Long and Winding River

I just spent three days paddling down the Connecticut River on my SUP.  This was my second such jaunt this summer.  I have now paddled from McIndoe Falls in Monroe, NH, to Hatfield, MA.  This weekend was the southernmost part of that, and it was incredible.

The river is such an interesting place, and I have way to many impressions to share here.  Wildlife is so ubiquitous it becomes part of the scenery as much as the water and the sky.  And on the one hand the remarkable absence of man, even though we are winding through one of the more populous parts of the country, and on the other the signs of man’s presence in the form of bridges ancient and modern.  Most emotionally stirring are the remains of bridges long abandoned.  Sometimes it is just stone or concrete towers, or in the case of the Schell Bridge, the entire rusting relic.

bridge 2 bridge1

When I first saw it, I was amazed at its size and grandeur.  As I got closer I noticed there had been no cars crossing since it came into view.  Then I realized it was a complete rusty wreck from a different age.  A strange sight.

Notice the still water in these pictures.  This was early in the day, which is usually very calm, as are the last hours before sunset.   The best times to paddle.

I had such a time on this trip.  I’d like to give a shout out to the three boys in Vernon who helped me carry my gear around the Vernon Dam, and steered me towards a place to get food.  Also to the fine gentleman from the power company who shuttled me and my board around the Dam at Turner Falls, and filled me in on some of the workings of the dam and electric plants.  Such good souls the world contains.

Finally, let me record one more observation.  As I approached the Yankee Nuclear Power Plant at Vernon, I first saw the huge electric wires leading away from it.  Then I considered the things that were absent: smoke, smell, filth, coal trains, oil trains, pipelines.  So little space used.  And the satisfaction of so many people at its demise (it will be shutting down for good within a year or two – you can look it up).


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This weekend I participated in a running study at the Spaulding Running Research Center in Boston.  I never did anything like that before.  It was odd and interesting.  A lot of running back and forth (and on a treadmill) with little reflectors stuck all over me.

One’s stride varies a lot with the terrain when running barefoot, and this was all done on very smooth surfaces.   The floor especially was kind of weird – those industrial tiles – smooth as glass and hard as a rock.  Not what I find out in the world.

I hadn’t been to Boston in a long time.  Hadn’t been to Cambridge, where the research Center is, in twenty five years.  My two sons came along, and we had a fun day wandering around, testing the culinary offerings.

The weather is good these days.  I have been doing a lot of ten mile runs, sometimes a little more.  I am thinking I’ll try fifteen soon.   Like everything in life, I ought to control my urge, and be moderate.  But in the middle of a work day, when the open road is shaded by the new born leaves, an hour or two of peace and freedom is hard to resist.

The SUP is back on  the roof of car, so I’ll be getting onto the river with that as often as possible.   Which gets the running back under control.  Cross training is the way to go (although I don’t ever think of any of this as “training” – it is just living).

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Another Winter Come and Gone

Spring is here finally, and that makes me feel pretty good, but I can’t help reflecting on my unhappiness with the winter.  The world is what it is, and we have to deal with it, and I am fortunate to have a much more comfortable life than most of the people who ever lived.  But the existence of possibilities is enough to make us yearn for them, and I yearn to be rid of the half year when I have nothing outdoors to do here but run.   This winter I spent a lot of time wishing I was someplace else.  My home is in a small “town” – really just a ten mile square with a couple hundred houses scattered about.  There are zero – I mean none, nil, zilch – retail establishments of any kind.  There used to be a general store, but that closed.  So the nearest place to interact with a human is ten miles away.

For a long time I was okay with it.  But I changed.  And so did my situation.  Three of my four children are grown and far, far away.  Going to visit them is made harder by the two or more hours it takes to get to the airport.  I am completely soured on the lift service skiing thing.  I loath the New England ski areas.  And there isn’t much ski touring to be done within, again, ten or more miles.  I live in the woods, in the hills, and twenty years ago I found it amusing to break trail through the steep and deep.  But I just don’t feel like it anymore.

My interest has moved more towards the water lately, sailing and, most significantly, stand up paddling boarding.  Again, ten miles from home to do any of that.  And there isn’t much variety around here.

So I have this idea that I want to live in a town, or a small city.  Water would be good, and a central location so I can fly to either corner of the country.  Less severe cold would be good too.  Zero degree mornings well into March are a pain.  But that isn’t a show-stopper.  The main thing is I need a new place that will keep my attention for a while.

It is embarrassing to admit all this.  I feel guilty being so discontent.  Like I said, lucky me to have such problems.  But if I can change my situation for the better, why not?



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Just Like Old Times

Today I did a run that I haven’t done in a long time, since my office moved to downtown.  It is a 10 mile loop over some very pretty roads.  It was a perfect day, the foliage is stunning, and my body was working well.  I had a fairly perfect time of it.

Yesterday I paddled on the river.  Glassy water, blue sky, reflected foliage.  It is a bonus to get such nice days at this time of year.  I hope to paddle again tomorrow.  It always keeps me out awkwardly long at lunchtime, though.

A lot on my mind these days.  One has to be careful about worrying.  With a couple of twenty plus kids out in the world, a college freshman a thousand miles away, and a very young teenager at home, the number of things that could go wrong is frightening, if you think about it.   And I have some things to do to the house before winter gets here.  And there is my job, which is actually the least stressful of these ingredients.   The crazy engagements with the outdoors are a big relief – a time when I just stop fretting.

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Just Because I Should

Went to the coast of Maine recently with my wife and the one child left at home.  We spent the week at a cottage just off the beach.  It was crazy!

I couldn’t believe how beautiful and interesting it is there.  The ocean is one scary dude.  I did some incredible SUP trips.  The intensity is brought way up by the three thousand miles of ocean just off your shoulder, and the ever shifting wind, and the waves that roll in first from one direction, then another, as you move around the islands.

Home isn’t too bad either, but I have got to go back.

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Psychedelic Exercise

Today I went out to run and was astonished by the temperature.  88, I found out later.  I wasn’t expecting that.

So I did a fairly hard 6 mile loop. over to Vermont, up a big hill, and so on.  Very hot, and pretty intense.  It felt like a much longer run.

Then when I got back to the bridge, I slid into the water and swam half a mile to a nice getting-out spot on the New Hampshire side.  It felt great, and I was very, very tired by the time I finished.

All of that is leading up to this:  After standing in the water for a few minutes, wringing out my shorts, I stepped onto the bank and started up the wooded path that leads back to the road, feeling very well indeed.  I looked up and was astonished again.  The light and the colors were just humming.  It was all coming through with perfect clarity, like my glasses had been cleaned, along with all the circuitry between them and my consciousness.  Kind of the way heaven looks, maybe.

I know nothing about what might have caused this.  I hear people talk of endorphins – maybe they are related somehow.  But it sure was cool.

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Don’t Try This in Shoes, Kids

The town where I work is on the Connecticut River, and there is a bridge here.  I often thought it would be nice to run up one side of the river and back on the other, but the nearest bridge is 10 miles north.  Then I remembered that I have no shoes!   Which opens up another way to cross the river.

So after some exploratory missions, I found a place with access on both sides, a few miles from here.  The banks are pretty steep and densely overgrown, so you can’t just get in and out anywhere.

And today I finally did it.  I ran north on the New Hampshire side, swam across, chatted with some kids who were playing at a rope swing, and ran back in Vermont.

Not a big deal, but satisfying.   Sometimes tools just get in the way.

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