Sunday, June 29, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Concord Jct. & Back

This morning I was on the water @5:30 am ready to enjoy the sunrise. However, the sun decided to sleep-in and I was left with a hanging mist to paddle through. The air was warm and there was no wind to speak off, so the river's surface was like glass.
Arriving at Egg Rock, I aimed my bow to the left and entered the Assabet waters. No sooner had I done this than I espied a large amount of trash on the right or north bank immediately opposite Egg Rock. I landed my boat and began filling its hold with what turned into 68 empty containers. Beer cans, beer bottles, plastic bags, bait tubs, fishing gear packaging, cigarette packages. Basically, everything that this group of fishermen had brought into the woods, had been left at their feet. It leaves me baffled as to why someone would want to stand in their own trash and then leave it for others.
Re-launched my boat and headed upriver and 'into the mystical fog'. Came upon a few herons, some blue-winged teals, Canada geese, one large hawk, one muskquash, some swallows, and one belted kingfisher. Also saw the usual gang of muscovite ducks near Spencer Brook.
Approaching, the spot where Nashoba Brook enters the river, I noticed quite a bit of sudsy foam floating on the surface. Most of it was coming from the brook. It looked like wash day.
Stopped to re-fuel just downstream of the Fitchburg Railroad bridge, then with a full tank, paddled through the small riffle under the bridge. I turned around before reaching the Rt. 62 bridge and headed back downriver. The recent day's thundershowers had the river flowing at a pretty good clip.
At my take-out location, I removed 86 empty containers from my craft. About 65 were recycleable. YTD = 1383

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Concord River - Egg Rock to Balls Hill & Back

This afternoon, I trash patrolled the Concord River from Egg Rock to Ball's Hill and back. The weather was ideal and there were numerous canoes, kayaks, and fishing boats on the river. Water levels were just right, thanks to yesterday's thunderstorms. Construction has begun on the Monument Street bridge and two of the bridge's portals are closed to boat traffic.

Trash was plentiful. By the time I went under the North Bridge, I had a dozen empty containers. At Great Meadows landing the total had reached 26, including a large trash bag filled with coiled foam weatherstripping. Just upstream of Saw Mill Brook, I placed all trash below deck and continued downstream until a plastic water bottle caught my eye. It was near the left shore, close to the abandoned cabin where the river makes a 90 degree turn to the right. As I approached the shore, I saw what appeared to be a mink at the base of a tree. On closer inspection, I saw its rear feet were webbed and it had a small version of the destinctive black beavertail. My boat was right next to this little baby beaver, but he was sound asleep. At one point he did open his eyes and moved around a little. I snapped a few photos and moved on down the river.

My turnaround point was a little backwater cove across the river from Balls Hill. Returning upriver, I stopped to check the little beaver and found he was still there sleeping but had changed his position 180 degrees. Hopefully, he was OK, just tired.

Other wildlife observed were swallows, blue herons, Canada geese, painted turtles, and mallards.

By the time I reached the North Bridge, I had 38 empty containers. At the Calf Pasture, directly opposite Egg Rock, I recovered 22 empty beer cans that were on the shore. Total for the day was 60. YTD = 1297

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dawn of Summer on Musketaquid Waters

