The last two months I’ve written about my walks on Wellesley. But as with anything in life, sometimes it’s not the destination that is important. It’s the journey. It isn’t just the walk that I enjoy but getting there is always a journey filled with wonderful sights. When you live on an island, anything you do off the island involves a trip in the boat.
I usually write in the morning and walk in the afternoon, but weather and wind are sometimes a factor. Husband, Gary, is a weather nut, always checking weather.com, checking the hour-by-hour forecast and putting the satellite images in motion to ascertain the best time for me to walk. No fun getting stuck in an open boat during a rainstorm or worse, a thunderstorm. I don’t mind a gentle rain, but a driving rain hurts! Lightning scares me.
My first walk last season was on an overcast and windy day. On the way back, my engine died in Eel Bay. I pulled out my cellphone to call for help and realized my track phone didn’t roam to Canadian cell towers and I was out of reach of the towers on the U.S. mainland. I had no coverage. My small whaler drifted far back into Eel Bay as I monkeyed with the engine, trying to get it to start again. So out came the paddle and I paddled my way back against the wind to the state park dock. I was able to diagnose the problem, get the motor started and finally made my way back to Grenell. I was pretty proud of myself!
Getting from here to there on the river is always an adventure. Most days, my trip is less eventful, but somehow always dramatic. The ten to fifteen minutes I spend in the boat is refreshing, and a nice segway mentally between writing mode and walking mode. I’m blasted with air as I skim across the water. I inhale deeply. The scent off the water is intoxicatingly fresh. Early in the season the air can be downright frigid and I have to bundle up.
My favorite part of crossing from our place on the NE tip of Grenell to the Wellesley Island State Park boat dock in Eel Bay, is going through the Narrows.
We have a great view of the Narrows from our dining room window and our bedroom window on the second floor. It’s the first thing I see when I sit up in bed in the morning. Of course from our vantage point on Grenell, Murray Island and Wellesley Island look like one long landmass, but I know that the tall rock palisade marks a passageway from South Bay to Eel Bay where Murray and Wellesley fit together like a puzzle pieces.
The place is called “The Narrows”, not a unique name on the River. There are the American Narrows near Alexanderia Bay and the Gananoque Narrows and who knows how many other Narrows in the Thousand Island area. But in my mind these are THE narrows.
It’s a no wake zone and you have to slow down to pass through. Slowing down is a good thing because there is a lot to see.
Most notably there is an osprey nest on a power pole on the Murray side of the Narrows. In 2008 this nest caught fire and two fledglings fell from the nest. They were rescued by a passing kayaker and placed in a rehabilitation facility where they recovered.
I almost always see two herons on my daily trips through the Narrows: one on the south side and one on the north side. It’s not unusual for me to see them catch and eat a fish while I’m passing through. But I see other birds: mallards, Canada geese, kingfishers, wood ducks, and mergansers. Last year, I saw a pair of loons almost everyday early in the season. I’ve seen deer drinking at the water’s edge and mink gamboling alone the shoreline. And one hot afternoon, I spotted a porcupine on a limb hanging over the water—trying to cool off I suppose.
But slowing down means the engine is hushed to a whisper and the towering rocks on one side and magestic white pines on the other side rise like cathedral walls around me. The silence is engaging. I feel transported back to another era. Years ago, I read somewhere that there was a naval battle at this spot in the Narrows back during the War of 1812. I can’t remember the names or the ships, nor can I remember where I read the account. But it’s stuck in my memory that an American ship hid in the passageway from the British ship that had chased it across Eel Bay. When the British ship approached, the American ship opened fire. Sometimes as I putt through the Narrows, I imagine the American ship, the masts almost as tall as the cliffs, waiting for the British ship to appear. I can almost hear the boom canons and the excited calls of men aboard.
As I exit the Narrows, I press the throttle. The whaler zips across the water leaving behind my thoughts of a bygone era and soon enough I’m slowing again as I enter our little cove on the downriver side of Grenell. Home again.
(Click to enlarge photographs)
By Lynn E. McElfresh
Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to TI Life often writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. Once again Lynn takes us on a walk on Wellesley Island, this time exploring the special section known as “The Narrows” . Not only is Lynn an accomplished writer, but she also takes her camera along on excursions. The McElfresh family have left the river and now reside in their winter quarters in Dunedin. Florida. To see all of Lynn’s island experiences, search TI Life under Lynn E. McElfresh. Lynn’s bio was profiled in August 2009.