The other day, Scott Smith enjoyed the glorious Indian Native American weather to kayak out to Cockenoe Island. It was his 2nd trip in recent months. Here’s his report:
I was following up on a discovery I had made with my young son early this summer. Traipsing along the shore, we spotted a narrow footpath leading up a small slope into the island’s hinterlands. Sidestepping the ubiquitous poison ivy vines we ducked under a tangled canopy of small trees, raising a ruckus among the herons, egrets and cormorants that roost among the branches.
It was cool – like being embedded in an episode of “Survivorman.” There were a dozen boats anchored in the shallow waters of the bay still within earshot. But just into the shadows of the poop-flecked trees, we had the island to ourselves. Who knew that so close to Compo you could feel like Robinson Crusoe?
As the birds above us took flight, my little man Friday looked to the ground. Littered among the bits of broken eggshells, musty bird droppings and stray feathers were scores of rusty cans and broken bottles. The sight of so much human detritus mystified and slightly spooked my son, but I recognized it right away as a scene out of my own now-distant past – a secret place for what looked like generations of underage partying.
As we gingerly poked among the evidence, I tried to answer as best I could the innocent and inevitable questions: Where did all these beer cans come from? Who drank them? When? Why? And why did they just leave them here? I knew but wasn’t saying — at least not too much.
No, there were no hobos living on Cockenoe Island. Yes, people drink lots of beer, and have for a long time. I don’t know – maybe they didn’t have enough room on their boats…
We left the hidden campsite on Cockenoe as we found it, me bemused by a blast from the past, my boy a bit closer to reaching that time in his teens when adventure is less about paddling around on a kayak with your old man and more about discovering where best to go with the booze smuggled out of the convenience store or parents’ liquor cabinets.
He declined my invite to paddle back out to the island for garbage detail the other day. Too much like work, I suppose, so I had the island all to myself. The nesting birds were long gone, though the goldenrod blooming across the island’s rocky shoals were lit up with scads of monarch butterflies. (That solves a puzzle that probably goes unnoticed by power boaters but not kayakers – the curious sight of butterflies flitting across the open Sound).
But my son was on my mind as I dutifully filled up a large black plastic bag with the remains of all those years of partying. For every can of freshly chucked Coors Light on top of the leaves was a rusted old pull-tab can, half-buried. When did anyone last pop open one of those? The ‘70s?
There were tall green wine bottles of the Boone’s Farm variety, cans of Budweiser faded bright red to mellow yellow, glass jugs of Gallo half-filled with scum, and squat brown bottles of some obscure brew long gone from local shelves.
My plastic bag already tearing from the glass shards and cans with muck, I left many of the more rusty hulks behind. I felt like I was disturbing a kind of archeology site — our disposable era’s equivalent of an ancient shell mound. I set a few of the more curious finds on a rock and took a photo. I didn’t come of age around here, but some local reader might recognize their provenance.
I dallied long enough to contribute a fresh empty to the Hefty bag, then heaved it all into the front seat of the kayak. On the voyage back home to Compo, it rode better that way. Just like when my son is in the bow, up in front of me.