This morning, I trash patrolled the Sudbury River from Route 62 to Pantry Brook and back. I was on the water at 5:20 am and arrived at Fairhaven Bay one hour later. Twenty-one miscellaneous pieces of trash decorated my kayak's foredeck. Sitting in the middle of the bay, with a faded moon on my right and the first summer sun on my left, I refueled with a Power Bar and some Red Bull.
I guess I was relieved that summer did actually arrive, despite the high cost of gasoline and the declining economy. The fact that I had the whole bay to myself, probably has to do with the rising gasoline prices. Ordinarily, I would expect to see several power boats with fishermen in the bay on such a glorious Saturday morning in June. Today, I did not encounter a power boat, or for that matter any other boat, until I arrived at Pantry Brook a little past 7am. Just upstream from the brook's mouth, there were two guys fishing from a drifting bass boat.
Of course, the gasoline prices affected my plans also. I had planned to drive 115 miles to Casco Bay to participate in some paddling events at Peaks Island. Somehow, 4 hours of driving, the cost of a full tank of gas, and a sore muscle in my side made it easier to reconsider and paddle my local waters instead.
Had I gone to Maine, I would have missed numerous deer sightings. One solitary doe and later a group of four including a buck with what looked like antlers in the velvet stage. I also watched a great blue heron pull its head from the water with a beak full of river grass. The heron waded very deliberately to the shore, where it then separated the grass from the small fish hidden within. The herons seem to always be manning their posts. They are like the river's mile markers.
On my way back downriver, I encountered 2 power boats with fishermen heading towards Fairhaven Bay. At my takeout location, my empty container count had reached 26 bringing YTD to 1237. I arrived home at 9:30am, ready to continue enjoying and honoring this first day of summer 2008.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Rt.2 and back

Trash patrolled the lower Assabet River this afternoon. Water levels are on the low side, but passage upriver is still possible. Most of the trash I encountered today was stuff that had been submerged until just recently. Two large plastic jugs, quite a few glass bottles, and about 8 beer cans, etc.

Wildlife was sparse. Thought I might see some deer because of the near full moon. Did see ducks, geese, a muskrat, and blue herons.

Skies were active with dark clouds building, then breaking up again.

Ended up with 25 empty containers. YTD = 1211

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Pantry Brook

Last Wednesday, after the worst of the hot & humid weather had passed, I trash patrolled the Sudbury River up to the mouth of Pantry Brook. Temperatures were still pretty warm in the mid-afternoon sun. My power bar was melting almost as fast as I could eat it.

I paddled upriver at a leisurely pace. Recovered a few pieces of trash near the Sudbury Road bridge, a usual hotspot. While pulling an empty 1-gallon plastic jug from the bushes, a pontoon boat passed by with a group of folks enjoying, what looked like, an English high tea under the shade of the boat's canopy. Soon, I was following their route towards Fairhaven Bay. While they made a wide circle around the bay, I headed for the point where the river enters. There was a faded half moon high in the sky on my left as I crossed the bay.

Soon, I was passing under Lees Bridge and noting that the de-construction of the temporary bridge is in its last stages.

Arriving near the mouth of Pantry Brook, I spent some time in the shade on river right, just downstream of Pantry Brook and looked along the water's edge for interesting stones but came up empty.

The trip back downriver was uneventful until I had passed under the very busy Route 2 bridge at 5:45 pm. As I emerged from the bridge, I saw a doe and her very small fawn standing in the woods about 100 feet downstream of the bridge. My guess is that they were preparing to wade under the bridge. When I slowed to a stop, they quietly dissapeared into the underbrush. All the while, cars were wizzing by at 60 mph a short distance away. Sort of like parallel universes.

At my takeout, I counted 12 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 1186

Monday, June 9, 2008

Patrol of Lower Assabet River, Egg Rock to Rt. 2

Last Friday afternoon, the last day with cool temperatures and cloudy skies, I trash patrolled the lower Assabet River. The rains earlier in the week had provided some additional water, but the river's level is still pretty low. A good 2 to 3 feet of Dodge Rock was out of the water. Also the area just upstream of Spencer Brook, where the Reformatory Branch Railroad used to cross over the river is getting very shallow. With the water level this low, I find myself paddling slowly and more deliberately, while studying the bottom, near shore, for the elusive arrowhead.

Trash was plentiful. Near the Leaning Hemlocks, I found a mostly submerged plastic bag with 3 empty bottles of Rolling Rock, 1 can of Chinese beer and 17 nested plastic cups. Kind of a weird collection. Further along, it was the usual Bud and Millers cans with the occasional Mountain Dew or Gatorade.

I expected to see more wildlife than I did, considering the cloudy and cool conditions, but things were fairly quiet in that regard.

