No Ice, No Snow and Now No Whitewater

Usually about this time every year I'm launching my whitewater kayak in a favorite fast-moving river – either the Shetucket in Baltic, which eventually empties into the Thames; the Wood in Exeter, R.I., which converges with the Pawcatuck; or the Salmon in East Hampton, which flows into the Connecticut, and where, if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I can shoot over a broken dam and navigate a tricky set of rapids.

Alas, our snowless winter had combined with a virtually rainless early spring – today's (Saturday's) showers notwithstanding – to make this the worst whitewater season I can recall.

The last I checked we're about 8 inches below normal precipitation. And since there's no runoff from melting snow and ice, instead of roaring rapids we have tepid trickles through rock gardens. You might just as well try to paddle down Lantern Hill.

As for the winter that wasn't, I'll admit not minding having to wake up almost every 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, and only burning about two-and-a-half cords of wood all season instead of my customary five or six.

But this was the first winter I can remember never putting on ice skates, and only getting out once near home on cross-country skis.

Sigh.

Normally about this time of year I'm also starting to transplant hundreds of pine and spruce seedlings that have been growing in a makeshift nursery behind the house, but I may hold off until we get more rain. The ground is starting to look like the Kalahari Desert, and I don't want to draw down the well during a day of planting.

In a couple of weeks I'll also be picking up 200 more seedlings that I ordered from the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District. They'll go in my nursery for a year or two, and then be ready to transplant.

Over the years some of the trees I've planted have grown more than 30 feet tall, and strolling in this maturing evergreen forest fills me a joy that transcends dark thoughts about environmental disaster some people feel is imminent.

Ranting about global warming gets tedious, and though all evidence seems to point to dramatic climate change – record high temperatures, furious storms, droughts and other extreme conditions – the sad reality is that even if everybody on the planet drove a Prius, stopped drinking bottled water, grew organic soybeans and wore hemp Birkenstocks, we may already have gone beyond the tipping point.

But hey, what's the point of being cynical?

Might as well enjoy the warm weather, even if we're going to hell in a hand basket.

Once the trees are in I'll shift my attention to the garden. I should have planted peas by now but can still sow them in the next week or two.

I'm also thinking about reconstructing, for the 20th time, the deer fence, having observed what appears to be a superior design that can be fitted with overhead netting that also keeps out freeloading birds.

I spend half my life, it seems, trying to fend off invasive plants and animals: Bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, slugs, cutworms, Japanese beetles, wooly adelgid, rabbits, mice …

So much for living in harmony with nature.

Anyway, here's hoping for a rainy spring to replenish our streams and rivers, water our gardens, and make us appreciate the upcoming sunny days of summer all the more.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Plunging Through Plum Gut And Bongo Sliding Through The Race In A Kayak: Maybe There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Fun

So a rabbi and a psychiatrist are kayaking in the ocean when a giant wave crashes over them and knocks the rabbi unconscious. The psychiatrist manages to pull the rabbi ashore, where he regains consciousness.

Once Again, Pink Gloves (Plus a Clever Signal) Help Save The Day At The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon

"On your left!" Phil Warner shouted from the bow of a tandem kayak, racing toward a buoy during the paddle leg of last Sunday’s Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass.

It's Swallow Time Again On The Connecticut River

Early Thursday evening was a magical time to paddle on the lower Connecticut River near Lyme.

Rocks In Their Heads Again: Another Bunch Of Idiots Knock Over An Ancient Stone Formation, This Time In Oregon

"Every now and again people do something so monumentally destructive, dimwitted and dishonorable it belongs in a class of disgracefulness normally reserved for trophy hunters ... It’s almost as if they wake up one morning and say to...

Who Needs Bug Zappers When Dragonflies Are On The Prowl?

Citronella candles, bug zappers, insecticides – people go to elaborate and often poisonous lengths to combat mosquitoes, deer flies and other nettlesome insects as we move into the steamy weeks of late summer, but I’ve been letting...

Life's A Beach: Eavesdropping In The Sand

"Sweetie, do you know what that is?" No response. "Look at that bird! You know what they call it?" Still no response. "It’s a seagull!"

Surf’s Up! Hanging Ten In A Kayak

All right, technically my buddy Spyros "Spy" Barres and I weren’t hanging 10 toes off the end off boards while riding waves at Westerly’s Fenway Beach on Thursday, but we were surfing.

I'm Always Chasing Rainbows

All of us who have ventured atop mountains, out to sea, or simply into a nearby park have occasionally faced Mother Nature’s wrath – a sudden thunderstorm, pounding blizzard, gale-force winds, locusts …

Loading Your Backpack: Less Is (Usually) More

Some years ago, preparing to hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness – the final stretch of the fabled Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, I stuffed my backpack with what I initially considered to be the absolute bare minimum for a week in...

Sun, Sun, Sun Here It Comes (Enough Already!)

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was one of the year’s high holy days, right up there with Halloween and the last day of school, because that was when my parents took my sister and me to the beach for the annual fireworks...

How To Build An Adirondack Chair Out Of Skis In 14,387 Easy Steps

Many people I know share my passion for outdoor recreation but I also have a little secret: Between rounds of kayaking, hiking, gardening, wood-splitting and other activities I also savor the simple act of lounging quietly on a sunny day in a...

A Comedy – And Nearly A Tragedy – Of Errors On Maine's Saddleback Mountain: In The Age Of Cellphones, A Failure To Communicate

A refreshing breeze cooled me despite a blazing late-afternoon sun as I scrambled up the final rocky slope to the 4,121-foot summit of Maine’s Saddleback Mountain earlier this week, but I paused for only a moment to gaze at the glorious,...