Monday, December 29, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Pantry Brook & Back

My last trash patrol of 2008 took place this afternoon under a mostly cloudy sky and temperatures in the mid 40's. Given the weather forecast for the next two days, today's conditions were delightful and not to be missed. Once launched into the Sudbury River's springlike conditions in regards to water level and flow, I decided to see if passage through Fairhaven Bay was possible or if it would be blocked by ice.
Approaching the Route 2 underpass I recovered my first piece of trash, an empty beer can. At Heaths Bridge only 3 pieces of trash were found for a welcome change from this spot's usual bounty. The near shore ice at Martha's Point had retreated far enough to allow my paddling right up to the hillside and continue my ongoing search for a piece of hand-tooled stone. Came across a few interesting pieces, recently exposed by erosion, but nothing that really bore signs of having been tooled by a human hand. This search will continue in 2009 as hope springs eternal.
Just beyond Martha's Point the small stream running down to the river through the woods was flowing at pretty good clip. Looking through my binoculars from here, I could see what looked to be open water in Fairhaven Bay so I paddled onward with hopes of getting across. Once in the bay I found that most of the remaining ice was on the west side where the water is very shallow. A lone seagull was on the ice and several ducks flew off before I could determine what kind they were. Between the bay and Lee's Bridge at Rt. 117, I recovered another 8 pieces of trash, the most notable being a 2.4 cubic foot plastic bag that had originally contained lawn fertilizer or peat moss. The smaller of the two archways under the bridge was completely submerged.
A little ways beyond the bridge the field on the river's east side was filled with Canada geese. Near the river's shore and the edge of the field, a hawk was perched atop a 5 foot high sign and as he took flight his red tail was prominently displayed.
The outlet for Farrar Pond intrigues me when I pass by during times of high water. I find myself wondering if the river can get high enough to allow entry to the pond. Looking through binoculars today I noticed some sort of man-made structure (a vault?) that appears to be built into an earthen dike. Usually the vegetation hides this area from view. At any rate, there would be no access to Farrar Pond today. However, at Pantry Brook I was surprised to find that not only was the water level above the sheet pile barrier but the brook's channel was ice free. Passing over the barrier I noted the water height gauge read 5.98. Plenty of room for my vessel's modest draft! Once into the impoundment, I allowed my kayak to raft-up to the ice and using that for stability, hot cocoa and a power bar were enjoyed while my eyes scanned the large open wetland that reached out to the southwest. A couple of shapes in the distance caught my eye. The first looked like the shape of a moose and the second looked a bit like a pair of short scarecrows. Using my binoculars I determined that the moose shape was just a fallen tree and the scarecrow shapes were possibly some sedge grass. However, as I scanned the scarecrow shapes a second time I detected movement by one of the scarecrow heads. These shapes were probably 100 yards southwest of my position and were just about in the middle of this large flooded wetland. Both of the scarecrow shapes were only a few feet above the water level. Holding the binoculars on the shape that appeared to move soon revealed a set of eyes and I realized that I was more than likely looking at two very well camouflaged duck hunters. Despite the fact that I saw no ducks in the area, I decided not to intrude on their activities and made this my turnaround spot. I have to admit to being a bit spooked by the experience. It was easy to imagine that they were laying in ambush for me and that but for my luck in spotting them with the help of binoculars, I might have been a dead duck!
Heading back downriver, a beaver saluted my passage with a good tailslap near Macone's Farm. This beaver family appears to have two lodges. One for use in high water and another near Pantry Brook for the drier times.
At Fairhaven Bay, I went ashore at Scout Island and after reorganizing my modest trash haul, stretched my legs by walking the length of the small island. The air seemed to have warmed a few degrees and I became conscious of not wanting my last patrol of the year to end too soon.
Passing under Heaths Bridge I espied a beaver up on the ice munching on a 4 foot long branch. Almost made it by him without his notice but when I next looked over he had slipped beneath the surface. About a quarter mile past this point 4 empty containers were recovered from the river's east shore. The best of the lot was an empty bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey bobbing proudly amidst the ice and twigs.
The traffic on Route 2 was at times stopped on the bridge and those drivers got to watch me move unimpeded beneath the roadway and into the last stretch of river between there and my takeout location.
The most enjoyed song lyrics of the day were provided by Gordon Lightfoot and Great Big Sea. Gordon's "Minstral of the Dawn" had the passage "The minstrel of the dawn is here to make you laugh and bend your ear.......He talks of better days ahead and by his words your fortune's read".
Great Big Sea sang "Banks of Newfoundland" which opens with "Me bully boys of Liverpool and I'll have you all beware When you sail on them packet ships, no dungaree jackets wear But have a big monkey jacket All ready to your hand For there blow some cold nor'westers on the banks of Newfoundland"
Just before concluding my trip, I recovered the last 8 pieces of 2008 trash from underneath the commuter rail bridge. My total for the day was 24 bringing my total for 2008 to 2689.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Westvale & Return

Today at low noon, after breaking some near shore ice, I launched into the Sudbury River and headed downstream to Egg Rock. Considering that spring is still 84 days away the weather wasn't really too bad. A steady light rain with temperatures in the low 40's. The main channels of both the Sudbury and Assabet rivers were open water with occasional floating slabs of ice. Ice extended out a few feet from the shoreline in most places and the small coves and backwaters were iced in.
By the time I arrived at Egg Rock, five pieces of trash were on my kayak's deck including the plastic cover for a 32-gallon rubbermaid trash barrel. Once on the Assabet, I encountered fog at the Leaning Hemlocks but it dissipated a little further upriver. Dodge Rock was completely submerged and as I passed its location I noticed that the snag of brush to the side of it held a pre-packaged trash bounty. A party bag is what I would call it. Someone had a party, then carefully placed approximately 20 plastic Solo cups. some beer cans/bottles, a nip bottle, and some aluminun foil into a trash bag which they securely tied in a knot. Pretty responsible to this point. Unfortunately the last step, which would have been depositing the bag into a dumpster, didn't occur and the bag somehow ended up in the river. So my trash count went from 5 to 37 with only a few minutes work.
Resuming my trip upriver I passed by a flooded Willow Island and noticed a mink slinking along the ice on the river's north side. We were both heading in the same direction and our paths soon crossed as we neared a group of Canada geese. The mink entered the river and began swimming towards the geese. As he passed across my bow he saw me, and oddly enough, began swimming directly towards me. When he got to within 3 feet of my kayak he decided to turn again and resumed his initial route towards the geese. While this was happening the geese had all exited the water and climbed onto the ice. They were aware of the mink and allowed him to get fairly close, about 15 feet. He actually climbed onto the ice using a tree for cover and then popped out from first one side then the other side of the tree. His two manifestations didn't seem to cause the desired reaction from the geese so he jumped back into the water and disappeared from sight.
The rain ended before I reached Route 2 and with things now drying out the river beckoned me onward. At Concord Junction, the large snag between the commuter rail bridge and Rt. 62 was easily passed through and shortly thereafter I was looking at the newly bridged-over gap at Pine Street. There are 5 new concrete spans across the river and I'm happy to report there is no support column in the middle of the river.
After passing by my grandson's elementary school, named for Thoreau, I encountered a snag that looked a little trickier to navigate around. This made a good spot to turn around so I retreated downriver to a backwater just below Thoreau School and allowed my kayak to run aground on a small submerged sand bar. Here with all systems powered down I enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa and a power bar before beginning my return trip.
As usual the trip downriver was an easy one and soon I was passing through the fog again at the Leaning Hemlocks and rounding Egg Rock before heading upriver on the Sudbury. Besides the geese and mink, the only other wildlife seen were numerous mallards. I arrived at my takeout location with 45 empty containers, of which 35 were recyclable. This brought my YTD total to 2665.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Photos from Pokanoket Waters at Montaup 11/27 Post

