Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dead or Just Resting?

While paddling with friends Paul and Ellen this past Thursday we stopped to admire this old railroad trestle spanning the Charles River in Medfield, MA.  I don't think any of us thought the rickety-looking structure could still support the weight of a freight train.  The tracks leading to the trestle looked neglected and an old diesel locomotive with boarded-up windows looked like it had reached the end of the line...

Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised to find a video (taken last year) that someone had kindly posted showing this very locomotive springing to life and then pushing and pulling a good number of freight cars over the very same trestle.  If I didn't see it I wouldn't believe it.

The paddle upriver from the trestle was a nice one, though plans of paddling to Devilsfoot Island via the Stop River were thwarted by a debris-clogged bridge at Causeway Road.

You'd think this sentry at the confluence of the Charles and Stop would have told us the passage was blocked...


Some trash encountered along the way...


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Going Up, Going Down

This past Saturday I joined with members of the NHAMC Paddlers in paddling the Merrimack River from Greeley Park in Nashua, NH up to Cromwell's Falls in Merrimack.

Along the way and while hugging the west shore we continued looking for a campsite matching the one Henry David Thoreau described in his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

While we didn't find any specific spot that matched his exact description we did come across this stone marker up on the west riverbank and downriver from Pennichuck Brook...
It's marked HENRY 85-95.    No idea if it has anything to do with their campsite or journey.  Others who've stumbled upon it speculate it's possibly marking the final resting place of someone's beloved pet named "Henry".

We pushed on and eventually reached Cromwell's Falls and the very lock which allowed the Thoreau brothers passage up through the falls...

Of the many locks which once comprised the Merrimack River Navigation System this one is said to be in the best condition.  It was placed into service in 1815 and used into the 1850s.  Some of the wood supports for the gate can still be seen at the downstream end...

On this day back in 1839 the Thoreau brothers had begun their return trip from Hooksett, NH back to Concord, MA.  They would camp on this night about 5 miles upriver from Cromwell's Falls in the northern part of Merrimack opposite a large island. 
Thoreau described the seasonal change having occurred while they slept that night:
"We had gone to bed in summer, and we awoke in autumn; for summer passes into autumn in some unimaginable point of time, like the turning of a leaf."

They pushed off from their campsite before 5am, and with help from a northerly breeze sailed and rowed approximately 50 miles to their home in Concord, MA arriving there after dark.  That's a pretty respectable distance to cover in one day.

After our brief visit to Cromwell's Falls and lock we returned to Greeley with some flotsam gathered up along the way...
 

Yesterday, the end of my workday left me within easy striking distance of the Nashua River in Harvard, MA.  After launching from the Oxbow NWA, I made my way upriver needing to find a way under, through, or over a half dozen or so blowdowns in the process...

Kept thinking the next one would stop me until I'd reached a point 3.25 miles up from the launch where one tree, spanning the river bank to bank, did just that.

The stretch of the Nashua River I'd paddled has very few visible signs of civilization.  One of the larger signs is this still active railroad bridge...

Another hint of civilization was the sound of gunfire from the nearby firing ranges of Fort Devens...which served as a fitting reminder that yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11.

Rounded up these pieces of flotsam found slowly making their way downriver, moving from one blowdown to another by utilizing the wind and the currents...
 ...sort of like jellyfish.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Little Nonacoicus

When paddling the Nashua River in Ayer this past Thursday I stopped where Nonacoicus Brook enters from the east.  On my previous visits to this spot, entering Nonqacoicus by boat wasn't possible due to debris blocking the passage beneath the MacPherson Road bridge.  However, thanks to an inch of rain the previous day, there appeared a small opening along the right side.  With a little work (pushing a few branches aside with my paddle) I was through and into the tributary with the Native American name said to have something to do with an earthen pot.  Just a hundred yards or so in from the river was a small knoll which might have made an ideal spot for a trading post...
 
The sun seemed to favor this particular cluster of Cardinal flowers...
 
