Thursday, August 8, 2013

Side Trip

My choices for wood for carving canoe paddles is limited in the turbo-Mayberry town that is my new home.  I've soured some on the easily gotten poplar, which carves easily as well.  It lacks some in the durability department.  So, a trip to a wood supplier up north is the order.  But, there is good water between here and there and it seems a shame not to take time to dip a paddle.

I set out from the town of Middleton on the west side of the Connecticut River.  It is a cloudy, warm and humid day, but a steady breeze is sweeping through the trees and myself, carrying away the stagnation and demons that hide in the dark.  It threatens to rain, but musters no more than a sprinkle.  I cross the river for the heck of it and swing back across when I get up to the old railroad swing bridge.  Then I beeline for the bottom of the forested island...because I have to pee.  There are fresh deer tracks in the sand and I also find a 1 inch diameter by 4inch cement core, something that might have been drilled as a test sample from the bridge that is right overhead.  I collect it.

It's not more than a couple hundred yards until I turn into the Mattebesset River.  It is nearing high tide, and while I am far enough from the ocean that this is all fresh water, the current still reverses with the tides.  I like this type of river/creek/swamp...too big for a creek, too small for a river, with the extra life that swamps hold.  Each deadfall that must be maneuvered around threatens to hold something of fascination.  A stone plops into the water and I quickly scan the bank for the boy that threw it.  But instead, a kingfisher climbs up out of that water after making an unusually deep dive.  Two great blue herons leave through the trees and a cormorant surfaces just ten feet from the boat, startling me and scaring the bejeezus out itself.

After a few bends, I veer right and into the Coginchaug River.  It is smaller than the Mattebesset and heads back into the forest leaving the big sky swamp of that other river behind.  The first bend of the river looks like a picket fence.  It is about as dense a concentration of beaver stumps as I've seen and it runs about 75 yards like that.  At the next bend I find the beaver colony's bank burrow. 

A bank burrow is not nearly as neat and deliberate as the more familiar conical lodge, and it is probably overlooked by many people because of that.  Here, the beaver have tunneled into the bank.  The pile of branches cover and protect a vent hole in the top of the lodge and also keep heavy animals from plunging through the roof.   Sometimes these burrows develop into free-standing lodges if the beaver excavate enough dirt from around the lodge through their dragging of branches.  This one looks like it will stay high and dry as is.  And, the next bend is another picket fence.

Another turn brings me to a homeless camp.  It is not a clean camp, with discarded stuff scattered about, but a second look shows that no all of that came from the camp.  Heavy debris such as a car axle and large pieces of cement tip me off that not only is this camp on the edge of the river, but it is also on the edge of a town's a well known and repeating story of dumping trash into someone else's drinking water, and dumping people out of sight, out of mind.

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