“If this was the first day we spent on the river practicing I wouldn’t be going on this canoe trip.”
“What is that buzzing?”
“Its the high voltage power lines you’re standing next to.”
“Oh look, there is a lazy boy washed up on shore.”
The other Saturday Mahsa and I went out in the Flora Burn to do some practicing for our big canoe trip. We chose to do a river we had yet to travel upon, the Neponset River. The canoe launch was about 30 minutes from my house in Norwood. The place we put in was none too scenic. But then most of our put-in spots are rather drab as we usually find ourselves starting off in inhabited places and paddling away.
The river was moving along at a quick pace. But it wasn’t very deep at all. The muck on the shore was about knee deep in places and almost claimed one of my boots. As we made to set off Mahsa observed that there was a lazy boy recliner perched in the shrubbery along the banks of the river. By the looks of it the chair had traveled down-stream a bit before getting caught in the brambles.
We didn’t get far after pushing off from the shore. Just around the first bend when we encountered some light rapids or riffles if you will we had to get out of the canoe and line her through the water as it was too shallow to continue. Lining a canoe is when one person ties a rope or line to the bow and the other person ties a line to the stern. Together you wade through the water guiding the canoe. This is done when the water is too shallow or when you need to avoid obstacles. As we waded along I wondered at the intense buzzing overhead. Mahsa made her second astute observation of the day by noting that we were indeed standing under some gigantic high voltage power lines. This didn’t take long and before we knew it we were back in the canoe…that is until we ran a-ground on a sand bar…and then another…and then another. The river bed was horribly uneven. To make matters worse the river was also full of trash. We are talking serious trash here too: lawn furniture, sporting equipment, fire extinguishers, construction signs, lumber, a children’s plastic play fort, tires (lots of those!), shopping carts and just plane garbage. The trash had built up against fallen brush making a maze of obstacles. Sure we got to practice some fancy maneuvering…but it was a nasty sight. The uneven river bed didn’t always correspond with the direction we had to go to avoid an obstical eitehr. We would find ourselves bottoming out gowing around a blockage quite often. More then once we had to pass under or quite close to fallen branches caked in filth. We grew rather jumpy, constintly feeling like we were covered in creepy crawlers.
With the current moving pretty quickly, navigation wasn’t too hard. Slowly we left the buzzing power lines behind…only to be replaced by low flying aircraft as the river does pass by a private air field. To drown out the bothersome buzzing of little planes we cranked up our hand crank radio and took in a little of WGBH’s Celtic Music Hour. Really it just meant listening to staticey Celtic music intermingled with the buzz of aircraft.
Eventually the garbage mounds do give way to more scenic fare. After passing under the freeway the Neponset enters the Blue Hills Reservation. Here the banks became lined with tall grasses and deepened considerably. The low flying aircraft were still present. But the general mood of the trip improved vastly. We even found a nice shady spot along the bank to have lunch and walk around a bit.
Well, whatever beauty and loveliness we may have encountered on later part of the trip was eviscerated by the return journey. At our turn around point we had about 4 miles to paddle up river. This translates to roughly twice as long as coming down river. Determined not to take 7 hours getting back to the car we doubled our efforts paddling as quickly as we could. We made good time but our muscles were sore and our hands raw. All fun was gone. After crossing under the freeway we were back in the garbage wonderland. If paddling downriver threw the maze of trash bothersome then the paddling upstream was down right terrible. Not only did we have to contend with the barriers of trash and uneven river bead but we also had to do it all against a current that kept wanting to turn us around.
Our pace slowed considerably. At one point we stopped talking even. We both just sat in our respective seats brooding over the unpleasantness of our experience on the Neoponset. At one point we had to cross over the river channel from one deep spot to another. This required paddling through that was in fact to shallow to paddle in. The result was us sitting in our canoe paddles flailing against the river bottom feebly trying to move us against the current. We weren’t even moving. Anger gave way to the hilarity of the situation. We just ended up polling with our paddles over to the deeper water but even that took more effort then seemed worth it.
Who knows how much time passed….days maybe! But eventually we made it back to the buzzing power lines and the canoe launch and most gratefully our car. It was in near silence that we loaded the canoe and set off towards home. I think we felt dejected. Each day on the river up until then was full of fun. We always left the water wanting more. This trip was over in our minds just as it started and left us never wanting to canoe again. Or at least a little less eager to canoe again soon.