Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hitting the Brooks

Last Sunday I paddled a wee bit up one of the Assabet River's major tributaries, Nashoba Brook, and noted it was flowing pretty well.  That thought must have been fermenting deep inside my cranium for, when some paddling time opened up yesterday, I found myself wondering about exploring Nashoba Brook upstream of Warner's Pond to where it's joined by Fort Pond Brook.  Also of interest was a chance to explore the long abandoned railroad location, Middlesex Junction, and possibly ascend Fort Pond Brook.

Once I located a map old enough (1894) to show the two brooks as well as the railroad junction, I was captivated by Warner's Pond representation on the map and how it looked to me like a surprised amoeba...

The amoeba's left arm is Nashoba Brook entering from the northwest.  The upper X is Nashoba Brook and the X to the left is Fort Pond Brook.  Interestingly the confluence of the two brooks is very near Middlesex Junction where the old Middlesex Central Railroad (aka Reformatory Branch) once connected with the Framingham and Lowell RR as well as the Nashua, Acton, and Boston RR.

It was a warm 60 degrees F. and cloudy when I launched into Warner's Pond (the X to right) in West Concord and paddled along the pond's north end.  One of the state prison's towers stood guard to the east...
The 48 acre Warner's Pond was created in the 1800s by damming Nashoba Brook and once provided power for Mr. Warner's pail factory.

Shortly I found where the Nashoba Brook enters the pond and pushed past a small beaver dam...

Next I paddled up to and past where Fort Pond Brook comes in from the west. Continuing a short distance further brought me to where the more recently abandoned Framingham and Lowell Railroad crosses Nashoba Brook...
The stone abutments here once supported two bridges with only the northerly of the two remaining.

After exiting my boat, I explored the area of the junction.  This view looks to the east to where Middlesex Junction may have been located...
The tracks pictured are of the Framingham and Lowell RR and, obviously, haven't seen a train for several decades.

This view also looking east shows the empty right of way (on the south side) leading to the missing bridge...

This view is looking west towards Route 2 and shows where the rail-less right of way rejoined the one still having rails...
Perhaps the Framingham and Lowell was once double tracked from this point eastward and that explains the missing second bridge?

A future extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail will someday be crossing Route 2 at this location.

At any rate, it was back to my waiting boat and a continued ascension of Nashoba Brook which had me soon passing under Route 2...

Near Keefe Road in Acton, and just past this outdoor obstacle course, navigable water ceased to exist...
This location became my turnaround point and I began heading back downstream.  Along the way I encountered a 5-gallon Poland Springs hiding in the brush...

One of the more scenic spots along this section of Nashoba Brook...
The brook ran clear with small sandbars at the many sharp bends.

With 2 of my 3 goals accomplished I arrived back at the brook's confluence with Fort Pond Brook and wondered if an ascent of that brook might be possible.  Getting past a fallen tree right at the confluence required about 15 minutes of maneuvering but, once past, it was clear sailing for half a mile upstream.  The brook winds its way through a grassy meadow nestled between 2 ridges.  The ridge to the southeast has a great stand of tall pines (opening photo) and this...

After landing at a point where the brook briefly lapped at the ridge's base I found this well-worn trail...

I suspect that this red-tailed hawk usually has this picturesque valley to himself...
This spot is less than 3 miles from my home and I've driven past it many times over the years, never realizing just how beautiful it is.

The trip back to Warner's Pond was fairly quick, and getting past the fallen tree proved easier going this time with the current.  Once back at the pond I paddled where its waters pass over the spillway for the short run to the Assabet River...
The Commonwealth Ave bridge and Nashoba Bakery can be seen beyond the stone work.

Earlier in Nashoba Brook I'd found a 1940 Calvert half-pint whiskey bottle with an embossed eagle...
I'd wondered if it might be an omen for seeing an eagle...and lo and behold it was...

I arrived back at the boat launch just as a great sunset was developing...
The day's trash haul...
There were 24 recyclable containers (9 redeemable) and 21 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish. 
YTD = 5639

As I write this one day later snow is coming down at a pretty good clip and yesterday's 60 degree temps seem like a dream.  Perhaps it was just that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Day on the Assabet

Arriving at the Egg Rock inscription this morning, the water level was noted to be more than adequate for ascending the Assabet River.  The past week has seen temperatures more typical of winter around here and left me uncertain as to how much ice might be encountered.
Temperatures were near 40 degrees with the promise of upper 50s if the sun put in a solid performance (which thankfully it did).

Today marked the first occasion this season where a piece of trash was freed from the icy grip of Old Man Winter...

Thanks to Dunkin' Donuts the next piece of trash was wearing a winter jacket of sorts...
...still can't fathom how they justify providing Styrofoam insulators for iced coffee containers.

The Leaning Hemlocks provided a little greenery...

Near Dove Rock an old boathouse has been reborn...

Further upriver sounds of construction brought me a short ways into Nashoba Brook to investigate.  Quite a large building has risen just beyond the abandoned Old Colony railroad bridge...
The flow from Nashoba Brook (which includes Fort Pond Brook) was contributing a significant amount of water to the Assabet. 
At the confluence of the brook and river hung this hat full of luck...
Unfortunately it wasn't my size.

At the MBTA commuter rail bridge work continues on elevating one track at a time...

To proceed above the Pine Street bridge would have required some good work to overcome the swift and shallow current...

  ...so it became my turnaround point.

The day's trash haul surprised even me...
There were 42 recyclable containers (16 redeemable) and 36 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as plastic bags, nip bottles, and Styrofoam.  YTD = 5594

The portion that an expanded Bottle Bill might have addressed...

