Rollin on the River

Picture a group of well intentioned novices ranging in age from 12 to 55 with the brilliant idea of kayaking down the Housatonic River.  Add into the equation a river swollen from weeks of torrential rains and my poor husband with an injured shoulder, and you have a recipe for either a great adventure or potential tragedy.  Our excursion was a little of both.

Smooth Sailing in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Smooth Sailing so far . . . (photo: Kathy Diemer)

The person at the kayak rental shop recommended we set in at the Gaylordsville Bridge and travel down to the bridge in the center of New Milford, which would take approximately two hours.  He explained that the water was a little rough at the starting point, but easy going from there.  We chose two tandem kayaks and four singles and headed out on our merry way.

Motives were immediately second guessed upon viewing the described “little rough” spot, which was actually a good distance of white frothing water thrashing over large boulders.  My niece and I braced ourselves and went in first.  “Take a deep breath, Madison”  I said, “We’ll be o.k.”

My Trusty Co-Pilot in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

My Trusty Co-Pilot Madison, “Girls Rule”!! (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Allowing the current to weave us around, we hit into a few rocks and got soaked, but made it through without incident.  Others followed safely and some dumped immediately.  The current was so strong we were unable to stop to see who made it until reaching a calmer spot.  We waited for what seemed like hours before a few others came into view.  Eventually the whole gang reunited and we continued on down the river.

Heron Watches from the shore in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Heron watches from the shore (photo: Kathy Diemer)

While gliding along on the water, Madison and I observed herons, baby ducks and beautiful scenery all around us.  It was quiet and peaceful and we both remarked how pleasant the whole experience was.  I hadn’t seen my niece or nephews in several years, so it was wonderful to spend this quality one-on-one time together.  Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

A scream rang out and one of my nephews, Jack, was tipped over and being carried by the strong current.  My other nephews, Griffin and Drew, responded immediately, going to shore and guiding him in with their oars.  Jack eventually made it to shore and was able to get back into his kayak, but was visibly shaken.  And, we were headed into another rough patch of aggressive, crashing waves.

“Aunt Kathy, you have a big spider on your back,” Madison said nervously.  Imagining childish exaggeration, I asked her to just brush it off.  “But, it’s really huge,” she gasped.

What Lies Around the Bend? in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

But, what lies around the bend . . . (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Just then, a wood spider about four inches in diameter jumped in between my legs.  Panic set in.  Rapids just seconds ahead . . . Can’t jump overboard, must keep my niece safe . . . It’s him or me . . . For most of my adult life, I have learned to accept spiders, living with them in my gardens as well as in my house.  I would never kill them.  I grabbed the oar and chopped him in half just as we hit the rapids.

From that point on, we were humbled by the river and our surroundings.  It was easy to see how beautiful, yet dangerous this water could be.  We paddled on in silence for a while, all tired from battling against the current to assist my nephew.  Occasionally, I would pull my compact Sony camera (that I insisted on bringing) out from the protection of a Zip-Lock bag (that surprisingly kept it safe from the repeated splashes we received) and snap a few pictures.  Madison would warn me when she thought rough water was ahead so I could get the camera safely back into the bag in time.

Back to Civilization in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Signs of Civilization ahead (photo: Kathy Diemer)

As we approached yet another scary spot and I was feeling anxious, Madison calmly reassured me with the same words I used earlier, “Don’t worry, Aunt Kathy, just take a deep breath”.  And as we finally arrived at our destination and everyone climbed safely to shore; albeit tired, wet and dirty, I did just that.


  1. Good move with the spider. Lurking spiders are the main reason I don’t like kayaks :).

    • Gosh, I didn’t think about that. I thought it fell in from the trees. You mean it may have been with us all that time . . . YUCK! Glad that part is over. Thanks for writing, Sue. Here’s hoping we have a little sunshine to dry things out this weekend~

  2. Jeff Benson says:

    I’m amazed that you folks kayak in a river with some rough water without helmets!! If you were to go over, the chances of getting swept into a rock are pretty high and your head is the one part of your body that you cannot afford to get hit.

    • You’re entirely correct, Jeff. I wear a helmet for horseback riding and motorcycle riding, but as first time kayakers (that didn’t know what we were getting into) a helmet never entered our minds! Life jackets yes, helmets no? Rest assured that if we ever hit the rough waters again (doubtful, I think Golden Pond is more our speed), a helmet will certainly be on our heads. Thanks for writing!

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