Screening at the VIC, documentary portrays journey of discovery
By Mike Lynch
Last summer, Jordan Rowell spent two weeks exploring Lake Champlain and its watershed. In the process, he experienced some of the best and worst the landscape has to offer.
Rowell paddled alongside awe-inspiring 200-foot tall cliffs along the shoreline at Split Rock Wild Forest, but he also floated atop soupy green waters in the midst of a harmful algae bloom in the northern reaches of the lake.
Rowell, a 27-year-old Essex, Vt. native, did all of this for the documentary, “No Other Lake,” a 40-minute film that is showing Friday evening at the Paul Smith’s College VIC.
“I just realized how little I knew about the place that I’d called home,” Rowell said, “and so I wanted to learn more about it in a way that I do, which is by, you know, going on an adventure … interacting with it — touching, feeling it, hearing from people experiencing it.”
Inspired by his natural resources studies at the University of Vermont at Burlington, when he learned about the environmental problems plaguing the lake, Rowell spent two weeks kayaking and camping on the 120-mile-long lake last August.
An experienced hiker and skier, it was his first overnight paddling trip.
His friend since high school, cinematographer and video editor Duane Peterson III, joined for much of the journey in an inflatable motorboat, capturing footage of the action and interviews with lake stakeholders. Ryan Malle provided additional footage, including from a drone.
Rowell said he had three goals in making the film. He wanted to inspire others to get on the lake, challenge people to see its issues from a new perspective, and finally, encourage people to become better stewards of the watershed.
“Our goal is to encourage people to reconsider their own relationship with Lake Champlain and their own place in this basin, in this watershed,” Peterson said. “We both grew up in Essex, Vermont. It was very easy for us to grow up without thinking much about the ways in which we were contributing to the state of this watershed.”
Lake Champlain has been plagued by environmental problems in recent years, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species, and warming waters.
The movie isn’t an investigative piece that digs into the roots of those problems, but it explores people’s perspectives on them and the relationship between people and the landscape that makes up the Lake Champlain watershed.
The documentary includes interviews with environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben, Adirondack Council rewilding advocate John Davis, and Cooperative Extension Agriculture Resource Educator Carly Summers, among others.
“I think that primarily, we’re hoping that people will see themselves as connected to this place as active participants in the watershed,” Peterson said. “I think that we all have an impact whether we like it or not.”
Davis, Summers, Rowell, and Peterson will be part of a panel discussion at the VIC after the movie. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the film starts at 7 p.m. There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.
The event is part of Celebrate Paddling month in Saranac Lake, during which outfitters, Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and other organizations work together to produce paddling related activities during June.