 
I was able to explore the brook's first half mile until this recently modified beaver dam showing below West Main Street persuaded me to turn back...
 
While the Nonacoicus was free of any trash, the Nashua between the busy railroad bridge by Macpherson Rd...
...and the retired railroad bridge near the Squannacook's mouth...
...coughed up this bit of flotsam...
 
 



Sunday, September 3, 2017

Merrimack's Nashville Ravine

The New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club Paddlers held their September Trash Patrol yesterday morning on the Merrimack River in Nashua, NH.  Patrol leader Denise and the usual gang of picker-uppers rendezvoused at the Greeley Park Boat Launch before heading out in small squadrons along both sides of the river.

After a few hours we'd gathered up this assortment of trash...
...to which a sign was affixed to let folks know it hadn't just been dumped there, but would be removed early next week...

Because of when and where we were conducting this trash patrol it occurred to me that it might coincide (both time and place) with the boat trip brothers John and Henry Thoreau undertook in 1839, and which Henry later wrote about in his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers published in 1849I'd brought along my copy of the book and, checking it, confirmed the two brothers had traversed this very stretch of the Merrimack in their dory-like boat 178 years ago, to the day, on September 2nd 1839.
They were beginning the third day of their journey, having camped the night before in Tyngsborough, MA.  On that third day they continued up the Merrimack passing its confluence with the Nashua River in the late afternoon.  Regarding their day's destination, Henry wrote "Soon the village of Nashua was out of sight, and the woods were gained again, and we rowed slowly on before sunset, looking for a solitary place in which to spend the night.  A few evening clouds began to be reflected in the water, and the surface was dimpled only here and there by a muskrat crossing the stream.  We camped at length near Penichook Brook, on the confines of what is now Nashville, by a deep ravine, under the skirts of a pine wood, where dead pine leaves were our carpet, and their tawny boughs stretched overhead. But fire and smoke soon tamed the scene; the rocks consented to be our walls, and the pines our roof.  A woodside was already the fittest locality for us."

So, at the conclusion of the trash patrol, I returned to the river and sought to find the location where the brothers camped.  My original plan focused on Thoreau's mention of "near Penichook Brook" and I paddled the short distance to where the brook enters the river...
 ...and looked for a deep ravine located downriver from Pennichuck Brook.  I believe it had to be downriver because Thoreau describes their rowing past the brook without seeing it in the early morning fog the following day.

After looking downriver towards the direction the two brothers would be approaching from...
...I returned to Greeley Park and headed home.  This morning I reread Thoreau's description and focused on his words "..on the confines of what is now Nashville".  At the time Thoreau was writing his book in 1848 Nashville, NH was a separate town from Nashua.  It existed as a town between 1842 and 1853 when the towns of Nashville and Nashua combined to form the city of Nashua.   Online I found this 1846 map showing Nashville's location...

The map shows Nashville as having frontage on the Merrimack's western shoreline between the Nashua River to the south and Pennichuck Brook to the north.  This covers just under 3 miles of Merrimack River shoreline.

Oddly enough, one location that clearly meets all of the characteristics mentioned by Thoreau: "near Penichook Brook, on the confines of what is now Nashville, by a deep ravine, under the skirts of a pine wood, where the dead pine leaves were our carpet, and their tawny boughs stretched overhead" is the very location from which we held our trash patrol...the Greeley Park Boat Launch (see opening photo).  It's located just about midway between the Nashua River and Pennichuck Brook, was in the confines of then Nashville, is a deep ravine, and has pine trees galore.
It's distinctly possible that the place I went off to find was actually right there beneath my own two feet.  Wouldn't be the first time.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fullness of the Season


Paddled the Assabet River between Cox Street in Hudson and Magazu's Landing in Stow over two days this past week.  I couldn't help but notice that riverside vegetation has pretty much grown to fullness...

Don't think this heron is going to get any taller either...

