Hackensack River Canoe &
by Betty Wiest
Sunday, October 2, 2011
The text arrived on my phone at 6:30 a.m. "Are we on?" The reference, of course, was the paddle planned for to the Norwalk Islands that day. That text was followed by another one saying it was too yucky to go, and then a phone call. Truth be told this is the only negative in planning an early morning paddle. Another hour's sleep would have been heavenly.
Paddlers included Ken, Igor, Janet, Joe, Avery, Bob and myself (Betty).
Most of us met at the Palisades Center in West Nyack at 8 a.m. raring to go. Everyone was on time so away we went. Caravaning up to Exit 16 off Rt. 95, we followed the directions provided by MapQuest with a extra few twists and turns to Calf Pasture Park in Norwalk.
Much to my surprise, Norwalk Parks still had a contact person collecting fees. Fortunately it was only $5 per car (which they collect till October 15th). One reason I generally don't do this trip in season is the town collects $20 per vehicle. No one seemed to be too upset and we ventured to the put-in. the weather was turning out to be a lovely day--a little cool, but manageable.
It was low tide and lucky for us we could bring our boats over a hard, sandy but rocky surface. The winds were blowing but the water was only moderately stirring--there were only a few whitecaps. Some of us did not have rudders so I decided not to use mine and it was not difficult paddling. As I said to a few paddlers, "Look back to know where you launched from." We forget how the coastline looks when you're not paying attention.
Our destination was Sheffield and Shea Islands. After paddling only a short distance we were confronted by a grassy island. To portage or not to portage--that was the question. Since we were so near the head of the island, we paddled around it (later, when the tide came in on the way back only the tips of the grasses could be seen) and headed straight for three houses in the distance situated on the connector between the two islands called The Plains. From there we paddled past a stone mini pavilion that once was part of an estate. Not far from the intriguing structure we landed at our destination at the foot of the historic lighthouse dating to the1800s. We were fortunate to have Captain Mark Schlegel give us a tour and he told us much of the history associated with the island and its former inhabitants. Normally there is a $5 per person charge but since it was after Labor Day we would not be charged. His tour was so informative we decided to send a check to the association to help with the restoration. Today, the island is a unit in the extensive Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Management Area. We had lunch at "real picnic tables," as Janet exclaimed.
By now the weather had warmed up significantly and many of us discarded some extra clothing. We paddled around the far side of the island seeing a great blue heron, lots of cormorants, seagulls and egrets. A number of fishing boats were now in the vicinity so we had to make sure we gave them a wide berth to avoid their fishing lines.
Another short stop was made on Shea Island (which allows overnight camping by permit) and real outhouses as there were on Sheffield Island as well. This is where we had our first and only tip-in. With a surf and fiberglass boat the going was a little rough. Rescue was given and we were all underway for the trip back. More pleasure craft were on the water and we made sure we stayed together as a group.
The trip was delightful. Next year we vowed to be back to paddle Norwalk Islands Part II.
We paddled about 6-7 miles. I was home by 3:30 p.m.. ready to get into my gardening tasks.
> Check out Avery Rosenfeld's great photos