Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ice Out with the Magic Pocket Knife

I set out from the Foote Bridge about an hour before the crest of a very high tide on a sunny, windy and crisp day.  Already, the water is high and near the top of the marsh.  At the first big right hand bend I spy an old birds nest and pull over to collect it, even though it is not in very good condition.  In fair trade for the nest, my pocket knife slips from my hand and falls into the water.  I reach in as far as I can, almost to the shoulder, but to no avail.  Nature always wins.  My fingers are almost numb.

The ice is out, at least to the Duck Hole Farms.  There, the river is mostly frozen over, but it is thin fresh water ice that has formed during cold nights.  Last night's ice, which formed in a good wind, is shards of broken ice that has barely become one.  The canoe cuts through without much of an argument. 

the tumbled sawmill dam

With the high water I slip up the side channel that leads to the tumbled remains of the old sawmill dam.  A good flow of melt water from the long valley behind the dam hasn't kept the channel open, but it has created a path of thinner ice to cut through.

I return to the main river and continue cutting my way through ice into the open marsh below the stone arch bridge.  The wind picks up in this wide open space.  It is strong enough to push the canoe sideways through the ice.  I had planned to go to the railroad bridge to see if the ice jam had cleared, but the wind has other ideas and I turn back before the highway. 

The gusts come over the water, turning the surface dark blue as a warning.  When the dark water reaches me the canoe comes to a stop until it passes.  When it's gone I can continue to crawl ahead at a mile or less per hour.  The surprise is that the ice that I just paddled through a half hour ago is almost completely gone.  Up ahead at the next bend, the wind lifts a large sheet of ice from the water and flings it in shattered panes towards the far shore.  And, that is why the ice is gone. 

It is colder than it seems.  The splashes and drips from my paddle are freezing in the bottom of the canoe.

At that big right hand bend (which is now a left hand bend) I retrieve my pocket knife from elbow deep water.  It is not the first time that that knife has found its way back to me.

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