Three days into 2008 and any paddling plans/trash patrols are on hold due to extreme cold. The ice of mid-December had just begun to recede from mid-channel before this recent setback. Fairhaven Bay will be off limits for a while longer. My hope is that the Assabet will stay open or only lightly iced until this weekend's warmup.
Then, with the Assabet's water level up, I'm looking forward to paddling upriver to Damondale again as I did last Saturday. It is one of my favorite routes. Starting at Egg Rock, my boat will find the right hand side to swing around the bend at Leaning Hemlocks, then cross to the left before picking the right route to Dove Rock and Willow Island. Many deer have been seen in this stretch, as well as beavers, mink, ducks and geese. After Willow Island, it's past the faux coyotes, the real dog kennel and the mouth of Spencer Brook. The first obstacle encountered is just after Spencer Brook at the point where the bridge that once carried the Reformatory Branch of the B & M RR over the river. Some of the old bridge pilings are still here as well as assorted rip-rap. The lower the water level, the harder it is to overcome the current. It is a good indication of what one will encounter further upstream at the active MBTA RR bridge in Concord Junction. If you make it past that one, you then figure 'what the heck', maybe Pine Street will be worth a try. Pine Street can be a chore though. The river is narrow here and the flow is split between a bridge support in the middle. This requires picking one side or the other. Both are narrow. I have been having good luck on the river right as there is an eddy that gives me a push into the opposing flow. At this point, one has to paddle as though failure is not an option. It will feel as though I'm not making any progress, but just when ready to abort, I sense a little gain and paddle as hard as I can and voila! I'm on the other side of the bridge. My heart is pounding, any worries about being chilled are long gone and I feel the same kind of satisfaction that I knew when I was 12 years old. Now, I can paddle another 1/2 mile, going by the school my grandson John attends, and up to a large rock just before a large blowdown near Damondale. Here, I can sit in the eddy downstream of the rock, have a cup of cocoa and a powerbar and savor my last hour and a half's work. Fully sated, especially if my drybag is filled with flotsam and my foredeck decorated with trash, I will aim into the current, let it turn my bow, and enjoy the leisurely pace back downstream. These days I often wonder if, when I am long gone, this will be the work I was most satisfied doing. Regards, Suasco Al