Friday, May 15, 2015

Wedded Waters

     You run into an friend that you haven't seen in awhile and it takes a minute to warm to each other. Pretty soon you're sharing old times and making plans to get together in the future. Connections are dusted off and the relationship is ready for another chapter.
     Canoeing can be like that. Our boat had been collecting dirt and bird droppings since last October and the rush of early spring work had left little time. But this evening, a clear late spring gift that begged for a mini-adventure, was our chance. We put in at Hudson Crossing north of Schuylerville and within minutes the serenity and simple rhythms of paddling felt like a close pal I'ld been missing.

     On the other side of the river we noticed some driftwood logs with curious black bumps on them. A little closer and Gwenne quietly proclaimed, "Turtles. Look at all the turtles." Dozens of them, all sizes, just hanging out in the late afternoon sun, working on their warmth deficit after a long winter burrowed in the mud. We drifted silently at a distance but that was still too close and one by one they slid into the water with a gentle "plop".
     Slipping around the point where the Battenkill joins the Hudson the wildlife parade continued with several types of ducks (mallards and other unidentified quaking objects), a great blue heron, a kingfisher, a beaver, more turtles and lots of red-winged blackbirds. Later, back on shore, we saw what looked like a black-headed grosbeak although books place them further west. Also there was an osprey gliding above the water on an evening hunt.

     The flora here doesn't take a backseat to the fauna. Sycamore, cottonwood and silver maple define these low shorelines much like spruces and firs do on mountaintops. Ferns were popping up out of the rich alluvium and honeysuckles were in full bloom. Spring wildflowers are starting to fade but we did see a few Jack-in-the-pulpits.

     We paddled up the Battenkill, shallow and with a strong current, to a tiny island just below a dam and the Co. 113 bridge. In low water it's fun to walk the shale river bed when most of the flow is diverted through the H-V paper mill. Tonight we were content to turn around and let the current carry us back to the Hudson and the confluence where the two rivers wed. Here, water that began as a trickle from a wetland high in the Green Mountains mixes with Adirondack snowmelt from the slopes of Mt. Marcy. Together it all flows south to an Atlantic destiny.

     The Battenkill is famed for its clear trout water reaches from Vermont into Washington County,  down past Eagleville, Shushan and Rexleigh. But for flat water boaters the lower river below Center Falls is every bit as attractive. Here a series of pools behind dams have easy access and out and back convenience. I try to visit each of these spots during the year and I hope to profile them as the summer progresses. We are blessed with a paddling paradise. My advice: find something that floats and enjoy it before Old Man Winter comes back to crash the party.

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