Sunday, December 24, 2017

Raw Day

I call it "halfway" when I get to the Gravel Flats.  I could wade the 150 yards or so, but I see no point - this trip has already reached "good enough".
I put in at the sea with much more wind than expected given that it was calm when I left the house.  The wind chill is downright nippy.  But, the tide is near low and I am down in the banks where I can find, from time to time, protection from the breeze.  I head up the main river knowing that the Sneak will not hold enough water for passage, yet. 

I spook ten Buffleheads at the second bend.  Otherwise, it is pretty quite until I get up to the Big Bends, where I find the action as I did on my last trip.  I figure that I flush about 75 Black Ducks with a few Mallards in the mix.  They commonly intermingle and are even capable of breeding together.  Other than coloration, there is little difference in appearance.  There are also a couple types of wintering sandpiper-ish birds (Dunlin).  Unlike the ducks, they are quite undisturbed by my presence.
Tomorrow people will celebrate the birth of a middle eastern Jewish boy to migrant parents that gave birth in a barn.  Let that sink in.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

On the Lietenant

I stop at the Lieutenant River and then get back in my car and head upriver.  But, when I get to Hamburg Cove I see that it is fairly well frozen in with a thin layer of ice and this does not bode well for my recent plans, so I turn around and return to the Lieutenant.
Hooded Mergansers
I put in and head upstream.  The Lieutenant is a nice river of sparse houses that often set well back from the river, marshland and forest.  It is an easy and pleasant paddle.  Up a couple miles it broadens into a open bay that is deceptively filled with car and truck sized boulders for a canoe to bash into when the tide level is just wrong.  I paddle through it at normal speed well aware of the danger and focusing my attention on what lies ahead beneath the surface.

There is a long meandering backwater that I like to explore, but today that area is frozen in and the effort required to make headway through what looks to be thin ice is not worth it.  I head up the true river instead, a very narrow creek that is canoeable for about a 1/3 of a mile.  There is a good deal of fresh beaver sign...lots of gnawings, one lodge that I don't remember from past trips and one that I do.  The dam near the bridge is at least 18 inches higher than it was earlier this year.  But, it has a breach that might be due to a tree that fell pulling its root ball, which was a part of the dam. 
While I am observing the area, an otter swims into view.  It tucks in under the brush on the bank and watches me as I watch it.  Then, it submerges and I watch the bubble trail, air squeezed from the fur, until it swims out of view.  It is time to head out.

New lodge at left edge

Monday, December 18, 2017


My friend, C, who is as close to a sister as anyone I have known, referred one day to my canoeing as a ritual that I perform as part of my art process.   I've always been a bit tongue tied as to how to describe my "canoe thing"...sometimes it just takes a friend to put the right vocabulary out there.

I put in by the sea with the temperature at about freezing, the sky heavily overcast, the winds calm, and the tide just approaching high.  It has been some time since I've been out, the weather being too gusty or too snowy on my free days to even think about setting out.  Even today I hesitate with the idea expecting cold and little to see...time lets one build up bigger walls than there really are.
I head up the Neck, then Bailey Creek, and then into the Sneak.  I flush a few Black Ducks and a few Hoodies (Hooded Mergansers), but overall it is quiet.  The Sneak is open with some floating chunks of ice until I reach the high spot.  I suppose this high spot is an inch higher than either end, but it is where the currents meet or divide with the tides.  So, it is the most still section of the Sneak and here I find a 100 yards of solid ice.  But, with the tide high, there is an open channel to the side of the ice, the ice having conveniently taken the shape of the Sneak at a mid tide level. I paddle past and back into open water.
At the Big Bends I flush a mixed flock of a hundred ducks (mostly Blacks) and a hundred Canada Geese.  It is impressive to see and hear.  As I continue through the last of the Big Bend I continue to flush Geese and Ducks from the shallow pannes in the marsh as well as from the river.  I figure a tally of five hundred easily before I am alone.

There is more ice in the river above the Arch Bridge.  This all makes sense if one pays attention to the vegetation.  Cattails have replaced the spartina...this indicates fresh water instead of salt...and a freezing temperature 4 degrees higher.  None of it interferes with my route other than to cause me to perform some pleasant zigs and zags.
I turn from the bend above Foote Bridge and ride a gentle ebb current back.  In the lower marsh I spot a Northern Harrier...obvious by head shape and bright white rump patch.  It is my second sighting of a Harrier this fall.  The clouds thin and the light comes through and the marsh becomes a spectacular scene of golden grasses under deep blue clouds.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


8:22 am, set out from the Foote Bridge just barely above low tide.

JM posted a question today asking his friends how they defined and sought authenticity in their lives.  It is a fine seed for thought before setting out in my canoe.  It fills my head as I paddle.

