Saturday, July 21, 2018

New Water for S

I took S to a part of the big river that she'd never seen before.  It's higher up than where I normally go, but it is still a big wide river.  Almost at the upper reaches of the tide, and close enough to that upper reach that you wouldn't notice the tide, the key difference in this section of river is the shallow depth and shifting sand bars.  The big boats of the lower river don't come up here. Even smaller power boats that could maneuver just fine, if they kept their speed down, rarely appear.
No houses stand on the shoreline. Steep but low banks give purchase to some forest which is often backed by farm fields.  It is quiet. There is a current.  There are a few fisherman about.

We cross the river being able to see the bottom almost at any point as we go.  The bottom is a sandy gravel, it is not prone to silt clouding and without the big wakes of the oversized RV boats, the water remains clear.  S comments on how many cans she can see on the bottom.

On the far side of the river we head up behind a mile long forested island.  At the top of that island the Farmington River likely has much to do with why the island is where it is.  We pass a few canoes piloted by...well, not actually piloted...they wobble their way in some general direction.
We also pass two Bald Eagles and a large Red Tailed Hawk.  

The Farmington carries more current.  I reckon it to be at least a 2-1 current (twice as long to go up as it takes to return).  Perhaps 60 or 70 yards wide, it is forested as well with long gentle meanders.  I tell S that it reminds me of rivers in the midwest...mud banks, trees, few rocks.

When we reach the old sandstone railroad bridge we decide to return and explore a bit of the big river some more.

We cross back over the big river and head upstream toward the mouth of the Scantic, but decide part way there that we have explored enough new terrain.  We descend the east shore back to where we started...but you never end up where you started, do you?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Bird Check

It's a low tide when I set out from the Foote Bridge and as expected I have to wade the first little bend, a short 25 foot ankle deep walk.  Farther down I drift over the Gravel Flats with several inches to spare.  After that I have plenty of water.  
The Power Pole Nest - 2 young and an adult
There are 8 or 10 Osprey in the forest section of the river either whistling out at my arrival, changing perches, or circling overhead.  After passing under the Stone Arch Bridge I find 8 circling high overhead although some of the 8 and some of the previous 8 or 10 are one in the same.

Just above the Big Bends are three Snowy Egrets, one of which is larger than the other two.  At first I think that the smaller might be immature Little Blue Herons, but finally I see the yellow in their feet.  I think they might be first year Snowys.  The larger one chases the other two off.  It's an unusual aggressive action for an Egret.

Oyster Catcher
In the lower marsh the young Opsreys are still on the nest and not yet flying although they are much bolder than they have been.  Today, they stand up high on the nest as I pass near.  Even when the adults leave the nest they stay up.  They look to be about 3/4 full size.

In the second bend below Cedar Island I spot a Hawk taking low swoops at a Gull in mid channel.  Only then do I realize that I have not seen or heard any Willets... Hawks don't come around when Willets are in the area as the Willets won't let them hunt in peace.  A couple hundred yards further on I do hear a Willet, unseen behind a wall of tall spartina.  I spot another a hundred yards up and after turning at the boat ramp and heading back up I spot just three more...a total of five Willets.  On my last trip I would've spotted five before launching the canoe...heck, I would've spotted five getting out of the car.

Glossy Ibis
Two bends before the RR bridge I spot a flock of larger birds quite high and fling in a swirling formation...Glossy Ibis.  I count 22.  I write a note of it and when I look up they are gone...I look around as if expecting them to sneak up and shit on me, but they have dropped down into the marsh at some suitable feeding zone.

Snowy Egret in the Gravel Flats
My timing on the tide has been off.  I arrive at the Gravel Flats with far less water than on the way down.  It is longer wade.  It is a good day to wade.  It is a good day to be here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Toy River

I start well in the forest, down in the bottom of a shallow valley, well shaded, a typical low forest bottom land of mud trees and fallen trees.  It is a hot day again with a chance of thunderstorms. This site was selected for the shade and relative protection that the forest provides.
The river has an official name, a Native American name, a good name.  I don't particularly like honorifics in geographical naming.  In many cases the individual is unworthy of have their name attached to such things of beauty.  Native American names are different.  We should be reminded every day that someone was here before us.  That someone probably took better care of the land than we have.  If the river had to have another name, I might call it the Toy River, as I seem to find an unusual amount of old toys on the river bottom.  I find a toy bowling pin at the put in, and about a half mile up river I fetch a small toy fire truck from the bottom.  I used to have a fine toy raygun from this same river, but I sold it.  The other name that might be fitting would be Poison Ivy River.  I shudder at the idea of having to portage out of the bottoms.  In places, an ace farmer could not have grown a finer crop of poison ivy than is found down here.

I stop on the bank to pee.  A hawk is right behind me, close and up in a tree across the narrow river.  I will not get the photo.  More calls show that there are three hawks in the area.
Beaver bank burrow showing entrance

I head up as far as the railroad trestle.  The last few hundred yards have been a wade and it is clear that it will not be changing, so I turn back.

I pass the put in site and continue down into the open marsh land flushing one Bald Eagle, a few Osprey and several Great Blue Herons.  I also see quite a few ordinary turtles...hand sized or smaller, and usually swimming.

I turn back again when I get to the big river.  It seems like it has been a very long trip although it has been only 4 hours.

Where - Mattabesset River, near Middletown

Monday, July 16, 2018

Paddling in Anger

I put in on North Cove in Essex not long after the bottom of a low tide.  I haven't started from here in several months, if not longer.  The cove is shallow and I run out of water at the mouth and have to wade about 50 yards in ankle deep mud.  But then I am in the main river and head up and across towards Ely's Ferry.