Church Cove Shore

Looking Across Mt. Hope Bay Towards Fall River

Haffenreffer Museum

Church Cove

Brayton Point Electric-Generating Plant

Photos from Pokanoket Waters of Montaup

Cave at Mt Hope Point

SE Face of Mt. Hope Point

Mt. Hope Point

Mt. Hope Point

Beach Just North of Mt. Hope Point

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Fairhaven Bay & Return

This afternoon's incredibly warm temperatures were all I needed to justify another river expedition. Because of the blustery winds, my plan was to paddle on the more sheltered Assabet River. However, that plan required modification when I reached the first bridge and found I couldn't fit through the archway due to the river's very high water levels.
I quickly turned about and decided to play the hand I'd been dealt which required paddling against the current and into the gusty winds.
The dramatic rise in water level had floated another batch of trash out of the bushes that line the shore. By the time I left the Heath's Bridge area I had 40 pieces of trash. Half were stowed in a dry bag and the rest adorned my deck.
Reaching Fairhaven Bay I saw that Scout Island was truly an island and paddled around it counter-clockwise. This is only possible with very high water levels. When I emerged from the sheltered west side, I found conditions quite lively around the south end where the wind had some fetch to work with. All I had to do was steer as I quickly traveled the length of the island and decided against landing at the small beach due to rough conditions. After swinging around the north end I found a spot on the sheltered west side where I could exit my kayak in shallow water. Secured my painter around a small tree and went about transloading trash from deck to ship's hold. Once this work was complete, I planted my 3-legged stool and enjoyed a snack while drinking in the warm air and great scenery.
After relaunching I began riding the wind and current downstream. Near Martha's Point I encountered two guys in a canoe beating against the wind as they moved upriver. At Heath's Bridge another 7 empty containers were scooped up. This spot is like a trash mine. It just keeps on giving!
Didn't see much wildlife today. Just as this past Friday, there were no ducks and no geese. All I saw was a seagull, a hawk, and a beaver.
Arrived at my takeout location with 47 empty containers (37 were recyclable) bringing my YTD total to 2620.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Fairhaven Bay & Return

This afternoon, in the relatively calm conditions after the storm, I launched my kayak into the rain swollen Sudbury River and headed upstream. The low dark storm clouds were moving to the northeast revealing a deep blue sky with high white clouds racing across the sun. Temperatures were in the low 40s and considering that I am already 1 day into my "100 friggin days till spring" countdown, conditions like these couldn't be passed up.
Recovered several empty plastic bags before passing under the Rt.2 bridge and another batch of beer/soda/water bottles approaching Heath's Bridge.
Just upstream of Martha's Point, the brook on the river's west side was tumbling down through the trees at a pretty good clip. Fairhaven Bay was about as quiet and unoccupied as I've ever seen it. No ducks, no geese, and no ice. Not even an ice cube could be seen. I landed on Scout Island and while sitting in the sunshine, enjoyed some hot cocoa and a power bar. A little after 3pm I relaunched and headed back downriver into a building breeze from the northwest. Saw some ducks in flight near Emerson Hospital and a beaver on his way to work upriver from the commuter rail bridge. Arrived at my takeout location with 20 empty containers (14 recyclable) bringing my YTD total to 2573.
Once home, I saw this article concerning 78 year old Richard Wheeler and his paddling 1000 miles in a fundraising effort for the Wareham Public Library. He'll be finishing tomorrow at the Wareham Narrows. Check him out:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Concord Jct. & Back

This afternoon I decided to greet the predicted warmer temperatures while heading upriver on the Assabet. Skies were cloudy when I launched but brightened a little as I paddled to Egg Rock. Once on the Assabet, I soon recovered an interesting bottle. Wrested from the ice was an empty bottle of Christian Brothers Tawny Port and that reminded me that I have some Tawny Porto at home. Plans for my apres paddle beverage changed from hot cocoa to Tawny Porto on the spot.
At Dodge Rock, I encountered thin ice that had reached across the main channel to the rock formation and required a little icebreaking to get through. This cold snap is letting up just in time. Another few frigid days like Monday and the ice would have been more resistant to my kayak's bow.
At Spencer Brook a belted kingfisher joined me and we headed upriver together for a half mile or so. The Muscovite ducks were all out of the water and resting on the shore. Mallards were in the river and possibly a pair of wood ducks.
A different belted kingfisher greeted me at the mouth of Nashoba Brook and stayed in the area while I headed a little ways beyond the commuter rail bridge in Concord Junction. Where a small stream enters on the river's east side between the rail bridge and the Rt. 62 bridge, I recovered several plastic bags. One of the bags was an empty 25 lb bag of water softener crytals.
With a dozen empty containers onboard, the kingfisher and I started heading downriver. Just before reaching the Rt. 2 bridge the kingfisher bid me adieu and I continued downriver without an escort.
By the time I reached Spencer Brook again,my trash count was up to 16 and the other kingfisher was there waiting for my arrival. He did a few of his fly-ahead moves before disappearing and leaving me to finish my paddle alone. During this last stretch of river I was able to enjoy listening to a band from Newfoundland called Great Big Sea doing the song "England" from their recently released "Fortune's Favor". Check it out at:
Sort of a sea shanty sound that provided a nice cadence for paddling home.
I arrived at my takeout location with 19 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 2553.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Concord River - Egg Rock to Saw Mill Brook & Back

On Tuesday evening, I heard the TV Weatherman utter my two favorite words, "Bermuda High". The term refers to a summerlike weather pattern where a high pressure system moves off the Atlantic coast and stalls roughly over Bermuda. While stalled, it pumps warm air in the direction of New England and even though it is December, it can provide some nice trash paddling conditions.
Therefore, I was in my boat and heading towards Egg Rock before 1:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon. Water levels are still rising and in the short stint to Egg Rock, I recovered 6 empty containers. Opposite Egg Rock, an onshore raid netted a booty of 45 empty beer bottles/cans from the riverbank where the Assabet becomes the Concord. These were stored below deck and I re-launched into the Concord's springlike flow for a fast and easy ride downstream.
A little ways below Flint's Bridge I encountered three other kayakers enjoying the excellent weather. As on Monday, it was Leon G. again and two fellow paddlers heading back down to Bedford after having ascended the Assabet for a few miles.
After they had moved downriver, I saw a great blue heron at the Great Meadows outlet. I guess he is planning to winter over. Hope he makes it! Also saw a hairy woodpecker and numerous mallards and Canada geese.
Arriving at my favorite cabin, downstream of Saw Mill Brook, with my deck filling up with more empties, I turned around and began the slog upriver against the current. The sun was low in the sky and blinding for most of my trip back to Egg Rock.
Arrived at my takeout location, just as the last bits of daylight faded, with a total of 73 empty containers (62 of which were recyclable) bringing my YTD total to 2534.

Concord River - Rising Moon & Favorite Cabin

Beaver Moon Rising Over Lowell Rd. Bridge on 11/12

An Ideal Place to Live by the River

Concord River - Mystical Paddling Photos from 11/14

Before Entering the Fog

Approaching the Fog

Watching the Fog Creep Upriver

Approaching Flint's Bridge

Approaching the Old North Bridge

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Lee's Bridge and Back

As I paddled my kayak on the Sudbury River this afternoon, I couldn't help thinking that perhaps it had all been just a bad dream. The recent bout of cold weather; frigid winds; and the ice blocking Fairhaven Bay. With this afternoon's bright sunshine and warm temperatures my water world was right again. Too bad it couldn't stay this way till March!
Reaching Heath's Bridge and seeing that the high water levels had released another batch of trash, I decided to launch an onshore raid upstream of the bridge. It took about 20 minutes to round up 45 empty containers and two large wads of fishing line. While engrossed in my trash picking, I didn't, at first, notice the 2 kayakers that pulled up under the bridge. I'm pretty sure one of the paddlers was Leon G. of Bedford, one of the area's stronger and faster paddlers. He and a fellow paddler were turning around here to head back downriver, probably to Rt. 225.
After stowing my trash booty below deck and relaunching, I proceeded towards Fairhaven Bay where I was glad to find that last week's ice was mostly broken up and gone. What remained was along the west side of the bay which is very shallow. Leaving the bay's south end I began to feel the wind that the weather forecasters predicted would eventually awaken.
As I emerged from under Lee's Bridge, I felt its full force and allowed it to turn me quickly to a downstream direction. In the area just downstream from the bridge, I recovered another half dozen containers including a 1-gallon plastic water jug. With the water jug on my deck, I now had a small sail and whisked across Fairhaven Bay with very little effort.
Between Fairhaven and Heath's Bridge, I encountered another kayaker enjoying these rare December conditions. My trip downriver was so fast that it afforded me more time for trash picking downstream of the bridge where I recovered another dozen bottles and cans.
At my takeout location, I had 87 empty containers, 20 of which were recovered from the launch site parking area. This brings my YTD total to 2461

