New York & Toronto: journal 3

Saturday August 26 

We took the subway to downtown Toronno (locals say Toronno) and walked along the harbor. The Blue Jays won in a slugfest over the Minnesota Twins so we heard roars rising from the open stadium and bouncing around the city canyons. The ferry carries 453 souls at a time over to Centre Island and it provides an extraordinary view of the city skyline. We walked to the far side to a sandy beach and watched pasty folks who found the beach novel, wading and corralling children in the shallow water as if this were the first time to experience sand and surf. But the salt air is missing along with the majestic powerful roar of surf pounding sand.

File_000(2)

Toronto Harbor with the CN Tower in the background

Lake Ontario is simply nudging up to the beach in gentle ripples. The children are stripping off their jean shorts to reveal camo or superhero underwear, boxers, briefs, it is all here on display.

Sunday August 27

We drove around the western edge of Lake Ontario through Hamilton and just shy of Niagara to fruit tree land. This area is afforded protection being hard against the western edge of Lake Ontario giving it just enough protection from north winds which are warmed by the lake in winter giving grapevines just enough comfort to keep  from freezing and lake generated snow keeps plenty moisture in the ground. There are vineyards and peach, nectarine, cherry, and apple orchards. We went into the orchards on a trailer pulled by a small tractor and used wide-spreading ladders older than me to pick peaches, nectarines, and a few plums which were not quite fully ripe yet, but should ripen off the vine in time.

File_000(6)

Karen climbs the peach tree.

This farm was established in 1799. There is a beautiful old tree with a huge trunk and low spreading limbs that I couldn’t identify as to species, so I asked a worker. She said the tree is a Purple Beech and came over with the family from Estonia on the ship, a small sapling traveling in a boot, and planted at the new homestead which became their front yard. Now it’s over 200 years old.

File_000(4)

This Purple Beech tree traveled in a boot as a sapling from Estonia over 200 years ago next to my son Brandon sporting Canadian socks, lime shorts, and a man bun all younger than most of the smallest limbs.

 

Afterwards we enjoyed fresh cold apple cider and shared a peach muffin from a roadside farmer’s market.

File_000(3)

Walking to the orchard to pick peaches, plums, and nectarines.

Then we had Cuban sandwiches and pulled pork shoulder with rice and beans and mango spicy salsa. Next door is a place called Bang Bang where they pair gourmet cookies with exotic ice cream. The line is always 30 plus deep. Here are some flavors: bellwoods stout beer n’ brown bread, black tea banana puddin’, Italian eggnog, salted caramel vanilla mojito… can’t even remember what I got but pretty sure I blacked out into a sugar induced coma afterwards.

 

Advertisements

Fly Fishing with Bob

Last summer my friend Bob and I were in Denver at a fly fishing outfitter admiring the gear and clothing. It was in that moment of idealistic longing that we decided to go trout fishing. Neither of us fish much. But the river called to us like the sirens singing to Delmar and Pete in O Brother, Where Art Thou:

Come on, brothers, let’s go down, Down in the river to pray

It was the siren call of the river that drew my friend and I into the water in search of a rising fish and a connection to a river that runs through each of us.

Scott met us in the McDonald’s parking lot and we shook hands. He was our guide for the next four hours of trout fishing in Silverhorne, Colorado. Snowmelt from the Rockies ripples over rubble wearing the gold and brown and gray stones into shapes that look like eternity. We were to fish in a Gold Medal stream, which means it has surpassed certain criteria for purity and the fishing is catch and release.

Fishing makes me aware of my duplicity. I love fishing, I hate fishing. I am compassionate, I am selfish. I give a man with a sign that reads, “Help, anything appreciated,” five bucks, but I ignore the homeless man standing on the street. Fishing is for suckers in one moment and it is transcendent in another, as Steven Wright describes, “Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He was using a dotted line. He caught every other fish.”

Trout karen sheila

Brent & Bob

Scott is from Seattle but has lived and guided fishing trips for over twenty years in Colorado. Scott drove Bob and me down to the edge of a dirt parking lot next to the Blue River,  just below Dillon Dam. We donned our waders and boots and grabbed our fly rods and walked down the bank to the edge of the river. We encountered other fly fishermen during our time on the Blue, and the conversation was always fishing, what’s hitting, which fly, how are you setting indicators. Fly fishing seems to be more of an art than a science, more of a conversation than a lecture, more a dance than hike.

Bob, grew up, like me, on the plains of Oklahoma. Like me, he also married mysteriously well, his wife lovely and younger.

