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Shingle Island River

Rough week, but it seems like they are all rough weeks these days. We did however luck out with weather today with a sunny, beautiful Wednesday hitting 80 degrees as we drove to Persy’s for a late breakfast around noon, then took the short drive down the street to the put in on Reed Rd for Shingle Island River. Last time we went it was our late last run of 2015 at the end of December, but today it was absolutely an adventure to remember as we were finally able to get past the downed tree that has blocked the way upriver for years, and paddled in an area we have never been able to reach. Desmond and I were overly excited, and new territory is what I live for, especially one which was such a tease for so long with the single tree blocking the way.

We made our way from the truck with the kayak, right around 1pm. There was a group of guys fishing right at the put in, so Desmond sat and watched them as I got the camera set up on the kayak, and everything packed for the trip. It was already seriously hot. I know I would be sweating my butt off on this trip from the first minute we stepped outside. As we pushed off into the river we turned upstream and headed across the wide section prior to traveling through the tunnel under Rt 195. Already, in May, the undergrowth here was really starting to grow. During peak summer, there is only a narrow section following the water flow that you can travel on in this section, because between the lily pads, and other plant life, it’s a tangled web if you take the wrong route. It was already clearly visible, and I’m pretty sure this season much of this section want be passable.

Once you get around the initial bend and the river starts to narrow prior to the tunnel, much of the plant life dissipates and you are left with a nice, clear river that remains easy for navigation for quite a while. After passing a few houses, you come to the final bend before the tunnel and from that point forward you move into a much more secluded river surrounded by forest with not a person or home in sight. Aside from the noise from the highway, which becomes quieter with every foot you paddle from it, you won’t hear much but birds, frogs, and the breeze. This section once you pass the tunnel can get a bit confusing. If you are trying this river for your first time, I would recommend using a map on your phone to find the proper path. There are so many dead ends, quick turns, and trick streams that can easily throw you off track and cause you to paddle in circles. This goes on quite a bit on the Shingle Island River. It can be frustrating at times if you don’t know the right way to go, so be sure to consult a map or go with someone who has experience, or do what I did the first time I went and go the trial and error route. It’s a good way to get to know the river better.

Mosquitoes were already starting to collect here. It is one of the drawbacks of this river, and when you get to summer time it is almost a necessity to travel with some sort of bug spray. If you are going on a windy day, it’s not such a big problem, but without the wind keeping them away, it can be brutal. Today wasn’t so bad thankfully, but during the summer months I usually keep some spray in the back of the kayak just for these types of rivers. It will save you from making what could be an especially great trip into a horrible itchy nightmare.

We have been to this river a number of times, and every single trip I have forgot to bring some clippers. There is a section of this river that I mentioned above that is not possible to pass due to a downed tree. The last few times we went, I noticed a bush growing under one end of the downed tree which if it were trimmed properly, I could possibly squeeze the kayak through. Desmond always makes fun of me because I literally always forget to bring the clippers. This time though, I happened to remember. Ironically when we got to that point, the water levels were perfect to the point that I wasn’t going to need the clippers here. I was actually able to squeeze over and under the tree, and managed to wiggle our way through the blockade. How ironic, the one day I remembered to bring the clippers I could manage to get through. The clippers though would still come in handy as we traveled further up river. This section was completely unknown to me. My head was full of excitement and intrigue. This is my favorite part of kayaking; getting to explore spots I was never able to get to before. We slowly continued to paddle up stream taking in our surroundings and carefully watching what the river had in store for us. There were several parts what we actually ended up needing the clippers to get through. We took our time and trimmed several downed trees so we could squeeze the kayak by. It was so exciting. We traveled on for quite a while beyond the original downed tree. I unfortunately got to one point where we were going under another downed tree, when my gimbal that holds my GoPro got caught on a stiff branch causing it to completely bend backwards. Holy crap, it was so close to snapping off, and my GoPro, which wasn’t wearing its waterproof cover, would have taken a dip in the river and that would have been the end of videos for a bit. Luckily I caught it before it snapped. I was able to bend it back into place so we would be able to continue making video for the rest of the ride, but I am definitely going to need to replace the gimbal because the metal arm that holds the camera was weakened quite a bit when I bend it back into place. I guess it will give me a chance to update it to the newest version that came out this year. So be it.

When the gimbal broke, it just so happened that there was another big downed tree that was going to prevent us from going any further. Des was disappointed. He really wanted to make it all the way up the river, but we didn’t have much of a choice, and I was so nervous about the gimbal that I didn’t want to take a chance of it getting caught again and snapping off as we paddled. Once I had the camera mounted again, we spun the kayak around and began to head back down stream on our way to the truck. The areas I cleared with the clippers on our way upstream made going downstream a breeze. There were a few downed trees that were a bit of a struggle to get over, but before we knew it we were back to the infamous downed tree that had been plaguing me for years. We squeezed our way back through it, and from that point forward it's clean and smooth paddling with the gentle current pushing you along making the ride home much easier that the ride upstream.

Along the trip we ran into a few large groups of Canadian geese, a big swan, ducks, some turtles, a few heron, and loads of spiders. I was hoping to see a big snapping turtle today, but I had no luck. I’m sure I will run into a few later in the summer months, but so far this season they have avoided Des and I. You can tell it is spring though, because many of the geese had babies, the ducks were followed by tiny ducklings, and the swan was forever searching for a lady friend.

Before you knew it we were flying back under the tunnel, paddling across the widening river, and pulling up at the put in. Crazy that the very second I pulled up at the put in, and put my paddle down, my battery died on the GoPro. Talk about good timing. We quickly packed up, cranked the AC in the truck, and after having a little chat with one of the neighborhood residents about our trip on the river, Desmond and I were on our way back home, very satisfied that we had explored the no man’s land that we had been trying to get to for so long. It was really a great trip for both of us, and a much needed break from reality that I needed so desperately. If only life was just one long kayak ride…

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