Thursday, October 19, 2017


I put in on the Lieutenant River and headed seaward against the last of the flood tide and a stiff quartering headwind on a clear and comfortable day.  I spotted a few Great Blue Herons along the way, but otherwise it was quiet.  I thought long about my wife and my family.  I suppose my last trip here with my wife was the seed for that.  It was good and this was a good place for thoughtful meanders.
It took about an hour to get to the Black River, which had been a good plan on a high high tide, but the breeze had stiffened and it was obvious that my return out of the Black would be reduced to a arm busting slog straight into the wind.  I turned back.

On the return I paddled up the channel called the "Back River", which makes no geographical sense.  It put me into the main channel of the Connecticut and so I wiggled and bobbled my way upriver on waves quartering from the rear until I could take the passage back to the Lieutenant.  It was a short trip.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Day for Not Talking

The Elf Forest comes at me with a myriad of scents - the smell of stale wood smoke, perhaps the leftovers of stove burning last night to warm a cool evening, something that has settled here in the lowest of places.  Then, it slides sideways for the sharp taste of a dry forest floor carried down on the heavy cool air...which way is the wind blowing?  ........downhill....the physics of shady forested hillsides.  Then, just for a few seconds, an opening appears and the damp decay of the marsh plays a brief solo.
Entering the Elf Forest
The Elf Forest going golden with the arrival of fall is coming at me with something for each of my senses.
Something is approaching at my right, behind my shoulder...

After I have left the Elf Forest, I pass on oncoming canoe.
"Nice day," he says.
"It sure is," I reply.

I explore another side channel.

I spot two more kayaks coming my way.  It would be rude as shit to not greet them.  But, talking has been a distraction.  So, I circle quickly and enter a side channel that I had just passed hoping that they do not follow me.  I go to the end and return, maybe a 1/3 of a mile.  They have passed, but not by much.  I stay silent and head on my way.  It is a day for not talking.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Doing the Wash

Well up the cove I find myself still preoccupied with those dingy thoughts of daily life.  I turn up the small creek that drains the backside of one of the river's bordering hills.  It is shallow due to low tide and I won't get as far as I normally do.  I stop and sit for awhile. 
The last Osprey
A Great Blue Heron rises up from the shadows of the forest in the bend ahead of me.  Before it flies out of my vision, it circles in the brilliant sunlight and unleashes a magnificent stream of cream colored shit.  It really is that beautiful.  The dingy thoughts are gone.  I head back to the river.

In fact, with the mind unburdened, good and creative ideas race through my mind faster than I can keep up.  When I get to the state park, a former family summer resort..."Holiday in Hell" if the advertising images that I've seen were accurate, I envision cardboard cutouts of men in hats and bermuda shorts smoking pipes with other cardboard cutouts of June Cleaver look-a-likes toting trays of cookies and pitchers of Kool-Aid.  Don't drink the Kool-Aid.

I continue up and take the narrow side channel...a bit of wading in here.  Halfway up I come to a fresh and small beaver dam with a deep and well used beaver drag nearby.  I have something to observe throughout the winter when other people are not around.
Beaver drag and dam

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When it's Different

I put out onto a long reservoir,that looks enough like a lake to satisfy me, under a blue and gray marbled sky of overcast clouds.  I follow the north shore at a distant that allows me to peer into the forested waterside.
It isn't a day for reflections on nature.  Instead it is a day to wash the dingy crud of daily life from my soul.  But, my problems are minor compared to most people's and not worth writing about.  They just need to be put to peace.  Enough said.

Soon, the forested hillside yields to flat land.  The deep reservoir water goes to shallow, consistently shallow.  I am not over the natural channel of the Farmington.  Somewhere in here that older deeper river course lies.  Occasionally, I pass houses, the owners of which have often turned their shoreline into some sort of white trash encampment...junk lawn chairs, junk boats, junk remains of docks, etc.  Anyway, that doesn't happen too often.

I pass a couple old abutments...later I discover that they are the remains of the late 19th century Oil City Dam.
On the original channel

The reservoir necks down and I finally pick up some head current, the outflow from the Tariffville Gorge.  I turn back and find that one of the inlets that I passed on the south shore is the original channel of the Farmington.  It's uncanny, but I can feel the spirit of a running river when I am over the drowned original channel.  It is different here.

swimming copperhead

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sock! Dairy Farm Cove

I've only been in the cove once before, and then only about halfway.  It was near the end of a long trip, with about an hour of paddling to go.  I didn't find that lower section to my liking.  The channel through the marsh was too wide for my taste, not intimate enough.  This time I passed under the bridge where I had turned back from.  The cove has some official name, most likely of a person who I would find not deserving of the honor.  I rename it "Sock! Dairy Farm Cove".  Something logical that I can remember.

Past the bridge it is all different.  Not only is the channel narrower, but on this side of the bridge the marsh is almost all wild rice.  Even though there are few kernels left on the plants, there are hundreds of blackbirds perched on the stalks picking away at what remains.  The sound of the bird calls is impressive.  It is clear that the great majority of the blackbirds are hidden from view.
I also note that all of the cattails have burst.  This is unusual.  Quite often I see cattails well into the next summer that have not opened.   

