Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day Close to Home

Paddled the Assabet River between Waltham Street in Maynard and Acton's Powder Mill Dam last Wednesday afternoon.  Even had a little sunshine.

Not a bad little stretch of river, with Route 62 running parallel to the east and a mostly wooded slope rising up from the west shore.

Until the trees leaf-out Acton's wastewater treatment plant remains visible on that wooded slope...

A path runs along the base of the wooded slope and where it passes the outfall for Maynard's wastewater treatment plant is this boundary marker with an "S" on one side...
...and an "A" on the other...
Could this marker date to the days before the town of Maynard was incorporated in 1871?  If so this stone would've marked the boundary between the towns of Acton and Stow.


On the river's east side just above the dam...
...perhaps as many as 20 dead fish were floating...


A fair amount of trash was encountered trapped behind snags or along the riverbank...

Seeing way more trash than I had room for, I decided to return this Earth Day morning and gather up more of the plastic/Styrofoam flotsam...


While on Wednesday I launched from the Elks parking lot in Maynard, this morning I entered the river at the foot of Old High St. in Acton.

Today's weather wasn't ideal but these tree swallows didn't seem to mind...

Heading upriver I wondered how much trash finds its way into the river from this cluster of dumpsters...
 ...located behind a strip mall.  Out of sight, out of mind?

My upriver progress came to an end below the Waltham St. bridge...

Saw two canoes heading downriver and suspect they portaged Old High Street, re-launched into this old millrace, and paddled on towards Concord...

Certainly looks doable at these water levels.




Monday, April 17, 2017

A More Expansive Sudbury

This past Saturday morning Heard Pond in Wayland was easily paddled into from the elevated Sudbury River.  Though still a little breezy out on the river, there was a lot more aquatic real estate to explore.


Fortunately there was just enough head room under the bridges to allow passage.  Pelham Island Rd...
...and the Old Four Arch...

Encountered several boats with fishermen, two canoeists, and a sighting of the venerable vessel Triyak...

The higher water levels resulted in a trash uptick...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Want to Get Away?

...on the morning of September 25th,1780 Benedict Arnold sure did.  He'd just received word that his co-conspirator, British Major John Andre, had been captured by American forces.  Found in Andre's socks were  plans of West Point's fortifications drawn by Arnold.  Even worse, General George Washington was due to arrive at Arnold's residence within the hour and might be aware of Arnold's treason.  For Arnold the gig was up!  It was "giddy-up time", quite literally!

On this past Monday morning it was my intention to paddle another stretch of the Hudson River mentioned in Nathaniel Philbrick's book, Valiant Ambition.

I launched from Annsville Creek Preserve (opening photo) in Peekskill, NY and headed upriver towards West Point.  Across from me on the river's west side a long northbound freight train was dwarfed by Dunderberg Mountain...

Before reaching Bear Mountain Bridge a passenger train headed south along the river's east side...
...and then to my left a tug pushed a barge upriver...
...where it too was dwarfed by the scenery...
I was impressed by the scale of things here.  Much grander than the rivers I usually ply.

The incoming tide was providing a nice ride upriver and I glided by the village of Manitou on the east side...
...and Highland Falls on the west side...
...with its classic looking railroad station...

West Point loomed a little further upriver...

As I got closer to West Point...
...a US Coast Guard Cutter was heading upriver and caused me to briefly wonder if I'd entered a restricted area...

Fortunately, the vessel continued upriver and left me to my thoughts regarding General Benedict Arnold's hasty departure from this vicinity on September 25, 1780.  His residence/headquarters was located not far from the white water tank which can be seen in the photo of the Coast Guard Cutter.  In Valiant Ambition Philbrick describes its location as follows: "...on the east bank of the Hudson River, more than a mile down the river from West Point in present-day Garrison, NY."

Because his role as West Point's commander involved visiting numerous fortifications on both sides of the Hudson as far downriver as Dobbs Ferry, Arnold had a boat (referred to as a barge) and a crew of rowers at his disposal.
 
According to Philbrick's account in Valiant Ambition Arnold informed his wife of his need to escape, mounted a horse, and made a frantic trip down a steep slope to the dock where the boat and crew were stationed.  He told the men he needed to personally deliver a message to the British sloop of war Vulture located some dozen or so miles downriver by Teller's Point, and it needed to be done quickly so he could return in time for Washington's inspection of West Point.  As an incentive the coxswain and six rowers were promised two gallons of rum.