Trout 7

Sheila & Karen

Our married children were born on the same day, and they are sometimes mistaken for twins.

IMG_0255

Lauren & Beck

We were dining together in the Lohi neighborhood of Denver and the waitress asked if Lauren and Beck were twins. No we replied, they were born within hours of one another, but they are not twins, they are alike but still very different.

Scott spends time with Bob and then with me, alternating, coaching, encouraging, sometimes talking to the fish, “Eat it!” he says as our tackle flickers just to the side of a shadow that looks to me like another rock, but to Scott’s practiced eye, is a fish. They are alike, they are different, the water pounds both fish and rock, and the shapes beneath the surface change without perception to the untrained eye.

Trout 4

On a trout river we are all alike but different. There are no strangers on a river, we are one with the sun and the stream and the fish. All things fade into sunlight and rippling water and the rhythm of a line and a current and as Norman Maclean says so poetically, in A River Runs Through It, “…all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.”

Trout 6

The cast is more flick than muscle, and Scott has the muscle memory layered year over year compared to mine which is only a few minutes old. Yet he helps me, always saying, “Perfect,” when my tackle and indicator hits the flow of the stream near a yellow rock exactly where he has asked me to cast and as the indicator flows downstream I watch it bob and flow in the rhythm of the river waiting for a fish to strike and plunge it down and out of sight for a moment. Then I know the fly has either been caught between two rocks or a rainbow has hit it and is running. “Let it run,” Scott coaches us. “Your line is 3.5 pound test and if you resist, the fish will break the line, let it run, but keep the tip up and some tension, then when the pressure is slight reel in some line.”

Trout 3

My wife teaches yoga, and to her delight (no really, she loves it) I attend her sessions occasionally, and she has helped me with practices of calmness, quietness, and inner core strength, which is both spiritual and physical at the same time. And it’s helped my golf game, I more limber, able to play a game that requires violent twisting of the back and torso, with more suppleness and grace than before I started working out with her. Since we have this in common, we went together, the four of us, Bob, Sheila, Karen and me, to a tiny yoga studio in Frisco, Colorado. So the four of us are something, we are not sure what…friends-in-law? Anyway, we are traveling friends. We go places and we eat good food and enjoy God’s creation.

We fished the west bank of the Blue River heading north, holding on to the willows as we walked the stream bed edge. The worn round and oval stones in the stream bed were of varied sizes, from football size down to golf ball sizes, so the footing was uneven, and our walking required finding a firm foothold with the lead foot before following suit with the trailing foot. Bob and I both purchased wool socks the day before, but our feet were already cold by 9:00 am. And when we caught a rainbow, Scott netted the fish and told us, “Wet your hands.” And into the icy stream our hands plunged, then we grabbed the fish for a picture before it could wriggle away. After fishing the west bank for half the morning, we crossed the stream in a strong current, keeping a low secure base with our feet. Later, near the end of our time on the river, my back began to ache, and I realized how much core energy it took to stay upright in the rapids of an icy river. This was an entirely new kind of yoga pose, practice and repetition, eyes focused, body tensed against the swiftly flowing river.  

There is something in the stream that we can’t define but seek anyway, hope, faith, sustenance, connection to those who have fished before us. And it isn’t just in the river that we seek that, but in the rapids of living. A few days earlier, we sat at an intersection in Denver, and a homeless man sat, gritty, ragged, begging…I was driving and saw in the corner of my eye the passenger window coming down.

Bob talks to everyone without judgement. When we dine, he always asks the waiter/waitress, “What’s your name?” And eye contact. I’ve seen Bob give money to what many of us would call bums, but he gives them much more than that, he gives the touch of another human being, eye contact, I have noticed you, and a question, “How are you?” And the money, whether for a cup of coffee or a down payment on a bottle of cheap wine, doesn’t seem to matter, because a river runs through all of us.

Bob’s rolling down the window and he has a bill crumpled up in his hand. He yells out at the man who is seated and who is now trying to get on his feet, “How ya doin’? Don’t get up…here, I’ll throw it too you.” And he tosses a $5 dollar bill at his feet.

Bob rolls up the window and I said, “What did you throw?” Bob replies, “A $100 bill.” I tell Bob, “You went to heaven and hell in one sentence.”

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a $100 bill and Bob is kidding, but that isn’t the point is it?

