Thursday, August 14, 2008

Canoe, Can you?

It really feels like summer lately, with the hot sunny days followed by afternoon thunderstorms. And there's nothing I like more than to get out to the water to cool off on those balmy afternoons. Whether it's the ocean or a lake, or even a stream that I can wade in, something about flowing water is so peaceful that troubles seem to just drift away...

One of my favorite water past-times is canoeing. Many, many years ago I was escorted on my first canoe trip by my ex-husband while we were still dating. (I think canoes really are the best way to bond.) Our vessel was a beatup and borrowed metal hulk of a thing, but it was clean inside and it floated. For a 6-pack of beer, his friend let us take it out on the lake for a day and even helped hitch it to the roof of George's Ford Fairmont with some rope and a few towels to protect that fine mottled grey paintjob. I knew nothing of paddling, so this first excursion was an opportunity to enjoy the scenery, do some birdwatching (hello, heron!) and get a sunburn. Ah, the joys of youth.

Here it is nearly 20 years later, and I found myself bookended in the hull of another canoe, also paddleless and still enjoying the scenery. We spotted several egrets, ospreys, willets and herring gulls, one of which nearly dropped its fishy lunch into our lap. The current was strong after two days of steady rain as we meandered unassisted under two overpasses and into a swirl of whirlpools and waves. I think the fact that it was high tide as we started down the Branford River towards the beach and returned up river amidst a receding tide had something to do with the adventure that followed.

We couldn't make it back. Yeah, I know. Pretty lame. We did put in a valiant effort, but the little waterfalls we effortlessly rode down suddenly became Indiana Jones quests to ride back up. So we had to get out three times and walk the canoe to safer waters. The first bridge had a nice little path alongside the river, as if others had followed a similar course. The next one was a little more rocky as we upset a roosting pigeon and slipped on the slimy rocks getting out. The third time proved fatal to my left flip-flop which got sucked into ankle-deep quicksand-like mud and refused to release itself from my foot. A struggle ensued. Alas, my flip-flop lost. But we're survivors. And it was still pretty fun.