It has been an incredibly rough week for me. Personally, I’ve probably never had harder experiences I had to get through in my life. Today’s trip was a much needed break from the reality of everything else that’s happening right now. Some plans for my trip today had fallen though, so we decided to make the short tip to Swansea dam after stopping at the Railroad Café for some late breakfast. We got to the river around 12:30, the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, the geese were swimming, and we were paddling.
To my surprise, the big dam at the end of the river where we put the kayak in was being reconstructed. I had no idea this was going on. There was a temporary dam set up as they worked on the stone dam, and because of this, water levels were at an all-time low. They had dropped the water by about a foot and a half, and this section is really not that deep, so there were whole sections of the river that we weren’t able to access because there was literally no water there to paddle on. Because I hadn’t expected this, I had to do my best to make this trip a little longer. It’s a short trip to begin with, and considering we weren’t able to get to most of the outlets, we lost about 1/3 of the area we could paddle. Basically this meant paddling incredibly slow, making lots of stops, and keeping Des occupied with discussion about nature and for today, Minecraft..
We paddled our way to the north end of the river where the second dam is located. I really couldn’t get over how low the water was. Normally due to the 2 dams, water levels don’t really change much here. Over and over we were denied access to many of our favorite spots. Once we got to the narrow river section just prior to the 2nd dam, the final straw was broken.. There was a huge tree that had broken and fell completely across the river, blocking our way to the last 100 yards to get to the dam. Due to the low water, there was no chance of us trying to paddle around it, or through it, or over it. We searched around a bit to try to find a spot to pull the boat up so we could walk through the woods to the dam. We ended up just hugging the side of the downed tree, and pulling the boat as close to the shore as possible. With the low water level, there was about 8 feet of mucky mud that we were going to have to climb through in order to get to the dry shoreline.. I got the kayaking pretty far in, and was able to have Desmond climb up the front of the kayak to avoid sinking in the muck. Luckily I was also able to do this, and we were able to get out of the boat relatively easily. I moved the kayak a bit once we were on shore to what I thought would be a better spot to get back in and pull out.. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.. But, I’ll get to that in a few.
There was a path very close to where we pulled up in the kayak, and after a minute or 2 of following that we were at the dam. Des and I spent quite a bit of time there.. Des even said this was the longest he had ever spent at this dam. Obviously I was trying to extend the trip as long as possible. We spend the time relaxing by the waterfall, throwing rocks in the upper pond, mining trees (Minecraft style), throwing in sticks and watching them go over the falls, and climbing on some rocks. I did what I could to keep him busy for a while so I wouldn’t have to end this trip after an hour. But we could only do this for so long, and after a while I said it was time to get back to the boat. We walked our way down the path and made it back to the kayak.
Now, I really shouldn’t have moved the kayak before. Once we got in the boat, and I pushed off for us to back up, we made it about 2 feet when the fin on the rear of the yak got jammed up on a tree that was just under the water. I couldn’t move the kayak at all. I pulled back forward again, and I was definitely in a jam. There was no way to get out of here. So I got up and went back in the muck to try to move the kayak in a better position, and then my foot, shoe and all, sunk about a foot and a half into the ground. I was only wearing slip on shoes, so I had to carefully pull my foot out so I wouldn’t lose my shoe to the muck. Luckily I got it out, but I was completely covered in stinky pond mud.. I jumped back in the kayak and pulled my shoes off, and someone managed to maneuver the boat around to the point where I could pull the boat back to some deeper water and get it going in the right direction. It was quite a task but after a few minutes we were set and on our way back south.
We hugged the coast as much as possible, making our way through the shallow sections. I saw some seriously huge fish swimming around today. Some of the largest I had seen anywhere around here. I’m not a fish expert, so I’m really not sure what they were, but I was definitely surprised when they were swimming around right under us. Desmond, as usual, didn’t look in time to see them. He gets so angry when he misses these things. But luckily for us as we paddled back to the put in we came upon several families of Canadian geese with their little babies in tow. There had to be a dozen little ones. As soon as they noticed the kayak they quickly swam over to the shore, but we sat there as they hung out in the path, watching the little ones as they ran around. They only looked to be a couple weeks old. It’s the time of the year for baby birds, and we lucked out here.
After watching the geese we made our way back over to the dam construction to take one last look before we went to the put in. Pretty wild how a few sheets of thick plastic and some metal framing can hold back the whole river. We watched the excavators for a bit, and then headed back. After we pulled in and I was packing up the kayak, Desmond stayed by the shore and was hanging out with a bunch of geese that had made their way over. They were getting surprisingly close. He was really enjoying it!
This was a much needed trip for me. Sometime when life has you to the point of breaking, there’s nothing better than getting in touch with nature, and basking in the beauty of the quiet wilderness. It was a big help for me, but unfortunately I can’t make my life one long kayak trip, so now im back to the grind of reality till the next outing.