Monday, March 16, 2015

Ice Jam

I'm two hours after the high tide and work against the ebb and a cool NW wind in bright and sunny skies.  The spartina marsh still has a thin remainder of snow on most of it, but the East River is open with only an occasional flow drifting seaward.

The first bend holds three hooded mergansers, the next some fifteen black ducks, and the next a small flock of Canada geese.  The ice gone, the birds have returned to feeding with a month of lean times behind them.

And, I strike a bed of mussels hidden in the silty murk of the tidal flow.  One of those shells neatly cuts the tip of my paddle and opens a 2 inch long split.  It is, perhaps, my best paddle yet.  All of the dimensions and curves adding up to hit a sweet spot that seems ideal for me and my solo canoe.  I have planned on retiring damaged paddles, but this one warrants a repair, it just doesn't have enough days on it to be taken out of circulation.  It doesn't possess enough spirit.

The river is open, that is, until the first bridge.  It is a low railroad bridge with three narrow openings and ice has jammed against the structure on the upstream side.  I ease up to it and even release a ton or so of flows, everything shifting as a piece is removed from the puzzle.  It is thick ice, a combination of water freezing directly and fallen snow absorbing the tide and then freezing. I back out when I feel that I am too much a part of the jam while not wanting to get trapped up against the bridge.  Unfortunately, a portage is difficult, not being legal or safe to cross the high speed rail line.  As I watch, more ice comes down from above and adds to the jam.  Flows shift and settle slowly, each trying to find an equilibrium that doesn't exist.  Equilibrium for the ice is returning to liquid.  It is best not to be upstream of that jam since the return could become far more difficult as the day goes on. 

Cedar Island...a big rock in the marsh

I return, pausing to drift with some of the ice that I released.  Near the put-in, I turn up the Neck River.  It is open as well, meanders more and is a bit more protected from the wind, which has shifted to the SW just so that I can paddle a headwind everywhere that I go.  Short of the meeting with Bailey Creek I find the ice, the river at this point still frozen bank to bank, but just barely.

No comments: