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