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Perfect Paddle at Bluff Point

The air is warm, humid and scented with pine as I meander down the dirt road into Bluff Point State Park and my head fills with sweet memories. The big piece of plastic on my roof is secured with straps so even traversing bumps and potholes or splashing through shallow puddles does not dislodge my precious cargo. A smile immediately brightens my face at the first water view and I am moments away from solo happiness.

Sliding the 10-foot kayak from the roof onto the rock and dirt driveway is pretty easy after covering the rear hatch with a towel to prevent scratches. Filling the big plastic toy with a two-sided paddle, a PFD (life jacket) and a bottle of water, I half-carry and half-drag it to the water’s edge. It slides almost effortlessly over the gentle sandy slope into the shallow, warm water. Outfitted stylishly with a yellow PFD, faded red hat, water sandals, and clip-on sunglasses, I’m ready for action. With one gentle push I step in, balance awkwardly then carefully lower myself onto the low seat while gliding softly on the flat water.

The forward motion of alternately dipping each paddle must resemble, slightly, the same transportation that has been used for thousands of years. The glaring yellow and orange plastic I’m floating in is only a distant cousin to the log kayaks and birch canoes that are still handmade in some cultures. If I were limited to floating exclusively in something I created, it wouldn’t happen. I’m grateful for the modern amenities of a lightweight plastic shell, comfortable seat, personal flotation device (life jacket) plus a car and rooftop carrier for transportation. And I’m not very serious about foraging for berries or catching dinner…but I did pack a pocket fisherman.

The small cove immediately leads to a larger cove through the stone remnants of a small bridge. Since the bridge juts out a bit into the water, it is a popular place for hopeful anglers whose lines in the water must be carefully avoided. I breathe in deeply the salty air and begin to paddle earnestly to create a pace that feels good to my arm and shoulder muscles.

I glide occasionally to enjoy the peace and quiet or to take in beautiful vistas. On my left to the East is a lush forested area with tall pine trees and a small, sandy beach. On beautiful, warm days there are almost always a few families enjoying themselves since this piece of paradise is an easy 20 minute walk from the parking lot.

A mechanical sound draws attention to the Groton/New London airport immediately to the West. Small aircraft fly in and out of this prime location throughout the day, an interesting juxtaposition between nature’s beauty and man’s mechanical genius. A few minutes of paddling past flocks of bobbing water birds and grassy berms brings me to another narrow water transition. The runway light structures rise up from the water connecting visually to the main runway. An expensive aircraft taking off directly overhead reminds me of last summer’s emergency landing of a single-occupant plane off nearby Misquamicut Beach. The pilot was rescued by a lifeguard just as the plane sunk in 60 feet of water. I silently hope this plane travels safely.

If I beach the kayak on the sandy, skinny peninsula between this protected cove and the ocean, this would be a gorgeous place for a private picnic. Instead, I slip a plastic lure onto my handy Pocket Fisherman and drop the line into the shallow water. Letting the line extend out a dozen feet after it lands on the bottom, I secure my fishing tool and begin paddling. Watching the clear water while paddling through what I hope will be abundant schools of fish helps me to assess a complete absence of them. Perhaps the flocks of seagulls and glossy black cormorants I passed are resting and socializing rather than fishing.

Directly across this skinny inlet is a marina and the scenic Avery Point campus of UConn. I’ve arrived at the legendary waters of Long Island Sound with only 20 minutes of casual paddling and am greeted by spectacular views. At this point I contemplate the docked boats at the marina while enjoying a private, peaceful moment on the same ocean. I’m easily enticed to the ocean during good weather. Money will always be necessary but time on the water creates priceless memories.

I leave the fishing line out while paddling all the way back to my car. Secretly relieved to have no fish to fillet, my brief water adventure is completely relaxing and has dissolved stress from my body. Brilliant sunshine and impossibly-blue skies are a huge bonus.

Visitors to Bluff Point tend to hike or bike all or part of a 4-mile easy trail which passes several secluded, clean beaches. This State-preserved treasure costs nothing to enjoy as there is neither an entrance fee nor a parking fee. This makes it especially easy to enjoy for just an hour or two between other activities but there is enough available for an entire day’s entertainment. There are portable toilets near the parking lot and on the trail. This park is family-friendly with shallow water areas for wading and exploration. Small watercraft such as kayaks, canoes & stand-up paddleboards are easy to launch and enjoy, even for beginners. And the tall trees and grass berms offer protections on both windy and sunny days.

Friends and I have enjoyed wooded hiking, comfortable biking, and perfect paddling throughout the 800 pristine acres. Weekdays are less crowded and dogs are welcome if kept on a leash. Please ALWAYS clean up after yourself and your pets.

Click here for more information: Bluff Point Info

Dinner Note: the waters of Bluff Point hold some of the very best clams in Connecticut and a shellfish license is affordable and available at Groton Town Hall and local bait shops. Maybe you’ll return home with one of the yummiest souvenirs Connecticut has to offer.

Elizabeth SaedeElizabeth Saede is a local author of Lobster Summer. She is also the author of thisismystic.com’s “On the Water” column. Elizabeth can be reached by email at Sunshine06378[at]gmail.com.

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