It had been too long since I last paddled this stretch of the Farmington River. Perhaps 30 years ago, maybe 40 years ago, maybe 45 years ago.
I launched my kayak early yesterday morning in the presence – aura – of the Pinchot sycamore in Simsbury, the largest known tree in Connecticut and likely the first or second largest sycamore in the U. S. Named for the first head of the U. S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, born in Simsbury, the tree is now the centerpiece of a tiny rivers-edge park that also serves as a convenient put-in or take-out for canoes and kayaks.
In a little less than two hours, taking my time and taking photos, I paddled to Curtiss Park in Simsbury, about 5.4 miles.
Even considering it was a Monday morning, a weekday, it is nonetheless summer, it was a beautiful day, temperature already in the 70s, the sun shining, with a calm wind – and I did not see another boater.
Nonetheless, I had company, my usual river company. Spotted sandpipers took off from shore at my approach, flew out over the water, then back to cover along the shore. The ever-wary great blue herons took off long before I got anywhere near them, wary as always. Tree swallows and cedar waxwings patrolled the river corridor, acrobatically snatching insects all the while.
And the eagle. The eagle so often sees you before you see it. Suddenly, it flew from a high branch in the shade to my right and headed downriver, its white-as-snow tail distinctive, disappearing from sight beyond a bend in the river. Gone.
Along the way were dozens of catalpa trees overhanging the river. Like the sycamore, they flourish near streams. Unlike sycamores, they are not native but naturalized. In late June in Connecticut, they put on a show with massive clusters of trumpet-like flowers accented in purple and gold.
On this morning, blossoms were, here and there, gently falling from limbs, floating delicately downriver, almost as if the river were, perhaps for just a day or two, akin to a Monet subject.
For the few days that the catalpas are in bloom they dominate the riverscape, appearing as huge masses of white among the green-dominated red and silver maples and oaks.
Without really making any attempt to spot every bird species I easily saw more than a dozen. Nearing the end of my outing, once again the eagle took flight, again heading downriver, the white tail appearing ever smaller as it disappeared in the distance.