Monday, February 20, 2017

Look of Winter, Feel of Spring

Went to the water yesterday not knowing if I'd find it liquid or solid.  Reaching the tip of Egg Rock's ice tongue, and with my boat floating at the junction of the Assabet, Concord, and Sudbury rivers, I was happy to see open water in all directions.
 
While things may have looked wintry, there was the feel of spring.  It was warm, already plus 50 degrees F. and weather forecasters predicted it would get even warmer when the sun appeared.  I should note, however, that the water temperature is around 40 degrees F. and my attire keeps that fact in mind.

Gangs of robins, such as this guy...
 ...were everywhere.  An occasional bluebird, small woodpecker, or Cardinal were spotted as well.  Ducks included mallards, wood ducks, one pair of buffleheads, and this merganser...
 
I first ascended the Assabet intending to paddle as far as Spencer Brook...
...and then decided to go a little further to Route 2, and then why not Nashoba Brook?...and then how about Pine Street?...then past this backboard...
 ...perhaps meant for river otters, to my eventual turnaround 4.5 miles up from Egg Rock.  That's where the sun emerged and my return trip would see the temperature get close to 60 degrees F.  Periodically, though, I'd feel a brief waft of much cooler air, which I'm guessing emanated from the snow-covered woods.   
 
The Main Street bridge in West Concord never looked better...

Once back at Egg Rock and finding such splendid conditions, how could I not go down the Concord to the Old North Bridge?...
...and then to Great Meadows Landing...and then to Saw Mill Brook where a pair of mute swans continued downriver...
...while I turned about and began heading to the takeout.  Ended up paddling 13 miles and drove less distance (12 miles) to do it which doesn't  happen very often.

Trash was on the light side considering the distance covered...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Grim and Gray Days

It wasn't easy to make out the words etched onto the large rock at water's edge.  This past Sunday morning, I'd paddled in close for the purpose of stopping for a snack before ascending the Assabet River.  After a minute or so I could make out the first line..."By the ancient hemlocks grim and gray"...then the second line became clearer..."Our boat drifts slowly on its way".  The words are from a poem, Floating Hearts by George Bradford Bartlett whom the etched stone is a memorial to.  Later, I found online the rock's full inscription which, near the bottom and under the moss, describes Bartlett as "Most courteous kindly gentleman, and the tender friend to all".

When Bartlett wrote Floating Hearts he was referring to this very spot at a bend in the river where large hemlocks once lined the riverbank and draped over the water.  During his lifetime in the 1800s most of the hemlocks were removed to allow a railroad grade to run along the riverbank.  The railroad operated for about 50 years until being abandoned around 1925.
On this day I'll take the words "grim and gray" to mean...though things might look grim and gray at this moment, this too shall pass.
  
This "so-called" paddler has heard and read some disturbing statements from our country's new administration over the last few weeks, and I'd be lying if I said those statements weren't weighing heavily on my mind while out on the water.  It was to the Assabet River that I went in hopes of thinking things through, and found myself wondering where are the leaders of the Republican party and when will they take a stand on principle?  Just how far will they allow things to deteriorate before they finally find the inner strength necessary to say "This is wrong"?  Ill spoken words are hanging in the air and the time for taking a stand is now.

After my snack break I pushed off from the rock and headed upriver on what could be best described as a "grim and gray" winter's day.  Fortunately
temperatures were in the upper 30s F and the section of the river I paddled was, for the most part, sheltered from the busy breeze.

These two Muscovy ducks didn't have much to say but at least they were taking a stand...

Later this red-tailed hawk took a stand and faced into the stiff breeze...

I went upriver as far as Nashoba Brook...
...which was sending a good flow into the river.

On my return trip I passed the inscription at Egg Rock, noting the water level has dropped a couple of inches...

Trash encountered along the way...
 
 
Yesterday, while reflecting on last Sunday's visit to the Assabet, a small hawk decided to spend several hours on a tree limb outside our window...
 
 
 
After a few hours facing away from our window, it reversed position...
 
...allowing my closest-ever look at, what I believe to be, a Cooper's Hawk.
 
This morning it's being reported that the man recently nominated to the Supreme Court may have taken a stand.  I'm hoping it's true.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Greeting February on the Charles

I've been anticipating February 2017 because it would be the last obstacle to achieving 120 consecutive months paddling on a New England waterway.  Therefore, I decided to strike early on the very first day of the month while waters were still, for the most part, ice-free and the temperature was above 35 degrees F.

A late afternoon job had me traveling southward to the valley of the Charles River so I brushed overnight's snowfall off my car and headed to a canoe launch in Millis.  A locked gate was encountered which prevented vehicular access to the parking area.  This called for a pre-paddle portage of sorts which helped make things novel.

Once on the water I headed downriver and enjoyed a wintry scene...

Checked my watch after passing this sign for Noon Hill and found it to be just a little past noon...


Further down, at a sharp bend in the river, I passed a silent Fin, Fur and Feather Club.

At the confluence with the Stop River I hung a right and paddled up the Stop to Causeway Street to see if the culverts would allow passage...

It would have been passable but perhaps a little too tricky with the wind picking up as skies rapidly cleared.  So, I returned to the confluence...
...and headed back upriver to where I'd launched. 
 
Some trash rounded-up along the way...
 
Now I can rest easy that my streak will push past the ten year mark.  At the same time I can almost hear someone say "That and a buck will get you a cup of coffee at McDonalds."