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Assabet - Egg Rock to Rt. 2 & Upper Concord

Yesterday, approaching mid-day, this trash paddler was joined by two friends from the Lake George region of the Empire State. Under bright sunny skies, Paul, Ellen, and I launched our kayaks near Egg Rock and began paddling against the steady current of the Assabet River. Soon after we commenced our trip upriver, the sunshine abandoned us to a cold grey overcast. Water levels had risen several inches since my last visit on Monday. The rise in water level resulted in a fresh crop of flotsam and it didn't take long for us to decorate our decks with empty water, wine, beer, and soda bottles.
A little ways past the remnants of the Reformatory Branch railroad bridge, we came upon three does foraging along the river's east bank. They seemed quite indifferent to our presence as were the Muscovite ducks we encountered between there and Rt. 2.
After passing under a busy Rt. 2 we stopped for a break in the small backwater on the left bank. Leaving the river's main channel required some minor ice breaking in order to reach the shore. Since the promised sunshine was not in the cards, we decided to turn around here and head back downstream, after storing collected trash below deck.
The trip downriver was much quicker and soon with some additional trash on our decks, we were looking at Egg Rock once again. Before calling it a day, we decided to head down the upper Concord River and pass under the Old North Bridge. The grounds around the bridge were fairly busy with a good number of tourists, despite the cold and grey conditions. Traveling downstream a little farther allowed us to check on the status of the Flint's Bridge construction progress. Not too much progress in evidence. Here we turned back into the current and paddled back to our launch site, arriving with 34 empty containers (21 were recyclable). YTD total= 2374

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Paddling the Pakanoket Waters of Montaup

Yesterday morning I drove down to Mt. Hope Bay in Rhode Island to paddle along the shore of Pokanoket at Montaup. According to Native American Place Names of Massachusetts by R.A. Douglas-Lithgow, Pokanoket was the "Favourite hunting-ground of King Philip" and means "The wood or land on the other side of the water." King Philip, also known as Metacom, was the second son of Massasoit, the Wampanoag sachem who befriended the European settlers at Plymouth. Metacom later became the most recognized leader of an insurgency, known as King Philip's War, against the encroaching Europeans. Metacom's complaints can be seen at:

The European settlers prevailed in the conflict and Metacom was killed in 1676. Rather than being treated as a worthy adversary, he was demonized by the victors and his head was mounted on a pole in Plymouth for 25 years. My goal was to visit the place where Metacom and his people spent their happier days.
Therefore, it was only appropriate that to reach the boat landing, I would drive down Metacom Avenue to Annawamscutt Drive and just before reaching King Philip Avenue, turn right into the Mt. Hope Fishing Access. Here I launched my kayak into the very calm waters of Mt. Hope Bay. To the north was Bristol Narrows, where the tidal Kickamuit River enters. Looking across the approximately 4-mile wide bay, I could see the electric-generating plant at Brayton Point and the bridge to Fall River. Using my binoculars, I could see one of the battleships in Battleship Cove, just beyond the bridge. To the southeast, a smaller bridge crossed over the Sakonnet River. I began paddling to the south following the shoreline to Mt. Hope Point and after rounding the point, into a stiff southwest wind, found a calm refuge in Church Cove. Exiting my boat, I found an oyster shell at my feet and thought of the expression, "The World was their oyster". The land had mostly deciduous trees but there were quite a few small cedar trees close to the shoreline. It was in this vicinity that the Pokanoket branch of the Wampanoag Tribe spent their summers and I can see why. The almost daily, in summer, southwest breeze would have kept insects to a minimum, they would have had access to plentiful supplies of fish and shellfish, and with canoes would have had access to the entire Narragansett Bay and all of the rivers that flow into it. This was a commanding location. In fact, it is said that Metacom, on hearing in 1665 that a man on Nantucket, known as Assassamu, was invoking his deceased father's name, traveled by canoe from Pokanoket all the way to the west end of Nantucket Island and back. This would have been quite a trip to undertake in a canoe! Assassamu survived Metacom's intended fate when the white settlers paid a ransom of sorts.
Leaving Church Cove I noticed the Mt. Hope Bridge linking Bristol Point and Bristol Ferry about a mile to my southwest. I turned around and let the breeze from that direction help me back to where I had launched from. At the landing, a small stream was running strong with water from the previous day's rains. It provided a convenient spot to rinse the salt water from my gear.
With my gear all stowed, I decided to access the area by land. I drove down Tower Street and onto the property of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. This museum, operated by Brown University, owns 375 acres of woodland on the shore of Mt. Hope Bay. Unfortunately, the museum is closed during the week, at this time of year, so I was unable to walk the grounds.
This image by frahof shows what Wampanoag Montaup may have looked like:

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Mid-Winter Like Patrol on Sudbury & Assabet

After a week of unusually cold weather, I was finally able to get out on the water this afternoon. I decided to head up the Sudbury River and began paddling into a light but steady breeze out of the south that didn’t feel too bad compared to what we’ve experienced lately.
Almost immediately, I encountered a belted kingfisher that flew across the river instead of providing me an escort like the one last Monday did. Shortly after this I came upon a group of Canada geese and mallards that were resting on the thin ice that had formed along the sides of the river. Mixed in with this group was a pair of ducks that were strangers to me. The male had a white neck/chest, brown head, and two bands of color near the rear. The female looked like fairly similar to the mallard females. The only duck in my field guide that looks similar is a northern pintail but I can’t be sure. Also there was a solitary duck that may have been a merganser but it preferred to keep just far enough away to prevent identification. After passing under Rt. 2, there was a lone cormorant and at Martha’s Point I noticed the ice was becoming thicker along the sides.
Upon reaching the entrance to Fairhaven Bay, I was surprised and disappointed to see the whole bay was iced over. I pushed my way through the thinner ice for about 50 yards but then found my paddle blades would no longer penetrate the ice and decided to turn around and head downriver. On the way down, I recovered three cans and a soft drink container.
At Egg Rock, I entered the Assabet River and its steady current while listening to Tom Rush sing Joni Mitchell’s song Urge for Going. Some of the lyrics seemed most appropriate: “When the sky turns traitor cold and shivering trees are standing in a naked row, I get the urge for going but I never seem to go”. Yup, that pretty well sums up recent conditions!
About a half mile upriver from Egg Rock, I saw the body of a Canada goose that rested on the river bank just above the water. The head and neck were gone and many feathers were on the ground. Perhaps the work of a fox or coyote? Or maybe a hawk? Another quarter mile upriver, a mink emerged from the water and onto a tree root where it strained to see me and figure out what I was. The mink I’ve encountered all seem to have very bad vision when out of the water. It occurred to me that quite possibly the mink staring at me was the goose killer. A little ways past Willow Island, I turned around again and headed back to my take out location, arriving with only 4 empty containers, bringing my YTD total to 2340.
Sure hope we get some more 40 and 50 degree days before ‘Old Man Winter’ settles in for the duration. This is just too early for my liking!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is it time to update the Bottle Bill?

I believe it is for the following reasons:
  • The Massachusetts Bottle Bill went into effect nearly 26 years ago and was primarily aimed at beer and soda containers. At that time, non-carbonated beverages were exempt.
  • These days, much of the soda has been replaced by non-carbonated beverages such as spring water, flavored water, vitamin water, and juice drinks in containers that have no refund value. These non-carbonated containers need to be included. Hopefully, one of the spring water/sport drink manufacturers will step up and support such a measure. How about it Aquafina, Dasani, Poland Springs, Evian, Nestle, Gatorade, Glaceau, Sunny Delight? Would any one of you want to be proactive?
  • The five cent refund value is no longer adequate to encourage people to redeem containers and needs to be increased to a dime.

