Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Below Freezing Day

It was somewhere just below freezing when I got to the put in.  The tide was mid-high and rising and a thin shelf of night some 20 feet wide lay on the sloping bank.  In ice weather one always has to think ahead about getting out of the river.  Before unloading any gear, I walked out onto the shelf.  It turned out to be the foamy ice that salt water forms and it crushed easily so that my feet could grip the rocks underneath...nothing to worry about.

I set out up the Neck River planning to go as far up that small river as the depth of water would permit, then return to where Bailey Creek meets and paddle up that stretch.  A couple of Common Mergansers were fishing the river near the put in and two Bald Eagles were perched a couple hundred yards toward the sea.
Bald Eagle
I found the old corduroy road sections that stick out of the bank just at the water level.  At each bend I flushed several ducks eventually counting about 60 Black Ducks and perhaps a dozen Mallards.

As I got into the tighter meanders of the Neck I began to find ice formed in the bends.  At first it was the soft salt ice, the canoe cut through with little effort.  But, well short of where the river goes shallow I began to meet up with fresh water ice that was a quarter inch thick and much tougher.  I turned when I could see that it was going to be a continuous sheet.

Corduroy Road in the Neck River
The wind had increased during the outbound trip and it was strong and cold as I muscled my return against it.  I opted out of heading up Bailey Creek as it would be a brutal headwind grind to return from there.  So I headed back downriver hugging the wind shadow of the lee shores when possible.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Full Spectrum of Ducks

Weather has kept me out of the canoe for a full month.  When it was warm enough, it was far too windy.  When it was calm, it was cold enough to freeze even the brackish tidal rivers.

I put in on the last hour of the flooding tide and rode a mile per hour current inland.  There were remnants of ice drifting in the current, but nothing that would be of any bother.  The cold weather has kept everyone off the river and I start paddling through a spectrum of ducks, each species in its own area.  Near Cedar Island I spook 15 Buffleheads, the males easily recognizable from distance with their white sides.  The Big Bends is a complete surprise.  I flush three dozen Black Ducks from the main channel, then another couple dozen, and then about twice of what I'd counted.  Black Ducks are shy in my book and I've never seen a hundred one day.  Up in the forest section of the river by Duck Hole Farms, I spot a pair of Hooded Mergansers.  I find the Common Mergansers, about eight of them, at the Gravel Flats just another 300 yards upriver.  Finally, up above Foote Bridge, there are a half dozen Mallards.

This winter has been rough on my spirit.  The state of the world seems to bear heavy on my, the leaders of the world feeling that it is their responsibility to make everyone else angry and anxious.  So, I started hiking miles and miles of trail that is new to me, and I started a large artwork that will keep me focused for the next few months.  My spirit is's science.

The day is absolutely beautiful.  The first three hundred yards of paddling were in a thin fog of delicate hazy light.  Then, the sun burned through and the marsh and forest were illuminated with the strong low light that creates sharp contrasts.  The wind was light if there was any.  And, it was warm enough to sit in the swamp above Foote Bridge and write without so much as a chill.
Foote Bridge
When it was time to go, I could see by the water mark on the bank that the tide had already dropped a 1/2 inch.  I knew that when I reached the Big Bends I would have a mile per hour current pushing me back to my start.  It was an easy day.