Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Paddler's Retreat to Brattleboro

Over the course of the past four days, this paddler would've been best described as both a "Happy Camper" and a "Happy Paddler" .  This was due to the following events converging:  Cobbling together a few days off from work with a stormless weekend; finding a campground that was actually open to tent campers; four consecutive days of better than average weather; no bothersome bugs; and getting to explore several new sections of the Connecticut River and a few of its tributaries.

My base of operations was the Brattleboro North KOA in East Dummerston, VT.  Here my tent was pitched for the four days, and for a reasonable rate I had access to water and electricity.  As I get smarter (or perhaps just older and lazier) I find this type of camping suits me just fine.  While out on the water paddling by day, I can enjoy knowing that the comforts of my already set-up tent and access to a hot shower await.

On Saturday morning I left the campground and started the on-water portion of my retreat at, appropriately enough, Retreat Meadows...
Not far from here, Rudyard Kipling also found retreat at his Naulahka where he wrote "Captains Courageous" as well as other stories...


I launched into the West River and paddled about 1.5 miles upriver until the water became too shallow for my taste.  Enroute I encountered an osprey, a pair of common mergansers, and enjoyed this view upriver before passing under Rt. 91...

Returning downriver I entered the Connecticut River after passing under this railroad bridge...

The New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River has paddlers looking up at the steep slopes of Wantastiquet Mountain.  A shale formation was exposed at the base of this slope...

I paddled downriver to the railroad bridge that once provided rail access to Keene, NH via the Ashuelot Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad...
This view is looking upriver with Wantastiquet Mountain in the distance.
Just above this point is a small islet with a picnic table where lunch was enjoyed.  Unfortunately, a considerable amount of trash was encountered on this tiny spit of land...
Saturday's haul would ultimately consist of 48 recyclable containers and 16 pieces of misc. rubbish.

The opening photo shows the view returning upriver to Brattleboro and eventually Retreat Meadows.  At the takeout I met Tom, a canoeist from nearby Putney, who'd also recovered trash including a gasoline jug and transmission fluid container while out fishing.  He shared some local knowledge about where to best launch upriver on the Connecticut.
 
On Sunday and Monday I was joined by Capt'n Dangerous of the Adirondack Pirate Paddlers...
No...he didn't just slide down the chute at Whetstone Brook (near downtown Brattleboro) but we did paddle from the Connecticut into this spot later on Sunday. 
The Capt'n also camped at the same campground and had the smallest tent I've ever seen.  In fact it was so small that the campground's staff didn't feel right charging him for such a small footprint and offered him a second night free of charge.
 
The Capt'n and I have been slowly chipping away at paddling the Connecticut River, and over the next two days we would paddle the stretch from Putney, VT down to Rt. 119, and the stretch from Stebbins Island down to Pauchaug Brook (actually and up and back).
 
On the Sunday trip down from Putney we passed by this nest a la Dr. Seuss...
 

and found that some folks are still skiing up this way...

On Monday, with skies more cloudy than sunny, we launched at Pauchaug Brook in Northfield, MA.  No sooner had we got underway than a bald eagle circled at treetop level above our heads...a more than welcome omen at the start of any paddle!

Paddling upriver against the current slowed our progress a bit but we soon entered New Hampshire not far from where a railroad bridge once spanned these abutments...
The bridge was rendered useless after the far left abutment tilted in 1970.

On the Vermont shore this rib cage and skull drew our attention...

We stopped for lunch on an un-named island within sight of the Connecticut's confluence with the Ashuelot River...
The Ashuelot enters from the right after passing under yet another railroad bridge (inactive).
We entered the Ashuelot and paddled against its current for about a half mile before finding things too shallow and too swift.
Returning to the Connecticut we pushed on to Stebbins Island against a current that grew stronger the further upriver we went.  At the island's upriver end, I went ashore briefly hoping to see where a paddler's guide-listed campsite might be found.  The view was not encouraging...

Our return trip to Pauchaug Brook was considerably easier and faster.  Following the paddle, Capt'n Dangerous bid adieu and headed back to the Adirondacks.

The combined trash haul from Sunday and Monday...
There were 26 recyclable containers and 9 pieces of rubbish.


On Tuesday morning I broke camp and headed east with plans to paddle more of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, NH.  Driving through Keene on Route 10, this view of Monadnock Mountain was appreciated...

Sawyer's Crossing Road brought me to the launchsite at Cresson Bridge (aka NH covered bridge number 6)...
...and I was soon paddling upstream on this river's very clean and cool waters.  It reminded me a little of the Assabet River but the bottom was almost all a sand and gravel mixture.  The banks were fairly muddy leaving sandbars as the best spots to take a break.  Having only seen this river on maps, I hoped to locate where several of its tributaries entered.  The river's south branch was found entering nearly opposite Mount Cresson...
A very easy portage around a blowdown was required before heading further upriver to where Ash Swamp Brook enters by passing under the Ashuelot Rail Trail...

Last, but certainly not least, was Otter Brook which also delivers the waters of Beaver and Minnewawa Brooks...

The flow of this tributary was nearly equal to that of the Ashuelot near the Keene State College athletic complex.

At this point I turned about and began the approximately 3 mile trip back to the takeout.  A sizeable sandbar provided an ideal spot to take lunch and give my day's catch some time on the beach...
Included in this haul was a very un-inflatable raft as well as the usual plastic and polystyrene items.  Recyclable containers numbered 25 with 59 pieces of misc. rubbish. (YTD = 2164)

On my easy downriver paddle an osprey was seen in addition to a pair of common mergansers and before I knew it, my four day retreat was coming to end as Cresson Bridge came into view...





6 comments:

Will said...

Al-
I was around Brattleboro and Southern Vermont a few weeks ago. It was still pretty bleak and snowy then, but at least you had nicer weather paddling on the Connecticut.

Suasco Al said...

Will, Considering the way the weather had been, I count myself fortunate to have had decent weather for camping.
Good to see you're getting out on the Mystic these days. I liked the photo of the herring you posted. Hope to see some myself someday.

Erik Eckilson said...

Wow - great trip.

In about a month I'll be paddling and camping across RI with Chuck Horbert on his Paddle Across Rhode Island trip. We'll go from Burrillville all the way down to Westerly. If you are a Facebook person, you can see the details here:

https://www.facebook.com/PaddleAcrossRhodeIsland?fref=ts

suep said...

ah you were in my old neck of the woods (I lived near Brattleboro), used to paddle in the Retreat Meadows and see all sort of critters -- went last year and it is very different looking due to all the flotsam that piled up there after Irene -.
My pal Rick (who still lives in Newfane) went out for his first paddle the other day and came home with lots of trash, including a raft which he towed home loaded with the other trash ! Trashpaddling is contagious !

Suasco Al said...

Erik, The trip across Rhode Island looks like it will be quite a challenge. In looking at a map, I'm not seeing too many expanses of blue between those two towns. Hope water levels stay up enough for you guys.

Suasco Al said...

Sue, I enjoyed my visit to Brattleboro and noted that it looked very bicycle friendly as well.
On the occasions I've traveled Route 30 and stopped briefly in Newfane, I was struck by how beautiful a town it is. Your friend Rick is lucky to live in such a place and it was great to hear his first paddle of the season was such a success.