Sunday, August 2, 2015

NHAMCP Pennacook Patrol

Another first Saturday of the month rolled around yesterday which meant Denise Hurt and the New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club Paddlers (NHAMCP) would be conducting a waterway trash patrol.  Yesterday's patrol was on the Merrimack River and started from the boat launch near the New Hampshire Technical Institute's athletic complex in Concord, NH.  The sign (at left) explained the site's earlier historical significance.

The boat launch there is a good one used by both powered and non-powered boats.  All boaters using the launch walk past this kiosk...
...providing loaner life jackets for children not having one.  A great concept.

Boats were fitted with trash receptacles before being launched...

Working in pairs we patrolled the river and it's banks for trash.  Some worked downstream to the Route 393/202 bridge while the group I was with went upriver towards the Route 93/4 bridge...
...where "Wilson" rode again.

Just beyond the highway was this majestic railroad bridge...

The eastern side of the river sported some high sandbanks in this stretch...

...and colorful flowers on the western side...

When all was said and done we'd removed 129 recyclable containers and 154 pieces of rubbish from this relatively clean stretch of river.  Included in the haul were 3 air mattresses, a shipping pallet, and a Coleman camp shower...

Bags were provided by Concord's Blue Bag program...
...and Denise and some of the patrol's 11 participants gathered around the bagged haul.

In preparation for this trip I'd glanced at my copy of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers by Henry D. Thoreau and noted the author's mention of  "..a scene of rare beauty and completeness, which the traveler should take pains to behold".
The "scene" mentioned could be viewed from atop the Pinnacle in nearby Hookset which I stopped at on my drive south...
Thoreau describes the Pinnacle as "a small wooded hill which rises very abruptly to the height of about two hundred feet, near the shore at Hooksett Falls".

From the parking area it's only a 15 minute hike to the top along a well maintained trail...


Thoreau noted "you can see up and down the Merrimack several miles each way".  The view up...
...and down...
...with Hooksett just below...

Strange that on a beautiful Saturday not another soul was seen on my hike.  The only indication that someone had been here since Thoreau was this...

On the way down some "Indian Pipe" were seen growing alongside the tranquil and shady path...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Low Down on the Assabet

Quite a contrast between last Saturday's paddling in the choppy ocean waters off of Cape Ann and today's paddling along a tranquil Assabet River in Concord.

The inscription at Egg Rock was found to be high and dry.  In fact finding water deep enough to paddle in the Assabet was challenging in places.


These Cardinal flowers served as a reminder of how our summer is getting long in the tooth...

 The day's hot temperatures brought this white-tailed deer to the river's edge...
...who was joined by an associate...

More real estate than usual at Willow Island...

Trash recovered along the way...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A "Challenging" Blackburn

Upon waking in my tent early yesterday morning an occasional whooshing sound caught my ear.  It was the wind blowing through the trees and sounded a little stronger than what had been mentioned in the weather forecast.  However, it being the day of the Cape Ann Rowing Club's annual Blackburn Challenge, I needed to get my boat into the Jones River and paddle over to registration/check-in at Gloucester High School on the Annisquam River.  The trip over was made even quicker by having the aforementioned wind at my back, and my passage to and under the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge (at left) was a swift one.   Only problem was that the course of the race would have us going in the opposite direction and into that same wind.  One benefit, however, was unseasonably cool temperatures which would keep folks from overheating.

Prior to the event I'd run into several rowers and paddlers who'd traveled from afar to participate in this year's Blackburn.  Chris, who'd completed the tough Yukon River Quest, came down from Canada (Ottawa) to tackle his first Blackburn in a Clipper hybrid canoe/kayak.  Also from Canada (Nova Scotia) were Fenton and Russell who would be, once again, rowing the approximately 20 mile course in a banks dory (photo in previous post).  On the small beach by the High School I parked my boat next to this sleek Rapier by Valley Kayaks and its owner Marshall from New York State...
...who previously paddled sea kayaks a little wider in the Blackburn.

At the start line there were a few peaks of sun as racers awaited their respective heats...