Returned to Egg Rock with 49 empty containers, 44 of which were recycleable. YTD = 1174

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Photos from Allagash Trip

Photo at left was taken on Eagle Lake somewhere between Martin Cove and Pillsbury Island.

Next photo is of an 'up an over' at a well built beaver dam on the Lock Dam Stream.
My campsite at Lock Dam.
One of the two steam locomotives rusting away in the woods at the Tramway between Eagle Lake and Chamberlain Lake.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Paddling in the Land of Moose & Indians

On May 21st, I left the SUASCO area and journeyed to the north woods of Maine to paddle another stretch of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT). Previously, in 2007, I had paddled the stretch of the NFCT from Rockwood on Moosehead Lake to a spot just above Pine Stream on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. In addition to following the NFCT, I was also following the route that Henry David Thoreau and two companions traveled in 1857. In fact, my last campsite on the NFCT, was on Thoreau Island in the Penobscot, so named for the fact that Thoreau and company camped there.

In order for me to get back to where I last left off, required driving 300+ miles to Ashland, Maine, spending a night in a motel, and the next morning, entering the North Maine Woods at the Six-Mile checkpoint. After some debate with officials as to whether or not my compact car would be able to get past road washouts, I embarked on a long drive over 77 miles of dirt roads that had suffered through a long, hard, Maine winter. I made it past all the obstacles I encountered, only to make a wrong turn at an unsigned fork 64 miles in. Because of this, I journeyed another 15 miles or so, seeing remnants of snowbanks in the shady spots and all kinds of wildlife. Several moose cows, one with calf, numerous snowshoe rabbits, either a red fox of perhaps it was a martin, and the bouncing rump of a black bear. Finally, realizing where I was on the map, I turned back and faced a "Road Closed-Washout" sign standing between me and my destination, Churchill Dam. I was already an hour late to meet the guide that was to provide my shuttle. So, with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I headed down the road and sure enough, came to a pretty bad washout. I scouted it out and believed my car was just narrow enough to skirt the edge of the deepest section and make it through. This would be the moment of truth. Into the washout we went. No turning back now. Upon reaching the middle, I pressed on the gas peddle and felt my wheels spin a little, then take hold, and up my little Yaris and I came to the other side. Elation! Relief! Shortlived, for next, I came to a tee in the road, and of course, turned the wrong way for another 15 minutes of wandering. Turned around again and finally, arrived at the Dam one and a half hours late.

I was pleasantly shocked to find that the guide had waited for me. Many thanks to Sean Lizotte of Allagash Guide Service for waiting much longer than most would have. After listening to my apologies and tale of woe, he helped load my boat and gear onto his vehicle and then transported me to a campground/launch site at Umbazooksus Stream. Along the way, he stopped at a point where the portage trail to Mud Pond crossed the dirt roadway. His pointing out the trail and allowing me to get a look at it proved very helpful a day later when it confirmed I was on the right track.

At Umbazooksus Stream, I set up camp, and then launched my kayak in order to paddle the approximately 8 miles across the north end of Chesuncook Lake to where I last left the NFCT near Pine Stream on the Penobscot's west branch. Arriving at a location known as Rocky Rips, there wasn't a rock to be seen. Last October, it was a minefield. Spring water levels make a big difference! Here, after turning around, I snapped a photo and began my 37 mile journey to Churchill Dam, where my car would be waiting. I paddled the 8 miles back to my campsite and retired for the evening, after studying my maps.

