March – Winter in Menopause

March is winter in menopause — occasional hot flashes and frequent mood swings.

I used to hate March because it was nearly impossible to plan a weekend canoe trip around fleeting moments of good weather. Retirement has changed that.

With the promise of daytime temperatures in the 50s or better, I waited out a winter storm on March 8, and set out early March 9 for three days and two nights on the Walhonding River. Here’s the Canubaru, loaded and ready to go:



In contrast here’s what it looked like the following night at my campsite on the island at Six Mile Dam. (Daytime temperatures had reached the mid 50s.):




I spent all day exploring the island, which I first camped on in October 2012. I didn’t measure the acreage, but the island is at least 600 yards long. I’m not sure whether it had always been an island or if it was created when the dam was built to impound water for canals in the first half of the 19th Century:



The southeast part of the island is aquatic grassland and the rest mature forest, which includes this huge sycamore:


On a smaller scale is something my friend, Jan Kennedy, told me was puttyroot orchid, the only known orchid in the world to produce seeds resembling disposable lighters:


While photographing the “selfie” to give a sense of scale to the sycamore, I found a huge owl pellet, which contains mammal and bird parts:


An elevated roadbed spans the island – with some sort of canal lock in the middle, which begins at the roadbed and ran down to the river:






Temperatures dropped into the mid to lower 30s at night, and there was still plenty of evidence of winter:





My trusty Canon G10 died while I was exploring the island late in the afternoon. Fortunately, I had enough of a charge left in my cellphone camera to get some shots on the third day. Before heading downstream to the takeout at Lake Park in Coshocton, I got some photos of what appears to be an intake structure at the dam. Apparently it was used to fill the canals and had enough room to turn a canal boat around inside it. Here are a few detail shots:


Atop the wall are three valve mechanisms that probably operated gates to fill the canal. Also, there is a survey marker indicating the elevation above sea level and threatening a hefty fine of $250 for anyone caught tampering with it.




From atop the intake structure wall, this is the view looking upstream. The foot of the island is on the left. Not a lot of wiggle room to get a 17-foot canoe between it and the dam. I would not recommend trying it during periods of high water.


I’m sorry to report that an eagles nest downstream of the dam appears to be inactive this year. I’m hoping that maybe the eagles were just laying low when I floated by, but I saw no signs of life.

Temperatures reached the mid 60s on the final day of the trip – another March “hot flash.” But it was a promise of spring just the same.