There are always a few days in November that provide some of the best paddling outings of the year. Bold blue sky, crystal clear water, enough fall colors left to keep your camera busy, that special feeling of a face alive and pulsating from the caress of a light breeze, and a body kept warm and toasty by the low-angled sun, and your trusty fleece and windbreaker.

We recently headed to Scarborough’s winding Nonesuch River for three hours of exploring just inland from the open ocean at Pine Point. The boat launch near the end of the Clay Pits road west of the Black Point Road provides an idyllic setting to launch your canoe and head either upriver 21/2 twisting miles to the Black Point Road or head south a few miles toward the open basin north of Pine Point.

We went in both directions, first hugging the northern shoreline westward past the small cottage community near the end of Winnocks Point to the Boston and Maine Railroad trestle over the Dunstan River. It didn’t take long to see our first blue heron, and then a few feet in front of us a red-breasted merganser emerging up from a dive. A merganser may dive up to 250 times a day to catch the 15 fish it needs daily to survive.

A persistent north wind buffeted and bent the golden marsh grasses out over the water. We were thankful for the protection of the shoreline. We had timed the tides perfectly, starting out two hours before high tide so we could enjoy the artistic creations etched into the mud banking lining the channel.

Later at high tide we enjoyed paddling right along the edge of the marsh grasses submerged in a few inches of saltwater. The walls of the mud banking we had been at eye level two hours before were now below us, looking like a miniature kingdom of clay formations.

The incoming tide creates a strong current under the railroad trestle as all the water coming up from the ocean is funneled through a constricted channel. We were careful not to get flushed through and not be able to power our way back against the current. A few hundred yards south of the trestle we looked to the northwest and spied the conical profile of the Presidential Range all draped in white from a recent snow. In the soft November light it took our breath away.

Along the shore a half-mile south of the trestle, lines of aquaculture containers and floats were strung for a hundred yards. Flocks of semipalmated sandpipers moved about on top of the crates lured by the oysters inside. Many of these sandpipers will leave here and fly nonstop 2,000 miles to the coast of South America. They will need full fuel tanks and much resolve.

We headed back toward the launch site, passing by a solitary loon riding the wavelets. Countless ducks erupted up out of the vast expanse of grasses as we followed the serpentine river to another railroad trestle spanning the eastern arm of the estuary. There was just barely enough room for us to carefully duck under the bridge at the height of the tide and return back under a few minutes later.

After loading the canoe back on our vehicle we lazed about the docks pulled up into the grasses for the winter. The early afternoon sun took all ambition away. We closed our eyes and soaked in the restorative warmth. It was hard to believe that it would be another six months before these weathered docks would again be placed out into the Nonesuch for another boating season.

We drove the three miles south to Prouts Neck to enjoy one of the best views in Maine on a clear day, the view from the road in front of the Black Point Inn. Our gaze followed the long white ribbon of Western Beach to the artery of blue where we had been paddling. Far beyond that sat the resolute line of the snow-draped Presidentals.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map #3) for help in getting to the public boat launch on the Clay Pits Road 1.5 miles south of Route 1 via the Black Point Road (Route 207). If you pass by the Black Point Cemetery you have gone too far.

It has been another memorable paddling season. Let’s try to sneak in another outing before we trade paddles for ski poles.

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses and schools.

Contact: [email protected]

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