I follow a family of swans, 3 grays and 2 whites, into a narrow channel, but it peters out before getting back to open water.  As I go I flush some ducks, mallards, blacks, woodies and maybe a couple of teal.

I visit another cove, the mouth of which lies about 200 yards down river of Sock! Dairy Farm Cove.
It is smaller and has a good quantity of wild rice as well.  It's most notable feature is a man-made dike that has been cut open.

I reach my put-in just two hours after starting.  So, after some hemming and hawing, I head across the river to circle Selden Island.  The hemming and hawing mostly had to to with my uncertainty in the length of the trip...which I thought was about 2 hours.  Anyway, it was not a contemplative trip, but more of a steady march.  I did spot and pass by a fine steam launch.
I crossed the river immediately upon leaving the bottom of the Selden Channel.  I know this section of the river and I opted for fighting a strong current on the west shore instead of a strong wind on the east.  And so it went.  It was almost exactly 2 hours to circle the island.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mr. Petty Has Left the Building

Mr. Petty has left the building.

The first time I heard his music I was up on a house roof in Ft. Collins during the winter of 1980.  The housing market had taken a big downturn and I had left my soon to be nonexistent carpentry job to go down to Colorado and do some cedar shake roofing.  I left a good teaching carpenter, but also the 8 hour a day country western "so called music" that played on the work radio.  The radio that Buzz, Craig, Frenchie and I listened to was the local rock station or perhaps a cassette tape, if anyone had one that worked.  "Refugee" was playing regularly at that time. It was a great song, but I wouldn't really clue in to Petty's music for a few more years, having to spend some time with punk and new wave.

I spotted just 3 Osprey in the large marsh below the RR bridge.  There were a half dozen or so Yellow-Legs hanging out at the edge of the high tide water along the bends of the Neck River.  The lower marsh was quiet and the only bird of note was a single Black Duck that I flushed.
As an artist I have learned (slowly, due to my dogged self-taught-accidental-yet-stubborn-artist persona) that all of the good art, whether it is music, performance, written or visual, has one thing in common - it comes from the heart, and the heart is where the truth in art lives.  Most of the non-artist public can sense it, even if they can't articulate what they are feeling.  They can spot a lie.
The fall migration started long before most people noticed.  Some birds migrate in mid summer.  The Willets seem to leave as soon as their young can fly and fend for themselves (early August).  Other shore birds from parts north appear momentarily as they pass through.  Most of us equate the migrations with the ducks and geese that are on the move when the leaves begin to turn.

Anyway, Mr. Petty left the building sometime around eight o'clock last night.  He leaves behind an impressive amount of truth.
The bird sightings multiply once I am up river of the stone arch bridge.  I spot several Great Blue Herons, a few more Osprey,a couple of Great Egrets and a Green Heron.  As I go I begin to flush a scolding Kingfisher here and there and as I near the now submerged gravel flats I flush about a hundred Mallard and Black Ducks in four individual groups.  I watch two Kingfishers chase each other for several minutes.  Today as compared to last month, fewer Egrets, more Great Blue Herons, fewer Green Herons, a lot more ducks, more Kingfishers.
On the return I spot a Bald Eagle at the lower of the Big Bends.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Storms Around

About two weeks has gone by since my last trip and I am aware of the contrast between today and then.  My trip planning is mostly keeping a close eye on the weather.  Today is a cool and somewhat blustery end of summer day, a warning shot of autumn.  Checking different locales shows steady north winds, but some areas have strong gusts, and some carry the potential for thunderstorms and hail.

I tell S that we will head east and figure out where we are going when we get there.  Our first stop is at the Lieutenant River and we find the wind mild enough to set in.  But instead, we head downriver to the nest put-in....nothing more than taking advantage of a return tailwind.

This is an Osprey rich area of the Connecticut River, but they seem to have begun their migration, and we spot just two as we paddle up to the Lieutenant.  In the bigger marsh, we spot a good half dozen Great Egrets, then as we get into narrower waters we spot a few of the smaller Snowy Egrets, then a couple of Blue Herons.  It is almost as if the birds are organized by layers. 

We find more Osprey up higher in the Lieutenant.  It is not nearly the summer contingent, but I suppose that the fishing is better here.  With the treed shoreline we add regular Kingfisher sightings to the mix.  We turn back from the broad boulder strewn and marshy bay.

Dark clouds are sweeping from the NE across our path.  It is time to paddle steady and either finish the trip or reach a better protected spot before a thunderstorm finds us.

An especially dark cloud holds my eye.  As it passes by it does not dump any rain.  It does bring in some strong gusty wind and we work hard to hold a course when the wind is on our side.  S does stationary draw strokes while I power paddle...swinging the canoe into the wind and keeping us from getting mired in mudflats.  It was a good and invigorating paddle, but a busy one with few chances to pause and photograph.