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...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Through the Box

It'd been quite awhile since I'd last squeezed through the box culvert (photo left) into Fort Meadow Brook from the Assabet River...more than 8 months actually.  Last week the box culvert was finally clear of debris, but the water level, being high, didn't allow enough room for passage. 

Yesterday afternoon, while launching at Magazu's Landing in Stow, I found the river's water level had dropped a couple of inches and this provided hope that passage through the box might be realized.  I paddled upriver, reached the confluence of river and brook, approached the box culvert, said the magic words, bent forward 'til my hat brim kissed the boat's front deck...and voila, I'd gained entry into the quarter mile long stretch of Fort Meadow Brook between the box and the abandoned railroad trestle...

It's a scenic and pleasant little stretch of water that, on the occasions I'm granted entry, never fails to please me...
 
 
Later, hiking up a small adjacent drumlin provided this southward-looking view...
 
 
Once back on the river, I ascended the Assabet another half mile or so to where a cross-channel blowdown impeded further progress...
 
...and became my turnaround point.
 
Returned to Magazu's Landing where this peaceful scene awaited...
 
 
Sure beats shoveling snow.
 

Some trash rounded-up along the way...





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Nippy Assabet

January continued to display just how kind it can be by giving us another day more typical of early spring than mid-winter.  At least that's how this paddler perceived conditions today while paddling upriver on the Assabet from Magazu's Landing in Stow.  Last night's rains had resulted in higher levels and a good rate of flow.

The higher water level allowed me to paddle right up to the base of Barton Road and view Lake Boon's outlet pipe...

Further upriver the box culvert from Fort Meadow Brook had been cleared of debris...
...but there wasn't quite enough room for my boat, paddle, and head to fit through.  A short walk to the top of the dike provided this view of the always enticing (to me) brook...

A nearby scent mound included a small blue bottle...
...for the builder's upset stomach?...
...or possibly related to whoever empties all those mouthwash bottles found in this stretch of river.

Now no river deserves to have one of these floating in it, especially a river named Assabet...
Don't look for this to be in my collection of "Waterway Keepables".

Saw a few blue herons who may have decided to take a chance and stay here for the winter.  Mute swans, mallards and red-tailed hawks were also seen.

This nest has my attention and I'm curious to see...
...who ends up using it.

Today's trash haul included 27 nip bottles (yet it wasn't all that nippy)...
...in addition to the picture frame.




Monday, January 2, 2017

A Tidal Tug

Yesterday's gusty winds were finally gone and my plan to paddle-in the new year upon some tidal waters was back on the front burner.  Of course, today being a legal holiday helped greatly to make it happen.

It was my first time launching from the George F. McCabe Marina and Recreation Area in Salem.  This location near the Kernwood Ave bridge provides easy access to the Danvers River, Beverly Harbor, and Salem Harbor.  There's a fee for launching and an honor system is employed requiring deposit of payment by envelope which seems reasonable.

As I was preparing to launch, two duck hunters in full camouflage attire landed their camouflaged kayaks. 

Heading over towards Beverly Harbor I encountered fellow kayaker Jim...
...who was paddling a boat he built himself.  In addition to enjoying today's splendid conditions (for January) we recalled having participated in last year's Blackburn Challenge where we both crossed the finish line at nearly the same time.

Also encountered this lucky sea gull with his "catch"?...
 
Just beyond the Salem Willows I enjoyed this view of Bakers Island which I recalled having seen several times while watching the movie "Manchester by the Sea"...

The unmistakable call of a loon was heard, and directed my attention towards this pair in their winter plumage...
 
 

It was strange to look into Salem Harbor and not see the pair of smokestacks that long dominated the skyline there.  It looks as if a new facility is under construction...

As slack water approached I paddled into the Danvers River...
...for a couple of miles before returning to McCabe Park.

Some trash encountered along the way...

Fairhaven First

My plan was to kick off 2017 with some paddling on tidal waters, but that changed with a weather forecast predicting another day of gusty winds.  Instead, my modified plan called for checking the Sudbury River's Fairhaven Bay to see if it was completely iced over...or if I might be able to enjoy a hot cocoa break on its Brooke Island.

As the opening photo of the Elm Street bridge shows, shelter from the day's busy northwest breeze could be found in places.

The new year's first piece of trash was this empty glass bottle...
...that once held "Millers High Life".

The Sudbury River was still open water past Rt. 2, past Heath's Bridge, and even past Martha's Point.  But then, 3.5 miles above Egg Rock, I encountered a sheet of white covering Fairhaven Bay...

