Fall Paddle on the Housatonic

Today was the last day of the school's long weekend, following Parents' Weekend.  My original plan was to leave early and drive to the Adirondacks to do a paddle on the 'Floodwood Loop', near Saranac Lake. It would have been a kind of triathlon: drive 4 1/2 hours, paddle and portage 5 hours and drive home. Reports of rain up north made me come to my senses and do something closer to home instead.

Starting at Woods Pond in Lenox, I paddled up the Housatonic to New Lenox Road, a round trip of 8 1/2 miles. Before I could get my boat to the water, though, I had to wait at the railroad crossing with my boat for a freight train, which shuffled back and forth for a half-hour, before moving down the line.  The young fellow hanging on the back of the train apologized for holding me up.

This was a nice paddle, though the water was pretty low.  I saw lots of ducks, and pair or herons, one red-tailed hawk, and lots of beaver signs - from lodges and dams to chewed saplings.

The river here is different than the section I usually paddle, near the CT-MA boarder. The oxbows are tighter, and more numerous, and the river is narrower - enough so that one good-sized tree could easily block the entire channel if it were to fall across the river.  In a couple of places, today, water was low enough that I was dragging my bottom in the mud.

This was the first time I'd been out in the open skin-on-frame canoe in months.  I've been paddling the Greenland kayak almost exclusively this summer.  The shorter, wider boat immediately felt slower, and the paddle stroke felt off, but in the second half of the trip I got into a groove and felt much smoother.

Map from Water Trails of Western Massachusetts by Charles W.G. Smith,
published by Appalachian Mountain Club Books.