Presently, recycling and environmental groups are working towards making such changes to the Bottle Bill. More information is available here:

Perhaps, this old promo would help the way it did in the 1970s:

That birchbark canoe in the old promo might have been made by this fellow:;rightRailInner

Monday, November 17, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Rt.2 and Return

Managed to get in a nice afternoon paddle/trash patrol of the Assabet River today. The bright sunny skies of the morning rapidly changed into a moody mix of dark and light clouds. On the way to Egg Rock I encountered another kayaker paddling a blue Dagger kayak. By the time I reached Egg Rock I had recovered 5 pieces of trash from the lower Sudbury River.
Once on the Assabet and paddling through the Leaning Hemlocks area I noticed something strange falling onto my boat and the surrounding water. At first I thought it might be some pollen from the hemlocks but then realized it was small, wet flakes of snow. The first I've seen this fall. The sand is really draining fast out of the big hourglass!
Water levels are nice and high from the recent rains and most of the usual obstacles are submerged. A little upriver from where the Reformatory Branch railroad bridge used to be, I came upon four deer standing near the riverbank. They watched me pass with great interest and didn't seem to know what to make of me. After passing them, I stopped and slowly drifted back to where they were. Two of the deer had left but the two smallest ones remained and actually started walking towards me. Stopping at the water's edge, they stood there staring at me. When I reached into my deck bag to get my camera, they stayed put, so I moved towards them until we were about 60 feet apart, and snapped 4 photos. Even then they did not move away! Had I been a hunter, it would have been all over for these two!
Moving further upriver I came upon the group of Muscovite ducks that always hang around the area. These ducks are quite used to people and just go about their business, nonplussed. Also saw a musquash in this stretch.
Recovered a "Yuengling" beer bottle that I, at first, thought was a Chinese beer until reading the bottle's claim that it is brewed in America's oldest brewery, located in Pottsville, PA. Weird that I have never seen or heard of it before. Live and learn, I guess.
Just before reaching the Rt. 2 bridge, I recovered a laundry detergent container and after passing under the bridge, I came upon another. Guess Monday is still 'wash day'!
High up on the river's bank, on Assabet Avenue, three guys with leaf blowers were directing someone's yard full of leaves into the river. When they do this, they also send any adjacent trash into the river as well. I think the river would be grateful if not used to transport someone's yard waste.
At this location, with 21 empty containers onboard, I turned around and began my trip downriver. Just below Spencer Brook, I picked up an escort from a belted kingfisher. He flew ahead about 300 feet, perched on a branch and waited till the bow of my boat was almost even with him, when he would drop down from the branch and fly just above the water's surface, chattering away until he was another 300 feet or so ahead of me. He did this over and over again all the way to Egg Rock. At this spot, we went our separate ways. I hadn't seen a kingfisher in several weeks and thought perhaps they had all headed south.
I arrived at my takeout location at dusk with 21 empties bringing my YTD total to 2336.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some Recent Trashy and Fishy Photos

The northern pike mentioned in the 11/9 post
Mike's large-mouth bass mentioned in 10/26 post

A nice wheel cover

Trash Booty from Raid at Heath's Bridge

Concord River - Egg Rock to Ball's Hill & Return

When I finished my workweek at noon today, I knew that the rain had stopped, that the air temperature was quite warm for mid-November, and despite the lack of sunshine, the conditions were just too good to pass up an afternoon trash paddle. What I didn't know was that I would experience one of the most surreal paddling trips of my life.
After launching, a little after 1 pm, I headed to Egg Rock. On the way, I encountered two red-tailed hawks sitting in the same tree. I did my best imitation of their call and one of them decided to follow me. Near Egg Rock, it flew past me and landed on the ground before rising up to a tree where it watched me go by. At the Calf Pasture, it flew about 15 feet above my right shoulder and swooped up into a tree just ahead, where it again watched me approach. It allowed me to paddle fairly close to the bottom of the tree it was in. Hopefully, the photo I took of it will adequately reveal its grandeur.
At the Old North Bridge, there were only a few folks strolling the grounds. At Hutchin's Farm there was a group of 7 turkeys being fairly bold given the proximity to their approaching 'D-Day'. By the time I reached Great Meadows Landing, I had recovered 11 pieces of trash. Some plastic bags, styrofoam floatation, soda and beer cans including an old Pabst Blue Ribbon can. Haven't seen one of those in a while. Later I would add a 1-gallon plastic water jug and another quart bottle of King Cobra.
Up to this point the water had been like glass and the air dead calm. Downstream of Great Meadows Landing, there was a fog laying on top of the river's surface. At first it rose only a foot or so above the water, but by the time I reached Saw Mill Brook, it was getting thicker. Paddling near Ball's Hill the fog began to envelop me and as the river widened, my view of either shore became blurry. I went a little downstream of the beaver lodge to where the river runs straight to Rt. 225. The fog was even thicker in that direction so I landed at the small beach across from the beaver lodge and took a short break. While sitting there, I watched the fog slowly creeping upriver and past my position. When I relaunched and began heading upriver, it was quite mystical. Through the fog everything looked strange. What at first looked like an animal would turn out to be a birch tree stump with mushrooms growing on it. I did see a bouncing white tail of a small deer at 4 pm near Huthin's Farm. Flint's Bridge looked quite eerie with the green and red signs hanging over the portals. Similar eeriness at the Old North Bridge. Just before passing under the 'Rude Arch', I encountered a 32 oz. McDonald's drink container floating down the middle of the channel. Hope it fell in rather than having been tossed in. Near the Mill Stream a blue heron emerged out of the blur and a large group of Canada geese flew over in chevron formation. Also strange was hearing the planes either landing or taking off from Hanscom airport. The clouds were hanging so low that despite the sound being quite loud, I could not see the planes as they passed overhead.
Today's musical accompaniment, perfect for such mystical conditions, was provided by the following artists:
Jim Pepper; Los Lobos; The Be Good Tanyas; Enya; Leonard Cohen; Tom Rush; James Keelaghan; Great Big Sea; The Pretenders; Bruce Springsteen; and Guy Davis.
Reached my takeout location a little after dark and had 15 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 2315.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Rt.2 and Return

Trash paddled the lower mile of the Sudbury River and the Assabet River from Egg Rock to Rt. 2 and back this afternoon. I arrived at Egg Rock with 5 empty containers recovered from the last mile of the Sudbury River. A hawk watched over my doings from a tree near the town DPW yard. Near Willow Island, I surprised a beaver who was busy gnawing on some riverbank tree roots. He was half in the water and half out. His fur coat seemed to be floating out to the sides of his body. We were eyeball to eyeball, about 15 feet from each other. He waited till I moved away a bit before giving the water a tail slap. Lots of freshly chewed roots all around the area attested to just how busy this beaver has been.
Further upriver, behind the Best Western, I unintentionally flushed out a small deer that ran along the river bank for 25 yards before disappearing into the elephant grass (aka phragmites).
Turned around at the backwater a little upstream of Rt. 2 and began heading downriver. By the time I got to Egg Rock there were 18 pieces of trash on board. Stopped at Egg Rock for a 'mug-up' of cocoa and watched the 'beaver full moon' rise in the eastern sky. Just as the sun had set in a hazy sky, the moon was now casting its light through the haze and the effect was quite beautiful.
By the time I reached my takeout location, the moon had risen much higher in the sky. My trash count was 18 bringing my YTD total to 2300.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Weir Hill & Return

