Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

Garnet Lake

Whenever I hear someone say that they had visited the Adirondacks, or knows them well, I ask whether they had ever heard of Garnet Lake and invariably the answer is no. I wonder whether that lovely lake still exists.

We spent two summers after the Second World War in a small “boarding-house” farm at its shore. Garnet Lake was formed by damming a river; it was between three or four miles long and about one or two miles wide at its broadest point. The dam consisted of rocks and earth fill, and the road crossing it was just wide enough to allow one car to pass. There were only a few houses nestled in the woods surrounding the lake and from our boarding house a meadow went right to its border. No outboard motors disturbed the peace and tranquility.  Rocky Adirondack mountains surrounded this idyllic place. Only a few fishermen sat motionless in their rowboats and hoped for a good catch. Lake bass were supposed to live in the deep water, but we never saw one. Sunfish would play around our crude fishing poles, when we rowed out on the lake. They occasionally took our bait or a piece of bread. We would pull the fish up, but then quickly throw them back into their element.

We had no car at that time and neither did the other two couples, friends of ours, who were also spending the summer with us. Only an unpaved road led from the nearest train stations to our paradise. A dilapidated car would transport us to the farm. In a nearby mountain there had been a garnet mine  that had been closed many years earlier, but it was still possible  find powdered garnet stones among the other pebbles covering the roadside. My children Paul Peter, aged  seven, and my daughter Susan Joan, aged four learned to swim and felt like fish in the clear water. Peter was an ardent fisherman and was allowed to take a rowboat out by himself as long as he stayed close to shore. Early one morning, after a heavy night--time thunderstorm at night, Peter went out before breakfast hoping to catch some fish, but came running back excitedly to the house. The dam had broken in several places and water was cascading down the brook endangering houses close to the usually peaceful little mountain stream. The fire brigade was notified and men arrived from all over to repair the dam. What excitement! And Peter became a hero, like the little Dutch boy, Peter or Pietje centuries ago, who had put his thumb into a dyke and thus saved Holland  from a flood.

When we returned to New York by train we carried with us one glass jar with a green frog, one jar with small reddish salamanders and one glass jar with two small snapping turtles, whose eggs had been found in the debris of the dam. In our apartment, the frog jumped out of the jar and was never found, the salamanders died after a while, but the two snapping turtles survived. They fought and bit each others tails off and grew and grew and became more and more vicious. We would feed them fresh ground beef. Finally, we released them many years later in a small stream in Canterbury, Connecticut, where we had a summer cottage. Probably the turtles prospered in their new surrounding, finding food in the new but suitable surroundings.


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