The scurrying began weeks before the moving truck made its way to the driveway. A multitude of decisions were made to keep or to toss. Children’s progress was found in names scratched in crayons, numbers changing from single digits to mathematical Greek letters, and multi-page essays double-spaced. Maps, books, and well-used paddling guides each found their way into the keep, donate, give-to-a-friend, or take along piles.Moving was even more tangible when the truck pulled up, at the ready to bring all of our stuff to Oregon, our new community of Sisters.
Our Kayak 50 quest has taken an interesting turn. Peter and son, Parker, are working on land we purchased last year. They are building the first outbuilding to house the water, electric, shower, and septic hook-up, and facilitating the process that that entails.
I’m continuing to kayak solo for now, having packed up from my six decades of life as a New Yorker and heading west. My parents came to the United States from northern Italy in the post-war years west about 4,000 miles across the ocean and now I going west yet again about 3,000 miles of continent. My parents came for similar reasons that motivate me: to be productive, contribute, look for opportunity.First, I go south, to paddle the deep southern states, and continue to add to my own personal Kayak 50. Time for reflection and solitude pulls at me from deep, inter realms.
Of battles and rivers Date Paddled: November 17, 2017 Nearest City: Harper’s Ferrry Put-In: Boonesboro – Antietam Canoe and Kayak Take-Out: Route 38 Bridge Duration: 4.5 hours River Miles: 8.25 Shuttle: Gary from Antietam Canoe and Kayak, 12 miles Weather: Sunny 48 Difficulty: quickwater, class I-II Cfs: 180
The Antietam Creek played a significant role in the Civil War where Major General George McClellan launched attacks on General Robert E. Lee from defensive positions behind the creek. With 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing this was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. McClellan was relieved of his command and many speculate that the war would have been won with more decisive leadership.
Fortunately, thoughts of battles past were not in our heads as we headed out from Antietam Canoe and Kayak. We had spent some wonderful time exploring the Americana and antiquities in the old power generating structure with Gary, our gracious host and shuttle driver. He regaled us with stories of days when this was a hub of electrical production, the solid wooden beams and floor witness to the weight of both equipment and responsibility.The river was flowing at its near low, but still at a surprising rate for only 180 cfs. Sycamores of all shapes filled the shores in true bottom-land tradition.
Birds were still very much in evidence with ducks, geese, herons, kingfisher, pilated woodpeckers, and songbirds.
One of my great pleasures while paddling is finding old railway or road bridges. The quality of these old structures is a real testimony to the care with which they were built. My dad did all the stonework on our house, while instilling a love of stone and appreciation for the difficulties of working with such a substantial material.
Bridges also fire my imagination – What places did it connect? Who built it? What were the people day-dreaming about as they crossed the river? Perhaps the deer we saw had similar thoughts as we scooted past.
Paddlers get hungry. In the warmer weather, we’ll often find someplace to stretch our legs for lunch or we’ll eat moored someplace pleasant, other times like on the Antietam, we eat on-the-wing.
This adventure to kayak Delaware and Maryland came on the heels of my breast cancer reconstructive surgery and by mile six or so, I was up to 14.5 miles with the previous Broad River paddle. I started fading with the sun as it hid behind the ridge and the temperature dropped. I was getting a bit panicky thinking of the next couple of miles. While I saw the need to keep warm with paddling, one of the surgery sites was complaining.
After a while of trying to tough it out, I popped some Ibuprofens and resigned myself to being towed and clipping/unclipping through the rapids- a tedious process. While no one would fault me for being towed under the circumstances, it’s still a humiliation! Peter cheerfully helped me out.
Not even exhaustion, cold or humiliation could dampen my appreciation of the Antietam Bridge (in the park by the same name).
Since our blog focuses on paddling, I won’t elaborate on Harper’s Ferry – all the history, restored village, great restaurants in historical buildings, the Potomac River and the Appalachian Trail Headquarters. All I’ll say is – go there – paddle and enjoy!
