A Matter of Priorities

It was going to be warm, sunny … the last day of summer. There was only one option: get out and enjoy it.

There were so many possibilities, but one I hadn’t exploited enough this summer, kayaking. I’d borrowed a boat here and there, but didn’t use it the way it was intended. I mean, paddling around a reservoir I already know well just doesn’t compare to several hours gliding down a river.

Since I have fallen in love with Willowdale State Park, and even have warm fuzzies for its neighbor, Bradley Palmer State Park (getting out of there without freezing to death or being eaten by coyotes last winter is a plus), the Ipswich River was a natural choice for my day away.

It takes at least an hour to get there from my house. That’s a good thing. I am fortunate to have lots of recreational opportunities close to home, but that is a double-edged sword. It means I can be called back by the most mundane things. or that sometimes I don’t commit myself fully to enjoying my outing because I’m not able to get my head out of household/business matters. I find it takes actual physical distance and separation to achieve true enjoyment of the outdoors.

What made it easier is that I didn’t have to tie a kayak to the roof of my car and hope it stayed… I have flashbacks to seeing a kayak on the median of Route 128 sometimes and know that could happen to me… Foote Brothers to the rescue. They not only rent canoes and kayaks to use on the river, but they provide a shuttle service back from your destination, saving the kayaker from a strenuous upstream paddle.

Once committed to several hours on the river, it’s time to relax and enjoy the meandering water. It’s pretty clean the whole way, littered only by clumps of turtles clinging to branches in the water.

so many turtles ignored us as we paddled by on the Ipswich River

The only excitement my little group experienced was hitting beaver dams… and there were a bunch! Every half-hour or so, somebody had to get out and drag the kayaks across a dam. Luckily, most of them were flush with the water level. Only a couple acted like locks, with the water a few feet higher on the upstream side and a slightly exciting (hold onto the beer cooler!) drop on the other side.

crossing beaver dams in the river offered a little excitement

Mostly, the four-hour trip was peaceful and relaxing. We even stopped for a break on a nice, remote “island” that would be a very cool place to camp. Signs of human habitation were few and far between.

upturned trees offered interesting, almost artistic contrasts to the placid river scenery

near the end of our multi-hour paddle was this "horses only" private bridge in Topsfield

After wading in the cooling, late-summer water and feeling the sun on my skin again, I felt satisfied that summer had been given its due.

And the big brown water snake that cruised boldly by me toward the end of the day? A reminder whose world I’d entered. I like that.


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