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.

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