Norman Maclean also writes in, A River Runs Through It, “We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman…

File_000

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river runs over rocks from peaks to valleys. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

It’s the day after our fishing expedition and we are in Vail, Colorado, at a LuLu Lemon shop and the girls are shopping for workout wear. The staff is friendly and they ask us where we are from. While the girls are in the dressing room, Bob and I are talking to the sales girl who is from a little town near Littleton. Bob’s son, Beck, is playing Link Larkin in the musical, “Hairspray,” at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton. It’s a small world. We tell her about our fly fishing trip and she says, “I love to fly fish!” and she tells about her Dad taking her fly fishing just down the road. And I think of how fly fishing makes us search for our true north, how it makes us feel that old feeling of duplicity, I am a fool, and yet sometimes, I am wise.

“Her dad would pull over to the side of a bridge, and they would watch from above, before he slipped down the bank to catch them. She was charmed by the motions of trout. How they take their forms from the pressures of another world, the cold forge of water. Their drift, their mystery, the way they turn and let the current take them, take them, with passive grace. They turn again, tumbling like leaves, then straighten with mouths pointing upstream, to better sip a mayfly, to root up nymphs, to watch for the flash of a heron’s bill. The current always trues them, like compass needles. When she watches them, she feels wise.”  Matthew Neill Null, Allegheny Front

File_003

Blue River

We are all fishermen, some of us fish for money by the side of the interstate, some go to work each day fishing for legal tender, for others fishing is natural, an easy way to be yourself, but for some it is the measure of what is true in each of us.

Like those rainbow trout, life forms us with pressure and we take it with passive grace until it tumbles us like leaves until we straighten pointing upstream, until eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs, but we can’t see them yet because our eyes are the eyes of novices, unlike Scott, who has practiced all his life to distinguish the shape of a rock from a fish. One day, maybe I will be able to see fish like Scott and look beneath the tumbling shining waters, to see those fish and those words underneath the rocks and that they are beautiful.

File_001

Our guide, Scott

The Technology of 1,000 Spoons

While Brandon was home this winter he was imitating a Coast Guard cutter on our frozen pond, whacking the ice from a kayak with a double-bladed oar. He broke the oar like a hobo eating a hard pretzel. Which means he really is my son. Our family has a long legacy of tearing things up. Oars, lawn mowers, houses…Dad once hit the corner of our house with the tractor…which led my brothers and I to complete the demolition, sledge hammering the stone wall creating space to add four new windows. Sometimes accidents become a serendipitous remodel to your house…other times, you just have a busted lawn mower and shin deep grass.

Which brings me to my son’s equipment legacy. I once made my son a promise, that one day, when he had a house and a lawn mower of his own, (or a kayak) I would go to his house, borrow it…and beat the crap out of it, kind of like that oar against the ice. Here is my chance…his mower is defenseless in my shed.

I opened the door to my tool shed last week and spotted his electric lawn mower which he had left for me to store away until he returns from Toronto where he is doing graduate work on the atmosphere. I’ve heard of electric lawn mowers, but had not seen one close up.

I have a running debate with Brandon about this electric lawn mower. He is a meteorologist, smart, and ecologically aware. I applaud him for caring about the environment. But, I also enjoy giving him a hard time.

His rental home in Norman had a 100 foot deep back yard and the mower had a 90 foot cord because he had to splice the original 100 foot cord when he…well, you can imagine. I asked him, “Why do you have an electric lawn mower?”

His reply is typical of twenty somethings. “The environment, you obtuse carbon-eating dinosaur.” (He actually is polite but that is the tone)

Humans have always struggled with technology as simultaneous curse and blessing.

The famous economist, Milton Friedman was touring China and came upon a team of nearly 100 workers building an earthen dam with shovels. Friedman pointed out that a single worker could create the dam in an afternoon using a bulldozer. An official replied, “Yes, but think of all the employment the shovels create.” Friedman replied, “Oh, I thought you were building a dam. If it’s jobs you want, then take away their shovels and give them spoons.”

Which got me thinking of a better way to mow my lawn. Can economic theory apply to lawn care? Utilitarian economic theory permits my use of a Bad Boy riding mower. My son prefers environmental theory and a tethered mower running on watts instead of barrels.

But in the spirit of Milton Friedman, if it is less pollution we desire, take away our mowers and give us goats. If everyone employed a herd of goats, think about the benefit to the atmosphere, notwithstanding the ancillary impact of goat flatulence. Just for the record, I do care about the environment, but I have 12 acres to mow and I can’t find a 12 acre cord.

