Thursday, September 25, 2008

Departing Pumpkin Island

We've noticed that the hummingbird no longer comes to the feeder hanging on the railing by the dining area window. They've left for warmer climate and more abundant flowers.

We've noticed fewer geese in the marshy areas - and when we do see them, they are getting grouped up into bigger communities readying for the flight south. Although the crickets and frogs still call to us from the darkness, our doors and windows are closed against the chill night air.

We've noticed when walking through the woods that the orange oak, and red maple leaves have fallen to the ground and are mingling there with the browning ferns. The berries are hard and dried, where they can still be found on the juniper trees. The earthy smells from the crushed leaves waft up to our faces as we tromp through the woods. Fields of blue stemmed goldenrod - sway in the meadows, drying in the last warm rays of the area's fall sunshine.

We've noticed the husks of the shagged bark hickory nuts split open on the trail, harvested and stored by the numerous chipmunks.

We've noticed how the sun keeps moving further to the south as it sets, red, purple, and with an almost audible hiss as it sizzles and sinks into the river's water beyond the deck railing.

We've taken a leisurely two weeks to canoe, kayak, hike, explore, sail and catch up with my parents. We've explored west from here, east from here, and north into the woodlands and lakes. We dipped into the river's chilling waters, snorkels bubbling, looking for the survivors of the season's fishing.

It's time too for us to head south - and west, back to our warm home in California.

So, with a sad heart, but not wanting to stay, we bid this island chocked outlet of Lake Ontario farewell for another season. We move back into the camper, re-stow our gear in its usual places, restock the refrigerator, fill the water tanks and gather up the maps we'll need for the next leg of our journey.

25September2008 Charleston Lake 10 Km loop trail

Maple leaves changing color

Pontoon bridge over an arm of Charleston Lake

24Sept2008 - Paddle to Smuggler's Cove and beyond to end of Hill Island

1,000 Island Bridge spans over Hill Island and many smaller Islands. Here we are paddling near "Smuggler's Notch" - looking east to the bridge.

We spotted this juvenile (I think) solitary Loon along the way
This is just the BOATHOUSE for the "House of Seven Gables" just around the corner - a grand old lady kept up in fine shape by its current owners/ Get a load of that vintage boat..

Another Grand Lady in fine shape..

Monday, September 22, 2008

22Sept2008 - Visitors to Pumpkin Island

Colleen and Hucky came to visit Pumpkin Island from Rochester and provide an incredible feast of marinated and grilled duck breast, homemade herbed focacia bread, sauteed snow peas and walnut chocolate tort for desert. It was too cold to eat el fresco, but we had a beatiful sunset serenade as we sat down for our repast.

Quiet morning paddle to look for wildlife.

The neighbor's dock with still water

Two turtles were sunning themselves in "Turtle Bay" the place we go to look for snakes and turtles on warm afternoons.

The scains of geese are honking and flying overhead. The cormorants have arrived and are eating and gaining strength for their eventual migration south. We watch the black mink who lives under the dock fish off the point taking one trip after another into the fast moving stream and then pop out again with small fish in his mouth. He hops over the rock to eat it, then scurries into the water again for another bite. Over and over we watch the small mink return for more fish. I guess he's learned how to catch gobies. The lone Osprey circles on a thermal draft overhead as we explore by canoe and kayak through the small channels and bays that make up this rich aquatic region.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

21September 2008 Charlston Lake

Diane shuttles us over to the mainland, so we can drive north to Charlston Lake for a hike.

There is a wide variety of woodlands to walk through here on the long hiking trails - here we cross a marsh on a long boardwalk before reaching the rocky escarpment above the lake.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2008, Sept. 18 - Paddle to "The Rift" crossing back into the US Briefly

The wind is down, the sun is up, and we leave the dock today heading to “The Rift” – a cleft in the rocky shore between Canada and the US, a little under 30 minutes paddle from here in these conditions.

In a kayak, I am sitting much closer to the water than in a canoe, and due to the strong sun, and clear water, I almost feel like I am flying. I can see clearly to the bottom, in some places 15 feet down, but in many places we paddle in even more shallow water. The bottom grass waves slowly back and forth and the small fish dart away as the boat’s shadow passes over. The sun beams into the depths and creates these psychedelic rays of light that dance as the surface slowly undulates. I stroke and glide, stroke and glide – silently sliding along this special membrane where the water meets the air – flawlessly, and without gap or vacuum. Sitting the way one does in a kayak, my legs and feet are concealed beneath the spray skirt, and the geometry of the thing makes me think I’m half submerged walking slowly along waist deep in the water.

