Sunday, June 10, 2012

Colden's First Canoe Trip

Tom and I have been talking about taking Colden in the canoe for YEARS. Probably since I found out I was pregnant, we've been talking about taking him out in the canoe. We never really had time the first couple of years after I had him because weekends were spent with me at the farmer's market, trying to earn some money. Then the summer that I had the miscarriage was just a total loss. Then last summer, after the van went to the big Garage in the Sky, we didn't actually have a vehicle with which to haul the canoe around.

But now! We have the van! We have the canoe! And Tom made a perfect canoe rack for hauling the canoe around on the van! So this morning, even though I was feeling achy and crappy, we packed up and headed out to Paul Smiths for a little canoe trip from Church Pond to Osgood Pond.

The last time I can remember being on Osgood Pond, it was a cloudy, windy day. The water was so rough, we could barely keep the canoe upright, and I paddled with my eyes shut.

Today was the exact opposite. The bright blue sky was studded with clouds, there was just a light breeze, and it wasn't terribly hot. We put the canoe in at Church Pond, and headed out.

I was a little nervous in the canoe. I think the last time I was out in a canoe was back in 2006, before I got pregnant with Colden. That means it's been six years - SIX YEARS! - since I've been out for a paddle. But after a few minutes of the sound of the water slapping gently against the sides of our little aluminum boat, the smell of a damp Balsam forest in the spring, and the sounds of the frogs and the birds, I felt totally at ease.

A few strokes in, and it felt like I had recovered a part of myself that had been missing for far too long. I felt connected with the world around me, with my husband, and with my son.

We saw so many animals! Frogs and huge fish - a bullhead catfish the length of my arm - sunfish, minnows, blackbirds. Tom caught an enormous large mouth bass, and we had to explain to Colden that it wasn't bass season just yet, so this one was only a catchin' fish, and not an eatin' fish.

We paddled through two small, shallow channels between ponds. These ponds were flooded back in the 1850s when Apollos Smith flooded them to have a way to make power for his hotels and sawmills out near where Paul Smiths College now stands. We showed Colden the layers of dirt beneath the roots of the trees.

When we finally came out into Osgood Pond, I wanted to cry. It was so breathtakingly beautiful with the trees and the water, the mountains, clouds, and sky. We paddled near the shallows, avoiding the many kayakers that were congregating in front of two of the camps along the lake shore.

Looking down over the side of the canoe, we saw mussels poking up in the sandy shallows. Tom fished one out and showed it to Colden, telling him that there was a living animal inside of it. We saw a few empty snail shells, and Tom picked up three of them for Colden to take home and put in our cabinet of nature specimens on the back porch.

As we turned around and paddled back, we decided to stop at a lean-to and have a snack. We put the canoe into the sand on the shore, and climbed out, finding the empty outer skin of a giant water bug alongside the dock. 
The lean-to looked as though there had been a serious party going on there. Garbage was everywhere, and there were four folding chairs scattered around the structure - one of which was actually on the roof! Tom asked me, "Why would [Paul Smiths College] students do this?" After all, environmental education and environmental science are two of the core programs at the college.

I just looked at the bags of trash stashed around the back of the lean-to and said that they just weren't the same kind of students as Tom and his friends were. Sure, they partied. It's Paul Smiths College, after all. But they never left a lean-to looking quite like this one.

Paddling through the second channel on the way back to the car, we saw a large, joyful, black-and-white dog playing along the banks. His owner was nearby, and Colden laughed and screamed as the dog splashed down into the water. His owner told his that his name was Oreo - a good name for a black-and-white dog.

Colden insisted on "paddling" all the way across Church Pond,  back to the car. He refused to give up the paddle, and told me that I should just sit up front and "enjoy the ride", which I thoroughly did.

It only took about five minutes for Colden to conk out after we got back on the road, and when he finally woke up, he told us over and over again that he wanted to go back in the canoe! We totally agreed, but it was starting to get hot, and we were all hungry to the point of nausea, so it was time to go back home and get something to eat.

The whole adventure is almost enough to make me wish I weren't going to New York City next weekend for the classes with Betcey and Nikia at York Beads. Almost. But after I get back, you better believe that we'll have the canoe back in the water, exploring more of our favorite Adirondack waterways.

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