While paddling around Orchard Hill on Saturday I had a bit of a time travel experience.  Was paddling a stretch where there are no modern buildings in sight when I heard some clatter and found myself paddling alongside a horse-drawn buckboard...


I'd later discover they're Belgian draft horses from the nearby Rockbottom Farm.

Below Gleasondale dam I came across this 1890s blob-topped Sullivan Bros bottle from Providence, RI that may once have held Sarsaparilla.  Might even have been delivered in a wagon such as the one above...


Close to the base of Orchard Hill was this 1948 Calvert Whisky bottle...

Above the dam at Gleasondale I got a good look at the sluiceway that, in years past, put the Assabet to work...


Trash wasn't too bad, especially in the stretch between Cox Street and Gleasondale where I usually fill my boat to capacity.  On this day, for whatever reason, there was much less than usual...

Where the river gets detoured to the east by Orchard Hill this plastic container with a fluorescent bulb sticking out of it had been left on the bank...
...and was too big for my boat.

The trash from between Gleasondale and Sudbury Road...

Mornings getting cooler and days getting shorter.  Summertime's in short supply.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tully Time

Yesterday, on an incredibly quiet Thursday morning, I launched into the Tully River in Royalston and paddled a short distance into Tully Lake.  It was so quiet I could hear the proverbial chipmunk relieving himself upon a leaf.  While I'd paddled the Tully River above the lake several times before, I'd never ventured into the lake itself beyond the point pictured above.  Campfire smoke was wafting up through the trees at the lake's north end as campers were preparing breakfast.  There may have been a whiff of bacon sizzling in a fry-pan?

Like an English muffin the approximately 200-acre manmade lake has numerous nooks and crannies to explore...

The boat launch near the dam was deserted...
After following the lake's shoreline in a counter-clockwise rotation I returned to the river and headed upstream...

Went about 3 miles upriver of Doane Hill Rd passing over a half dozen or so beaver dams until turning around when the dams became like a series of steps past the overhead power lines...

On my way back downriver I kept an eye out for the purple pitcher plants I'd seen before, but none appeared...not sure if they're gone or just didn't bloom this year.

In the course of my travels on the lake and river I didn't see one speck of trash.  This entire area was immaculate!

Preparing to pull out onto Doane Hill Road a deer crossed...
 ...and a few seconds later a fawn followed.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trapped in the Oxbow

After two recent trash patrols in which my trash crate never got full, today it was full after only half a mile.  That's when things got even worse for at the next bend in the river a natural trash-trap had captured a considerable amount of flotsam...

By the time I left the above spot, and two others adjacent to it, my boat was full to the gills.

Here, spilled-out, is the trash gathered up in paddling just one (1) mile of the Nashua River downstream from the Oxbow canoe launch...

At least the trash trap had been fairly efficient as I didn't see too much trash in the next mile and a half downstream to Route 2.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Clean Pair of Paddles

This past Sunday morning an up and back paddle between Magazu's Landing and Gleasondale revealed that some previously blocked sections had opened up.  However, the box culvert to Fort Meadow Brook was found to be closed to traffic...

In the area of river between the above two photos a pair of camera-shy river otters were patrolling the shoreline.

At a fallen tree across the river near Gleasondale the remains of a ruggedly built raft partially block one passage...
 ...and made for a tight squeeze.

Very little in the way of trash was encountered on the water...

This plastic bag containing trash left tied to the railing is perplexing...


Today on a cloudy and unusually still afternoon an up and back paddle was undertaken on the Nashua River between Rt. 119 and its confluence with the Squannacook River.
This photo shows just how still it was...

A green heron was encountered on the trip upriver...

...as well as a pair of tentative divers on Fitch's Bridge...
Folks have probably been jumping into the river from a bridge of one kind or the other at this location since the 1700s.

A little further along was this coming attraction...
...serving to remind that August is half over.

The river was fairly busy near Nashoba Paddlers...
...but not another soul was found at the mouth of the Squannacook...

Again, trash was few and far between for a 5-mile stretch of river...