Another nice Sunday morning led to another trash patrol of the Sudbury River. I launched into the river at daybreak and headed upriver under a moody sky of dark clouds that were just beginning to give way to patches of blue. In the first mile, my upstream progress was announced by two resounding beavertail slaps. A little downstream of Heath's Bridge, I conducted a brief onshore raid that resulted in 29 captives (mostly beer cans & bottles) being brought onboard. After storing most below deck, I re-launched into the river and passed under the bridge to find that the sun was now perched at the tops of the pinetrees on Fairhaven Hill. Being king of all I survey, the sun was commanded to un-rise and, as I paddled to the base of the hill, it quickly did just that, and dropped below the tops of the trees-scary! Just for good measure, I moved a bank of clouds towards the east so that the sun would remain shrouded until I reached Fairhaven Bay.
Upon reaching the bay, I came upon two fishermen who had just caught an impressive northern pike. The fish appeared to be more than two feet in length and I believe they said it was approximately 8 pounds. It was caught on a rubber worm that had been on the bottom for only 10 or 15 seconds. After they took photos of it, and allowed me to get a snapshot as well, they released the pike back into the bay. I'll post photos once they're developed.
Moving towards Brooke Island (also known as Scout Island) I turned towards the east and watched as the dark clouds raced across the sun until it just began to peek out. It was saluted with a raised energy drink and power bar and I pushed onwards, upriver.
At Lee's Bridge I came upon two fishermen in a canoe. They had launched from the downstream, west side of the bridge. I did the paddling limbo and just barely made it through the smaller of the two arches.
After the bridge, I saw quite a bit of fresh beaver work between there and Weir Hill.
Stopped at the Weir Hill landing and enjoyed a "mug-up" of cocoa before heading back downriver. Across the river from Nashawtuc C.C. three hawks were spiralling in an updraft.
On the paddle back to my takeout location, I thought of Richard Wheeler who was most likely on the water this morning working to complete his "Paddle-athon" in support of the Wareham Free Library. More info can be found here:

I would like to thank Gordon Lightfoot for providing some excellent musical accompaniment. His "Minstrel of the Dawn" and "The Way I Feel" were greatly enjoyed as well as Richard Berman's "On the Mexican Coast". I think that Henry David Thoreau might have appreciated the lyrics of this song. I know that I do:
On The Mexican Coast
In a small fishing village on the Mexican Coast, a Fisherman was tying his boat to the dock a little before noon. Pleased with his morning's catch, he was singing softly to himself as he prepared the fish for market. Standing on the dock, an American tourist who had been watching him said: "My, that's a fine catch you have there. Must have taken you a long time to haul in that many fish." "Not at all", said the fisherman. "Only a few hours this morning." "You know", said the American, "if you were to stay out the rest of the day, you could probably catch 2 or 3 times as many fish." "Why would I want to do that?" the fisherman asked. "I have all I need here to provide for myself and my family." "Well what do you do with the rest of your day?" inquired the American. The fisherman replied, "I go home to my wife Maria, we have lunch, then take a siesta, then I play with the kids for a while. Then after dinner, I grab my guitar and go into town to have a few drinks and sing a few songs with my amigos. It's a full and happy life." "I'd like to help you out with some advice", said the American. "I know something about building a successful business and creating wealth. Here's what you do: Fish all day and put the extra money earned aside, until you've saved enough to buy another boat. Then keep saving and buying boats until you have a sizable fleet. Then you should buy your own cannery so you can make even more money. Then you'll want to expand to Australia, the US and Europe. After a while, you will own a very large and successful fishing business." "And how long will all of this take?" asked the fisherman. "Oh, about 15-20 years" the American replied. "Then what, what happens next?" the fisherman wanted to know. "Next comes the best part!" the American beamed. "You have a public offering of stock and make millions of dollars!" "OK, but then what would I do after that?" asked the fisherman. "Well" said the American, looking around, "You would retire to a small fishing village on the Mexican Coast, where you'd fish a few hours every morning, go home and have lunch with your wife, take a siesta, play with your grandchildren, then after dinner grab your guitar and head to town for a few drinks and a few songs with your amigos. It would be a full and happy life."
~ Texas singer-songwriter Richard Berman
At my takeout, I had 31 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 2282.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Concord River - Egg Rock to Balls Hill & Return

It felt more like September out on the Concord River this afternoon. Strange to have it be so warm yet the trees mostly bare. I paddled downstream from Egg Rock and soon encountered a fellow kayaker heading the other way. My first trash was a can of BudLite, followed by a pint can of Fosters. Now, there's a beeeer! A few more Budweiser products and then a Carling Black Label , made in Canada, not over on Rt. 9 where it used to be made. These were all before reaching the Great Meadows Landing. Between Great Meadows and Ball's Hill there were mostly plastic bottles and another of those 2-cartidge caulking (structural epoxy) setups that I had been finding on the Assabet. This was the sixth one of these recovered. Fortunately, all were empty. My thinking is they originated at the Warner's Pond dam reconstruction and were swept downriver when the coffer dam failed in the spring.
Noise was plentiful along the river today. I believe that every machine that either blows, sucks, or chops up leaves was in operation. Things finally quieted down near Great Meadows, but then a couple of planes flew overhead. Real quiet was realized by my favorite little cabin downstream of Sawmill Brook. A great blue heron stood guard on the opposite shore. It seems a shame that this cabin stays unoccupied.
Near Ball's Hill, a couple of guys were fishing from an outboard but hadn't had much luck yet.
On the return trip upriver, I encountered another kayaker and a 2-man canoe moving right along towards Bedford. Quite a few folks were taking in the Old North Bridge site.
Getting close to my takeout location, I was stuck on a trash count of 13 and not happy about it. My eyes scoured the bank and were rewarded with one more plastic bottle to get me off that unlucky number. A beaver swam across my path shortly after.
My count for the day was 14 bringing my YTD total to 2251.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Weir Hill & Return

The end of daylight savings time and the resulting extra hour made it real easy to get on the water in the predawn darkness this morning. Once launched into the Sudbury River, I began paddling upriver under a star filled sky and arrived at Fairhaven Bay with the sun still below the eastern horizon. Landed my kayak on the small beach at Brooke Island and took a seat in the beach's front row, on my 3-legged stool. Others in attendance were a mute swan, 3 cormorants, and about a dozen Canada geese. The mute swan took to the air and circled the area twice before heading off to a different venue. The sound from its wings beating made a loud whirring. When silence returned, I could see the brightening on the opposite side of the bay and it soon became apparent which trees the sun would rise from behind. It is amazing how fast it rises following that first glint of light peeking above the treetops. Those of us remaining resisted the urge to chant Om. If we had it might have sounded like this:
At any rate, after finishing my energy drink and power bar, I relaunched and headed further upriver. Now with the benefit of daylight, I noticed that the water dripping from my paddle blades was forming ice on my boat's deck. First time since early March that has happened.
Passed several blue herons and noticed quite a bit of fresh beaver gnawing on many of the small trees on the river's banks. Just before Lee's Bridge a red-tailed hawk soared across the river and perched at the top of a pine tree.
Arriving at the Weir Hill landing, I exited my kayak, perched on my 3-legged stool and enjoyed a 'mug-up' of hot cocoa while sitting in the morning sun. I remember coming to this very spot when I was a 13-year old Boy Scout from Waltham. My troop had spent a winter night in a cabin on the nearby hill and, following my turn on 'stove fire watch', I had walked the snow covered ground, down the hill to checkout the river. When I stood here back then, my mind full of tales of Indians and their fish weirs that were once located here, I felt a presence (or perhaps a connection) as the oak leaves rustled in the breeze. I have always remembered that moment in time.
The trip back downriver was into a cool breeze out of the north. Encountered one canoe with two paddlers headed upriver and further downstream three guys fishing from a bass boat.
Trash had been scarce today, but upon reaching Heath's Bridge (Sudbury Road), a usual hot spot, I decided to launch a brief raid onshore. Exiting my kayak on the downstream side of the bridge, I quickly rounded up 43 empty bottles and cans, along with 10 plastic bags, several large clumps of fishing line, and an assortment of coffee cups and bait tubs. This allowed me to reach my takeout location with 71 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 2237.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lower Sudbury and Assabet Rivers