Little Brooke Island, where I intended to sip some hot cocoa in the sun, can be seen to the far right in this photo...
...so close and yet so far.

Instead a suitable spot for taking cocoa was found along the base of Fairhaven Ridge and then, with the question of the day now answered, I returned downriver to Egg Rock.

The rock's inscription is getting closer to the water and that's a good sign...


The new year's first trash haul...

Oh, and by the way, I hope we all have a good new year and leave any thoughts of "enemies" for some other occasion.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 A Year of Low Water


I’ll remember this past year the most for having been the “ying” to the preceding year’s “yang”.  Where 2015 started out as intolerable, 2016 got off to a very pleasant start with signs of spring being seen and felt a good 3 weeks early. 

Helping to start the year off on a good note was an early January trash patrol on the Neponset River with Erik and Bill...
 
 
While the weather conditions for early season paddling were great it soon became apparent that water levels were steadily declining, and the opening photo shows just how low the water levels often were at Concord's Egg Rock.  First the brooks ran dry and soon thereafter portions of the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers became non navigable, even by kayak.  This resulted in more than a few river relics coming to light during the dryer months such as this mostly glass round-up from the Assabet River on July 31st...

 
On other occasions the Stillwater River produced a vintage ‘Gansett can identical to the one Robert Shaw crushed with one hand in the movie “Jaws”.   The Assabet River coughed up the following old bottles: Father John’s Medicine, Dazzle laundry brightener, and a green Maydale Spring beverage bottle.  The Assabet also allowed the handle of this beehive-shaped little brown jug to stick up out of the mud...
 

The Concord River contributed bottles from Boston based Oates & Shaw, Lexington based French Bros., and a bottle of M.A. Seed film developer used in the early days of photography.  The Oates & Shaw was the grittiest...
 
The Charles River signed in with a sign reminding folks to “Rekindle Your Free Spirit”…
 …I like to think paddling has rekindled mine.

Oddly, later in the year, when water levels were on the rise, the Sudbury River contributed a floating S.O. Dunbar ink/medicine bottle dating from the late 1800s...
 
The above items were added to my collection of “Waterway Keepables” which continues to require more and more shelf space…
 
A new river paddled this year was the Housatonic in Connecticut from its mouth up to the first dam in Derby.  Paddling this 12 mile tidal stretch over 2 days produced a fair bit of plastic flotsam…
 
 
One section of the Assabet River which perennially produces more trash than my boat can hold is the stretch between Cox Street in Hudson and the Gleasondale Dam in Stow…
 
It was another good year for trashpaddlin' several waterways to the northward with the New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club Paddlers gang...
 
This year also included participating in the OARS Annual River Cleanup.  The OARS event is a multi-town project which tackles trash removal from the Assabet, Concord, and Sudbury rivers.  My efforts were on the Assabet above Powder Mill Dam.
 
As for wildlife, I encountered eagles more often and on more waterways than any previous year.  They were encountered in 2016 on the following waterways: Assabet River (twice), Connecticut River (three times), Contoocook River, Lake Champlain, Stillwater River, Sudbury, and Tully rivers.  My favorite eagle photograph was taken on the Connecticut River in Fairlee, VT…
 
On July the Fourth I encountered first this young coyote or fox playing with his litter mates on the banks of the Concord River…
...and secondly this majestic buck...
 
In addition to the above, white-tailed deer sightings in general were plentiful this year. A photo of my favorite encounter on the Sudbury River in Wayland…
 
Came across this wood duck on the Stillwater River who was willing to stay still long enough for me to take his photo...

 
My favorite 2016 paddle revisiting an historical event was “Ticonderoga to Skenesborough” which followed the route American forces used in their pre-dawn evacuation of Fort Ticonderoga via Lake Champlain’s southernmost reaches.  The trip resulted from my reading of Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambition which was my favorite read of the year.

 

Unfortunately, 2016 is ending in a most divisive manner which leaves me greatly troubled as we enter 2017.  One thing that worries me is folk’s willingness to accept as 'factual' news that they see, hear, or read on the internet without first considering the journalistic reputation of the source.  However, troubling me even more are the people, claiming to be journalists, who knowingly dispense false information.  Before accepting as fact anything I see, hear, or read on the internet, I first consider the source and secondly look to see if any reputable news organization will verify its accuracy.  To me, ‘false news’ is the ultimate slippery slope of our time.

Perhaps this photo taken on the Charles River in April of a wily coyote swimming across my boat’s bow is symbolic of tricksters lurking amongst us…


 
 Happy and safe paddling in the coming new year!