Yesterday after church I loaded my canoe on top of my car in preparation for a road trip (more on that later). But since it was up there, I figured I ought to go paddling. At first I was thinking I’d do something easy, like Sandogardy Pond. But as the idea germinated, it morphed into a Merrimack River trip. Still easy, because I was planning to put in, paddle upstream, turn around, and take out where I had put in. That neatly solves the problem of getting the car to the take out – but at the expense of having to paddle upstream.

So with the plan all formulated, Beth and I executed. There’s a river access point about five minutes from my house (by car). So off we went. I brought my camera and the GPS, because the closest geocaches to my house that I have not found are all along the river. Why not pick off a few? For good measure, I put the GPS in the camera bag, and put the camera bag in a gallon ziplock (just in case).

The first one was on an island. Beth managed to find it before I had the coordinates entered into the GPS.

Beth signs "Eyes to the Island"

Beth signs “Eyes to the Island”

Beth wanted to learn how to steer the canoe, and since that is mostly done from the stern, we traded seats. I waited until we were finished paddling upstream to do this, as it’s a lot easier to steer when going downstream vs upstream. She was pretty happy that I let her try that.

Beth in the Stern

Beth in the Stern

We had passed two geocache locations, but decided we’d hunt for them on the way back vs on the way up. There were two more on the agenda besides the one on the island. One was in a little cove, and we paddled into it (I did do some of the steering from the bow). We looked and we looked, but we couldn’t find it. So I started trying to get us turned around. There wasn’t quite enough room in the cove to do a 180, and in my attempts to force the boat around, I lost my balance and fell backwards into the gunwales. I don’t know how it even happened, but the next thing I knew, the gunwales were under water, and shortly after that, we were both standing in the river with the canoe next to us.

How embarrassing! I thought I knew how to handle a canoe! The first thing I did was grab my zip-locked camera bag. Whew! The zipper was closed, and the camera bag was dry. I clambered out of the river and put the camera on the bank. Meanwhile Beth was not very happy, and asking me why I had done that. If only I knew sweetie!

I hauled the canoe out of the water and dumped out most of the water. But there was still too much in there, so I waded back into the water and lifted the stern up over my head while the water poured through the scuppers. In short order, the boat was dryer than we were. We reloaded, and set off again to look for cache number three.

Before we got there, Beth had forgotten how upset she was with me. The third cache was located in a tree on a very steep bank, and there was really no place to pull the boat out of the water. So Beth climbed the bank, and I stayed in the canoe to keep it in position.

She searched everywhere, but that cache was nowhere to be seen. She got back in the boat (but had given up on steering by then – and let me have the stern again). We paddled back towards the put-in/take-out.

We passed some irises.

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

She picked a few and pressed them when we got home.

It took me a while to get my wet clothes off. I did that in the kitchen rather than traipsing through the house, mud and all. Then I took a shower. After I was all cleaned up, I looked at poor, poor Penny who did not get to go paddling with us (I’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work very well – she does not like to stay in the boat).

So I invited David to hike with us to Sandogardy Pond, and he accepted. Penny chased sticks, and David and I talked. At one point he said something like “Your mad botany skills are going to be your undoing.” Maybe he had forgotten about my mad canoeing skills earlier in the day (Beth told everyone!)

I explained to him that I was a “mad botantist” rather than a “mad zoologist” because plants don’t run away when you approach them with a camera. They are a lot easier to work with as subjects!

So here are some of the results of my “mad botany” from the hike.

Dogbane (Apocynum spp)

Dogbane (Apocynum spp)

I don’t remember if this is plain old dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) or intermediate dogbane (A. medium). I know one of them has reflexed petals (as this one does), but now I don’t remember which one of them that is. And I don’t have my books with me right now, so I can’t look it up. Wikipedia isn’t helping me out here any either.

When we got to the pond I found some grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea).

Grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)

Grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)

There’s not a lot of this growing at the pond, but a few always seem to bloom right near the dock.

I was also surprised to find this one:

Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum)

Pale St. Johnswort (Hypericum ellipticum)

The Connecticut Botanical Society says this blooms from July to August. I looked in my records to find the earliest I had seen it in bloom, but couldn’t find any entries. Hmmm. Maybe this is one I learned after I quit being so conscientious about logging.

So all told, it was a good day, even though I dumped my daughter (and my pride) in the drink.

On to today!

Beth, Jonathan, and I set out for our road trip. We are on the way to Kentucky to visit my family, and to go fishing with them in Arkansas. I haven’t been to Dad’s favorite fishing hole in about 19 years. That’s because I don’t really like to fish. Which is why I am bringing the canoe.

Canoe on top, and road beneath

Canoe on top, and road beneath

I do not intend to fish. Instead, I will paddle up and down the Red River and try not to capsize. I used to be pretty good in a canoe, and have run class III rapids in this one on many occasions! So let’s hope that was just a fluke, and not a harbinger of things to come.

Anyhow… we are in a hotel in Waynesboro, VA right now after a pretty long day of driving. When the whole family comes along we don’t usually get this far. We will stay here for two nights, and the NAD will pay for our room. I am meeting my friend Mark O’Ffill, the webmaster for Pathfinders Online, and we are going to work on getting the Pathfinder Honors Wikibook onto a NAD-hosted server so that we can expand it. The plan is to create a new Instructor’s Manual for the new Investiture Achievement curricula, which is more overtly religious than the Honors Answer Book. As such, it cannot adhere to Wikibook’s “Neutral Point of View” (NPOV) policies. The material will still be licensed under the Creative Commons – otherwise we could not do this at all. This project has been in the works for almost a year now, and tomorrow we intend to make some real headway on it.

Meanwhile, what is the rest of the family up to? Va does not want to go fishing OR canoeing. I like to say that “she likes nature, she just doesn’t want to get any of it on her.” šŸ˜‰ Therefore, she and David (and Penny) will meet us in KY next week after the fishing and paddling is all said and done. But before they arrive, Jonathan will have to head back home. He has an orientation session at UNH to attend (and less vacation at work than I do). So he will drive back before Va and David arrive. As you can imagine, the logistics for this trip have been a challenge!

More bulletins as events warrant!