Since I cannot convey all my experiences and thoughts on this 2-week endurance expedition, I will share some memories of the first day and a few highlights of the fantastic wildlife we encountered while paddling the Connecticut River. All this is from my journal kept during this, my first of two, Source-to-Sea journeys down the Connecticut River.
Tom and I paddled the first 11 days alone. On Day 12, we met up with members of Venture crew 872 who began the trip last year and didn’t finish. We met them at the same place where they pulled out last year so that they could do the whole river. So we added two more adults and three teenage boys to our trip just north of Barton’s Cove. From there, we finish the trip in three days.
My favorite part of the Connecticut River was the northern section. No trip is complete without saying “Hello” to Fourth Lake, where the Connecticut River is born. This rock and mud strewn hike, traversing Canada and the U.S., is so “northern.” Clinton’s lily and bunch berry bloom in this Spruce and Fir forest so typical of these northern reaches. The evergreen smell is intoxicating. Fourth Lake is a bog in the works. Springy mats of sphagnum moss creep in from the shoreline toward the open water in the center. Someday it will all be covered over.
Hike complete, we put in the river below the lakes and as soon as the shallow rapids will allow for a canoe, about mile marker 383. The river is a joy! Rapids and little rock garden obstacle courses keep us from getting bored. The water is the color of weak tea – perhaps iced tea. The gravelly bottom is interspersed with sand and silt. It makes for a good trout river. Fishermen say they get brookies, brown trout, and we saw a fisherman reel in a rainbow trout. Within a few hours of “north country” paddling, the river mellows out to a meander through pastoral country, but an occasional section of white water keeps us on our toes.
Wildlife was a highlight so I will merely list some memorable encounters to emphasize how important this river is all who encounter it.
Our Day 3 campsite – a sandbar – provided us entertainment as a fox den was across the river from us. We watched as 3 kits played tug-of-war frisked about and snapped and annoyed one another like siblings often do.
Beaver were frequently seen at many of our campsites.
A kingfisher owns every stretch of river. Each ushers us with incessant chatter to the end of his property with swooping flight. There the next landowner takes over and likewise, urges us along.
We watch a baby woodchuck successfully swam across the river in front of us. We didn’t know exactly what it was until he got out on the VT side.
Our favorite campsite, although accessible only by climbing a 5-foot riverbank, is a piney spot where a troop of flying squirrels demonstrated their amazing aerial acrobatics right above our heads. They would leap off a tree, banking mid-air, land on the trunk of another tree and scamper up to do it again. Speed intensified as they chased each other up the trunks and tried to outdo one another in feats of distance and maneuvers. Amazing animals!
Story by Nancy Condon. Paddled by canoe with Tom Condon from Pittsburgh, NH to Old Lyme, CT, 6/29/02-7/14/02