Already it is hot and the sun is strong.   I hug that east shore as close as possible taking in every patch of shade that I can get to.  At the mouth of Hamburg Cove there are 7 Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret on the bar.

I paddle in anger today.  It is work related anger, enough to keep me awake at night and enough that it's not worth the job unless the cause goes away.  Canoeing helps.  Seeing how beautiful the world is outside of the dumb-human world is good.  Some people have a real talent for screwing up the 50 sq ft of world that they surrounds them.

I paddle just barely into Eight Mile River, which is quite shallow at this tide level.
And then I return the way I came, but not exactly the way I came.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chapman Pond

Today, I did not write in the canoe.  I did not want the interruption.
I put in near the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry slip. The ferry holds about 6 cars tops.
I paddled upstream on a good strong flood current skirting the 50 foot tall forested cliffs taking advantage of all the shade that I could.  I spotted several Osprey, of course, and one mature Bald Eagle. 
South entrance to Chapman Pond
After maybe 3/4 of a mile or so I turned in on the lower and enjoyably meandering entrance to Chapman Pond, still being steadily pushed by the current as it tried to fill the pond through its two restricted openings. 
Chapman Pond
I exited the pond via the 19th century man-made channel and headed back downstream against that flood current and a headwind. 
I continued on down into the Selden Channel, which I had pretty much to myself until reaching the bottom end and turning back.  I had a tailwind and the last of the flood current to speed me along, at least until I was about a mile from the ferry slip.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Time Distortions

I set out just short of the high tide and return to a meandering natural cut that I had followed into Ox meadow on a recent trip.  This time, I am up high above the spartina, the passage wider with the extra water.  I flush some Willets that are hanging with three Oyster Catchers. 
Some of the Willets are gathering in small flocks of 6 to 12 birds.  This is new behavior for the season, Willets are usually seen in one's or two's..  It's possible that these are young Willets...they seem a bit smaller than usual.  It goes well out into the middle of the "meadow", perhaps 300 yards south of Cedar Island.  Although it has thinned to half a canoe length, I find a wide spot at the end that lets me spin the canoe and paddle out facing forwards.
I head back down the East river and then up the Neck, up Bailey (where I pass the bird researchers) and into the Long Cut.  I miss a critical turn in the Long Cut and it occurs to me that I've never used it in this direction.  Osprey chicks are getting bigger and braver.  Their heads are up watching me as I pass, if an adult is at the nest.  Otherwise they lay low and out of sight.

Between my observations, I think about my mom.  She died about a month ago.  I suppose the death certificate says pneumonia, but it should say depression brought on by care taking her last husband (most definitely not my father), a late stage king baby alcoholic.  Genetically, her death at 80 was about 15 or 20 years premature.  She had always been active and athletic.  I think she held every Red Cross swimming certification and had been a member of the Aqua Follies synchronized swimming troupe.  Yet, I could never get her to go out in the canoe with wasn't even a "I'll think about it."   And then four Osprey are circling high overhead and calling out in their slightly hoarse whistles.  She would've liked that.  I look up and realize that I am in one of the most beautiful sections of river anywhere in this state.  I paddle on.
I think about returning.  It seems that I have been paddling for a week, but a check of my watch shows nothing on the clock that is unusual.  Something inside tells me to go up to the Foote Bridge, my usual high point, so I do.  At the last turn I spot a Green Heron flying past.  It is the first Green Heron sighting of the summer (they always show up here late in the summer).  The bridge is pleasantly shaded by the hardwood forest.  I turn and return.  By the time I get to the stone arch bridge the strong ebb current is combing with a tailwing to speed me back to where I came from.

Ox Meadow

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


I don't set out from here too often during the summer.  This is big boat water...amateurs with big boats to be more accurate.  Big wakes, big noise, big speed, small seamanship.  But, this is midweek and I get out early (for big boats early means before noon).  I start at the site of 18th-19th century ferry.  100 feet upriver I'll paddle under an Osprey nest, and that turns the trip just so much wilder than it would otherwise be.

I have a 15 minute talk with a guy who is poking around the beach with a metal detector..."goofing off," he says.

Teh Ely House
I find that first nest dilapidated with an immature Bald Eagle perched about 50 yards away. We had a powerful windstorm a little over a month ago and I've noted that more than a few Osprey nests were damaged.  It's possible that the young were tossed from the nest, or what remained of the nest, during the storm, and the adults have little reason to maintain it.  Up on the Salmon River, a couple of Osprey built new nests in new locations.  This is interesting because Osprey return to the same nest locations each year after migrations, even if the nest doesn't survive the winter.  In this case, a storm, some of the Osprey pick up and move to a new nest spot.

Botom of the Selden Channel
The next marker on the trip is the Ely House, which stands at the mouth of Hamburg Cove.  Ely's Ferry is where I started.  I can't say exactly why, but I very much like looking up the forested shoreline and seeing that house in the distance.The house is an ideal location for someone working the river.  I think it is still an ideal location even if one's work isn't on the river.  The owner is out watering his vegetable garden as I pass.  We wave to each other.

Half a dozen Osprey are in sight at the bottom of the Selden Channel.  Some of the nests look good and a young Osprey head peeps up from one of the nests.  It is a pleasant paddle and I have the channel to myself all the way through.  Great Egrets work the edges here and there, and more Osprey show themselves as I go.

When I exit the top of the channel I follow the island downstream for a short ways and then cut over to the small island that stands off of the Chester boat launch.  The Essex steam train trundles by on its way up to its stop on the bank opposite the Goodspeed Opera House. 

The heat comes on as I follow the west bank.  It's damned near sleepy here in the canoe, but even now the motorboat traffic is very light.  I ride a few wakes, I cross the river, I lift the canoe from the water.