Windy day and falling leaves Date Paddled: November 16, 2017 Nearest City: Milton Put-In: Milton City Park Take-Out: Route 1 – old highway bridge Duration: 4 hours River Miles: ~7.5 Shuttle: car shuttle – 8 miles with Anita and John Weather: sunny 58 and windy Difficulty: quickwater, tide favorable Cfs: tidal
At first, Delaware looks like a piece of cake for finding good paddling. There are a number of swampy areas that extend well inland, with tidal marshes in green parkland. Furthering my research, I discovered that Delaware seems to be the hunter’s paradise, each one of those red areas along the coast are filled with deer and duck blinds that are constructed by the state to promote their economy.
Unfortunately for us, we were in Delaware at the height of the hunting season. So we moved onto plan B. I found the Broad River which seemed just the ticket, with little or no rapids and tidal assist. Since my major surgery two months earlier, I had only paddled locally and was a bit apprehensive of this longer paddle followed by more paddling the next day.
Since I needed a bit of pampering, we decided to stay at an Airbnb with Anita and John at The Missing Link Hideaway near Rehoboth Beach. They were great hosts and even gave us a shuttle the next day from the Town Park in Milton. Thank you!We quickly kayaked away from civilization and heading down the, ah hum, broad river…We happened to be putting in at the right time to go with the slack and out-going tide. Even more importantly, for most of the paddle the wind was behind us, making for a pleasant pace. We enjoyed spotting a number of basking turtles as well as seeing the largest collection of turkey vultures (25 or so) hunting in the areas vacated by the outgoing tide.As we neared the ocean, the wind picked up and the magic happened – floating leaves and abstract patterns. This is a good example of the surprising and spontaneous meditations one is treated to while kayaking. A major reason we’re so hooked on it!
The last part of the paddle was very different with marsh grasses and open, exposed, windy areas. This time the wind was against us and the last mile was a challenge. I was glad to get back to Vinny, our trusty RV, waiting to whisk us away to our next paddle in Maryland.
Had to take a time out from Kayak 50 to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis. I had a mastectomy on August 2nd, a small revision surgery about five weeks later, and then finally on December 19th, I had the last reconstructive surgery. It was a painful, long and weary time, yet also filled with many blessings.
The good news was plentiful: no chemotherapy, no genetic disposition (especially great for my kids), super-quick recovery, and a 16 percent chance of recurrence which is very low, even lower with dietary changes and supplements. Needless to say, much time was out of the kayak, however some enjoyably spent in my garden – a place of happiness and healing.It was a blessing to have friends and family visit me and everyone was such an encouragement!
Peter took good care of me especially in the first weeks when there was a lot to do medically speaking.While I was recovering, Peter made a trip to Oregon to buy land for our new home! We will be moving to Sisters in February. I moved my sister, Linda, into an assisted living facility in Bend from San Diego, good friend and kayaking buddy, Christian and his mom, Diane will join us, and I hope to convince my mom to move out too! Here’s a preview:
We will build as “green” as possible with passive and active solar design, building materials that are sustainable, and low impact on the land itself. We are very blessed and looking forward to 2018!
Lovely recovery of free-flowing beauty Date Paddled: June 28, 2017 Nearest City: Cornwall Bridge Put-In: Push ‘Em Up – 1/2 mile north of Covered Bridge Take-Out: River Road/North Road AT Trailhead Duration: 4 hours River Miles: ~8 Shuttle: Easy shuttle with car 11 miles Weather: Mostly sunny 73 degrees Difficulty: Mostly quick water, class I, II Cfs: 580cfs
It’s always a pleasure kayaking the various reaches of the Housatonic River, a 30-60 minute trip from our home in New York. On this particular paddle, we were joined by good friends, Christian and Jen.
Depending on the water levels and ambient temperatures, there are a number of runs possible starting from the dam at Falls River which has water all year, but gets iced in first, to another possible put in at the 112 bridge, steep and slippery, but doable, to the one we chose at Push’Em Up, about a half mile from the class II+ to IV rapids under Covered Bridge. The colorful name is from the fisherman who love this spot where the big’uns get pushed up by the rapids.Just before the covered bridge are another set of large rapids. If you don’t want to run them, you can pull out river left. This is a play spot in the spring with a nice pull out/parking area at the end of the rapids for quick transport back up to the top. It’s filled with large boulders which makes it exciting or terrifying depending on your skill level. At 580 cfs the rapids were about a II+ so that splashing on a warmish day was very respectable. Overall, the guys in our group were dragging a bit too much for their taste while the women found it very acceptable.
