Monday, January 25, 2016

Ice Paddling

It is a short trip.  I put in at Foote Bridge, walking softly and sliding the canoe over the snow, and then over the tilted apron of ice that extended out over and into the water.  And when the ice wouldn't hold my weight, I put one knee on the seat of the canoe and pushed off with my other foot, pushing off of whatever it could find until the canoe began to slide into the clear and cold winter waters.

It is calm and the sky clear.  The forest and marsh are blanketed with new snow that fell a couple days back in a very windy storm that kept all canoes off of the water.  As I paddle down towards the sea, I pass through thin night ice, ice that is barely stiffer than the water it sits on, crushing and dispersing easily with each stroke of the paddle, slowing the canoe not a bit.  But, when I get to the well submerged gravel flats, the ice thickens.  Here, the river spreads out wide and shallow and without much of a current, thicker ice has formed and collected with the changing of the tides.  I push through and over it using my old Sawyer club paddle as a pole when the ice is thick enough to hold.  It is a matter of linking open pools and finding the weakest ice.  It is not quiet, the canoe focusing the sound of breaking ice in my direction.

I get some open water near the stone arch bridge and I hope that it will continue when I pass under and enter the open marsh land.  But, it does not.  In fact, the river is more frozen over with a uniform layer of ice that runs about 3/16 of an inch.  I can paddle through it, but there is no end to it in sight and I figure it will go that way to one of the big bends, which are another half mile.  I turn back and take my time, retracing the same channels that I've opened up, and just enjoying the contrast of snow and ice and marsh and winter forest on a calm and sunny day.

I pass by the Foote Bridge as this upper section is open water, and head further upstream to the tangles.  At one of the bends, I flush about 75 mallards.  They take off in four shifts, each time impressing me with the amount of noise they make as they go airborne.  And when the tangle makes passage difficult, I return to Foote Bridge.

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