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.