I linger a bit too long over my morning coffee so that when I do put my canoe in at the head of the harbor, I have to paddle without pause. For most of the thousand yards or so that it takes to get to the edge of the ocean I paddle directly into the winter sun, a searing white reflecting streak in the water making a joke of my dark sunglasses. I have three bridges to pass under and I have to beat the "high" high tide that is coming or else there won't be enough headroom to pass under them. The rusty bridge goes easy, the flooding current carrying me through while I lay my chest flat on the middle thwart. I clear the beams by several good inches. I cross straight up lower Gulf Pond and pass under the second bridge, laying on the middle thwart again and clearing by a few inches. The third bridge, at the head of Gulf Pond looks too low from a distance, but looks better as I near. But, it is a tight fit and I clear it by just an inch. I will be on this side of that bridge for the next 3 hours or so, unless I portage around.
|the fifth bridge|
Then, I ride a fast chute of waves under the high stone bridge (the fourth) into the Indian River. I put down the paddle to write. My cell phone rings from inside the drybag clipped to the front thwart. It is my mom. I don't make a habit of using phones when I am outside - I did not own a cell until just 6 months ago, but having never convinced my mom to get into a canoe with me, I find something very enjoyable and novel about talking with her from the canoe, from the river, with nothing but marsh surrounding me.
I ride the tidal current upstream until I get to the sixth bridge, which I never think much about. The current here is always light, otherwise I would think about it. I have to lay down inside the canoe to slip under this one, the highest points of the canoe clearing by just two inches. Then, I enjoy the depth of this narrow calm river all the way up to the Clark Fishway, where logjams and a dam bar my path unless I was to make the effort to portage. I see two cardinals with their brilliant red popping out from the bare trees.
The sixth bridge comes up and I am about 4 inches too high to fit under. So, I spend the next hour and a half or two, pacing the river, paddling up and back, weaving in and out of tree branches, basking in the sun, looking for nests and watching birds until the tide falls far enough so that I can once again lay in the bottom of the canoe and slip under the bridge.
I return the way I came.
|red breasted merganser|