Friday was a perfect day for a paddle. It was pleasantly warm with quiet winds and a morning fog through which the autumn foliage seemed to glow even more intensely than it would have with bright sunlight and shadow. I hope that it won't be the last paddling day of the season for me, but it was our last day to paddle, Sue Pierce and I, with our dear friend Ruth Brooks, who leaves for her winter home in Florida in just a few days. I suggested we enjoy our last paddle together on the Hudson River above the Sherman Island Dam, where the river runs back behind a large island and flows around rocky promontories and into quiet coves, with forested mountains rising from both banks.
We carried our lightweight Hornbeck canoes down through the woods to launch onto this quiet bay. On the far shore across the open river, we could glimpse mountainsides patch-worked with richly glowing colors of gold and red and bronze, their summits shrouded in mist on this foggy morning.
As soon as we set our paddles into the water, we steered close to shore, where blossom-laden boughs of Witch Hazel hung low over the bank. We could press our noses into the thick clusters of bloom and breathe in their distinctive faint fragrance, a scent I have described as similar to that of clean laundry dried outside in the sunshine and fresh air.
We then set off downstream, rounding this first promontory I call Picnic Point, because of its flat-topped rocks that offer relatively comfortable seating for riverside dining. Highbush Blueberry bushes and Gray Birch and Red Maple saplings provided a colorful setting.
Just around Picnic Point, we entered the first of a series of quiet coves. Sheltered behind the large island that shields them from buffeting winds, these coves usually offer peaceful paddling, no matter how fiercely a brisk wind might be riffling the open river.
Here, we are entering a second cove, which I have named Flowering Dogwood cove, for the solitary specimen of this beautiful spring-flowering tree that flourishes here, despite taking root beyond its usually more southerly range. The humidity here tempers our cold climate enough for this species of dogwood -- as well as other southern species like Sassafras and Black Tupelo -- to not just survive, but even thrive.
That's Ruth in her nearly brand-new Hornbeck canoe, searching through binoculars for bright-red dogwood berries among the Flowering Dogwood's lipstick-red leaves.
Blueberry shrubs line the shore of this cove, rivaling the much-taller dogwood for brilliant color.
As we make our way downstream toward the Sherman Island Dam, we are delighted again and again by the colorful foliage in the riverside woods.
The leaves of American Beech seemed to shine like tongues of flame.
And the radiant leaves of Red Maple glowed like burning embers.
and to relish the lovely colors of autumn in a single floating leaf!
We enter another cove and approach an island we used to call Three-Pine Island, when its rocky substrate was crowned by three towering White Pines. Sadly, only one tall pine remains, since a fierce straight-line wind this past summer toppled many trees along this stretch of the Hudson. As this photo reveals, the pines' roots could not anchor the tall trees into the earth, so the entire root masses peeled back from the rock as the giant trees plummeted.