In the morning, I broke camp, loaded my boat and paddled to the end of Umbazooksus Stream. A short portage, a pleasant paddle up a winding stream around a beaver dam, another short portage and I found myself looking at a very windy, Umbazooksus Lake. Paddling NE against a strong N wind, I missed the take-out for the portage trail and ended up paddling to a spot where a backwoods railraod once brought timber down from Eagle Lake and dumped it into Umbazooksus. Once again, I turned around and headed back slowly along the east side of the lake. This time, I spotted some red ribbons tied to some branches and a small diamond shaped sign with an arrow on it. That's it. Nothing that mentions Mud Pond. This portage proved to be the most difficult I have ever done. The trail is nearly 2 miles long and more than half of it is either standing water, flowing water, mud or any combination thereof. In addition to the water and mud, there were between 12 and 15 trees down across the trail. It took me 3 hours to wheel, carry, drag and lift my 40 lb boat to the Mud Pond end. I then went back for some more gear and that took another 2 hours. With the time approaching 7 pm, I called it a day, and made camp at the Mud Pond end of the trail. The loons serenaded me to sleep that night, as they did on each night thereafter. There were rain showers during the night, and in the morning, after a cold breakfast, I made a third trip across the trail for the remainder of my gear (which included my cookstove). In total, I walked 11 miles to move my boat and gear 2 miles. This trail is ancient and has been used by humans for centuries, if not longer. It was on this trail, that Thoreau and his friend Edward Hoar, became separated from their Penobscot Indian guide, Joseph Polis, resulting in a long ordeal for all of them. Glad that I did not get lost, I was happy to now be in the Allagash Waterway and say goodbye to the Penobscot watershed!

After loading my boat, I paddled across a very shallow and aptly named Mud Pond, and then under the watchful eyes of a bald eagle, entered the pond's outlet to Chamberlain Lake. The short rapids here, required a hasty exit from the boat and subsequent lining of the boat around the rocks while wading down the stream. Very glad to be wearing a wetsuit and mukluk boots, for otherwise, I would have been very cold and wet. Once onto a very beautiful Chamberlain Lake, I paddled on a NE compass heading, again, into a strong wind out of the north, until reaching the Lock Dam and its nearby campsite at 3 pm. I had covered only 6 miles, but it felt like twice that due to the wind. The campsite was huge and all mine for the night. It made a great place to dry clothes, filter some water for cooking, etc., and just rest up from the previous day's hard work. A short distance behind my tent, on the ground, was a patch of snow! A little before sunset, an Allagash Ranger, Tom Coon, stopped by on his patrol of the lake and suggested that descending Lock Dam stream would be the easiest way to get into Eagle Lake.

The next morning, after breaking camp, I took his advice and soon was following the winding stream to a point where a large beaver dam required an up an over. This was another spot where my wetsuit proved useful. A headnet also proved useful, for while going through any fast moving water, the blackflies would swarm around my head, and try to fly into my eyes and ears, though they would not bite. If I were making this trip a few weeks later, I suspect that things would be quite different in that regard.

Lock Dam stream brought me into Martin Cove on Eagle lake. This cove feels and looks very remote. After paddling north a few miles, I came to Pillsbury Island and on its north end, Thoreau Campsite. This is where Thoreau and company took refuge during a thunderstorm in 1857 and also marks their turnaround spot, as they later paddled back down Chamberlain lake to Telos Lake where they passed through the man-made Telos Cut and ultimately the East Branch of the Penobscot River which they rode down to Bangor. It surprised me to realize that even as early as 1857, these waters had been so drastically altered by man. Because the Allagash flows north towards Canada, it could not be used by Americans to float timber towards Bangor. Solution in 1841? Build some dams, and dig a trench into another watershed, thus forcing the river's water to flow south.

At any rate, the Thoreau Campsite was occupied, so I paddled another 3 miles to a spot called the Tramway and went ashore there for some lunch. This was the location of a tramway that moved full lengths of timber from Eagle Lake to Chamberlain Lake before the railroad was built. A short hike up an embankment brought me to a clearing where two huge steam locomotives sit quietly rusting away in the great north woods. Back in the 1930s they hauled trainloads of pulpwood every 3 hours to Umbazooksus Lake. Leaving the Tramway, I followed the west shore of Eagle Lake and towards mid-afternoon, I stopped at the Ziegler Campsite. I'd paddled 8 miles and this left me only 9 miles from Churchill Dam. The weather this day had been the best of the trip. Plenty of sunshine and temperatures near 70 degrees!

