Saturday, February 28, 2009

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

Today's trash patrol of the Sudbury River had two objectives in addition to recovering trash. One was to find out whether or not the river was open-water through Fairhaven Bay and the other was to see my first red-winged blackbird of the season.
After some work breaking through 1" thick near-shore ice, I launched into the river at about 11 am and headed upstream with a pretty good breeze at my back. Recovered my first piece of trash, a Pepsi can, just before passing under the Route 2 bridge. A small group of ducks kept moving further upriver each time I approached. Looking through my binoculars, as they took flight, it appeared they were buffleheads but I could not be sure. Near Sudbury Road (Heath's Bridge) I began seeing common mergansers in pretty good numbers.
Soon, Martha's Point was in sight and I could see open water all the way to Fairhaven Bay. I could also see people standing on the water in the far-off distance. Upon entering the bay I discovered that the folks standing on the water were ice fishermen and there were 8 in all. Five were on the west side of the bay and three were on the east side near the stone boathouse.

The river was ice free right through the middle of the bay and with the wind at my back it seemed I was flying across. Passed by the channel that leads to the Lincoln Canoe launch and noted that it is still firmly iced in. Upon reaching Lee's Bridge (Rt. 117), I decided to stop for a break at what might now be called Lee's Bridge Landing. The small wooden platform used as a dock by the bridge rebuilding contractors is still there and makes a convenient spot to sit in the sun, out of the wind, and enjoy a mug-up of hot cocoa.

A little ice-breaking work was required but was well worth it, as two red-tailed hawks circled overhead while I was on break.

After my break, I decided to head downstream and very shortly passed this "Springtime in New England" scene of maple syrup collecting.

A little ways downstream of the Lincoln Canoe Launch I was able to recover an empty juice container, empty 'Wise Potatoe Chip' bag, and what appeared to be gas tank cap.

A cool breeze greeted me upon entering Fairhaven Bay and I began a steady slog into the teeth of it. From here to Heath's Bridge was a nice little workout. I passed 'Old Man Winter's' now abandoned chair.

After making it through the windy stretch, I came upon this testament to another creature's very recent workout.

On rounding the bend near Clamshell Bank I surprised two of the small ducks I had been seeing throughout my trip. Aided by my binoculars, I'm fairly sure that they were buffleheads.
I reached my takeout location without having seen any red-winged blackbirds. I'll just have to wait another week or two. My trashcount was 14 empty containers of which 6 were recyclable. YTD total 92.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Concord Jct. & Back

Yesterday afternoon's trash patrol of the Assabet River produced the eclectic trash bounty pictured above.
Upon launching, just upsteam of Egg Rock, my intention was to trash patrol the Sudbury River. By the time I'd reached the South Bridge, paddling into a stiff cool breeze, I concluded that the Assabet River would provide a more sheltered choice, so I turned around and headed back to Egg Rock. On the way, I came upon an empty plastic bag of Blizzard Wizard ice melt that bore the image of 'Old Man Winter'. I'm happy to report that the 'Old Man' has been removed from the river and now resides in a dumpster where I hope he'll remain until next December.
Soon I was back at Egg Rock and passing the rapidly shrinking tongue of ice that marks the junction of the three rivers (SUASCO). I swung my bow to the left and began ascending the Assabet River and shortly after passing the leaning hemlocks came upon a floating coyote head, albeit from a faux coyote. Suspecting it was from a certain faux coyote that has lost his head before (see November 1 post), I placed the head on my kayak's deck for the trip to where the torso resides. Before reaching that location, however, I came upon a floating golf club. It was actually a Taylor Made 320 T driver with the address of a Park Lane resident. Had the golf club been used in an assualt on the coyote? Hmmm... At any rate, I proceeded paddling until I was looking up at a headless faux coyote standing on the river's bank. I placed his head on my paddle blade and served it up to a spot near his body.
Resuming my trip upriver I began ecountering the same wildlife as last week. There were mallards, Canada geese, robins, bluebirds, a small woodpecker, a cardinal, a red-tailed hawk, and Muscovite ducks. At one spot the robins were patrolling the ground while bluebirds were jumping around in the branches above them and the small woodpecker was in the branches above the bluebirds. This busy spot was a little ways upriver from where the Reformatory Branch railroad used to run between the river and the cornfields off of Barrets Mill Road. The hawk was perched in a tree just upriver from Route 2.
Near the mouth of Nashoba Brook, I found a back eddy, out of the breeze and in the sun, where I enjoyed a mug-up of hot cocoa and a fuel bar. Trash was fairly plentiful between Nashoba Brook and the Route 62 bridge in Concord Junction. Much of it made of styrofoam and attesting that perhaps America really does Run on Dunkin. How about Dunkin ditching the styrofoam and only filling re-useable containers that either they or the customer provide? A little less convenient? Sure, but I think we Americans can handle it.
Paddling back downriver I'm always surprised by how many pieces of trash I didn't see while going upriver. In order to recover pieces of trash while heading downriver, I usually turn my boat around and face into the current. This makes it easier to maintain the boat's position while performing the retrieval. Often my paddle becomes an extension of my arm and is used to draw the item alongside my boat till it is within easy reach. I believe kayaks are best suited for retrieving floatable pieces of trash from waterbodies because the kayaker is sitting very close to the water's surface in a boat so narrow that when his arms are placed alongside the boat they are actually in the water. While I recognize that a canoe can hold far more trash, the canoeist, sitting on a raised seat and in a wider vessel, is not positioned in such proximity to the water's surface.
Upon reaching my takeout location, my trash count for the day was 31, bringing my YTD total to 78.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Pine Street & Back

This afternoon I celebrated the return of open water by trash patrolling the lower Assabet River. At high noon, under bright sunny skies and with air temperatures in the mid-thirties, I slid my kayak off of the shore ice and into the lower Sudbury River, just a little ways from Egg Rock. At the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet, I turned left and began paddling upstream on the Assabet. Shortly after passing the leaning hemlocks, I came upon a pair of common mergansers and a red-tailed hawk. Further along many mallards and Canada geese were on the water.
Approaching the Leaning Hemlocks:

Willow Island was wearing a thick layer of ice left by the recently lowered water level. The mouth of Spencer Brook was open water and nicely sheltered from the breeze:

The ice has retreated all the way to the riverbank in most places and it is evident that 'Old Man Winter' has released us from the month long siege he'd so firmly held us in. The numerous robins and several bluebirds I saw today confirmed for me that the darkest hours are behind us. I've heard many recent reports of red-winged blackbirds showing up and if true, it would bolster the case that spring is in the offing.
Trash recovery started out slow today but after passing through Concord Junction my deck was getting a little crowded. Paddling under the new Pine Street bridge was much easier now that the river's flow isn't forced to divide between two narrow portals. At a sandbar behind the Thoreau School I beached my vessel and stowed some of the trashload below deck. Once that work was done I enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa while sitting in the afternoon sunshine.
Pine Street Bridge:

Sandbar behind Thoreau School:

The trip downriver was smooth and fast and before I knew it I was swinging around the tongue of ice that still projects out from Egg Rock, and heading up the Sudbury River to my takeout location. My trash count for the day was 40 empty containers of which 19 were recyclable. My YTD total is 47.
Today's Bounty: