Friday, September 22, 2006
For the river people among you, the trekkers, those who have been "out there", the ones who get away "to smooth it, cause its rough enough back in the city", you know the term put-in as though it were an old friend. We put-in to begin it all. The place to which we arrive where the transition from coat and tie, dirt on the back, grit under the nails, gives way to the deep breath that fills the lungs with air that seems to be spiced with extra oxygen. A put-in is the point from which any adventure begins.
My mile of river offers an interesting mix of metaphors and reality at the put-in. I borrow the town facility that supports the local rowing club which is growing by the year in interest and capital. Simsbury is a town that loves its youth sports and the crew club is no exception. The local high school has a team that competes in this region of New England and the program has, by my daily observation when I paddle in the afternoon, extended down into middle school-aged children and upward into the adult population with considerable success. Today when I left my truck in the parking area and lugged the kayak and gear across the front of the open boat house toward the floating dock, I gazed into the facility to see no fewer than fifteen high-tech composite "shells", as crew vessels are known. Out on the pavement were a dozen or so ergometers - rowing machines - each supporting the energetic bodies of some of the local youth.
It makes me smile to know that so many people are getting themselves fully immersed in the Farmington River. Its a wonderful resource and such a fantastic way to escape for a few minutes or hours when the long term adventure is not possible.
My put-in is also the discharge location for the sewage treatment facility in town. The pipe that deposits thousands of gallons of treated wastewater each day is actually just below the boat ramp. One can see the discharge when river levels are low. I've taken my environmental science students on tours through the facility to let them know that, despite the unnatural intrusion on the river and its life, contemporary technology has led to much less impact than was the case a few decades ago. Due to legal action and general concern about the impact of Connecticut and New York municipal wastewater upon Long Island Sound, towns have been upgrading their facilities to remove nutrients that continue to pose a threat. Simsbury's facility has been getting this much needed upgrade and face-lift for the past two years and, through conversations with some of the workers in the parking lot, a good year of work is yet to come.
So, I think of many things as I settle into the tight cockpit of my kayak, snap the spray skirt around the coaming, and push off from the shoreline. Thoughts that are buoyed by youthful spirit and thoughts that are grayed by concern for what has been lost. In the days ahead, I'll try to pay more attention to reconciliation of this conflict.