I set out from the feral cat park knowing that the big river would be open and free of ice and that I would be able to paddle as far as I wanted. Only a thin sheet of ice was on the lagoon where I launched and the canoe cut through it without effort.
I headed upstream, riding some of the flood tide with the winds calm, with the sky mostly sunny. I spot a red shouldered hawk near one of the osprey nests across the river from where Peck's Mill once stood. A mile further upstream, I pass a buck white tailed deer that lets me pass. I watch and not once does it make any of the telltale motions that indicate flight. Then, I spot a grey bunch high in a tree, too high for that much wood, and it becomes a young bald eagle that flies to put some space between us, because humans are, after all, the most unpredictable of animals.
At Great Flats, which is the second island upstream from the start, I meet eyes with two red foxes who move back into the brush before I can bring my camera up.
I turn back at Two Mile Island, which is no longer an island, someone having allowed a gravel company to fill in the side channel sometime after 1926 (I prefer the old map because it retains the earlier names...and the river hasn't changed enough to matter). It is far enough, I have work ahead of me. The wind has come up and it has shifted as predicted now coming out of the SW. I begin paddling into a headwind.
The return takes almost 3 hours, an extra hour over the paddle out. I hug the shore to take advantage of the buffer that the bank and trees provide, but it is a crawl. It is worst at the highway bridge, as I expected and the half mile beyond it is a grind before I can get some relief. When I take out, I am as cold as I have been in a long time, three hours of wind chilling me through all of my layered clothing. But, I saw a pair of foxes.