As anticipated, 8:30 AM came very quickly. Hey, to me that’s the middle of the night. A little procrastination with the bedroom TV, and then I was in the shower getting ready. I was actually running on time!
The plan was to meet at my friend Kevin’s house, in Cheshire at 10:00 AM. Kevin had invited me, his boss Scott and his daughter, plus a friend, Jeff.
It was beautiful. A little on the humid side, but with a pure blue sky. I had the top down and the radio up. As I turned from N. Brooksvale to Mountain Rd, a bicyclist came the other way. He was dressed in a loud, skin tight biking suit. But, he had the best advice of the day, “Cops ahead.”
The speed limit on Mountain is 25 mph – an unattainable goal, even if you know there are police lurking. I did about 30. As I passed the patrol car, the policeman turned his head and looked at me. No one does 30 without being tipped off! I’m sure he knew.
Kevin has a small trailer. He lashed the kayaks to it, and we were off. We went up I-84 to Waterbury and then north on Route 8 into the Southern Litchfield Hills. It didn’t take long to get to the White Memorial Foundation – hundreds of acres of nature preserve.
If the White Memorial Foundation sounds familiar, it should. It’s where Connecticut’s Governor Rowland has a small cottage, which had a hot tub, which is all swirled within the specter of corruption charges.
Scott checked the water temperature as we brought the boats down to the Bantam River. His thermometer read 70°, though we would later all agree it was probably in the 60’s farther from shore.
If I had been in a kayak before, it was a long time ago. I rocked a little from side to side as I set out. Last night, at the station, our director Tracey had admonished me to push, not pull when paddling. Otherwise, she said, I’d get very sore.
Easier said than done, but I tried.
The Bantam River is small and gently flowing in this part of Litchfield County. We headed to the right, against the minuscule current. A light breeze was at our back.
You actually wouldn’t know there was a current on this river except for the beaver dams. I had heard and read about beaver dams for years, but had never really experienced them. From bank to bank, a pile of twigs, branches and mud choked the flow. We found weak spots and paddled over… though I got caught a little more than once.
The kayak handled really easily and it didn’t take me long to get into the rhythm. Inertia is an important part of kayaking. When you stop paddling, the kayak continues… in my case it often kept going until it hit another kayak!
The White Memorial Foundation land is a protected habitat for all sorts of wildlife. We saw birds, including a few hawks and beautiful red winged blackbirds. A duck, probably protecting a nearby nest, let me get pretty close without flinching. I turned back, not wanting to upset him. There were turtles too, including one who seemed to be stretching out as if he were sunning himself on a Caribbean vacation.
After a mile or so (Kevin had a GPS receiver capable of plotting our course) we came to some beaver dams too high to paddle over. So, we just turned around and went back down river.
The river wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t empty either. A while later we ran into an older husband and wife, and their dog Coco. The dog was sitting comfortably in a wicker basket lashed to the front of one of their kayaks. Coco started kayaking at 3 months and wouldn’t even think of staying on shore now.
My five hours of sleep and the gentle rocking of the kayak was starting to catch up with me. I asked if it would be OK for us to end it here – and we did.
I hadn’t flipped the kayak. I hadn’t really gotten sick. I hadn’t put anyone else in mortal danger by doing something stupid. The trip was a success.
I’m hoping to go with Kevin again. Next time, with a little Dramamine, I’d like to try the Thimble Islands, off the Branford coast, in Long Island Sound.