Just down from the rapids, we spotted this beautiful eagle. There are nesting pairs along the river and it’s rare not to see them!We were also treated to a merganser family caught in an eddy. They also are residents that you can expect to see. While there is the occasional house along the river and Route 7 that runs along much of the paddle, the Housy still feels wild and free! The bridge at Route 128 in Cornwall Bridge is a favorite and not just of this paddle. It is beautifully designed and has just enough rapids to make it interesting without being too distracting!The Housatonic has been the recipient of mucho dinero from GE who polluted it with PCB’s. So, while it’s not advisable to eat fish out of the river with any regularity, there are has many more access points for putting in as a result of this environmental fiasco. Like most things in life, it’s a mixed bag of cursing and blessing! One thing for sure is that the views weren’t touched and they continue to astound in their verdant beauty!
A surprisingly beautiful flyway in New Jersey Date Paddled: June 2, 2017 Nearest City: Sussex Put-In: Glenwood Road Take-Out: Bassett’s Bridge Duration: 3.5 River Miles: ~7 Shuttle: ~7 on country roads Weather: 65 sunny becoming partly cloudy, breezy Difficulty: flatwater, quickwater, minor riffles Cfs: not available, medium-high water
The Walkill is one of few National Wildlife Refuges in the northeast. It’s importance is to migratory birds as well as more stationary threatened species like the bog turtle. We were treated to the always welcome sight of a duckling skedaddling across the water – a sure sign of the transition from spring to summer:Along with the ducklings, three bald eagles as well as hawks and kingfishers were trolling for a tasty lunch. Finches, cardinals, tree swallows, warblers, and red-winged blackbirds among others, were part of the aural and visual choir.
The Walkill River reveals a number of faces based on different color schemes. The variety of vegetation, depth of the water, and stream-bed composition play a roll.
I’ve paddled the Walkill perhaps ten or twelve times as it’s not too far from home. Most of the year, it’s filled with birds but especially in the early spring when huge flocks of geese and ducks use this area to rest and replenish. Always present are the great blue herons who have a rookery of 25-30 active nests. I’ve never encountered any other paddlers and seen only the occasional fisherman at the take out. When one thinks of New Jersey, it tends to be in derogatory terms, but the Walkill easily dispenses the images of smelly oil refineries and congested toll-filled roads.
Most of the river corridor is lined with mature silver maples. A lovely site any time, but especially as the wind reveals the leaves silvery side:It’s fascinating to watching the wind combing through the fresh leaves on it’s way upstream – perhaps heading all the way up the Hudson to the Adirondacks…..
Called “The Trough,” hugged by mountains, filled with wildlife Date Paddled: May 24, 2017 Nearest City: Moorefield Put-In: Clover Road Take-Out: Trough General Store Duration: 2.5 hours River Miles: ~8 Shuttle: 6 miles, 2 of them gravel Weather: cloudy, low ceiling, 63 Difficulty: some class I rapids, calm stretches Cfs: 120
Somehow a name like “The Trough” doesn’t inspire me with much enthusiasm. Images of mud-filled waters and breeding mosquitoes filled my mind even as the verdant hills rose in protest. Slipping our kayaks into the water dispelled any disparaging thoughts.
The gentle current allowed for lots of time to see and hear the many birds, fish, turtles, and deer that made this paradise their home. Four eagles, two pileated woodpeckers, mergansers, four heron, kingfisher, cormorant, many sandpiper-types, cardinals, blue jays, grackles, yellow throat, to name a few of the bird family!
We also came across a deer enjoying a mid-day snack who seemed quite undisturbed at our presence.Interestingly, we saw no signs of beaver here. This is quite unusual and left us puzzled as this seemed a wonderful habitat for them.