I imagine there was little consideration of tide or wind conditions, at least not on Arnold's part.  It's said that he repeatedly looked behind during the trip.

My journey back downriver to Peekskill was done in a considerably more relaxed fashion and allowed for an encounter with some white-tailed deer...
    

Near Jones Point I was passed by a sea-going vessel...
...moving perhaps at a speed similar to what Arnold's barge might have achieved.

Benedict Arnold did ultimately reach the Vulture and elude capture.  He left his wife and six-month old son behind.  He would finish out the war in service to the British and spend the remainder of his lifetime in England.  His name lives in infamy and is synonymous with treason.  When George Washington realized the full extent of Arnold's betrayal he is said to have asked "Whom can we trust now?"

Due to the rocky and steep banks of the Hudson in this area there aren't a lot of places to land.  At some of the few spots I was able to do so, I recovered trash that had earlier found similar landfall...

Being a railfan I greatly enjoyed the many freight and passenger trains seen moving along both sides of the Hudson.  At one point I could see an entire 125-car freight train waiting for a signal on the west side.
The east side seemed to have a passenger train racing past every 10 minutes or so...

The Hudson Highlands area impressed this paddler.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hudson's Tors, Cloves, and Treason


This past Sunday afternoon I found myself paddling across the Hudson River from Croton Point towards a spot on the river's west shore near Long Clove.  I'd launched into the Croton River from the Echo Canoe Launch...
 ...and paddled out of Croton Bay.

My objective was finding a historic location  mentioned in Nathaniel Philbrick's book, Valiant Ambition.  Philbrick describes the location as follows "...amid a grove of fir trees near where the Long Clove gap is bracketed by the jagged peaks of High and Low Tor on the west bank of the Hudson."  Using that description and a nautical map of the area I was attempting to follow the route a small row boat took to that locale in the middle of the night back in September 1780.  According to Philbrick's detailed description the boat contained four men...brothers Samuel and Joseph Cahoon were rowing using sheepskin-muffled oars, while their employer Joshua Hett Smith was steering.  The fourth man, their passenger known to them as Mr. John Anderson, was actually the British Army officer Major John Andre who'd just been picked up from the British sloop of war "Vulture" and was being brought to the locale for a rendezvous with the American commander of West Point, General Benedict Arnold.  All four men carried passes issued by Arnold.

Until reading Valiant Ambition I admit to knowing little of the historical facts involving Benedict Arnold's treason.  I only remember as a kid not ever wanting to be called a "Benedict Arnold". Upon reading Philbrick's account of the actual events I was intrigued by the important role the Hudson River played in the whole affair. 

As I got closer to the shore the "jagged peaks of High and Low Tor", said to have bracketed the landing spot, stood out against the horizon...

An eagle watched my approach...
 
 
My boat soon found landfall...

 
Was this the spot where Joshua Hett Smith and the Cahoon brothers patiently waited in their boat while John Andre and Benedict Arnold walked off a bit to discuss the surrender of West Point in the wee hours of September 22, 1780?   
 
A 38' green navigational marker "21" is just offshore and warns of submerged piles from when this location served as Snedekers Landing in the 1800s.  Several abandoned stone buildings remain from those days. 
 

A group of shore fishermen occupied the tip of the landing and were fishing for striped bass.  I suspect the eagle was doing the same. 
 
I didn't spend as much time there as I would have liked due to a quickly-gathering southwest breeze, and knowing it would be a four mile crossing back to Echo Landing.  I decided to revisit the site on Tuesday morning when I'd have more time to look things over. 
 
Beginning the trip back to Echo Canoe Launch I looked towards Croton Point with Teller's Point at its far right tip.  The green navigational marker "21" can be seen to the left...
 
On the paddle across the river the Tappan Zee Bridge, where a new bridge is under construction, could be seen downriver...
 
This southbound tug/barge was possibly delivering one of the new spans...
 
Before rounding Teller's Point and landing back at Echo Canoe Launch, I recalled reading in Valiant Ambition how the HMS Vulture came under fire from some hastily assembled small canons on this point...
  
