A kayak’s view of Brattleboro, VT
“The one and only Brattleboro” is located on the Connecticut River about forty minutes from my house in Keene, NH. This funky little town is peppered with great places to eat, drink, shop and people watch but on Saturday May 26th I opted to tour “Brat” by boat with my wife Brenda and our good friend Heather. Our day began in the parking lot of The Marina restaurant, one of my favorite places to start and end a paddling adventure for reasons I’ll describe later. True to their name, the good people at The Marina welcome all kayakers and canoeists to use their launch but if they’re busy, they respectfully request you head north to the public launch off a dirt road less than a mile away.
We put our boats in and took a lazy tour around the West River to loosen up and get a feel for the kayaks we hadn’t paddled since the early fall. We headed under the small bridge connecting Putney Road and the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Highway and took a right onto the Connecticut. It was a perfect day for paddling, brilliant sunshine and no humidity to mar the seventy-three degree temperature. As you might expect, great conditions like these on Memorial Day Weekend meant we had a good bit of company on the water. The Connecticut River is home to several marinas and launch areas for kayakers, canoeists and power boaters. On this day, we all shared the water nicely.
Within a blissful hour or so, the Brattleboro “skyline” appeared to our right. For suggestions on ways to spend a day in Brat on dry land, I invite you to check out Brenda’s recent post on Yankee Magazine’s Explore New England blog. If you tour the town by kayak, you’ve got to see what’s under the Main Street bridge.
Views like this are what I love most about kayaking.
You can’t climb down to this vantage point and the space is too tight and too shallow for a power boat. The only way to access a scene like this is by kayak or canoe which is where the real magic of the sport lies for me. That, and the envious looks from land-locked pedestrians like the ones we got as we passed under Bridge Street.
A few minutes later, we came upon a small island that begged for a closer look.
I was initially drawn in by the flowers above but as I made my way around the other side of the island, I stumbled upon something that can only be described as “Classic Brattleboro.”
This is a town where public nudity is legal, art is celebrated, the local farmer’s market is revered, and cows have their own annual parade (The Strolling of the Heifers is Saturday, June 2 in case you’re interested), so when I spotted the lounge chair made from river debris guarded only by a “Please Don’t Destroy” sign, I just smiled and appreciated the free spirit who took the time to build it smack dab in the middle of the Connecticut River.
At this time, the air and water became thick with white fluffy puff balls that I initially thought were dandelion spores.
A closer look at the island that connects Brattleboro Road and Bridge Street revealed the source of the near white-out conditions.
Thanks to the Eastern Mountain Sports Facebook community, I learned that this was a Dogwood Tree and while I could have lived without the occasional tuft in my nose and mouth, it certainly made for an interesting experience.
On the way back to The Marina, we hugged the east bank of the Connecticut and enjoyed the rockier terrain.
It was here that I was hit with the awesome, earthy aroma of pine needles in the sun that reminded me of summer camping trips with my family to North Truro on Cape Cod. Speaking of camping, there were two points in this paddling trip where we were reminded that for some people, camping is not an escape from reality, but reality itself. The bridge connecting Putney Road and the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Highway is one man’s home and just a few paddle strokes past him we noticed an encampment of three tents and a tarp created by people who clearly weren’t there to celebrate the unofficial start of summer, or anything else for that matter. I didn’t photograph these scenes out of respect for the people who live there but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them and how fortunate I feel to have a family that nurtured me, a job that supports me and a home to head to at the end of the day.
After returning our boats to our car racks, we made the short walk to the Marina for an early dinner with a few tasty beverages from the bar.
I’m a sucker for The Marina’s steak and cheese but their pulled pork sandwich is also pretty great. Kayaking on the Connecticut River may not be the most intrepid adventure, but if you’re looking for a chill day with friends followed by a few frosty beverages and moments of appreciation, it doesn’t get much better than this.