Monday, August 5, 2013

For Zebulon Pike

Passing Two Mile Island, which is no longer an island, poses a problem.  I have a map of this section of the river painted on the blade of my paddle, but since I like to study how land changes with time, it is a 90 year old map, a map from when the island was an island.  I round it to the east after finding that the west channel is the one that has had a causeway built across it and it all comes out better than expected as I find the teeth marks of castor canadensis on freshly trimmed tree branches at the water's edge.  This is the first sign of beaver that I have seen on this part of the river.  The reaches below are too near the ocean and while this area is tidal, at least the water is fresh.  They are most likely bank beaver - beaver that live in bank burrows rather than the more familiar conical lodges.  It is good that they are here.

I am here...near Wooster Island.

I put in at the feral cat park, which I haven't been to in several months.  There is a stiff wind out of the north and west, but I have the flood tide coming in underneath me and so I have the current to help me in my upstream journey.  At Fowler's Flat, the first low island upstream of the cat park, I cut across to the west side of the river hoping for and finding some protection from the wind.

A great many thoughts come and go as I work my way up the shoreline into the wind.  They seem too lengthy and involved to write down, especially for others to read, so I let them come and go as they want.  Somewhere in there, I compare river journals of myself and other travelers...from the horribly crap-written and boring journals of Zebulon Pike (clearly a man chosen to exert military presence rather than to retrieve scientific data), Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, the excellent journals of the Canadians - MacKenzie, and Thompson, and the gold standard journals of Lewis and Clark.  And I think about a dream I had last night, about me and a climbing partner, a partner that I have not roped up with in over 30 years.  I lead to the base of the last 10 feet of overhanging and icy rock on some unrecognizable alpine peak and stop to let my partner go first.  Next to us is a welded steel stairway leading to the top, which we ignore.  I've had this dream in different cladding before, but I always interpret it as being about the overarching importance of the journey.... and the tertiary value of the goal.  As I said one day, in complete unawareness, when someone asked me about my becoming an artists, "I just go where I end up."

An osprey shared this perch with the heron until I got too near

Today, I do have a goal of getting to O'Sullivan's Island, which lies at the confluence of the Naugutuck and Housatonic Rivers.  But, even that goal is not the goal, for the real reason to get to O'Sullivan's is to paddle a section of the river I have not seen.  Even here, it is the journey.  The new section of the river turns out to be the most pleasant stretch of this lower reach, all wooded hillsides with no buildings or houses in sight.

O'Sullivan's Island - nothing special to write home about

I have dozens of osprey sightings, including a few young ones.  A few great blue herons, lots of sanderlings, a couple of spotted sandpipers, a flock of ring-billed gulls and a few cormorants. 
For Zebulon Pike - I traveled 15 and 1/2 miles and shot no deer.

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