Here is my latest argument. Brandon’s mower is powered by coal and my mower by oil.

The arrow in my argumentative quiver is courtesy of Senator James Lankford.

As a self-proclaimed political recluse, I was at first reluctant, yet still fascinated to attend a round table session with Senator Lankford, and I listened to his story of an exchange he had with a proponent of electric vehicles. The Senator said, “My vehicle is fueled by oil, yours (electric) is fueled by coal.” Meaning, power is produced from the electrical grid to power hybrids and all-electric vehicles. So, please don’t blissfully believe you are not polluting while plugging in.

Like most statements made in the political realm, one can find truth and hype. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, coal sourced power plants make up the largest percentage of electrical power plants in the United States at 33.28% followed by gas at 32.77%, nuclear at 19.57%, hydro at 6.04% and wind at 4.69%. Oklahoma is decidely more clean, with gas plants leading the way at 45.2%, coal at 32.71%, and wind at 18.43%.

So, the Senator is correct. When you plug-in your electric vehicle, there is a price of emission. But according to the Department of Energy, that cost of emission is still currently about half the pollution footprint of a gasoline powered vehicle.

The take-away is to not be fooled into believing there is no environmental cost to plugging in your electric vehicle…and it’s a much higher cost than I would have imagined…and yet, 11,435 annual pounds of CO2 equivalent is still a lot of environmental impact for a gasoline powered vehicle versus 6,258 annual pounds of CO2 for hybrid and electric vehicles.

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php

My son is making me a better man. I’ve grown mellow and have repented of my malevolent revengeful scheme against his power equipment. I will leave his gentle grass shaper to collect dust in silent repose awaiting his return from the Canadian halls of meteorological research. Maybe I’ll even power it up and take it for a gentle spin through a meadow of clover.

I think he’s probably right. I admire my son’s tenacity dragging that ragged cord through grass clippings during a sweltering Oklahoma summer. Here’s to the spirit of my son and the younger generation who are gaining on me fast, busting down stone walls with sledge hammers, mowing gently, and building dams with 1,000 spoons.

I wonder how many goats it takes to mow my lawn? Someday my son will debate the impact of greenhouse pollution with his son and his son will win, but he’ll still promise to go over to his son’s house and beat the crap out of his goat. Legacy doesn’t die without a struggle.

Hiking Like Elijah

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder.” Wonder is one of the reasons I stare at constellations, marvel at newborn babes, and hike with my son. We have hiked many miles over the years.

Gorges Ithaca NY

Waterfall near Ithaca, NY

The best part of hiking has always been wondering what’s around the next boulder or switch back. Just ahead is a stream, beyond that a bluff, a bear smells us, then we see the bear and we stare at one another with no deferential etiquette, just unabated staring bear to man and man to bear. Then a stone chimney rises like a story begging to be told before it falls ingloriously into the humus, and a fence made with the same stone marks the land, once coveted and now abandoned.

Stories rise from the dirt mingling with campfire smoke as we tune in to the small space of earth we explore under the canopy of our immense universe. These patches of earth we walk are exalted places to discover as the immaculate artist reaches down to share light and shading, texture and color, with common dumbfounded witnesses.

Hiking gives way to wonder accompanied by the naming of the wonder using words, but sometimes, only silence is worthy of the moment. Hiking is also about the unexpected gift, often wrapped in competing emotions, converging lasers of bliss and despair pointing to what you already know but won’t say out loud.

This summer while hiking in New York with my wife Karen and daughter Jenna, a story emerged from the dense canopied forest and I realized that I was not only a character in the story, but also the audience.  I experienced the gift of recognition, the vision of a different path, what my life might look like if a foot slipped instead of holding firm. In the midst of my emotional frenzy I hit bottom, no really, I hit my bottom, as my favorite white summer shorts slid into the hillside like Prince Fielder sliding into second turning a triple into a double.  This scar, this hiking stain at my back pocket is courtesy of an ancient gorge cut into a wooded hill south of Ithaca, NY. But it’s the other mark, the stain left on my spirit as I walked down an alternate trail, that won’t wash away.

We were on our way to a wedding in upstate New York. My wife Karen, along with our three children, ages 25, 23, and 22, along with my daughter’s boyfriend, were meandering on a road trip that brought us a few miles south of Cornell University, an area referred to by the Chamber of Commerce pun , “Ithaca is Gorges.”

