Not Your Daddy's Canoe Run - Part 2
If you missed the first part of our tale, you can find it here.
We had brought our poles on this trip, but really, fishing was secondary to just being out experiencing the river again. We came across a couple of canoes who were simply out for a Saturday party, who, upon seeing our poles laughed at us for even trying. One of the guys said “I grew up on this river and I know when the fish are biting without throwing a line, the fish won’t be biting today”.
After a few hours, we came across the location where the covered bridge I mentioned above used to be. It was really an amazing feeling to see where these the devastation that was caused by the ice flow. There are videos available online which show the whole bridge floating down the river, until it rested near our destination today. We took some much needed back and bottom relief and took our kayaks to shore. While we were taking our break, again attempting to improvise the blade repair, there were a couple on the other side of the river with their young sons fishing. It seemed every cast they were pulling in a trout. These trout didn’t seem to have gotten the “won’t be biting” memo. We threw a couple of worms out on our side of the river to no avail, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
From the covered bridge down, the Canaan River really changes. Above the bridge, there are rapids and fast water sections, but below the bridge things really start to slow down. Even when the water is several feet above normal, it’s not going anywhere in a hurry. The beauty of this section is that even in the height of summer you can canoe it. The less beautiful part is that it requires much more paddling and less casual floating.
Not long after leaving the remnants of the missing covered bridge, we came to an area that seemed to be teeming with beavers. Generally, when you see a beaver and they see you, they’ll flap their tail and be gone in another direction. That was not the case for this one. This angry beaver would surface alongside either Wayne’s kayak or mine, swim on the top for 20 feet or so, then slap tail and disappear for a few seconds. We’d laugh and then a few seconds later, there it was again. This continued for a few hundred yards at least, and it must have slapped its tail at us 15 times. Our guess was that this was a mother beaver believing she was leading us away from her family. Either that, or she hated beards, and that seems unlikely. Everyone loves beards.
As the day grew late, and we grew weary, we came across a section of absolutely dead water. This was a huge shock for us consider how high the water was, and how the covered bridge had floated away. This water was so dead, and so high, that it looked like a glassy lake. I’ve spent a lot of time on the water, but I have never seen water that was such a perfect mirror. Dusk was quickly approaching, and we could even see ourselves reflected in it. It was really a sight to behold. Unfortunately, with a broken paddle, no camera, and having been on the water for nearly 12 hours already, we couldn’t truly appreciate the beauty of the situation. At that point it seemed like nothing more than an hour of never-ending paddling. As soon as we stopped paddling, our kayak would just stop. All we could really appreciate was knowing our trip was coming to an end.
With dark approaching quickly, we could finally see our destination in front of us. This was a blessing for both of us. The weather of the day was turning cold quickly, and we looked forward to being back in the truck with a heater blasting. The day’s surprises were not finished with us yet though. As we paddled and coasted to the shoreline of the campground where we had planned our exit, we could hear the geese coming all around us. It was now almost completely dark, when approximately 30-40 geese started landing all around us. It was really an amazing experience to have them come in and land as though we weren’t there. Like all of nature’s creatures, they seemed to sense that they weren’t in season this time of year, and knew we presented no danger. It’s funny that in September you can be in full camo and not get the close encounter Wayne and I had in our bright yellow and orange kayaks. We finished our trip feeling very tired, but very appreciative of what we had experienced.
Finally back on solid ground, we carried our kayaks to the truck and strapped them down just as the shivering started. The early stages of hypothermia, but thankfully our trip was over. I didn’t mention it, but when we dropped a truck off at our ending point, we took time to look at the corpse of the Cherryvale Covered Bridge, which was in its final resting place trapped under the highway pillars. It’s very eerie seeing something you know so well from over 30 years spent around it in your lifetime look so foreign where it laid. The only true negative on an otherwise fantastic day. I charted out our trip later using the measuring capabilities of Google Maps, and Wayne’s first time in a kayak was a 47 Kilometer (30 Mile) journey. Not many can say that.
When we recap our story of the day to people, they often seem to pick out all of the negatives, the fish ladder, the broken paddle, the tipping, the exhaustion, and even the chill and darkness at the end. To look at the story through those eyes is unfortunate. When I think about the trip, all I can think about are the close encounter with the deer, the multitude of ducks, “making a plan”, the children’s successful fishing, the angry beavers, the beautiful mirror-like water, or the geese. This trip was not the social, many participant canoe runs of my youth, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
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