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mid-Winter Paddle to Brooke Island?

Ordinarily a late January paddle down the Sudbury River to Brooke Island in Fairhaven Bay wouldn't be very realistic due to thick ice.  But given this year's prolonged "January Thaw" the idea seemed perfectly reasonable. 

I launched at Sherman's Bridge in Wayland which sports a new kiosk (opening photo).  The 3.5 mile paddle downriver was under a dark and threatening sky culminating in a brief rain shower just before I landed at an ice-free Brooke Island...
No sooner had I gone ashore than the Bruce Cockburn song "If a tree falls in the forest" started playing on my shuffle listening device.  I'd heard the song yesterday on my favorite radio station, shortly after reading that a "gag order" had been imposed upon the Environmental Protection Agency.  This was something I would only expect from some far-off country suffering under a repressive regime...not my country.  I loaded the song onto my device last night and, to be honest, forgot about it until it popped up randomly. The song is from the late 1980's but is still relevant today.

It was a treat to experience Brooke Island via boat at this time of year...

...and it proved a great spot for enjoying some hot cocoa.

Fairhaven Bay was mostly open water with some ice remaining in the shallowest areas, particularly the southwest corner...
 
 
The slough leading to the Lincoln Canoe Launch was still iced-in...
 
While paddling back upriver the sun began to break through the cloud cover and it was worth turning around to admire Lee's Bridge... 



Our recent snow/rain event raised water levels almost to the point where one could paddle into the Pantry Brook Wildlife Area...

Near the mouth of Pantry Brook a beaver was snoozing atop his almost submerged lodge...

A little further upriver another beaver was found in deep slumber though he did open his eyes...

Wonder what they might be dreaming about.

Weir Hill provided a good spot for another cocoa break...

Rounding the next-to-last bend provided this view of the day's fickle skies...
 
 
Some riverside saplings are displaying a reddish tint...
 
 
Back at Sherman's Bridge a fallen tree was straddling the bridge piers on the upstream side...
 

 
 
Higher water levels resulted in more trash than expected for this stretch of river...
 
 
As a fan of the Blackburn Challenge, the annual paddling/rowing race around Cape Ann, I find myself thinking about how it was this very time of year back in 1883 that Howard Blackburn and his dorymate Tom Welch were in the midst of a life or death ordeal.  At daybreak on January 26th, following a wild storm, the two dory-fishermen realized their mother ship the Grace L. Fears was nowhere in sight and that they were alone on the ocean some 60 miles south of Newfoundland.   Blackburn further realized that he'd lost his mittens while bailing the dory the previous night.  Quite a predicament to be in.  Time for me to revisit Joseph Garland's book Lone Voyager.       


Monday, January 23, 2017

Mittens and Planes

Yesterday, though mostly overcast, was still quite mild with temperatures in the 40's and continues what seems to be an extended January thaw.  The previous day, we'd enjoyed sunshine and temperatures in the low 50's which allowed for biking on a local rail trail.  None too shabby!

Shortly after getting on the water I paddled over to Egg Rock and noted the water level had nearly risen to the inscription.  From there I paddled down the Concord River to see if the wide straightaway below Davis Hill was still iced over (as it was on Christmas day) and instead found open water...
Suspected it was open as I'd encountered a stand-up paddleboarder heading upriver from that direction.

Earlier, on my way downriver I'd come across a small airplane...
Looked as though everyone got out safely and the plane was mostly intact...

Several real airplanes could be heard but not seen as they made their landing approach to Hanscom Field.  The planes would emerge ghostlike from the low-hanging and milky colored clouds just as they crossed above the river.

Some raucous sounds drew my eyes to a pileated woodpecker...

At Saw Mill Brook, flow from Punkatasset's east slope was wending around the man-made channel...

Looks like this tree is budding a bit early...


As I approached the Monument Street bridge on my return trip I saw a car backing up across the bridge and a fellow whistling and waving to get my attention.  It seems his daughter had dropped one of her mittens from the Old North Bridge and they were following the mitten as it floated downriver with the hope of recovering it.  So, of the many things plucked from the water with my paddle yesterday, a small white and pink mitten may have been the most important...at least to the little girl and her parents.

The other stuff found floating, snagged, or on the riverbank...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Assabet's Winter Eagle

Paddled the Assabet River between Cox Street in Hudson and Gleasondale this afternoon enjoying splendid conditions for mid-January.  However, the bright blue skies were shortlived as clouds moved in from the west.
 
When I last paddled this stretch, in mid-November, I noticed construction had commenced at the site of the former Hudson/Stow Landfill.  Today I found a very large array of solar panels now in place...

Further downriver I was surprised to see someone's tent pitched on what looks to be an island just upriver from the golf course...
...a testament to our mild January?

After passing the tent I came upon an eagle who quickly took flight...
...and flew to another tree further ahead...

I suspect the eagle was preying on the many ducks in the area.

Also seen was a red-tailed hawk...
...and a pair of mute swans enjoying some time on the ice...

The horse farm on the side of Orchard Hill was looking good...

Unfortunately, trash was rather plentiful particularly in the first mile below Cox Street.  This stretch of the Assabet is almost always littered with plastic, glass, and Styrofoam flotsam.  Today's haul...
I counted 57 nip bottles.  One odd find was two plastic containers filled with rose petals and list of names...