Today there are no other boats on the river and we have the place to ourselves. Tomorrow is Friday, and the weekend boaters will inevitably arrive. But, for now, its just a canoe and a kayak and lots of other empty docks exploring the sun sparkled jewels that are these Thousand Islands.

We thread our way through a few smaller islands, than follow the northern shore of Howe Island eastward until, very unceremoniously, and with no specific markings we spot the telltale gap in the rocks that marks the entrance to The Rift. There is only a simple sign on one shore with a 9 on it – indicating that boats should stay under 9 km/hour when traversing the shallow gorge. As soon as we get within 50 feet of the entrance, the current grips the boat’s hull, and there is no reason to keep paddling. Simple and small motions of my feet adjust the rudder keeping the boat in the main channel, and we are literally flushed down stream.

Both sides of the rift have steep rocky banks – with a few docks, precariously clinging to one side. To our right is Canada, to our left is the US. From the river view though it is impossible to tell the difference. For years this area has been a smuggler’s route – its remoteness and permeability are well suited to foggy, night time crossings. First for slaves moving north, then for alcohol during prohibition moving south, and now from my reading, immigrants coming south. There is no sign of these activities in our daytime paddles, but who really knows what goes on after dark. The long time local residents here have great stories to tell.

In a wide spot, we come across a heron fishing in the marsh, looking for minnows and frogs. In another wide spot, we surprise a band of geese – slowly gathering strength and drive to make the long flight south to warmer wintering grounds.

On our way home, the wind builds, and we cross a few bigger channels where the lower water levels have changed the benign river current into disturbing dancing water - jumping up in tepee shaped cones, or swirling in circles, contrary to my planned direction. We must take care when crossing eddy lines and the tips and ends of islands as these currents can spin and capsize a boat before you know it.

Luckily, we return safe and sound to the quiet back dock at Pumpkin Island via Lover's Lane in just over 2 hours and surprise two deer that have come down to the water's edge to drink. They take a furtive look at us, think for a second, then dark back into the protective forest canopy and the heavy underbrush of the Ash Island shoreline.

(Click on any image to enarge it, then click the back button to return to the blog)

Wind was from the north east today - an unusual pattern for around here - so we took the opportunity to paddle down wind to "The Rift", a cleft in the rock that forms a section of the US/Canadian border. This channel of water is less than 40 feet across and is hidden to all except a careful map reader and navigator.

Along the way we passed lots f marshy spots. Where there is marsh and frogs and minnows, there are Great Blue Herons.

Hearing and seeing a Heron in early flight, up close is an experience not to miss. Flying directly overhead, above the small craft in which I was paddling, is astounding. The large ungainly bird makes a few precise movements, and it is aloft. Two to three large beats of its 6-7' wing span and it begins to soar.

This goose was waiting with a small group to bunch up and head south. I noticed when I zoomed in, that he had been banded for tracking purposes.

The bridge under customs at the border. With tractor trailer trucks idling above our heads, we floated under this double roadway bridge that leads motorist's to and from Canada. Silently, and un-checked, we paddle over the border just beyond the bridge. This passage is well known now to be a significant smuggling location during prohibition.

The narrow Rift between the US and Canada in the middle of Hill Island.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2008, September 17 Blackberry hunting hike on Ash Island

Hunting illusive blackberries on Ash Island. Hiking for a change.

Companion on a warm rock near the channel

Our Island Hosts (and my parents), Ed and Eva

Looking west up river on a windblown afternoon

This unlucky beaver chewed all the way through this tree, just to have it fall in the "V" notch of an adjacent tree - now, what is the probability of that happening.

Afternoon light on ferns near the shop

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008, September 16 Canoe to Champaigne Bay

Morning mist on the back dock - air seemed colder than water, but as the sun rose, the mist burned off. (click on any image to enlarge it...)

Texas two-step? Hokey Pokey? Oh, oh oh, that water's too cold...

Great Blue Heron hunting on a side section of Champaigne Bay (Peck's Marina)

The Ultimate - Pumpkin Island downwind and down current on the way home.