The canons were brought out to Teller's Point by the American Colonel James Livingston, and his firing upon the HMS Vulture caused the British vessel to retreat downriver.  This act on Livingston's part served to gum up the works, so to speak, and resulted in Major Andre needing to travel by land in order to get back to British lines.  

My Return Trip...
Early on Tuesday morning I drove from Peekskill, NY across the Bear Mountain Bridge to Haverstraw.  Along the way I watched the full moon sink behind the mountain...
 
Once in Haverstraw, on the west side of the Hudson, I resorted to the very helpful "NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Public Fishing and Boating Access Maps" to find a place to access the river.  I found such at Emeline Park...
 
The morning was a beauty with bright sunshine and fast warming temps.  Winds were calm.  Shortly I paddled the almost 2 miles to the  suspected landing location at Snedekers Landing...
  
This time I had the spot all to myself and was able to look around a little more. 
 
I looked for the mentioned fir trees and found these...
 
 
This path runs uphill from the landing...
...to a wider and now paved path which leads to Haverstraw...
 
When Arnold and Andre weren't able to conclude their discussion before daybreak they mounted horses and quite likely ascended this pathway en route to Smith's home in Haverstraw.  Smith and the Cahoon brothers were left to row the two miles to Haverstraw. 
  
Returning to my boat I found a good sized wake from the Ossining Ferry boat buffeting the beach.  While holding my boat steady I noticed the name "John" inscribed on a small boulder.  Looking closer it looked like the word "and" after it...so I dismissed it as someone's having recorded their affection for someone ie: "John and blank" and didn't take a photo of the inscription.  I did take a photo of the spot and the reddish boulder so inscribed is visible just beyond my boat...
 
 
Only later did it occur to me that it may have been inscribed with the name of John Andre to mark the spot.
 
At any rate, after paddling back to Eveline Park I was ready to drive away but decided to check out a monument only 50 feet from where I'd parked...
 
Both boulders have plaques commemorating the events of September 1780. However both plaques are in need of cleaning as they're difficult to read.
 
The plaque to the gun's left (dating to 1926) reads:
BETWEEN THIS BOULDER AND THE RIVER IS THE PLACE WHERE BENEDICT ARNOLD FIRST MET MAJOR JOHN ANDRE,  ADJUTANT GENERAL OF THE BRITISH ARMY TO PLAN FOR THE SURRENDER OF WEST POINT TO THE BRITISH.  ANDRE LANDED FROM THE VULTURE THE EVENING OF SEPT. 21, 1780.  EARLY THE FOLLOWING MORNING THE CONSPIRATORS REPAIRED TO THE HOME OF JOSHUA HETT SMITH ABOUT THREE MILES TO THE NORTH WHERE ARNOLD FINALLY AGREED TO SURRENDER WEST POINT FOR TEN THOUSAND POUNDS AND A COMMISSION IN THE BRITISH ARMY.  FROM THE SMITH HOUSE ANDRE ATTEMPTED TO RETURN TO THE BRITISH LINES.  HE WAS CAPTURED AT TARRYTOWN AND TRIED, CONVICTED, AND EXECUTED AS A SPY AT TAPPAN OCT. 2,1780.
 
The plaque to the gun's right reads:
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT ON THE 21st OF SEPTEMBER BENEDICT ARNOLD, THE TRAITOR AND JOHN ANDRE, THE SPY MET AT WATER'S EDGE WHERE THE GUN POINTS TO PLOT THE FALL OF AMERICA'S FREEDOM.
 
I'm thinking the gun should point a just few degrees to the left where Snedeckers Landing is located...
 
Once back home and writing this post I stumbled upon information pertaining to a historical marker located very close, perhaps less than 50 yards from where I landed my boat.  It's the Andre the Spy marker.  If you visit the link and check out photo 2 taken by Joe Harness you can see the marker's proximity to the spit of land where I landed.  The navigational marker "21" can also be seen.
 
On my way out of Haverstraw I passed yet another marker...

 
The Smith house is said to have been located on the grounds of the present day Helen Hayes Hospital...
 
 
Some trash gathered during my 2 visits...
 
 
 
So, with Andre having met his fate at the end of a rope, what happened to Mr. Arnold?  See my next post or, better yet, read Valiant Ambition.