Yesterday afternoon, I enjoyed classic Indian Summer conditions as I trash patrolled the lower mile of the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers. The Sudbury yielded five fairly routine empty containers while the Assabet yielded a more eclectic batch that numbered nine.
The Assabet was actually fairly routine until I approached Dodge Rock. On the right bank, where the headless faux coyote has stood for months, I was taken aback to see it now sported its head again. Hmmm, maybe just for Halloween!
At Willow Island, there was a trash barrel upside down in a tree. Also weird.
Just upriver from here was the abandoned vessel that has resided in this spot for almost two months. I decided to remove it to a more accessible location. When I did so, I found a snow shovel residing beneath it. Too many bad omens for me, so I gathered them up and got out of the area before that coyote started its nightly prowl.
Arrived safely at my takeout location with 14 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 2166.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Weir Hill & Return

Early this morning, I awoke to the sound of rain beating against my window. Fearing that the overnight storm had bogged down, I decided to check the latest weather radar and saw that the large body of rain was moving rapidly to the east. Now, with a sense of optimism, I quickly completed the steps necessary to get my posterior into my boat and heading upriver by 7:00 am.
The rain had dwindled to a mist and the air temperature was in the mid to upper fifties. Balmy compared to recent mornings!
I soon reached the Sudbury Road/Heath's Bridge landing and saw that the large trash bags mentioned in last Sunday's post were still snagged on the trees. Landed on the small sandy beach and began dealing with the trash. One of the bags had ripped through at the bottom resulting in all the heavy objects like bottles ending up on the ground. After working for 30 minutes or more, I had recovered 106 empty containers. My boat's storage compartments and deckbag were full and my deck was duly decorated . This bounty of trash consisted of plastic bags, plastic and glass bottles, beer/soda cans, bait tubs, wads of fishing line, and coffee cups.
Back on the water, my boat and I began moving towards Martha's Point and Fairhaven Bay. The low lying mist was now rising to the tops of the highest pines and the sky was brightening. Belted kingfishers were flying ahead as my vanguards. At Fairhaven Bay I stopped in the middle to enjoy my favorite energy drink and a power bar. Sitting here alone, how could I not feel as though I were king of all I surveyed?
Before leaving the bay, I came upon two balloons tied together and floating in the southwest corner. The balloons were labelled as celebrating 75 years of United Way in Androscoggin County, Maine. Hard to believe they could have drifted this far south!
My fuel guage now pinned on Full, I continued my journey upriver and soon passed under the smaller of the two archways at Lee's Bridge. A little upstream of the outlet from Farrar's Pond, I heard an osprey announce that he was leaving his perch. I watched as he performed his aerial acrobatics above the broad expanse of river and marsh between there and Macone's farm. Several times he would slow down and begin to rise upwards before folding into his dive position and shooting straight down for the water. Twice he pulled out of his dive just before hitting the water and once he hit the water with a big splash but came up empty. Hopefully, he got lucky later on.
Reaching Weir Hill, I landed there and stretched my legs. The remnants of the stormclouds were rapidly being replaced my a deep blue sky and it was getting quite warm. Stowed my paddling jacket behind my boat's seatback and began a leisurely trip downriver.
Approaching the point where the river opens into Fairhaven Bay, I saw Mike fishing from his electrically powered canoe. I watched as he cast his line towards the shore and soon saw his rod bending sharply. At first I thought he might be snagged on some shore bushes, but seeing quite a bit of movement in his rod, I realized he had hooked a good one. Drifting towards his position, I watched as he deftly landed a sizeable large mouthed bass, and held it up so I could get a photo, before releasing it back into the river. He estimated it to be all of 5 lbs if not more. Now, I know why so many folks fish here. Mike uses 2 batteries and an electric trolling motor to propel his canoe 4 miles upriver to Fairhaven Bay and back. Quite a nice setup. No noise and no fuel to mess with.
Downstream of Heath's Bridge, I encountered another fellow fishing from a canoe.
Approaching Clamshell Bank (near Emerson Hospital), I enjoyed watching as a red-tailed hawk actively patrolled the area.
At my takeout location, I removed 112 empty containers from my boat bringing my YTD total to 2152. Probably one of the more enjoyable paddles of the season!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Website Offering a Virtual Paddle on the Sudbury

I just stumbled upon an excellent website regarding the SUASCO waters and added it to my relevant links. The link is:
It is hosted by the Sudbury Assabet & Concord Wild & Scenic River Stewardship Council and includes a Sudbury River Boater's Trail. This trail guide divides a 15 mile section of the river into three 5-mile sub-sections and provides a map, great photographs, and information about put-in/take-out locations. This a great resource for anyone planning to paddle a stretch of this beautiful river or for those who want to take a virtual paddle.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Concord River - Egg Rock to Balls Hill & Back

This afternoon's sunny skies and light winds made for an enjoyable paddle on the Concord River. It being a little cool at the start required having some hot cocoa onboard for the first time this season.
Heading downriver from Egg Rock, I encountered a couple of kayakers just before reaching the Old North Bridge. Trash was pretty spotty and mostly stuff that had been in the water a long time. By the time I passed the Great Meadows landing, I had accumulated a dozen empty containers. Reaching Saw Mill Brook, I recovered somebody's wheel cover from the river's east bank. No roadways anywhere near this spot. Maybe it fell off a plane?
I decided to turnaround at the beaver lodge downstream of Ball's Hill. Landed on the small beach opposite the lodge and enjoyed my cocoa in the slowly warming late afternoon sun.
The trip back upriver was into a blinding sun. Quite a few folks taking in the Old North Bridge area. Made a brief foray onshore at the Old Calf Pasture to scoop up 5 more empty containers. That brought my total for the day to 19 and YTD total to 2040.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Rt.2 and Back

This afternoon I hoped to get in a trash patrol before the weather deteriorated. Events at worked conspired against me and resulted in my getting on the river just as the rain began. Since I had my water-proof paddling jacket and Seattle sombrero with me, I resigned myself to paddling in the rain and thoroughly enjoyed a little bit different kind of paddling experience.
I paddled the lower Sudbury River to Egg Rock, then the Assabet past the Leaning Hemlocks, past the decapitated coyote (faux coyote), past Dodge Rock, round Willow Island, and what the heck, I just kept heading upriver. Went past some new house construction just downstream from Spencer Brook on the river's west side. A beaver has a new lodge well underway. He's not too worried about the economy. Several small groups of Muscovite ducks were hanging around the Spencer Brook area as well. Another half mile upriver from Spencer Brook a doe and I had a staring match. She was very well camouflaged in shoulder-high grass and remained motionless as I paddled past her location.
Trash was mostly plastic bags snared on tree branches. These bags had been submerged until the recent drop in water level. One glass beer bottle and a couple of plastic water bottles were the only recyclables.
Stopped for a snack in the backwater upstream of Route 2 and found that with the engine in idle it didn't take long to cool down. Turned my bow downriver, fired up the engine and soon felt some heat being generated again. At a point about a 1/4 mile above Willow Island, I saw another two deer standing fairly close to a couple of faux coyotes. They took off showing their white tails prominently. The coyotes held their ground. These faux coyotes are placed in meadows near the river, I believe, in an attempt to scare away Canada geese. At dusk, they look quite real.
The wind and the rain began to pick up as I paddled the last stretch to my takeout location and I found myself looking forward to the hot cup of cocoa I would soon be sipping.
Ended up with 16 empty containers for the afternoon. YTD total = 2021

