Saturday, October 23, 2010

River Walk for One

Despite having been out on the Northern Neck just yesterday, the weather had prohibited spending much time on the Rappahannock. The wind, ungodly strong and uncharacteristically from the west, made being on the dock way too cold for my shorts-clad legs.

So today's shiny 72-degree day practically begged some time down at the river. I made a pit-stop at Nick's Market here in J-Ward for one of his excellent Italian subs on my way south. Might as well incorporate lunch into my river time.

Walking across the suspension bridge, a musician I know and I had to do a double-take when we passed each other, neither of us initially recognizing the other outside of a music venue. We laughed about seeing each other in the day-lit non-music world.

Over on Belle Isle, I had lots of company. Not like sunny-summer-day-people-on-every-rock crowded, but plenty of others like me out to enjoy this beautiful late October day.

As I skirted the water, I was surprised to see two river rafts of people paddling furiously over the white water, their team leaders calling out instructions. For some reason, I think I thought the raft outings ended with Labor Day. Not so, apparently.

When I got up to the bend in the path, I headed down to the flat rocks for my afternoon in the sun. There was a guy sunbathing nearby (in swimming trunks, no less, not just shorts) and studying who said hello. I met a couple with a little beagle, reminding me of my beagle and all the hot days we spent down there cooling off last summer.

Facing out to Hollywood Cemetery, I spread out my lunch and tucked into it. Is there anything more basic or more delicious than a good Italian cold cut sub (and the requisite chips that go with it)? Everyone needs a Nick's Market two blocks from their house. For that matter, everyone needs a pumpkin cupcake with whiskey cream cheese frosting for dessert, at least during October.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of kayakers coming around the bend in the rocks, making u-turns to go back and come through the whitewater again and again. When they tired of that, they paddled in front of us and I noticed that one had on a Lycra tank top and the other a turtle-neck long-sleeved Lycra shirt.

Not sure which one was over or under-dressed, I decided to wade in and check the water temperature. Taking off my shoes, I went in far enough to establish that the water was pretty chilly, but by no means unbearable (I've felt the ocean colder in July on the Outer Banks).

No doubt vigorous paddling on a bright sunny day would heat up the body enough to compensate for any cool river spray, so I'm going to go with the guy with the well- muscled arms and tank top being properly attired (although I may have been swayed by the nice arms).

I watched an endless train snake through the bank below the cemetery, squealing and clanging slowly all the while. Because the river level is below five feet, there were rocks everywhere, making for easy river walking almost the whole way across, although I did disturb a couple of ducks along the way and they flapped away in disgust.

People-watching and enjoying the river views, I had dozens of comments I could have made if I'd had company. Still, the afternoon at the river was exactly what I'd needed and just listening to the rushing water for a couple of hours had satisfied whatever that need is.

Now, about those other needs...

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