Temperatures are falling. Mornings are refreshingly cool, evenings are pleasantly chill.
I’ve snuggled into a sweatshirt for the first time this season.
Tomatoes are done. Pumpkins are here. Even WalMart has an “AppleFest” going on.
Baking seems like an inviting activity now.
The feeling of warm sunlight is finally welcome.
While still battling on, mosquitos and gnats are fewer and seemingly weaker. (Is it just my imagination?)
The geese are practicing flight formations. Blue jays reappear, shrieking and flashing through the crisping leaves, crass Yankees traveling through the shoulder season.
The spider armies are busy spinning and crawling and creeping. I dislike spiders and their too-numerous, overly articulated legs…but maybe they, too have something to do with the drop in mosquitos and gnats.
Today has been all seasons at once—a chill morning with heavy dew that looked like frost, new grass poking up from a week of regular rain, hot sun in the afternoon with highs in the 80s, and leaves slowly, slowly changing to yellow and brown before drifting out of the branches.
It was, of course, a perfect day for paddling.
As I had hoped, the surging crowds that overwhelmed me in the summer have changed their focus elsewhere. Water sports are not an October Thing. When I and another paddler arrived at the stand at 11:00 to get our vests and paddles, the employee told us only two other people had been out. This was after he asked us each our names, then introduced us. “There, now you know each other.”
Trevor was gone with his long strides before I had finished fussily fitting my vest. I saw his shoes at the dock, though, before I descended the wooden steps and slid out of my own sandals. Once in the water, I found myself feeling awkward and splashy. I was trying a different kind of paddle, one which I’ve used before, but it took me a while to find my rhythm.
Today I decided to try a new trajectory. I’d go all the way up to the bridges.
Can you see them in center of the picture above? They’re easier to see in person. I’d been up there once before, in the spring, when the sun was already beginning to heat up. I thought today’s temperatures and lower humidity might be more friendly. Besides, there are only so many times you can paddle the same creek in a season without getting bored.
About twenty minutes’ paddling got me here…you can separate out the railway trestle and highway bridge.
“Are we there yet?”
“How much longer?”
“Not far now…we’re almost there.”
“Ah, here we are!”
On my earlier visit, I had been surprised to learn there are actually three bridges here: two railway and one highway. I think the second railway trestle is no longer in use, but I’ve never seen a train go over either one, so I’m just guessing.
In the spring the trees on either bank were alive with the twitterings of careening swallows.
Today only a small, quiet group of crows flew overhead.
Something about these bridges kept my camera out and clicking.
My eye was drawn by the rusty corroded metal against the clean Carolina blue sky.
There were at least half a dozen men in kayaks under and around the bridges, all kitted up with fishing gear, quietly floating in the shade. (I learned later there was a tournament going on.)
And then there was this:
The light and sound are pretty bad, but that’s a huge motorboat getting ready to launch. It was incredibly loud when it started; I think it had four motors across the back.
Now watch the video again, and notice how every man has stopped what he’s doing to watch!
I would have been highly irritated at this ridiculously overdone man toy disturbing my quiet afternoon, but for one of the kayak fishermen. Right before this ruckus started, we had exchanged greetings. “How’s it going?” I’d asked. After the boat started, he turned back to me with a grin, and shouted above the din, “Much better now!”
That’s when I noticed how all the men upstream and down had come to attention like bird dogs on point. I couldn’t help but giggle as I turned and headed back down stream. Boys!
I did stop to take a couple of photos under the highway.
The swallows were gone, but their nests were still in surprisingly good shape.
As I headed back toward the Whitewater Center, I realized I had only been out about 40 minutes, and had plenty of time to play. So I decided to go ahead and stop by to visit Long Creek after all.
There were a few warning shots of fall’s approach.
I got myself into all sorts of contortions trying to capture the sun’s effects coming through these leaves.
By the time I got back to the dock, my arms and shoulders were beginning to ache, and Trevor's shoes were gone. A good paddle, all in all.
Tomorrow we make our first fall pilgrimage to the mountains, heading to Flat Rock just for the day. We’ll go back to Skytop Orchard to pick apples and buy cider. Miss Chef is planning to make hard cider, to be ready in time for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for us, tomorrow is supposed to be rainy with temperatures in the 50s! (That’s about 13 degrees Celsius for any metric folk out there.)
There will be no doubt tomorrow---fall is in session.