Saturday, June 14, 2008

Another trip down the Big Darby

The Weather-out-the-Window(tm) morning observation indicated that the forecast for a gloomy first half of Saturday had, in fact, been accurate as can be. Low, scuddy clouds were really all I needed to see to know that flying was not in the cards. Winds and visibility don't matter when the clouds are low and angry (or at least morose) looking.

Round about 1pm, however, the clouds parted and it looked like we were in for at least a few hours of nice weather. I thought that it might be nice enough for another ride in the kayak. We've had a bid of rain, though, and the stream that runs through my neighborhood was still showing the effects of recent flooding. I figured it to be worth taking a look, so went ahead and loaded up Blue Heron One.

The river from the launch area was clearly higher than it was back on Memorial Day weekend, but the water didn't seem to be overly excited. Intrepid is my middle name (well, it's not, but I owned a Dodge Intrepid once, and that's close enough) so I decided to press on. As it turns out, it was an even better ride than last time. While I missed the compliments paid to the boat by the beer drinking canoe paddlers, solitude on the river has a quality in and of itself. I did not see another boat for the entire trip.

It's not a lonely feeling at all - it's similar to flying alone. Just you, your conveyance, and the challenges provided by the unpredictability of the medium, be it water or air. Decisions to make, control to be maintained, will to be exerted over sometimes recalcitrant conditions. Satisfaction by the bushel when mastery of the elements and vehicle conquers unexpected events. The feeling of a job having been well done, without the burden of having had a job assigned.

With the benefit of having a few hours of experience from the last trip, I found it very easy to put the boat where I wanted it, when I wanted it to be there. The water was moving faster than the last time, so the utility of the paddle was more in the realm of directional control rather than propulsion. Except, that is, in the not uncommon situations that required a few power strokes to move the boat from a current that was taking us where we did not want to go (which was, more often than not, directly into a solid object) into a more friendly (survivable) stream. It's a lot like dealing with a crosswind when flying; the nose is not necessarily pointed in the direction you're actually going. There were a number of times that I had to paddle cross current to get the boat into a flow that wasn't going to drive us into a tree or under an obstruction too low to the water to pass under comfortably.

There were no deer today, but there was a blue heron that I chased down the river. Every now and then I'd spook him out of whatever hidden lair he was resting in and he'd fly further downstream. I never saw him soon enough to get a picture, which is pretty much my experience with blue herons. They simply don't like having their pictures taken. At one point, I must have gone past him because when he took flight, it was from behind me. He flew right over my head. I saw where he landed, though, so I was ready with the camera when I caught up to him:

It's my ancient Fuji digital (I'm still not willing to risk the good camera) and its viewfinder is simply awful. I couldn't be sure if I got the picture or not, and since he hadn't flown away, I turned around and paddled back up the river to try again. Man, did that ever piss him off! He flew away, but rather than just fly quietly down stream as he had been doing, he squawked and honked and generally groused until he went around a bend far down river.

I also saw a few turtles, but just as they slipped off of the river banks and into the water. There were no exposed branches for them to sun themselves on with the water being as high as it was. There were also a lot of dragonflies, many of whom hitched a ride on the front of the boat:

The ride only took an hour and ten minutes this time, and it was way too short.

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