Just before my class got underway, the organizers mentioned there being reports of 4 foot seas outside of Lanes Cove...and we were off, heading up the Annisquam River towards Ipswich Bay.  The first indication of trouble was the Gloucester Harbormaster's boat heading fast towards the mouth of the Annisquam. There, the outgoing tide was being countered by the wind from the north at a shallow sand bar and had capsized several boats.  Not an encouraging sight.

Further along, off of Lanes Cove, I came upon a rower struggling to re-enter his rowing scull.  He was being helped by a couple in a tandem sea kayak and, after several failed attempts, was able to re-enter his boat.  The couple in the sea kayak had put themselves broadside to the waves, despite not having spray skirts for their respective cockpits.  Fortunately they had a pump aboard.

For me the toughest section was off Halibut Point in Rockport where one particularly nasty wave gave me a horizontal deluge that felt like a hit upside the head and persuaded me not to turn my back to the seas until safely past Milk Island. 

Reaching the finish line more than 4 hours after starting I noticed a lot fewer boats on the beach than usual.  I'd later hear that out of 230 boats some 57 or so elected to pull out of the event somewhere along the course.  It's been a long time since conditions at a Blackburn Challenge were that challenging...possibly 2000.

This video of the event was shot by Marty Luster and posted on Good Morning Gloucester.


This errant gang of refuse found along the Annisquam got to accompany me 'round Cape Ann...
  ...and provided just the right amount of ballast.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Two Men and a Dory

The type of boat most in keeping with the Blackburn saga.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Blackburn Inches Closer

With two days to go before this year's Blackburn Challenge, I had the start line all to myself this morning.  The Annisquam River was at a similar tide stage and provided a nice ride up to Annisquam Light.

This just about says it all...


Monday, July 20, 2015

Work Zone on the Sudbury

Today was the kind of day I dreamed about during this past winter's long and frigid siege: warm, perhaps even hot, close to ninety degrees, with a dry and refreshing breeze out of the south.  Brought to mind that song from the 70s, "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Croft.  Beats the bejesus out of winter!


Things were looking good right from the git go.  The boat launch at Route 20 in Wayland was very tidy...
...thanks to the group Big Heart/Little Feet who maintain these receptacles for trash and recyclables.

I headed downriver en route to Sherman's Bridge and, just as motorists encounter road work, I encountered river work being done along the way.  Water chestnut plants were being harvested by  crews working from both canoes and mechanical harvesters.

The canoe crews...

One of two mechanical harvesters...

Water chestnuts meeting their fate...

Once full the harvesters would head downriver to Sherman's Bridge where they would unload into this conveyor and dump-trailer...

The object of all this work...the water chestnut plant itself...


Today's teeney-tiny trash haul...
Seems like it's always the left shoe.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Giddy Up on the Concord

I don't often paddle fast these days but when I do I prefer it be while paddling in the Blackburn Challenge.  Since one week from today my plan is to be paddling the event's approximately 20 mile course around Cape Ann, I used this past week for trying to find my fastest sustainable boat speed over 10 miles.

Fortunately, the Concord River was agreeable to playing the part of Cape Ann's  Annisquam River and provided me with two days practice, each having vastly different weather conditions.

This morning cloudy and cool conditions were encountered on the river (opening photo) whereas this past Wednesday things were hot and sticky...

On both days I launched at the Bedford Boat Launch off of Route 225 and followed a training course which had me paddling downriver 2 miles to Route 4 then  4.5 miles upriver to Sawmill Brook and then 3.5 miles downriver to Two Brothers Rocks.

Each year I toy with the idea of improving my forward stroke and each year it seems I end up resorting to the same old stroke that, for me, is time-tested and somehow manages to get me from Point A to Point B.  This year is no different.  Regardless of which stroke I used my time after 10 miles was the same.

So with that matter resolved I continued (at a little slower rate) downriver to Bug Island...
...and rounded it before heading back to the Bedford Boat Launch giving me 15 miles overall.

Didn't see much trash on the water but did manage to get these few pieces "on the fly"...