Monday, June 24, 2013


I returned from a trip to the west coast and found myself aimless and uninterested, lethargic and unfocused.  I even found myself trying to talk myself out of canoeing, "too hot", or "too many summertime motorboat vacation people", or "too far to drive".  It wasn't like me.

I put in behind the gravel yard at the top end of a tidal marsh on the Quinnipiac River - new terrain for me.  It is hot at 9 in the morning and going to get hotter, but the scenery is already refreshing.  Two osprey sail nearby and an egret hunts the shallows on the far side of the channel.  I head upstream, hoping for shade and leaving the sunny marsh for a later date. 

Osprey (and phragmite tops)

When I look through my camera I see the harshness of a hot summer day.  Summer sun is always too strong, but on a hot day it seems that the heat comes through the lens as well.

The invasive phragmites (a tall dense growing reed) soon give way to significant plant.  The marsh was once known for a very large population of muskrats, but apparently they do not like phragmites.  The river starts to narrow and the current gradually increases its push against me.  I see more osprey, more egrets, a swan, and for a half hour I am "surround sound" by numerous kingfishers rattling their call.  I weave through tree debris at the first railroad bridge and find more shade as the river necks down to 4 or 5 canoe lengths in width.  It reminds me of the upper section of the Duwamish River in Seattle, narrow, forested, with 4 or 5 ft high banks, but it has many more birds and less man-made debris.  In fact, there is almost no litter.

Two black-crowned night herons fly off.  A small dinosaur green-backed heron is identified as it flies away by its primitive shape and bobbing flight.

The amount of wood debris in the water increases, although most of it has been sawed off to leave a passage.  I can continue, but I don't need to.  It is a place well worth returning to and stopping now gives me all of the excuse that I need to come back.  Whatever was missing in me when I started seems is time to get to work.

I ride the current back, but not all of the way back.  The rising tide is backing up the river, the salt water not intruding, but the gradient decreasing.  About halfway back, the current goes slack.


Bonnie said...

We used to cut phragmites and make them into perfect tools for lettering class at RISD. And I used to cut their fluffy tops to weave with. In fact I still have one hanging I made in 1961 that looks like I just wove it. I guess it was invasive even back then.

Dan McShane said...

Osprey's always get me going. But I can feel the muggy east coast heat sapping energy from here.