Saturday, November 21, 2009

Farewell to the River for Now

It wasn't the nicest day for a paddle: leaden sky, chilly, with most of the autumn color long gone, and the water cold enough to paralyze me in seconds, should I capsize. But hey, it wasn't snowing! Forty years living in Saratoga County have taught me that we could be dumped with a couple of feet any day. So before I store my canoe for the winter, I had to take one last trip to my beautiful Hudson River, revisiting all my favorite spots.

I came down through the woods to put in at a place I call Beaver Island Pond, a sheltered area where the river runs behind a large island and spreads out to form what looks like a quiet pond. Three rocky promontories jut out into the water here, and I've given a name to each: Bear's Bathtub, where a deep depression in the rocks fills up with water; Picnic Point, with flat rocks that serve for comfortable riverside dining; and Pond's End Point, which marks the point where the quiet pond joins the larger flow of the river. This is a photo of Picnic Point.

I paddle especially close to the shore when the water gets this cold, rounding each promontory and gliding back into the quiet bays that separate them. The reflections today were as lovely as ever, with the sun emerging briefly to light up the mountains across the river.

With all of the trees now bare and grey, the bright red Winterberry bushes sure stand out.

I'm sure what I call Beaver Island has another, official, name. But beavers certainly live there, and have for many years. Lots of old stumps line the banks, and a big lodge is built against one shore, with newly cut branches revealing recent activity there. (I took a photo of the lodge, but this old stump made for a prettier picture.)

Emerging from the shelter of Beaver Island, I headed through open water to Rippled Rocks Point. Here young White Pines bend their boughs to the wind and remind me of figureheads at the prow of a ship. Wind and water and geologic forces have carved these rocks into fantastic swirling shapes. I know other folks have other names for this spot, but I think Rippled Rocks is very descriptive.

In a bay across from Rippled Rocks stands Three Pine Island, a small rocky island with many more than three pines, but three tall ones stand out against the sky.

Behind this island lies what used to be a marsh, but with water levels so high these last few years, the marsh is now more like a lake. It's a very shallow lake, however, with many emergent plants like Pickerel Weed and Arrow Arum, now gone to sleep for the season. But here's Tussock Sedge, bravely facing the coming winter. This is one of my favorite places to showshoe, when the snow-covered ice is criss-crossed with the tracks of otters, minks, fishers, foxes, and coyotes, plus the wing-prints of ravens and eagles.

Heading back toward where I put in, I enter a lovely place of calm I call Shelter Cove.

Whatever the weather, it's almost always quiet back here, with still water reflecting the trees and boulders that line the shore.

Many of the rocks here have swirls of color, evidence (I'm guessing) of their molten past. I hope someday to learn the geology of this area. I have heard the rocks called "metamorphic" and "gneiss," but even after reading the definitions, I'm not really clear about how they were formed.

The rocky banks share their space with all kinds of living things: Trees, shrubs, lichens, mosses, fungi, flowers, and all the organisms that feed upon them.

When I reach my landing area, I just sit and drift for quite a while before hauling out. Who wouldn't be loathe to leave a place of such exquisite beauty?

Not that I won't be back on foot, hiking along the shore until ice forms, then wandering the frozen bays and snowy woods. But for drifting and dreaming and gliding along and feeling I truly belong to this wonder-filled world, there is nothing like lying back in my canoe.


Diesel said...

That looks like a pleasant paddle for a cat Woodswalker. I especially liked the Ripped Rocks...a guy like me could get out of the canoe (we paddle a 17 + foot Morris canoe) and scamper about a bit...islands in particular are good. I wouldn't mind meeting a beaver...

Jens Zorn said...

What an eye for images! A wrap for the season and a hope for better times (in all respects) to come.

Allan Stellar said...

A woman and her canoe. Your blog makes a pretty good argument for folks to run out and purcase a canoe. Inspiring!

catharus said...

Very nice pictures and fitting meditation on the closure of another season on the water.