If there's a glimmer of open water on the lake, then chances are you'll find Anne Fleck out there paddling. She's an Adirondack Badass Woman who won't let cold temperatures, a little bit (or in some cases - a lot) of ice, or any other barriers like black flies keep her off the water. And if she isn't out on the water, then you can definitely find her somewhere in the mountains on skis.
Fleck owns and operates Raquette River Outfitters with her partner Rob Frenette. She's spent most of her life on the water, either paddling wood canvas canoes in Quebec with her family, competing in gunnel bobbing competitions with her siblings, studying the health of ecosystems, or enjoying the Adirondacks in all seasons.
Every stop along the way, Fleck has made her love of the outdoors a part of her educational and professional path. Originally from Lewiston, New York, where some of her friends affectionately refer to her as "Nature" or "Stick Lady," Fleck made her way to the Adirondacks to study environmental sciences at Paul Smith's College and SUNY Plattsburgh. After graduating she spent fifteen years leading field research teams from U Penn and Dartmouth College as they studied Red Spruce decline, acid rain, and zooplankton.
When asked what makes the Adirondacks such a special place for her, Fleck noted, "I love the people, the woods, the waterways and the mountains." And when asked how does exploring the rivers, lakes, trails, and mountains of the Adirondacks fit into your life? Without skipping a beat, she said, "Perfectly!"
The passion for the outdoors that both Fleck and Frenette share is the heart and soul of their business at Raquette River Outfitters, and they've made it their goal to share their love of the Adirondacks with others.
"I love meeting people and helping them enjoy the Adirondack waterways safely and responsibly," Fleck said about what she enjoys the most about her job. "My favorite thing is to see my customers transform from their hectic city life to a relaxed woods pace by spending two to three days canoe camping."
Having joined Frenette at Raquette River Outfitters in 1998, Fleck said that it is definitely challenging to run your own business, but that challenges are necessary to keep you on your toes. "Running your own business is both challenging and very gratifying," she noted.
With two locations, the home base shop in Tupper Lake and a shop in Long Lake that opened in 2008, Fleck said that their hope for the future is that "people continue to come and enjoy the Adirondack waterways in a respectful way and take home with them a lifetime of memories to share with their families and friends."
For Fleck some of her favorite moments out on the waterways are spent on a quiet, pristine waterway where she can get away from it all with her best friend and partner Robbie. She said she is usually in her LoonWorks Mistral wood canvas solo canoe or in her Rob Frenette guideboat, and she "encourages others to keep exploring and find their own favorite place."
To Fleck a Badass Adirondack Woman is someone who "swims ice out to ice in, doesn't mind picking off a few leeches, heats themselves thrice with wood when splitting, stacking, and burning, celebrates winter solstice around the lean-to campfire, and loves winter."
And when thinking about the "mini-badass women out there, the young girls who are growing up in the Adirondacks today," and what advice she would offer them, she said, "Get outside and enjoy your surroundings year-round. Don't wait for things to happen, make them happen. Set goals and try your hardest to accomplish them."