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After much debate as to which was the best way to get into the water (though a few slips and slides almost had a few of us wet), paddlers launched from both the steep grassy and rocky bank, as well as the mud-coated plank launch. No one escaped a coating of mud. Feet, legs, thighs, backsides, hands and arms: there was mud somewhere on each paddler.
We lilydipped for about a mile to the first turn off, then turned left on the Little Conewango. Pat had warned us that there were downed trees on the right hand side of the split (which we later discovered on our trip back), and that we should paddle left. The trees along the Little Conewango were still lushly green, and had not started to turn color yet. However, green was apparently the color of the day.
Once around the turn, we soon hit a logjam, smack in the middle of what turned out to be miles and miles of green duckweed covering the surface of the creek.
This logjam posed no obstacle in Jim's mind, as he encouraged Maureen to start a-sawing, and as bowswoman, saw she did. That woman is STRONG! Jim assisted, and soon they had hacked a passage for the canoe to shimmy on through. Meanwhile, Heather had wisely portaged the logjam, and Joan and I followed. Watching Maureen and Jim make headway through the logjam from the shore was pure enjoyment for us kayakers. You can't PAY for entertainment like this. With Maureen's sarcastic witticisms flying, and Jim's dry humor following up her nonstop chastisements, they soon were through the debris, although Maureen was almost ill from the stench of the decaying matter they had stirred up in the water.
We then paddled through duckweed -- everywhere, bright green DUCKWEED, for miles on end. Some areas were more stagnant than others, but we didn't quit. At one bend, Maureen declared, "This is it! We can't go any further! It's too shallow!" in an effort to halt us and turn us around. But the kayakers pressed on, led by Heather ("Look - it's deeper over here!"), and the canoers followed.
We rested on the shore by a non-fenced pasture populated with furry beef cattle and two energetic horses. The cows tilted their ears towards us as we chatted, and continued munching grass and lowing. We decided a snack break was in order at this point, got back in our boats, and rafted-up for Maureen's excellent homemade oatmeal cookies, as well as a few more goodies. Surprisingly enough, it was already noon. We decided it really was time to turn around and head back to the lunch break spot we had in mind.
On our way, we saw several small to medium sized Eastern Painted turtles sunning themselves on logs on Little Conewango. Plop! They'd jump into the water when they saw us coming, even though we tried to pass by quietly. It must have taken them a long time to climb up on some of those logs out of the water.
We paddled back and up the right-hand branch of Little Conewango, towards the leaf-covered lunch island I remembered from last year. Soon we were stopped by a very large logjam. It was not passable.
Instead, we retreated back down the creek, and disembarked on a weedy shoreline, under a few willows. The lunches came out, and Maureen produced a small bottle of wine. She said she needed it! LOL. Lunches were eaten quickly however, as the mosquitoes began to pester us (it IS a swamp after all), and three of our paddlers (who had worn shorts) developed roundish welts on their legs from brushing against some plants in the area, probably cockleburrs.
We left our lunch spot and headed back to the launch. For a moment we hesitated where Little Conewango meets Little Conewango. Should we paddle the main branch of the Conewango down to Waterboro and back? We had already paddled almost 11 miles. But no, we decided against it. We returned to the launch to do our best imitations of graceless paddlers exiting their boats in steep, muddy conditions. Lots of laughs and some wet seats and feet later, we racked our boats and headed for home.
Mud, logjams, portages, skeeters, mucky marshland...and this is STILL one of my all-time favorite paddles. I hope we can get back there when the leaves change, maybe in October, as it's gorgeous.
Here are Heather's pictures of the paddle: