7 – The Great Piece Meadows


The Great Piece Meadows are a large tract of land the Passaic winds back and forth around from the West and then deep within to the north.  The river is wider now and the current a bit slower.  It is evening and the sunset lights warms patches of riverside grass and trees.  These bright patches contrast with sections that are now in full shade.  Each bend in the river is made more dynamic by the play of warm light and darkening forest.  It is a wonderful culmination of the day’s adventure.

The riverside stretches of grass look very inviting to camp.  On close inspection, however, they covered with PI, poison ivy.  I’m not sure how this will play out.  An interesting development as I approach the Meadows is a reduction in my ability to steer.  The bow is a bit high and as I check the stern I find it 2” underwater at the tip.  There is no danger of sinking, but I’m not level and the current batts me around.  Pulling over I realize my rental kayak has a 7” crack along the back of the keel.  The rear compartment is full of water.  I drain it and continue on, but the water rushes in and I’m back to where I was.  Perhaps I should be concerned, but I’ve dealt with worse and this seems manageable, if less than ideal.

te, I consider a muddy bank and more sections of tall grass, but none fits well.  Finally I find a section of mowed grass, 30’ wide and 12’ deep up an embankment on the backside of someone’s property.  It’s a very deep lot and there is a good section of forest between the river and the house for privacy, so I decide to pitch for the night.

The last few years I’ve often favored a bivy sack over a tent.  Mosquitos don’t bother me too much and a bivy is certainly lighter.  So I’m set up for the night in no time and eating a MRE.  I’m thankful to be able to pass on cooking.  I’m still elated, though my shoulders have let me know that I’ve gone way beyond what I’m in shape for.  Of great relief, my back is rock solid.

It’s been about 35 miles for the first day.  Wow.  I didn’t expect to be able to do that – I had one 10 mile practice run before the trip.

Throughout my life I’ve been able to go way beyond the limits of my physical ability.  I’ve never been quite sure exactly why.  I know I have a high threshold for pain.  It might be my will, or it might be that I don’t experience pain in the same way as others.  I do know that when excitement and euphoria are flowing, I can suspend limitations and embrace the moment; whether it’s a short college crew race or a long day of paddling.  Limitations are ultimately our constructs, and when they get separated from reality, opportunities are lost.  There are consequences to this, of course, including major back surgery in my 20s.  The invincibility of my youth caught up to me earlier than most.  But with more balanced training (a lot tai chi and tango dancing) I’ve been able to extend a very vigorous lifestyle past 50.  My arms will hurt the next day, but for now the joy is overwhelming and with a little advil, I’ll sleep well.

Surprisingly, I stay awake sitting cross legged by the river well past sunset.  It’s a full moon and I watch its rise through the trees.  I’m enjoying being outside along the river so much that I think I would sleep outside even if I had brought a tent.  As I drift off, I’m thankful my gear in the rear compartment stayed dry.

Author: paddlingthepassaic

Architect, husband, father, outdoorsman, tango dancer, tai chi-er and cook. paddler too :)

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