Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stillwater Surprise

Got a nice surprise when I dropped into the Stillwater River in Sterling this past Monday.  The surprise wasn't this great little waterfall created by beavers...
...and not this scenic view of Wachusett Mtn. to the northwest...
...and not this cool, shady stretch of  river on a hot afternoon...

The surprise was not seeing one piece of trash...no plastic bottles, no nip bottles, no Styrofoam cups, no beer cans, no plastic bags.  Just a pristine river looking as it should.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Charles Interrupted

The Charles River in the area of King Philip's Lookout in Sherborn was a quiet and peaceful place this past Monday afternoon.  While paddling on the river I paused there to enjoy some lunch and saw first hand the effects from this year's Gypsy Moth Caterpillar infestation.  The leaves on many of the deciduous trees had been devoured...
Now the caterpillars had morphed into swarms of brown moths that flew about aimlessly.  I watched as several flights terminated upon wings hitting the water.  With wings too wet for flight they continued flitting until the rising mouths of fish brought the whole ugly cycle to an end.  At least the fish got a meal.

Then in the distance I heard the unmistakable call of a train and experience told me it would soon be causing a bit of a ruckus here on the Charles.  I positioned my boat just downstream of the bridge and waited as the unseen mass of diesel power approached.  Then it emerged from behind the hill and stepped lightly across the river as if 3 locomotives totaling 9,000 horsepower could do such a thing...
   
CSX units 6247, 6214, and 6236 pulled 50 freight cars across the river as they made their way from Framingham back to Readville.

After the last car cleared the bridge...
  ...peace and quiet were once again restored and a musquash went about the business of moving freight on a much smaller scale...

Not a lot of trash...

Writing this post I'm reminded that on this day 200 years ago Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, MA.  One of my favorite Thoreau quotes is from Walden (Economy):
"Above all, as I have implied, the man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off."



Friday, July 7, 2017

Oxbows through Bolton Flats

Got an early start yesterday launching into the Nashua River from the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge's upper launch in Harvard, MA.  I paddled upriver in hopes of reaching the blowdown that stopped my downriver progress from Rt. 117 back in June.  The morning was cool and quiet with hardly any breeze as I worked my way slowly through the Bolton Flats, dealing with one blowdown after another.  Trash was plentiful and my boat was at capacity before reaching my turnaround spot 2.8 miles upriver from where I'd launched.

In that almost 3 miles of river there are only a few signs of civilization.  The still active railroad bridge is one...
...and this smaller truss-type bridge crossing an inlet is another...
...perhaps a component of the Bolton Flats trail?

About 2 miles upriver from the launch a half-mile long ridge keeps the river at its foot on the west side...

On the riverbank opposite the ridge a 4-point buck was bedded down until he and I surprised one another.  I reached for my camera, but he was faster on the draw...and gone.

Trash recovered along the way...

Could easily have gathered another boatload. 



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Catacunemaug, Nashua, and Umbagog?

Paddled a sweet stretch of the Nashua River early Monday morning.  After launching from the Bill Ashe Visitor Center in Devens, I explored the lower half of the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge between the Ice House Dam and the osprey nest above Route 2.  Also ventured a short ways into Catacunemaug Brook...
 
As a fan of Native American place names I was researching the word "Catacunemaug" and found that there's an old mill building in Shirley known as "Umbagog on the Catacunemaug".  Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?  I'd only heard the word "Umbagog" before in reference to a pristine lake in Maine.

Wildlife encounters included 3 white-tailed deer, a river otter, many musquash, kingfishers, blue and green herons, several large snapping turtles, and this osprey...

Also encountered a fair bit of trash, especially behind this one fallen tree which served as a trash trap...
 
 
Now it's ready to catch some more...


By paddle's end my boat was at capacity...

Always seem to find lots of one-quart glass beer bottles in this stretch.  Yesterday there were 11 of them.

Happy Fourth!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July's Frosty Start

Yesterday being the first Saturday of the month could only mean one thing...Denise Hurt and the New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club Paddlers would be kicking-off July with a Trash Patrol.  So, on an appropriately steamy summer's morn a dozen paddle-propelled boats launched into the Mighty Merrimack from Frost Road Park in Tyngsboro, and headed out in pairs...

Most of the recovered trash went into deck-mounted plastic crates.  However some items, such as this plastic trash barrel, required custom rigging...

