2013 update: I’m sorry that Armand, the wonderful guide who accompanied me on the East Inlet expedition, is no longer in the guide business.
My bungalow room is 85º, if the thermometer on the wall is to be believed. I’m sitting in what is more or less the living room, kitchen windows open, table fan blowing at top speed. I packed for cooler weather. We’re getting 90º days & mid-60º nights. Dew point? Hanged if I know. Sticky weather for sure, and the details are irrelevant. It looks like I have only two nights in my tent coming up. If rain holds off, conditions will be fine.
I am nursing sunburned legs after an unforgettable kayak trip. About me & kayaks: I don’t own one. I rent or borrow one on rare occasions, for use on some nice flat body of water. I avoid embarrassment only by traveling alone. Today, I put aside my reluctance to look like a fool, just because I wanted to see East Inlet from the water, not from a few glimpses off East Inlet Road.
At the East Inlet Road boat launch, Pete, Lainie, & I put ourselves in Armand’s capable hands. An easygoing man with a dry wit, Armand knows this area well. He brought a kayak for each of us, so no one was subjected to tandem-kayaking with me. My last experience with a kayak was a few months back when my son and I rented a tandem kayak at Silver Lake state park. I never could manage to find a rhythm, and my poor son endured repeated whacks from my paddle.
I was candid with everyone about my relative inexperience. No matter how awkward or downright wrong my paddling style became, Armand never raised his voice except to call out something encouraging. I suppose that’s what guides are supposed to do, but since I never took a guided trip before, I was relieved not to be taken to task by a stern local with no patience for out-of-towners who can’t paddle a boat properly.
The area we were in has several names, each referring to a specific spot, and I’m not sure which ones we were in: Norton Pool, Moose Pasture, East Inlet. We went across a big pond and then into a narrow stream that wound in what to me seemed like a hopeless maze through the trees. All are beautiful, regardless of name. Eventually, this water all flows into 2nd Lake.
The blazingly sunny day was moderated by a breeze on the water. We paddled out with the wind but against the current, and came home with the current but against the wind. I found paddling upwind to get back across the big pond much easier than trying to push through an opening in a breached beaver dam, against the current. I believe that maneuver took me five minutes, compared to the 10 seconds or so achieved by each of my companions.
Pete had the best free show in town as he paddled behind me, watching me maneuver clumsily but persistently around the many curves. We had the maze to ourselves. When we first hit the pond on the way back, we saw one kayak after another heading out. Armand remarked that most of the people heading onto the pond would probably not continue into the stream – certainly not as far upstream as we went. Their loss.
I was able to paddle very close to a great blue heron too intent on fishing to pay any attention to me. I saw a bald eagle, huge in comparison to the tiny bird harrying it up in the sky, probably defending her young against the eagle’s depredations. I saw the eagle’s nest. There were many Canada geese that appeared to be unaccustomed to people, unlike the geese back home that have become suburban pests. Armand the guide and Pete the hunter told me which ducks were which, since the only ones I could identify were mallards. Cedar waxwings were abundant.
Kim Nilsen has written in the official CT guidebook about the never-cut stand of black spruce we saw today. Spruce budworm damaged the stand some years ago, but the trees rebounded & this one little area has somehow never been logged.
Perhaps today didn’t count as hiking, but without my CT hike, I never would have found this place or the people who accompanied me. Much of this “hiking” trip, in fact, has been spent doing things other than hiking. I am loving almost all of it. I remain opposed to rainy hikes punctuated with insect stings.
The payment assessed by my hosts for use of the Bungalow is an unspecified monetary donation and/or some trail work. I am going to be donating more than I had originally budgeted. I tried to imagine the bill for everything if this were the “real” world: 5 nights’ lodging, shuttle service, one very important load of laundry. Nothing but the lodging was expected.
I walked to Young’s store today, and they had a pair of padded insoles, which my torn-up feet needed. I snatched them up. When I got back to the Bungalow, I dropped into the swing on the lawn to catch my breath. Lainie returned from errands a few minutes later, and she spied me on the swing. “I have something for you!” she sang out. From her shopping bag, she triumphantly produced a pair of insoles. I burst out laughing. She’s a far more experienced outdoorswoman than I, and she could tell that my blisters were getting the better of me. I accepted the insoles with thanks. Her pair is now in my boots, and I am cutting up the pair I bought to make little doughnut-shaped blister pads.
A fine day, despite my stinging legs. I’m draping my damp laundry over my legs to cool the burn. Sunburn seems a fair price to pay for a day like this.