The lake was glass-calm, the fog impenetrably thick. Just a minute earlier, my four companions-Cliff Jacobson, Tryon Lindabury, Jim Mandle, and Don Morris-were all paddling ahead of me in their sleek solo canoes, but when I stopped to take their photo, poof! they were gone, swallowed by the pearly mist swirling over the water. I slipped my camera back into its case and, cranking hard with my bent-shaft, followed their trail of quicksilver wavelets until I regained my place at the rear of the flotilla.

“Thought we lost you there, pal,” joked Cliff, peering through his thick glasses. “Now that’d be a story: ‘Larry Rice, world traveler to far-flung exotic locales, vanishes while canoeing in New York!’ ” The others laughed good-naturedly at my expense, but I didn’t mind. I was enjoying my first trip to the Adirondacks too much to care.

We pushed on, trusting Cliff, the renowned expert with map and compass, to set a straight course to the north end of Long Lake, so we could find the inlet to the Raquette River. A loon’s wild laughter reverberated across the water. A gull, grounded by the fog, called forlornly in the distance. Otherwise, our world was silent and still, except for the hissing of canoe bows slicing sharp Vs through the unruffled surface.

I could be in the Boundary Waters or Ontario’s fabled Quetico wilderness, I mused, classic canoe country I’ve visited many times. But when the rising sun pierced the mist with newfound clarity, it was plain to see that I was not in my familiar haunts. Silhouetted against an emerging luminous sky was a crescent of encircling low mountains cloaked in green splendor. Mountains? Nope, this wasn’t Minnesota or Ontario.