At the patrol's conclusion folks went about separating the recyclables from the rubbish and tallying-up the haul...
Recovered from the river were the following:
227 recyclable plastic or glass containers, 343 pieces of rubbish which included 5 automobile tires, a large Styrofoam block, 2 plastic 55-gallon drums, 1 plastic trash barrel, 5 syringes, and 11 "Hookset Disks". 

The disks seen below as "cash on the barrel" are some of the more than 4 million released from an upriver wastewater treatment plant into the Merrimack on a stormy March night back in 2011...


Post-patrol the group enjoyed an early July 4th cookout at Frost Park alongside the bend in the Merrimack...


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Between Thunder

Seems like every other paddle includes thunderstorms these days.  Last Friday I got chased off the Sudbury River by such a storm whereas this past Sunday my daughter and I enjoyed idyllic paddling conditions on the Concord River in Bedford (above photo).  Then today it was back to watching those high-topped clouds approach from the west.  Before they got too serious I managed to get in a short paddle on the Assabet River to Fort Meadow Brook where the portal was found to be wide open...
 ...and allowed passage up as far as the old railroad trestle...

En route to the trestle the brook was found to be sporting this plastic 55-gallon drum...
...which may have previously served as flotation for some of the piping beneath the trestle.

I made it back to Magazu's Landing just as the first claps of thunder rang out to the north.  In a tree I noticed a critter too big to be a squirrel looking in the storm's direction...
Pretty sure it's a woodchuck and it's the first one I've ever seen in a tree.  He was about 8 feet up and stayed so still I began to think it was just a broken-off branch.

The approaching storm had the herons acting a little weird as well...


Some trash encountered along the way today...




Saturday, June 24, 2017

Connecticut River by Ottauquechee

 
Early this past Sunday morning I ventured to White River Junction, Vermont for a couple of days paddling on the Connecticut River.  Just above the Wilder Dam I joined my friend Paul (aka Captain Dangerous) in paddling upriver...

to Wilson's Landing and back thus completing the section of the Connecticut River between Woodsville, NH and Wilder Dam.  The return trip down to Wilder proved tough against the afternoon's southerly breeze.  Post-paddle Paul returned to New York while I found the nearby Quechee KOA and pitched my tent for the first time this season.

The weather forecast for Monday included flash flood advisories, and potentially strong thunderstorms were predicted for mid-day.  This prompted me to launch at 6 am from Blood's Brook in Lebanon, New Hampshire where the water level was found to be on the low side.  Other than a lone shore fisherman I had the river to myself.  Shortly after launching I reached the confluence of the Ottauquechee River where a short ascent of it brought me to two waterfalls beneath two covered bridges...
Some five miles or so up the Ottauquechee from this spot these waters squeezed their way through Vermont's Quechee Gorge.

Once back on the Connecticut I approached the Hen and Chicks...
The Hen close-up...
 
 
Another mile or so downstream I reached Sumner Falls...
...where I landed upstream and walked the portage trail. 
 
Along the trail are picnic tables and a portable toilet...
 
 
Downstream of the falls the river looked tranquil...
 
...and an eagle soared overhead...
 
 
Walking the trail back to my boat I thought of Major Robert Rogers' 1759 account of portaging these falls before having one of his men release his crude raft for the tumble through.  He then swam out to retrieve the raft and they continued their journey down to Fort # 4.  Rogers referred to the falls by their Native American name "Wattockquitchey".
 
I began my return trip back to Blood's Brook encountering an eight boat flotilla of canoes and kayaks on their way to the falls.  Also encountered was this kayak sporting a Bimini Top of sorts...
 
 
Back at Blood's Brook...
 ...I exited the river as clouds began to take on an ominous appearance.
 
On my drive back to the campground I stopped at Quechee Gorge for the obligatory photo...
 
The afternoon's thunderstorms found me in the Montshire Museum where numerous exhibits were enjoyed.  One video exhibit Adrift by Simon Christen gave me a whole new appreciation for fog.
  
Before leaving the area on Tuesday morning I visited the White River Junction railroad station...
 
 
 ...and watched as Vermont Railways engine 303 received some TLC in preparation for the upcoming day's work...
 
My two paddles on the Connecticut River produced very little trash...
 
Yesterday, closer to home, I got chased off of the Sudbury River's Fairhaven Bay by clouds that suddenly became ominous and from which emanated a few claps of thunder...
I guess that makes it official...summer has begun!