Determined to avoid a Comfort Inn breakfast bar vacation, we consulted Trip Advisor and booked a yurt, a round tent, surrounded by an organic garden of lettuces, cilantro, peppers, and herbs. Michelle checked us in. She was pretty in an earthy way like her vegetables, organic and natural, no makeup, what I would have called a hippie thirty years ago, but now she rents a round tent in her backyard garden to supplement her career as a realtor. Michelle described the gorge several hundred yards behind the yurt. “You can walk back to the falls, you’ll hear the roar, but there are no distinct trails like in public parks, so be careful.”

Ithaca yurtOur Yurt in New York

While Lauren, Beck, and Brandon drove to the Syracuse airport to pick up Brandon’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, we settled in and explored the garden and set up the kitchen preparing for a dinner of pasta, italian sausage, and a fresh salad from the garden just outside our door. Karen, Jenna, and I, wandered the grounds, exploring the chicken pen with several dozen laying hens. There was a manicured path along the boundary of the woods and a meadow stood between us and the forest which hid the waterfall.

We walked along the path to the edge of towering spruce and pine. Underneath the treed canopy we entered a gentle world, softly lit, unplugged. A thick layer of evergreen needles, leaves, and humus kept growth to a minimum. The forest floor sprouted only an occasional mushroom or an ambitious vine that had stolen enough sun to make a life. So the walking was easy initially, footing was sure until we started down the steep hill toward the roar of the gorge as the earth became more suspect, slick with water trickling just underneath the top layer of rotting leaves and needles.

We walked until we heard the sound of water cascading in the gorge just fifty yards down the hill, but still unseen. Karen’s competitive nature propelled her down the hillside while Jenna and I hung back watching her traverse and disappear. I was carrying a mug of coffee, walking in my favorite Sanuk beach bum slip ons, unprepared for a jaunt down a steep ravine on unstable compost. She was gone. I turned and looked at Jenna and we waited. By this time, I had set my coffee mug against a tree and given up on keeping my shoes free of mud. I was worried and set off down the gorge hoping to see the entire bottom of the gorge from my perch thirty feet above, but I could only see half of the stream bed on the other side. And I began to wonder if Karen had slipped and fallen into the gorge. I walked up to Jenna and told her to run back. Check the yurt. If she isn’t there, go get help.

Then I turned and slipped down the muddy hill all the way to a place where I was able to drop myself to the rock stream bed worn smooth by constant flowing water. I waded downstream toward the falls filled with dread, a vision of Karen lying sprawled in a heap, hurt badly, maybe worse. I was walking down a trail I never had walked down before and I began to think, “What would I do without her?”

Hiking for me had always been about the wonder of what was just around the bend, but now, just around the bend meant my life might change instantly, and I prayed that it wouldn’t, that just around the bend would be mundane and uninteresting, water, rock, soil, vegetation.

I saw nothing. I scrambled up the bank and began climbing crab-like, feet splayed,  a billy-goat on all fours. It was the only way to not fall back down into the gorge.

Reaching the top, I heard Jenna calling me. But I couldn’t make out her words over the roar of the water. She came closer and Karen was behind her. Karen had somehow circled back through the trees and gone back to the yurt, oblivious to our search. When Jenna saw Karen in the garden, she cried and hugged her. When I saw Karen, I said something dull-witted that I can’t remember, and began walking back toward the meadow. We had walked about a hundred yards and I turned around and said feebly, “Don’t do that again.” And I hugged her.

I had walked down a trail unprepared, in surfer shoes and summer shorts, filled with uncertainty, dread, fear. And yet somehow, I realized it was a gift. The gift of a different kind of wonder. The gift of seeing myself walking down a different road and understanding there are no guarantees in this world. The wonder is that we are here at all. It makes me think of an exchange in one of Charles Portis’ books. A church woman engages the protagonist in a discussion about eternal reward and damnation, heaven and hell. “Isn’t it strange that people would be walking about in heaven and hell?” To which came the reply, “Is it not strange that we are walking about here on earth?”

Indeed, sometimes it is strange to be walking about on this earth unsure of what is around the next bend on the trail. But that dynamic tension is what makes our lives worth living, and if we are unaware of the absurdity and beauty that we see side by side on our hike, we become deaf and blind.

Hiking makes me more like Elijah in the Bible.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Soak up wonder like Elijah. Walk through a swirl of brilliant dancing leaves and watch heaven touch earth in wondrous moments, at a place where the holy intersects our sodden wanderings.

