Monday, October 30, 2006
Rain, Wind, then High Water
Today, the familiar mile that I have been paddling for more than 40 consecutive days appeared to be a very different river. Saturday's predawn calm ushered in a massive storm. With a radius of more than 250 miles at one point, the storm delivered rain from the northern reaches of New Hampshire and Vermont, south to the beaches in lower Delaware, and west to the Allegheny range in central Pennsylvania - not during the passage of this tremendous weather system but simultaneously. In the potato country of northern Maine, heavy snow fell throughout the day. I took a screenshot of the dopplar radar for the Northeast when the storm was well into its weakening stages late Saturday afternoon and it still appeared on the screen as large as some of the more severe Northeasters that punish this part of the country from time to time during winter months. Fortunately, the movement of this depression was relatively swift and rain tapered off here in Connecticut by late afternoon.
As the rain let up, the wind kicked in and pushed the storm north with a fury. Gusts that sent the downed leaves aloft again stopped pedestrians in their tracks. Gabe and I went to Collinsville Sunday morning to take advantage of the high water and enjoy some whitewater on the river just south of the dam at the old axe factory. With the breeze working its way along the current, turning into an eddy was a challenge and the spray from the tops of waves proved to be blinding. We got in a few good runs but couldn't take the usual time to play in and out of eddies or surf the bigger waves. The sun was out and a passing photographer, an elderly man, was able to have some fun with his new digital camera and zoom lens by getting some shots of our work in the water. It was nice to have an audience and we had a pleasant exchange or two with him.
I paddled in the afternoon on Monday down my mile. The river had a completely different look from the low water days of September and early October, and it felt different beneath the kayak. Looking far downriver, things seemed so much bigger and wider. The Farmington now had a character that reminded me of some of the bigger rivers I have paddled in Canada. In truth, it was still contained by the same banks that I had skirted in previous days, but the higher water level and greater visibility presented a new vista that I enjoyed with a warm feeling of being in the company of greatness. I'm realizing that the river itself can serve as a mentor to my continuing education of the world. It has presented me with many stories and adventures of which I have been more than just a passive observer. Every paddle stroke has presented some element of awareness that is constantly increasing my knowledge of my surroundings and, simultaneously exposing the limitless void of discovery.