I'm still waiting for the newfangled more up to date system the American Beverage Association and Stop and Shop et all are going to put forth to remedy this, since they claim our Bottle Bill is outdated.  Something tells me that our old, time tested Bottle Bill has every right to sing "U Can't Touch This".

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ice House to Fort Meadow Brook

Temperatures had recovered to near 40 degrees by the time I launched onto the Assabet River at Ice House Landing yesterday.  An earlier and disheartening look at my thermometer showed temps in the mid 20s before a breeze out of the south had time to warm things up.

Skies were mostly cloudy with some brightening to the southwest.
Heading upriver, near Crow Island, I encountered 8 mute swans, a belted kingfisher, and this family of hooded mergansers...

At Crow Island's west end was this less than heartwarming sight...an iced-over section...

Just below Sudbury Road was this osprey...


Reaching the river's confluence with Fort Meadow Brook...
...the decision was made to pass through the worm hole and enter the enchanted land...

I say "enchanted" because where else can one get this close to a wood duck?...
...and his friends...
Had it been any day of the week other than Sunday (when duck hunting is not allowed), I wouldn't have paddled anywhere near this enticing group...one of the better decoy presentations I've seen.

While in the brook the sun put in a brief low-angled appearance...

My ascension of the brook stopped at the beaver dam below the old Central Mass RR trestle where a mug-up of hot cocoa was enjoyed...

The brook was noted to be flowing a good rate and some of the debris piled against the trestle's upstream side looked to have been removed.

Back at Ice House Landing a small haul of trash gathered hullside...
There were 13 recyclable containers (9 redeemable) and 4 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish. 
YTD = 5516

Friday, November 14, 2014

Babbitassit Falls from Petapawag


Yesterday's paddle down the Nashua River from Petapawag to East Pepperell brought me to where Babbitasset Falls once rushed towards the Nissitisset Hills seen behind the red building.  It was a feast, so to speak, of Native American (Nipmuc) place names.
Of course the falls are long gone with the Nashua's flow now being conveyed within a 13 foot diameter penstock to the hydro-electric generating station located more than a football field's length below the dam.  This photo shows the penstock as it looked on April 2012...
That penstock was made of wood staves and leaked like a sieve.  Recently, it was replaced and the newer steel model is tight as a drum.
With the entire flow of the river seemingly disappearing, there was hardly a drop to flow over the dam's flashboards...

The replacing of the penstock is shown in more detail by the company that did the job at this link (scroll down to Pepperell Penstock story)


My trip downriver was pleasant thanks to the Polar Vortex running fashionably late...

These strange blossoms caught my eye and were something I don't recall having seen before...

The sounds of duck hunting were in the air and both I and this fellow on horseback were sporting blaze orange...

When getting off the river, just before dark, I encountered a duck hunter landing his canoe who reported having had a successful hunt.

My small trash haul gathered hullside...

There were 13 recyclable containers (4 redeemable) and 15 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish.

Once home and looking online for Babbitasset info, I came across History of the Town of Groton: Including Pepperell and Shirley by Caleb Butler.  It was published in 1842 and contained a chapter entitled Remarkable Providences which referenced the church records of the Rev. Mr. Emerson.  One entry started "April 11, 1772, Isaac Corey was drowned" and went on "Mr. Isaac Corey, a man near sixty years of age, having ferried over two men across the Lancaster River (aka Nashua), against his own house, and returned almost to the shore, from whence he had set off, by some accident the canoe filled, he was immediately carried down the current (the river being very high and the water running exceeding swift) near two miles, during which he was seen by several, standing at one end of the canoe, up to his armpits in water, the other end just up out of the water; he was heard by many calling out for help, but none could get to him to relieve him.  The canoe was seen to pass over the falls about a mile below where he was seen last with the bottom up."
A later entry noted "August 2, 1772  The above Mr. Corey was found floating upon the water in the river, about a mile below where he was last seen."   A bad day at Babbitasset.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day's End on the Concord

Finishing some water treatment work in Concord, MA yesterday left me with just enough time to have the waters of the Concord River treat me to a splendid late afternoon.

Temperatures were near 60 degrees and there's a definite sense that days like these are numbered.

I launched at Lowell Road and headed downriver under its bridge...

At the Old North Bridge a pair of empty beer and flavored juice bottles flagged me down...
...they'd been floating amidst some tree branches pinned against the bridge's piers.  I felt the urge to shout out the warning "the Polar Vortex is coming!..."the Polar Vortex is coming!" to the person peering down from atop the bridge.  We've all been hearing about this impending blast of winterlike temperatures for nearly a week.

What little fall foliage remains was seen while paddling through my favorite stretch near Saw Mill Brook (opening photo).

Near Davis Hill I encountered the only other boat I'd see on the water...
It was a Native Watercraft (Slayer 13 propel model) being pedaled by a fisherman.  The propel system allows him to pedal forward or backwards while leaving his hands free for casting.  He reported having caught a few so far.

My return trip upriver saw the sun sinking...
..and the turkeys roosting...

 ...as the magic of twilight time set in...

The song "The Wall" by Willie Nelson was heard via my shuffle and seemed to perfectly fit the moment.

Approaching the Old North Bridge the red color of my boat drew the attention of Concord's ever vigilant Minuteman...

Back at Lowell Road the day's trash haul basked in footlights provided by my car's headlights...
Perhaps in honor of Veteran's Day there were 11 recyclable containers (4 redeemable) and 11 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish.   YTD = 5471