Kayak the Caney

Brandon and I launched our kayaks just below the Cherokee Bridge waterfall unsure of the legality of our venture not to mention the health risk. We set off to kayak the Caney River, because we felt like it, in the mold of Sir Edmund Hillary who once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
Caney 3This scene shows Circle Mountain in the background and the river flowing southwest not far from Hillcrest Country Club.

I’ve always been aware of the river, since I grew up in Bartlesville, and I’ve watched it at flood and drought stage, muddy, serpentine, hardly a river one would call beautiful.

Caney River North of 7th Street Bridge

Looking south toward the old and new, the arched concrete structure of the 7th street bridge and the steel and concrete of the new Adams Blvd bridge.

But as we paddled lazily along the shoals of the now gentle, rippled river, I found myself both proud and ashamed.

Caney Brandon Paddling North of Tuxedo

Brandon somewhere south of the Cherokee bridge and north of the Tuxedo bridge

Proud that this river shapes the contours of a beautiful historic city, and that like a plain-faced lass made beautiful in the shadows of a glowing fireplace, this river was somehow made enchanting in the soft pastel of late winter sunlight.

Caney Brandon at Cherokee River Bridge Falls

Brandon ready to launch into the shoals below the Cherokee bridge.

Ashamed because the river swelled with the refuse of my grandfather’s generation–oil drilling pipe and cable–my father’s, bold all-white sidewall tires–and my generation, plastic trash bags and aluminum cans.

Caney Frank Phillips Bridge Underneath w Brandon

Beneath the piers of the Frank Phillips Bridge

We paddled past the discharge pipe of the sewer treatment plant, maneuvering as close as possible to the arc of the water spilling from the pipe. It seemed clear and smelled like fabric softener, perhaps they add Febreze?Caney High River Bank

The high sandy east bank of the Caney, just east of high school. 

We passed under the support structure of the Tuxedo, Frank Phillips and Adams bridges, paddled past the mobile home park, the high school, and disembarked just below the Pathfinder bridge just west of the Wesleyan church on Silver Lake Drive.

Caney Old Bike on River Bank

An old bike was just one of many modes of transportation abandoned to the silt and flow of the river. We saw a hundred old tires, rusting shells of old Model T era cars, an old paddle boat, and lots of oil field equipment.

Caney Old Stone House

The remnants of an old stone house stand on the east bank of the river, probably not too far from Kane Elementary School.

Caney Old Tire Embedded

As we paddled south, the river became a bit cleaner, fewer tires and trash, the water less muddy. We hauled our kayaks on Pathfinder trail over to Silver Lake.

Caney River Old Boat

An old paddle boat somewhere in the vicinity of Robinwood Park

Caney River Old New 7th Street Bridges

The historic graceful arch of the old bridge filters the late day sun next to the modern, but less beautiful bridge which was built about 1972

Caney River Old Piers w Brandon

Here are the piers of the old bridge just south of Frank Phillips Bridge.

Caney River South of 7th Street Bridge

On Christmas day, three days after we made our first run from the Johnstone falls to Pathfinder bridge, we set out to finish the river, from Hillcrest/Sandcreek junction, all the way to the 2400 road bridge near gap road.

Caney 1

We launched on Sand Creek underneath the old metal and wood bridge on the east road to Circle Mountain

Caney 2

While still on Sand Creek, we spied an old cemetery headstone lodged against some debris. We didn’t see the name, but the person was born in 1860 and died in 1950.

Caney 4

Turning south onto the Caney from the intersection of Sand Creek, the river flows faster and wider. This section of the river is really pretty and we saw a large heron, a couple of turtles, and a coyote running parallel to the bank, until seeing us, and the coyote scurried into the woods.

Caney 5

The banks of the river are very steep, more imposing when viewed from water level, hard to climb up and out. Brandon exited to get a view of the topography west towards Circle mountain and snapped a picture of me circling below, waiting on his return.

Caney 6

A different perspective, Christmas day floating down the river, somewhere between Rice Creek road and 2300 road

Caney River Under 7th Street BridgeSunlit shoals just south of 7th street

We dragged our kayaks up the muddy bank east of gap road 2400 bridge. The sun was fading quickly, and we borrowed a neighbors field and woods, a short cut to the truck we had shuttled along 2400 road next to the bridge. Brandon found an old camouflage hat, probably someone dropped while hunting. He put it on and we got in the truck and headed home.

We started the day around a Christmas tree and ended it paddling down a cold coffee river. It felt good to paddle 8 miles with my son on a river I’d noticed in passing while growing up in my hometown, but had never really seen up close, until now.