Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ipswich River in May

This past Sunday was chilly but sunny, with a wicked wind. I wanted to go kayaking but wanted to avoid struggling with the wind and so went up to the Ipswich River, looking for a sheltered paddle. I parked in Harold Parker State Park with a couple of other cars with kayak hooks on their roofs and put in.

I went downriver first towards the outfitter's to check it out; there are a couple of falls there that one could probably survive, but I turned around quickly and headed back upriver past where I had put in. There were some people enjoying the park and a few paddling on the river, but I kept going South and West up the river and soon put them far behind.

It would and wound and wound and wound and then split into a few hummocks and then wound and wound some more once it rejoined, etc. I followed along, now very hidden from the wind. There were individual willows and stands of them, and stands of ash, maples, and oaks. I saw a few beeches and probably many other kinds of trees and twisted-together tree structures I can't name. The river varied between being almost a swamp and then having the land close in and becoming a deeper gully between the small hills, though it never got narrower than it was just above the put-in. I went all the way up to and a little past Colt Island, a half-mile or so before going under route 97 and then past the Topsfield fairgrounds. I hadn't seen a soul or heard any sound of civilization for miles and hours. It was beautiful and isolated.

And there were birds all over. If anyone wonders where the Canada geese that shit on their golf courses go to spawn, I found it. I saw hundreds of nesting couples of them, poking their heads up at me suspiciously from the high grass lining the river. I actually saw an albino Canada goose. There were also hundreds of red-wing blackbirds and many other kinds of songbirds, flying angrily at each other and chirping as loudly as they could from trees before zapping over to others. There were also lots of plovers, brown above, brown below, speckled, and white, with the long jointed legs and the narrow, long beaks you're used to seeing on the seashore, but here they were way up the freshwater marsh.

I saw more beaver lodges in that trip than I had seen in my life before. I spotted a couple of beavers, who seemed relatively unconcerned about me ... for beavers that is. Many of the lodges had been chosen by the Canada geese as ready-made nests and one of each pair was roosting on top while the mates paddled around anxiously. The beavers had done a great job of damming the river at one point, and I had to get out and drag my kayak over it, though I found on my way downstream that it was clear on the other side of the hummock. Many other trees leaned precariously over the river, ready to fall or be gnawed down and become dams themselves.

I finally turned around and headed back with the current, making it to the put-in remarkably quickly. The trip had been about five hours in all and, as often happens when kayaking, I found the experience exhilarating. The river was beautiful, chilly, green-yellow, deserted, peaceful, and magical in the height of Spring.

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