hemlock in the Little Pine Creek drainage near Lock Haven, Pa, and now through my binoculars I can see one or two heads bobbing above the massive brown nest far above the shimmering surface of Lake Crescent. Below the nest, logging trucks heavy with our timber boom down the road as it snakes along the lakeshore. Impatient locals scoot past the #14 Transit Commuter between Forks and P.A. Sometimes we can see tourists parked along the road snapping pictures of the Lake Crescent Valley. I feel very fortunate to live in such a place, but I also feel it should be a fortune more people can experience.
Park laws have grandfathered these houses into existence inside the boundaries of the National Park. However, in a long-term plan, the Park Service slowly acquires houses from families looking to sell. Many of these houses get torn down, and native saplings are planted after the land has been wiped clean of domestic remnants. We are lucky to live in one of these amazing houses that have been retained by the Park Service. Named after a previous owner who married into the Belford family, we call this amazing octagonal house Lesage, and more recently some of us have taken to calling it the Rocktagon.
Some Friday nights we educators stand around a fire aside the lakeshore and share stories from the week over some drinks. On good nights, some of us leave our clothes behind for the freedom of the icy lake water. I recently made a three-man slingshot to rekindle a love for projectiles I can’t deny. However, this time a little more maturity and a lake full of water and rocks make this endeavor much more innocent than my juvenile years.
I have a room upstairs in the back of the house, but I fall asleep most nights in my sleeping bag, staring out the sliding glass door leading out to our deck. When the weather isn’t completely terrible, I try to sleep outside as much as possible. Each month I await the waxing moon. Sometimes I sit up for hours waiting for it to rise above the mountains across the lake. I trace the constellations I know and try to gage the time as the big dipper rotates around the North Star until finally white light begins to dance through the trees. A white streak dances across the calmly rippling water, and it soon is bright enough to walk around Lesage by moonlight alone. On these nights, four deer often bed down in the grassy lawn by the lakeshore, and ducks can be seen nearby. In my opinion, there is no finer time or place to be when I am staring up at a full moon from this house, on this lake, within these majestic mountains.