Monday, November 30, 2015

November Exits

Saw our fairly benign November to the door this afternoon on the Sudbury River in Wayland.  No sooner had I launched from Sherman's Bridge than the morning's bright sunshine gave way to dark-bottomed clouds brought in on a northeast breeze...ideal conditions for Old Man Winter's impending arrival.

Water levels on the Sudbury were higher than I expected to see...perhaps due to last Sunday's beneficial rainfall.


In paddling upriver to Rt. 27 and back I ran across the following:

A late staying heron...
 
A tennis ball that acted as a water-chestnut seed magnet...

Some window-pane ice in the slough leading to the 4 arch bridge...

This possible antler-rub on the old causeway...

A watchful hawk near Rt. 27...

A pair of otters a little downstream of Rt. 27.  Could only get a photo of one and his head turned away just as I snapped it...
When I see otters in the Sudbury River I think about the signs along the river warning of mercury contamination and can only imagine how fast mercury levels would concentrate in their systems, given a diet so heavy in fish.

Some trash rounded up along the way...


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Deerfield River's Harriman Reservoir

Got to work off some of that Thanksgiving turkey yesterday while paddling the waters of Harriman Reservoir (aka Lake Whitingham) said to be the largest body of water entirely located within the state of Vermont.
 
I rendezvoused there with Capt'n Dangerous who drove down from the Adirondacks and we launched our kayaks from the Oxbow Boat Launch in Wilmington, VT.  The launch is located at the lake's northern end where the north and east branches of the Deerfield River converge before flowing southward.

We paddled down the serpentine lake 7 miles to the Harriman Dam which, when built in 1923, created the lake...
Prior to the Harriman Dam being built a small railroad hugged the Deerfield River's east shore serving the now-submerged communities at Davis Bridge and Mountain Mills before reaching Wilmington at the end of the line.  Officially it was the Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington Railroad but was affectionately referred to as the "Hoot, Toot, and Whistle".  Rail service to Wilmington was considered important enough back in the 20s that ten miles of trackage was re-routed to the west side of the new lake.  In 1934 the first organized rail enthusiasts trip in the Unites States brought passengers along this route up to Wilmington.  Only 3 years later in 1937 the trackage to Wilmington was abandoned.  Today much of the abandoned west side roadbed survives and is incorporated into the Catamount Trail, while a short section of the original roadbed survives within Wilmington.  This website has some great historical information regarding the "Hoot, Toot, and Whistle.

Yesterday's weather was very late November-like, being cloudy and cool with occasional rain showers.  Despite the less than ideal conditions, I was still surprised in not seeing even one other boat on the 2,000 acre lake...

 


Early in the paddle a bald eagle was sighted at Castle Hill...
 ...where a picnic area and boat launch are located...

Ultimately we arrived at the Harriman Dam during one of the day's brief rain showers...
Our bows are pointing towards an overflow structure called the "Morning Hole" which conducts spillage into a funnel-like concrete tube dropping some 20 + feet down into a tunnel under the dam.  One site called it a "Glory Hole" which may or may not have been a typo!
TransCanada Hydro New England operates the Harriman Reservoir/Dam as part of an eight facility system they run along a 65-mile stretch of the Deerfield River.  Of the 86 megawatts of electricity their Deerfield River generating network can produce, 41 megawatts come from the Harriman Station.

Turning about at the dam we began heading back to Wilmington passing a clothing-optional swimming area known as "The Ledges" along the way.  No need for averting eyes at this time of the year.

We arrived back at the lake's north end with less than an hour of daylight remaining...

Harriman Reservoir is a beautiful body of water even at this time of year.  I suspect the best time, however, to explore this lake is either before or after the peak power-boat season.  Sure was a peaceful spot yesterday.

Trash was nowhere to be found except a few pieces near the boat ramp...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

No Traffic Here

With today being the busiest travel day of the year I chose to paddle under Route 495 rather than drive upon it.  The photo at left was taken as I returned, downriver, from a pre-Thanksgiving day paddle on the Assabet River.

I'd launched from Chapin Rd. in Hudson where the short inlet was iced over.  From there I paddled upstream to Bridge Rd. in Berlin where things got just a little too shallow.  Paddling in a westward direction meant dealing with the sun's low angle intensity until reaching Bridge Rd....

The trip back downriver was with that same low-angle sun providing a back-lit effect...

Despite the day's cold start with temps near 20 degrees F, the afternoon had warmed nicely into the 40s.

Some trash encountered along the way...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Quiet Quinsigamond

With today's great weather it seemed strange to encounter so few boats on Lake Quinsigamond.  Only saw one other kayak and one power boat which I believe was a working boat.   Other than that, had the whole lake to myself.

I launched into Flint Pond at the Oak Island Boat Ramp in Shrewsbury.   After passing under Route 20 and entering Quinsigamond I headed northward towards the recently completed Burns Memorial Bridge which carries Route 9 across the lake (photo at left).


Still further to the north the always busy Route 290 overpass briefly disturbed the peace and quiet.
However, continuing past brought me to this tranquil spot...
Quite a few ducks were congregated on the other side in a shallow and marshy area, and good flow was entering from a brook in the northeast corner.

On the return trip down lake I could see that Ramshorn Island no longer plays host to any part of the Route 9 bridge...

The lake's southern section has several islands.  This is one of the smaller ones...

Good to have conditions such as today's this late into November.  Hope it continues.