Sweet smell of the Little Date Paddled: May 20, 2017 Nearest City: Maryville Put-In: Route 411 Take-Out: Alcoa City water facility Duration: 4 hours River Miles: 8.5 Shuttle: easy roads ~ 6 miles Weather: sunny to partly cloudy 80+ Difficulty: quickwater, steady current, class I Cfs: 274
The sweet smell of privet lined the Little River. While an invasive plant, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that wonderful smell. As we paddled along, the Little was a cornucopia of live with osprey, bluebird, kingfisher, wood ducks, mallards, cardinals, robins, swallows, herons, three types of turtles, and a water snake all enlivening the journey.Beautiful outcroppings of rock provided sharp contrast to the dreamy green of trees and water. The great blue heron had nested above the river – unusual for a bird that generally builds in community. Our presence kept off the parent, but not for long as we slid under and downstream.Sometimes a paddle is wonderful for so many reasons, the color of the water, the fun rapids, the cliffs, remoteness, and so many others. The Little was a paddle filled with small details that added up to a big paddle!
Dramatic display of the destructive power of flood waters! Date Paddled: May 18, 2017 Nearest City: Alton, MO Put-In: State Route 19 access Take-Out: Whitten Landing Duration: 4.5 hours River Miles: 11 miles Shuttle: long (30 min.) road shuttle; 3 mile tough gravel road to Whitten Landing Weather: cloudy to PC, windy; 80 degrees. Difficulty: Strong current, no significant rapids; numerous hazards from flooding (downed trees, roots, misc. strainers) Cfs: approx. 2500
Less well-known than many of the Ozark waterways in neighboring Arkansas or Oklahoma, the Eleven Point is a good-sized river that traverses a lovely, if undramatic, landscape of foothills in south-central Missouri. Our visit came on the heels of a massive rain event about two weeks earlier that had caused severe flooding on many rivers in the region, including the Eleven Point, and much destruction in towns and cities in the region.
The USGS gauge on the river went off scale for more than 24 hours, indicating flows well in excess of 30,000 CFS reaching perhaps a dozen or more feet above flood stage. The devastation that this kind of flooding is capable of was apparent as soon as we got to the river.
The scope of the damage became truly clear only once we set out on the still-swift current of the Eleven Point. The speed of the water, combined with the numerous hazards left by the flood’s surge a few weeks earlier, required constant vigilance to avoid being swept toward the river’s banks that were, in many places, strewn with debris. Often the tangle of uprooted trees and flotsam extended both many feet out into the river channel and many feet up the steep wooded banks. In places it seemed like the destruction was concentrated on one side of the Eleven Point, extending for hundreds of yards. In other places the devastation was equally distributed on both sides – no part of the river seemed to have escaped Nature’s fury.Despite this dramatic backdrop, we had a lovely and scenic paddle on the Eleven Point. Animal life, especially birds, seemed to have returned to normal, and we saw eagles, herons (including three rare green herons), kingfishers, a few ducks, and many songbirds that were heard more often than seen. We also saw a few turtles near the beginning, a hopeful sign that the smaller aquatic animals had managed to weather the floods.
Scenic, small river with lots of character Date Paddled: May 16, 2017 Nearest City: Jasper Put-In: Steel Creek Take-Out: Kyle’s Landing Duration: River Miles: 8 Shuttle: difficult gravel road to Kyle’s Landing Weather: sunny 80 Difficulty: class I, I+ Cfs: 250
The Buffalo is the definition of a perfect paddle. With clear waters morphing into emerald green right from the put in, my heart filled with expectation. I was not disappointed. Even though the Buffalo is designated a Wild and Scenic River, there were regular access points. The first class I rapid was causing some issues with less experienced paddlers, notably an elderly man who end up dumping and swimming while his wife on shore filled us in on the scratches and bruises he’d already sustained as she worriedly wrung her hands saying, “A man his age shouldn’t be doing dat!” in a soft German accent. We passed him and his son again further downstream bailing Dad’s boat yet again.
We came into a tight meander ending at a cliff wall sprouting from the cool green waters. It seemed as though we were in a miniature version of many of the western rivers we had run with shallow, clear to green water, steep cliffy areas, followed with a tumbling class I or II rapid and entry into a deep emerald pool. The difference here on the east coast is that our former Himalayan scaled mountains have eroded into the rounded Appalachian chain, settling into the landscape with grace.
It was a true joy to see a river so beautiful, tended and loved as the Buffalo.