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Lee's Bridge and Back

My boat and I were on the water early this morning with plans to arrive at Fairhaven Bay in time to watch the sunrise. Heading upriver it soon became apparent that some stubborn clouds were going keep the curtains closed on the show.
Reaching Sudbury Road, I had a plastic bait tub and a large coffee cup under my deck's bungee cords. As I passed under the bridge, I espied a 24 oz. coffee coolatta container beckoning from the small sandy beach just upstream of the bridge. Finding it to be just beyond the reach of my outstretched paddle, a decision was made to send in a shore patrol.
Once on shore the coolatta was quickly scooped up along with 30 other assorted beer bottles, beer cans, plastic bags, and some fishing line that were hiding amongst the bushes. One of the larger beer bottles was a product I had neven seen before, "King Cobra Malted Liquor". Same size as the old "Colt 45" bottles. There was a large plastic trash bag tied to a tree. Looks like someone provided a container for trash but perhaps has no intention of removing or emptying the bag. If it is still there next week, I'll remove it and its contents.
Arriving at Fairhaven Bay, I found a fairly subdued gathering on the bay's waters. It consisted of an adult mute swan with two young ones, about a dozen Canada geese, a cormorant, a few mallards, and two guys fishing from a small outboard powered boat. Everyone was quietly going about their business. Here, I enjoyed a little breakfast break while letting the northeast breeze push me towards the bay's inlet. Paddled around the bend and soon was looking at Lee's Bridge. As I approached the bridge it occurred to me that just downstream on the west side of the river there looks to be a perfect spot for a boat launch. I wonder if that is intended now that the bridge project is just about finished. It would be a much easier spot to launch from than the present Rt. 117 launch site that requires launching into the end of a muddy channel.
Another advantage would be that the water near the bridge stays open much longer than the muddy channel which freezes very early and thaws very late.
Turning around at the bridge, I began my trip downriver. Added an empty 12-pack cardboard package and another beer can. Admiring some of the last peak foliage on the slope from the river's east bank I saw two deer browsing on some shrubs. Their coats are much darker in color these days. A little further downstream, a small downy woodpecker went about his business oblivious to my presence. Crossing the bay, I encountered the two fishermen seen earlier. They were having pretty good success having already caught a couple of bass. Hopefully there were still some left for the three other boats encountered later, heading towards the bay for some fishing. And speaking of fishermen, an osprey was seen briefly near the northwest end of the bay.
Arrived at my takeout location with 36 empty containers of which 23 were recylable.
YTD total = 2005

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monofilament Recycling Containers

Recently, Alanb of Bedford left a comment in which he mentioned the monofilament fishing line recycling containers placed at at some points along the river. Here is a photograph of the one located at the Great Meadows Landing in Concord. I have seen another similar container at Sherman's Bridge in Wayland.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Pantry Brook & Back

Early this morning, I launched my kayak into the Sudbury River and headed upstream through a fog that rose high above the water in places. My goal was to reach Fairhaven Bay in time to see the sunrise above Fairhaven Ridge. At several places where the treetops were lower, rays of sunlight could be seen trying to break through the fog. Arriving at the north end of the bay, I saw that others had already assembled in various locales to watch the show. Several guys fishing from canoes, one fellow kayaker, two guys fishing from the SE corner's shore, two belted kingfishers, a great blue heron or two, and a large white swan. We were all treated to the trees on Brooke Island being lit ablaze from top to bottom as the sun rose in the sky. The fog evaporated in a matter of minutes.
With the day now well established, I continued upriver to the mouth of Pantry Brook where after enjoying a snack, I began my trip downriver. As I approached Lee's Bridge, I spotted an osprey patrolling the river. I watched as he stopped about 30 feet above the water and dove straight down into the water. After the big splash, he was soon in flight again, but I did not see a fish in his talons. Downstream of Lee's Bridge, I surprised a small duck, about he size of a wood duck, that took to flight but stayed only a few inches above the water. He splashed down about 150 feet in front of me and immediately dove under the water's surface. Surfaced about a minute later and then dove again. May have been a merganser.
Crossing Fairhaven Bay, I was treated to the sight of a red bi-plane flying just above the treetops. The plane made two passes over the bay. Must have been quite a view from a plane.
By this time it was clear that this was going to be a spectacular autumn day. This was confirmed by the sight of nearly 20 kayaks heading upriver downstream of Route 2. All of this great recent weather makes me wonder about the accuracy of this recent forecast:
The only negative note (or perhaps it is a positive one) was that I was nearly skunked in regards to trash. Ended up with only one empty bottle and one plastic bag. Slim pickens.
However, as a fine autumn paddle, it could not have been surpassed. YTD Total = 1969

Friday, October 10, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Pine Street & Back

Another nice afternoon, another cloudless sky, and another trash patrol on the Assabet River. The water level has dropped about 8" since my last patrol on this river but is still high enough to allow passage over most rocks. My kayak and I were bucking the trend by heading upstream as thousands of leaf rafts were riding the current downstream.
Saw a red-tailed hawk near Willow Island.
In Concord Junction, I was able to pass by the blowdown between the commuter rail bridge and the Route 62 bridge. Shortly after that, I was paddling through where the Pine Street bridge used to be. The construction of the new bridge is beginning to progress. Several new abutments are taking shape.
Reaching the Thoreau School, I had recovered 12 empty containers from the river. After a short break, I let the current take my bow and was soon moving downriver, passing through the endless procession of leaf rafts like a battleship pushing aside birchbark canoes.
Saw two deer about a 1/4 mile downstream of Route 2 on the river left. The nearly 3/4 moon was high in the sky well before sundown.
Encountered only a few other souls on the water today. One canoe, one tamden kayak and three solo kayaks.
Arriving at my takeout location I had 14 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 1967.
Most of today's haul was not recyclable

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Concord River - Egg Rock to Balls Hill & Back

Under this afternoon's cloudless blue skies, I trash patrolled the Concord River from Egg Rock to the beaver lodge downstream of Ball's Hill and back. The trees are now showing plenty of color and the river is also carrying an assortment of red and yellow floating leaves. Water level remains high and the current remains swift.
Most of the trash recovered was only available because of the high water level. In many places I was able to paddle over the tops of the bushes that line the shore.
Wildlife observed was one blue heron, several ducks, numerous painted turtles, one belted kingfisher, and one startled doe on the shore opposite Great Meadows.
It was a bit surprising to encounter only three other boats on such a beautiful afternoon.
Arrived at my takeout location with 23 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 1953.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Weir Hill & Back

This morning I headed out early to trash patrol the Sudbury River up to Weir Hill and back. Had hoped to watch the sunrise at Fairhaven Bay, but the cloud bank moved further north than the forecasters predicted, so the sunglasses stayed in my pocket. Temperatures were a little warmer thanks to the cloud cover and there was no wind to speak of.
Early in my paddle, I heard a "good morning" and turned to see a fellow trash paddler. Dave was paddling a well outfitted Tempest 170 by Wilderness Systems and like me, he was picking up the flotsam he encountered. We joined forces for while. Saw him again further upriver near Weir Hill. His local waters are Forge Pond in Littleton/Westford, a former Nipmuc settled area.
At Heath's Bridge (Sudbury Road), a usual trash hotspot, I recovered 16 empty containers. Beer cans/bottles, bait tubs and miscellaneous plastic stuff.
At Pantry Brook, the top of the dam is only 6" above the river's level. One more good rain event might allow paddling over the dam and into the impoundment.
Wildlife observed today was mostly belted kingfishers. I did see a couple of small hawks also.
There were two boats with fishermen in Fairhaven Bay. One powered, the other a canoe.
On my trip downriver, I scooped another 4 empties bringing my total for the day to 20 and YTD total to 1930.
While I was paddling this morning, my kid sister Lissa was running her first marathon up in Portland, Maine to benefit leukemia research. Way to go, Lis!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Concord Jct. & Back