A light breeze at my back strengthens suddenly and I pull into an inlet to sit and wait and see if the wind will hold or dissipate.  I have just gotten over a nasty cold and this is the first day that I could've paddled and although not ideal, it will have to do.  I came down out of the woods with just enough water to float the canoe through the shallows except for a couple hundred feet of the Gravel ankle deep wade.  I saw the man who lives in the house overlooking that spot.  I have never seen him before, nor anyone else from there, and I wonder if he has seen me during my many trips.  But, he is too far away for that conversation.  We wave to each other.
Integrity is the first word that comes to mind when I consider authenticity.  In fact, I see no difference in the words.  Say what you mean, mean what you say.  Choose friends because they are friends and allies because they are allies and know that the two sets are not identical.  Follow your own path.  The paths of your parents, friends, heroes, ministers or famous philosophers are not your path.  Think of them as periodic guides and learn what you can from them.  At times their paths will coincide with yours and at times they will be distant.  Know that you do not know where your path is leading...there are no shortcuts.  The world is littered with people who have tried a shortcut and can no longer find their way back to their path.  You are not in control of anything except staying on the path.  Be wary of inertia, it can help you along your path, but it can also drive you off of it.  Do not medicate your emotions or frustrations.  Sooner or later you have to deal with them face to face or they will eat you.  The middle road is the road to enlightenment.  The Jones' have their own path, do not try to keep up with them.  Your success is definable only by you, because no one else is on your path.  You may not see it this way...this is my path, not yours.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nothing to Add

 I have nothing to add other than it was a spectacular autumn day.

 Menunketusuck River.  8 mallards, 6 black ducks, 3 buffleheads, 3 mid sized hawks of all same species, 2 kingfishers, 2 great blue herons.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Returning to Where I am

Winter is approaching and soon enough  the Great Swamp will freeze over.  Each day that comes is one last chance to return and see how the new and impressively active beaver colonies are preparing for winter.

fresh cutting
I put in at the top and find the water maybe a foot down from my last trip, which occurred after a large storm.  Rain seems to drive water level here and I imagine that the swamp catches everything from the surrounding hills as long as it is wet enough for the ground water to percolate.  The swamp is a high point with rivers heading both north and rivers drain into the swamp.
Anyway, the water is still high enough for easy paddling.

The water begins to pool, reaching into the riverside brush, when I am between Pine Island and the Cult facility on the hillside. 
New lodge - owners of the lowest dam
It is a beautiful day with sun casting long shadows in the gray sticks.  The wind is variable and more than likely comes as strong gusts with near total calm in between.  I flush a pair of wood ducks once in awhile.

the lowest dam
Every so often the outside world starts to intrude on my trip.  I inhale deeply, as if to inhale the entire surrounding, as if to inhale all of the sounds and silence and dried cattails and gray sticks, as if to inhale the Great Swamp.  And when I do so I find that I have returned to where I am.

I turn back when I get to the lowest dam, which is also one of the newest.  The dams have not changed much since a month ago, but the new lodges have been winterized.  Each was near five feet tall and packed recently with mud to seal the structure from the coming winter.  Both of those new lodges also had a good mass of cut saplings and branches in the water near the lodge - food for the freeze over.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Finding Ganesha

Note to self:  If you're wearing wool pants to canoe in, pack a thermos of hot coffee.
I woke to a windy day and it seemed that my plans might have to change.  But after a brief and hard rain the air went comparatively still.  I began to scan weather reports looking for the best weather.  I found a spot, and I went there.
I spotted a large fungus at the base of a tree a few yards from the put-in.  I walked over and found a Ganesha.  I don't usually like to leave man-made things in wild spots, but this was hard to spot, besides being someones spirit object.  I let it be.  Besides, Ganesha has all the right attributes for my journey.
I headed up the river deeper into the forest.  The sky was a heavy overcast with a definite possibility for rain.  It was dark, dank and what most people would call, gloomy.  In my mind it was just nature...take it as it comes, experience it in all of its twists and turns.  I hoped to continue upriver farther than I had gone in the past.  I had a gut feeling that I would find high water and easy paddling.  This was, however, not the case.  40 minutes out the river ran low, just as I neared the railroad trestle.  A couple hundred yards of wading would be necessary to go higher.  Instead, I turned back to explore the lower marsh.
The sun popped through just as I passed my put-in.  Somewhere not too far below this point is where the tide is noticeable.  Today's very high tide began to show its stuff - water at the base of the trees, the berm that contains the river (separating it from more marsh) barely rising above the water.  I met a duck hunter on his way out.  He had seen only two ducks this morning.  I told him that I had seen about 30 mallards, but all on my upriver foray.
The side channels of the big marsh were topped up with the tide.  I spent my time exploring a few places that I've not gone to before.  I spotted one dark mid sized raptor with a white butt...Northern Harrier.