One of my favorite things to do is to kayak, and fall is an especially fun time to be on the water. I enjoy watching the geese flocking, the deer and grey squirrels swimming across the river, and the birds of prey fishing. Watching the birds of prey fishing is my favorite. Sometimes the birds catch huge fish that they are unable to lift out of the water for long enough to make it to shore. They fall back into the water, get waterlogged, and have to swim to shore. They are not as good at swimming as the ducks and geese are, but they can do it.
The grey squirrels are fun to watch, too. I do not know why they swim across the river. My friends and I joke that maybe they are practicing for squirrel triathlons, and if you look closely, you can see tiny bicycles hidden in the forest.
According to the Harris Center in New Hampshire, the area where the Connecticut River and West River meet is home to an especially diverse array of bird species, some of which are otherwise only found on the seacoast. There are many different types of shorebirds and songbirds to be found. Binoculars are helpful.
While I love to watch the animals, I also get a good workout by kayaking. And I don't have to deal with cars or downhills.
The West River is a no-wake zone, making it especially accessible to beginner paddlers. I see a lot of canoes, kayaks, and rowing shells when I kayak there. In the Connecticut River, there are motorboats. The larger wakes can be dealt with by pointing the nose of the canoe or kayak directly into the waves, so that the boat is perpendicular to the wave. Then the length of the boat stabilizes it.
It is nice when motorboat drivers slow down in order to be considerate to the people in the small, non-motorized boats. Slowing down may seem annoying, but it's a chance to see some of the wildlife. For this to be effective, the motorboat needs to slow down before getting near the small boat.
Many of the small ponds and lakes in the area have limits on motorboat speeds and/or engines, making them nice for small non-motorized boats. Spofford Lake and the Harriman Reservoir have fast motorboats. Most other local bodies of water do not.
Being in nature on the water is especially good for the brain. It is good for your mood, memory, learning ability, and general mental health. It is also good for those aspects of the immune system that fight cancer. Being on a body of water is especially good. A book to read to learn more is "Your Brain On Nature," by Alan C. Logan.
For people who like competition, check out New England Canoe Kayak Racing Association. They usually have a "recreation" class in their races, so that people can use whatever boat they happen to have. The people are friendly, and there is sometimes a cookout after the race. The most recent race was the Paddle Battle at Herrick's Cove, in Bellows Falls. This race was put on by the locals, and featured a live eight-piece orchestra and hand-carved trophies.
In whatever form you enjoy, it's great to be out on the water.
Heidi Henkel is a math tutor, dance teacher, fitness trainer and massage therapist who lives in Putney.