This afternoon I trash patrolled the lower Assabet River from Egg Rock to the commuter rail bridge in Concord Junction and back. It was kind of an odd paddle or at least started out that way. As I approached Egg Rock from the Sudbury River side, I saw a garter snake crossing the river. I watched as it made its way across and then emerged onto the river bank. Once it got on solid ground it seemed content to just lay there in the sun and was not bothered by my presence nearby. As I turned back out into the river's main channel, I saw another animal swimming across. It was too small to be a beaver, and wasn't a musquash. Perhaps a mink? No, it was a grey squirrel and his head was just barely above the surface. Most of his body was submerged but his tail was above the surface and in full fluffed-out form. On reaching the other side, he grabbed onto the nearest branch and and zipped up the tree to dryout, I guess. The two incidents left me wondering what the heck might be going on back on the other side that made them leave. Or perhaps, something big is scheduled for on this side.
After passing Egg Rock, I saw some trash on the river left and soon had a few plastic bottles. Something blue was floating half submerged and it turned out to be a one-gallon plastic jug filled with transmission fluid. The seal was broken, so I suspect it was someone's used fluid that somehow found its way into the river. Hopefully, it was not deliberate.
Proceeding up the river, I noted only a small piece of Dodge Rock above the surface and Willow Island is partially awash. There are several trees that have blown down over the past several weeks and the river had a gazillion leaves floating in it. Actually, I stopped counting at 700 billion.
On reaching my turnaround point at West Concord, I had accumulated a dozen empty containers. The return trip downriver was almost effortless and I added another 7 empty containers to make my total for the day at 19 and YTD = 1910.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Photos from Lake Champlain Trip

Heading through 'The Gut' between South Hero and North Hero Islands
Looking north from my campsite at N. Hero State Park at Stephenson Point, Vermont

Heading towards the Missisquoi Bay Bridge

Reaching my goal off of Metcalfe Island where the Missisquoi River enters Lake Champlain

Photos from Lake Champlain Trip

Champlain Monument where Saranac River flows into Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh, New York

Macdonough Monument in Plattsburgh, New York
Cumberland Head Lighthouse, Plattsburgh, New York

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Lake Champlain Stretch of the NFCT

Sometimes, being the low guy on the Totem Pole at my job works out for the best. I had to wait until all the guys higher on the pole finished using their vacation time before any time opened for me. The third week in September became available and though it sounded a little late in the season to head to the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), I would have to make the most of it. I guess my 'Indian Summer Dance' worked, because it enabled me to paddle the great Lake Champlain under the most idyllic conditions I could have hoped for! Beautiful weather, no crowds, and almost no bugs!

This past Monday, I drove through New Hampshire and Vermont as the skies cleared from Sunday night's rain. Upon reaching Grand Isle or South Hero Island, my car, boat and I crossed over to Plattsburgh, NY on the Lake Champlain ferry. Reaching the New York side, I then drove 4 miles to Cumberland Bay State Park where only a handful of the campsites were occupied. My tent was pitched not far from the water and from it I could see Plattsburgh and the Saranac River on the bay's south shore.

After a chilly night under the stars, I awoke and began preparations for my planned journey. At 8:15 I launched my loaded kayak into the bay and paddled the 2 miles over to where the Saranac River enters the lake. As I entered the river, I found myself looking up at a monument to the man himself, Monsieur Samuel de Champlain. This monument was erected in 1912 following the Tercentenary of Champlain's 1609 "discovery" of this large inland sea. He was actually being escorted by Algonkin Indians who already knew about the lake and called it Bitawbagok. The monument consists of a 22 foot high pedestal of Massachusetts Pink Granite. Near the base, on each side, the prow of a birchbark canoe laden with corn and animal pelts emerges. Above this, an Indian wearing a bearskin and equipped with a bow and shield looks out across the lake. At the top of the pedestal stands a 12 foot high bronze statue of Champlain in his full regalia of cape, arquebuse (early musket), sword, and morion. He also is looking out across the lake. The statue was sculpted by Carl Augustus Heber. I imagine this will be a fairly busy spot next year when the Quadricentennial is celebrated. See pictures # 30 & # 31 at the following address

I paddled a short way up the Saranac but it soon became very shallow and rocky. So, after looking up at another monument with an eagle seemingly in flight at the top, I turned around and headed out into the lake to follow the course of the NFCT to Missisquoi Bay, some 29 miles to the north-northeast.

After paddling around the tip of Cumberland Head, I came upon the very well choreographed dance of the three ferry boats that were handling the vehicle traffic across the lake. Two of the ferries were always in motion while a third was being loaded or unloaded. Since the size of my vessel is rather smallish, it was prudent that I time my crossing so as not to disrupt their good rhythm.

Once safely across to the Vermont side, I began paddling along the west shore of South Hero Island, past the Sister Islands. On a ridge to the northwest I counted some 40 to 50 wind turbines. Fortunately for me, they were mostly idle as were the lake's waters. Turning my bow to the east, I passed through The Gut that separates South and North Hero Islands. Now, on the east shore of North Hero, I continued my paddling to the northeast. To the east loomed the high peaks of the Green Mountains and to the southwest were the Adirondacks.

At about mid-afternoon, I arrived at North Hero State Park, which was closed for the season. Having obtained permission in advance, I camped here for the night. Just as the Sudbury River has postings about mercury poisoning in fish, here, Lake Champlain has postings about Eurasion milfoil and zebra mussels. The park is located at the northern tip of N. Hero Island and from my campsite, I could look to the north and see the 4,000 foot long bridge that carries Route 78 across the lake.

In the morning, I broke camp and started paddling the 3.5 miles to that bridge. Unlike the previous day's calm conditions, the wind was beginning to stir out of the south. This would help to get me to my destination, but would hinder my progress on my return. Just before reaching the Route 78 Bridge, there is an equally long railroad bridge with a movable section in the middle to accommodate boats larger than mine. Approaching the channel, I saw that the bridge is manned only between June 15 to September 15. If my craft was a sailboat, I would have been out of luck. The highway bridge, on the otherhand, was recently built to rise high enough to allow uninterrupted passage of sailboats. This is ironic but I guess there must not be sufficient demand for passage or the US Coast Guard would not allow this condition to exist. See an aerial photo of the bridges and Missisquoi Bay at the following address

After the bridges, I proceeded into Missisquoi Bay, then to Donaldson Point and to my destination, Metcalfe Island. This is where the West Branch of the Missisquoi River enters into the bay. This whole area is a very shallow, marshy area. It is part of the 6,600 acre Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge which serves as a critical stop over for migratory birds. I paddled around and through the marshgrass until I reached the point where I could see the heron rookery on Shad Island. This is where I had emerged from the lower Missisquoi in October 2006 and marked my turnaround point.

Soon, I was heading south and after a few hours of paddling stopped for lunch at the tip of N. Hero Island. Here, I decided to stay to the west of N. Hero and pass through the Alburg Passage. I turned to take a last look to the north and noted something glittering in the sun on the railroad bridge. With my binoculars, I observed a long freight train just beginning a slow crossing of the aforementioned railroad bridge. The train was pulled by several Canadian National Railroad locomotives and was well over a mile long. It was passing from the rails of the New England Central Railroad (formerly Central Vermont RR) onto Canadian National tracks and would soon enter Canada.

The trip through Alburg Passage took me past some floatplanes at Northern Lights Airport before reaching the Point of the Tongue where I crossed over towards Cloak Island and the southern tip of Isle la Motte. The scarcity of other boats on the lake and the fact I was paddling a sea kayak allowed me to take a heading on Cumberland Head and begin a long open water passage of about 8 miles pretty much as the crow flies. A light but steady breeze out of the west-southwest kept me from overheating. Several times the calls of loons led my eyes to where they were bobbing on the waves. Twice, large groups of Canada geese flew overhead in chevron formation. Like me they were heading to the south.

After several more hours of paddling, I once again crossed the "Dancing Ferryboats", rounded Cumberland Head and paddled the last bit to the beach at Cumberland Bay State Park. Having covered 36 miles since morning, I was pretty well spent physically and glad to have brought along a self-heating meal of chicken parmesan which provided a quick and easy supper.

By morning, all of the muscles that were sore had recovered and I awoke to balmy temperatures and a wind blowing in from the lake. It made for a beautiful morning to walk around downtown Plattsburgh before saying goodbye to New York state until I someday return to connect the dots between Picketts Corners and Plattsburgh. For that 24 mile section of rocky shallows and four difficult portages, I'll bring a plastic boat and as little gear as possible.

Recent Photos from SUASCO Waters

Here are a couple of photos showing the Pine Street Bridge project on the Assabet River.

A serene early morning in Fairhaven Bay

A deck load of trash from the Concord River