Wish I had a River that I could skate away on…..
These are lyrics from the heartfelt song by Joni Mitchell entitled “River” -- popular in 1974.

We have a new addition to our family, a young collie that we have name Kalie. This high energy, joyous dog requires lots of exercise. And so, we are walking -- no, make that running -- in the woods two to three times a day. Today's morning romp led us down by the creek that is now angrily swollen and churning like a murky grayish green monster. It is just about to breach its banks, and our young dog could sense the danger as she shrunk back from the water's edge.

The current moves so swiftly, that man or beast can be carried away in seconds, and we have seen evidence of that over the years. The violent current, which can push trees over on their sides, creates an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. This is the energy of danger, almost too intense to take in, as opposed to last summer's drought that caused sections of the Little Wappingers Creek to slow down to a mere trickle in some areas. Today the temperature is warmer than usual and marks another year of odd winter weather, which we are not accustomed to in the Northeast.

I let my mind take me back to the only time since we have lived here, that we actually saw the creek frozen solid. I don't recall what year it was, but often we measure time by our experiences and not the calendar. We were returning from the little store in Salt Point, when we were delighted to see what looked like a scene from Currier and Ives. There, where the creek spills over the falls, to the north side of the bridge on Salt Point Turnpike, was a group of families skating. They had a fire going and were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. What a time they were having! We wanted in!

We rushed home to find our skates. My husband, Will, dusted his off while I unwired mine from the Christmas wreath on the front door. We drove back down the road and pulled into a gravel parking lot across from William's Lumber, which is in fact a public park open to all.

We laced up our skates. Clunk! Clunk! Clunk! We made our way down the bank and gingerly stepped off onto the ice. We hadn't been on skates since we were kids! I fondly remembered the times when we could stay out on the ice all day, doing the whip, while the tough kids smoked cattails and my older sister guided me to the "other side of the pond." This time on the ice was much different. My legs shook as my brain tried to wrap around balancing my body. My arches were screaming. It used to be so easy! When did I get sooo old? Thank goodness there were two of us to hold each other up. Then our years of dancing experience kicked in and helped us regain our grace. And so, channeling Hans Brinker, we pair skated across the creek like old pros, in no time at all.

Not wanting to intrude on what seemed like a birthday party, we decided to explore the creek and head upstream. My husband kept telling me not to look down, but I couldn't help it. I was seeing something moving under my feet. There were huge carp rolling under the ice! I had never seen them this big before. Perhaps the fish are bigger where the water runs the deepest and the current is slower. Or maybe they smelled the hot dogs.

The view from the middle of the creek roused our curiosity and we couldn't help but want to explore further, to see how far upstream we could actually skate. Of course we were hoping to skate all the way back to our house, which would have been two miles. We loved the idea of skating down the creek for milk and bread. Wow! What a novelty. But where the water becomes shallow upstream and begins to turn toward our neighbor's house, the going got rough. The ripples froze and the ice became too bumpy.

It was so interesting to see the back perspective of people's homes along the creek, as opposed
to seeing them from the street. How charming! Some had canoes along the water, others let the creek's edges grow over. Some had stone steps leading to the water and beautiful patios to view nature. But my aching arches did not allow me to stay upright very much longer. It seems the older I get, the less my feet will tolerate the constraints of ice skates and ski boots.

We were eager to see what the skating conditions were like in our own backyard. Later that day, and for many days to follow, we made circles and figure eights on our own private rink. There, the winter that the creek stayed frozen, we saw the tracks of a local bobcat, whose eerie sounds we heard at night, and we made note of his territorial markings. Bobcat urine smells just like rotten Welch's grape juice, and this guy sprayed everywhere.

I am always telling my friends, family, and clients about how special it is to live here. You wish you had a river you could skate away on? We've got that in our own backyard!

Pat Laine is a 8 year resident of Clinton. She owns and operates Little Creek Therapeutic Massage. She shares her home with her husband Will and their two Maine Coon Cats. Whether from walking in the woods, or from their vantage point overlooking Little Wappingers Creek and its environs, they observe the miracles of wildlife and plant life on a daily basis.

Miss the previous months' contributions to IN OUR BACKYARD?
Here is January
Here is December