On my last morning, a very tame snowshoe rabbit visited my campsite while I enjoyed breakfast. Shortly thereafter, I observed 2 bald eagles as I paddled away from Ziegler. More loons and mergansers were also seen. Then at Scofield Cove, I came across a moose cow feeding along the waters edge. She let me get fairly close. Each time her head was under water, I'd paddle a litle closer. Thinking I was close enough, I snapped a picture, but without a zoom lens, it ended up looking like a cat. A little further on, at Churchill Brook, another moose cow with a very small calf, was also feeding along the shore. This time, I stayed further away so as not to spook them.

I arrived at Churchill Dam under clouding skies at 10 am and after loading my car, visited with Kevin, an Allagash Ranger stationed there. He recommended that I visit the museum they had at the site and it proved well worth it. The museum had many artifacts from the logging days as well as some old and very ruggedly built bateaus. Recently, some arrowheads, spearpoints, and axeheads found in the area were added. A well on the site provided a great tasting liter of fresh water for the long drive back to civilization.

On that drive, I had numerous encounters with huge, wobbly legged moose and also a black bear that stopped in a meadow after crossing the road in front of my car. I stopped and the bear and I stared at each other for a few moments before each going our separate ways.

On returning home, I read the sections of Thoreau's Allagash and East Branch, where he described traveling through the same areas. Unlike his A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers, where he tended to ramble far-a-field, here he stays on-point and records his observations of their journey as well as his observations concerning the Penobscot Indian, Joe Polis. His journeys in Maine must have had quite an impact on Thoreau, for it is said that his last two words were "moose and "Indian". What I wouldn't give to know what Joe Polis's thoughts were concerning the two gentlemen from Massachusetts that he guided through these woods so many years ago.

For more about Thoreau's trips to Maine, check:


There wasn't much trash to be found in these parts, but I did haul out one empty food container in addition to all I carried in.

YTD = 1124

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back on SUASCO Waters

This past Sunday morning, under a fast rising sun, I was back on the Sudbury River and heading upstream. This was my first paddle since returning from the Allagash Waterway last week and I couldn't help comparing the two waterways. The Sudbury River certainly doesn't have the sense of remoteness, and a moose sighting would not be expected. However, on this glorious first day of June, the Sudbury River doesn't have anything to be ashamed of. With hardly any wind, the water's glassy surface reflected the green color of the trees along its banks.

On the way to Fairhaven Bay, I collected a dozen empty containers, 11 of which were beer cans. Most were on river right, just downstream of the Sudbury Road Bridge.

Reaching Fairhaven Bay, I paused for a floating breakfast and then paddled up to Lee's Bridge before turning back downstream. Saw an osprey near Martha's Point. Arriving back at Rt.62, I heard a lot of shouting and came upon the relay exchange point of a race. Runners were arriving at the South Bridge Boathouse and team members were then jumping into canoes for what the next leg to the Old North Bridge. They sure had a perfect morning for such an event.

Trash count for day 12, YTD = 1136

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sunrise Patrol on the Sudbury River

On Sunday, May 18 th, I trash patrolled the Sudbury River from Rt. 62 to Weir Hill and back. It was my first sunrise paddle of the season. It was also during the time of a full moon. Trash was sparse which was nice for a change. Bt the time I reached Fairhaven Bay, I had only 4 pieces of trash under my deck bungees.

Going by Brooke Island, I caught site of a small doe walking along the island's shore. I crossed the bay and soon came upon 3 young bucks on river left, near the landing at the conservation trail.

About a 1/2 mile upstream of the new Lee's Bridge, I watched an osprey hover over a section of river.

Turned around at the beaver lodges upstream of Weir Hill and headed back downstream. Stopped near Clamshell Bank to visit with a special someone staying in Emerson Hospital. Thanks to cell phones, we were able to visit, she at the hallway window, me below on the river.

Reaching my takeout location, it was nice to note that I had encountered more wildlife than trash.

Total pieces of trash 5. YTD = 1128