Trash scooped up along the way...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

An Open Brook

Ascended the Assabet River in Stow late this morning and was pleasantly surprised to find the box culvert to Fort Meadow Brook open for business once again.   When I last checked, back in early October, beavers had successfully closed the culvert causing the brook to back up to the abandoned Boston and Maine Railroad trestle and beyond.  After passing through the culvert I followed the brook upstream where it looked as though a considerable amount of water had recently been drained as a result of the culvert being opened.   My upstream progress stopped just below the trestle...
I've always liked paddling up this short section of Fort Meadow Brook and was glad to be able to visit it once again.  I don't think it sees many visitors other than duck hunters perhaps.  Not many signs of civilization except for this old truck wheel/tire combo...
 
After returning to the Assabet I resumed heading upriver and soon saw these signs...
...that I was entering the territory of the Mouthwash Drinkers.
 
Within this territory was this freshly built scent mound...
...which seems more than a little ironic.

On my way back to Sudbury Rd. I passed this beaver version of a tree-house...

Not too bad out on the water today.  Temps were in the 50s and the rain held off just as forecasters had predicted.

A fair amount of trash for a 3 mile stretch...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Went to Wallum

I was looking to paddle a new waterbody yesterday...one that retained much of its natural state and, by virtue of its geography, might provide shelter from yesterday's cool westerly winds.  I found all that and more at the 2 mile long Wallum Lake straddling the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border. 

I launched at the lake's southeast end located in Burrillville, RI which may be considered part of Pascoag (a village within Burrillville).  The launch there is free and only for non-powered boats.  It's located at one of the lake's outlets which contributes the lake's overflow to the Clear River...
 

The outlet structure looks sort of like a lock...
...except it never opens.

Paddled out on to the lake and looked northward...

...before heading across to the sheltered side where an eagle officially greeted me...

The lake has crystal-clear water and rocks of every size and configuration constitute the shoreline...
It's said the Nipmuc people, who once occupied this area, believed all objects contained spiritual characteristics.  The above rock would've been well regarded.

The entire western side of the lake is undeveloped and within the Douglas State Forest...
Deciduous trees far outnumber conifers.

At the northern end (in Massachusetts) facilities including a paved boat ramp are maintained by the Douglas State Forest...

According to the kiosk there, a large ice operation existed there back in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Ice was shipped out via the Providence and Springfield Railroad which extended north from Pascoag to Douglas Junction connecting there with the nearby New York and New England Railroad.  The rails are long gone, but a little to the lake's north the New York and New England's roadbed still passes under Wallum Lake Road in dramatic fashion...

Back in the day, this was the route of the New England Limited which left Boston every day at 3 pm and arrived in New York city by 9 pm.  Because the coaches were white in color and the train traveled through interior New England during hours of darkness it earned the nickname "The Ghost Train".

I next paddled down the lake's east shore past clusters of homes...some in Massachusetts and some in Rhode Island.  However, at the lake's southern end are the expansive buildings and grounds that formerly were the Rhode Island State Hospital for Consumptives (aka tuberculosis)...
Built in 1905 in a very rural setting the 395 acre facility served as a sanatorium for those afflicted with TB.  This link contains an article written by G. Wayne Miller of the Providence Journal back at the time of the facility's centennial.  Miller's article describes the sanatorium and serves to remind us of just how scary and misunderstood tuberculosis once was.  Today the facility is known as the Eleanor Slater Hospital, Zambarano Unit and serves patients with specialized needs unable to be provided in standard hospital settings.

Like the icehouse at the lake's northern end, the hospital was once served by the Providence and Springfield Railroad which ran along the lake's east side.  Patients, visitors, and coal arrived by train.  The small station named Wallum Lake is said to have been the highest (elevation) railroad station in Rhode Island. 

Before leaving the lake I took one last look towards the Massachusetts end from my vantage point in Rhode Island...
The day had warmed nicely.
 
 
 
There was very little trash encountered on this waterbody.  What little I did see was mostly of this nature...

  ...where I stopped along the shore for a lunch break.

The small haul...


Went to Wallum on a hunch and drove home feeling glad I went.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Watch City Paddlin'


Managed to get out on the Charles River's Lakes District under yesterday's bright blue skies.  Launched from a good facility at Woerd Avenue in Waltham located across from Mt. Feake cemetery, and headed downriver past the old Waltham Watch Co. factory where, according to Wikipedia, some 35 million watches were made before the company closed in 1957.  Waltham has been known as the "Watch City" ever since.  Just before the Prospect Street bridge are the piers that once supported Nuttings on the Charles, a wooden dance hall built above the river where my parents danced back in the 30s and 40s.  I remember when every kid in my neighborhood ran there upon hearing it was on fire.  We got there just in time to see the fully engulfed structure collapse into the water.

Between Prospect St. and the Moody Street bridge quite a bit of trash was encountered along the river's west shore.  The dam responsible for creating the Lakes District lies just beyond the Moody Street bridge...
 
Here I turned about and I paddled upriver the length of the Lakes District to where the Norumbega Amusement Park and its scary ride, Davey Jones' Locker, operated back when I was a kid.

Along the way I paddled past one area where the landowner provides the following interesting sights:

This timely reminder that it's the season of the rut...


How small pets can escape to the river...


How large pets can also escape...


This guy who'd have been more of  a surprise if a real one hadn't recently been found dead on nearby Rt. 95...



All of the above face the river from the hillside of a peninsula that juts out into the river.  The tip of the peninsula, however, is reserved for the crème de la crème ...

Fortunately, for the wearer, the eagle's talons are relaxed...

Further upriver I paddled into a cove from where I could just barely see the Norumbega Tower...

...built in 1889 by Eben N. Horsford who was convinced the Vikings had a pre-Columbus settlement at the confluence of Stony Brook and the river.  These days most historians disagree.

The cove at Norumbega where many a canoe, kayak, or standup paddleboard has been rented...

Still a little foliage to be seen...

The trash (collected early in the paddle) that got to accompany me on yesterday's tour of the Lakes District...