Sunday, December 27, 2009

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Thoreau School & Back

Today's weather provided an irresistible opportunity for one more "final" 2009 trash patrol.
The temperature was 52 degrees and there was light rain falling as I launched into the lower Sudbury River at high noon. Quickly reaching Egg Rock, my boat's bow swung to the left and I began ascending the Assabet River. My hope was that the river's main channel would be open and things were looking good as I passed some of the spots that have bridged over with ice in the past. The opening photo was taken just after passing Willow Island and aside from the fog/mist, my confidence for a clear passage was increasing. However, there were many floating sheets of ice that had to be avoided and there was this one location where ice reached nearly 3/4 of the way across the channel...

After passing under Route 2, I reached the spot where the moose was encountered last October. I stopped on the river's west shore to enjoy a hot cup of cocoa and reflect upon the strange event which was, without a doubt, the highlight of my paddling year. The rain had stopped and the sky was beginning to brighten.
Once back in the boat, I made good time through West Concord, easily passed under the Pine Street bridge, and reached the sandbar behind the Thoreau School. This made a good spot to turn around and allow the south wind and steady current to convey my boat downriver. The return trip was most pleasant as the sun was winning its battle with the clouds and creating some nice effects as it backlit their retreat to the north. This was especially noted as I approached the Route 2 bridge...

Seemingly much too soon, I reached my takeout location and unloaded the day's catch onto the icy ground beside my boat's hull...

The count for the day was 34 pieces of trash. Of these, 12 were recyclable (4 redeemable) and 22 were misc. rubbish such as styrofoam, plastic bags, spray paint, a prescription bottle (full of pills), a basketball, etc. My final YTD total is 5593.
Before leaving the takeout site, I watched as the victorious sun sank low behind the trees. In the twilight, I loaded my car with gear and then feeling very grateful for such a bonus day, drove home into the gathering darkness.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Skipper's Year End Report

As the 2009 Trashpaddling season comes to a close and Old Man Winter tightens his icy grip, a review of my ship’s log provides the following information:

Sudbury River – 42 patrols netted 2093 pieces of trash, averaging 51 per patrol

Assabet River – 33 patrols netted 2421 pieces of trash, averaging 73.4 per patrol

Concord River – 11 patrols netted 625 pieces of trash, averaging 56.8 per patrol

Charles River - 2 patrols netted 280 pieces of trash, averaging 140 per patrol

Blackstone River – 1 patrol netted 26 pieces trash

Merrimack River – 1 patrol netted 71 pieces of trash

Over the course of the year 5532 pieces of orphaned trash were rescued from the rivers or their banks and properly disposed of.

Miscellaneous rubbish that was non-recyclable represented 44.6%
Non-redeemable but recyclable containers represented 32.6%
Redeemable and recyclable containers represented 22.8%

Patrol Vessel # 1 - OK, though propulsion system performance has deteriorated slightly

Patrol Vessel # 2 - Ditto to Vessel # 1

Very little resistance was encountered though there were several unauthorized boarding attempts by arachnids. All unauthorized boarding attempts were ultimately repelled.

The most noticeable change was the increased number of beaver lodges. Additionally, there were eye to eye encounters with deer, moose, beaver, otter, musquash, woodchucks, ospreys, eagle, hawks, kingfishers, herons, ducks, swans, geese, turtles, snakes, and the earlier mentioned arachnids.

To all my fellow trashpaddlers, readers of this blog, and supporters of my efforts…
Thanks, and may 2010 be a great year for all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Pantry Brook & Back

Since the "2009 Good Weather Farewell Tour" was held over for another day by popular demand, I had to get in one more trash patrol of the Sudbury River from Route 62 to Pantry Brook and back. It most likely will be the last time this season that Fairhaven Bay will be crossable by kayak. The shallow areas are iced over already and with another stretch of cold weather scheduled to arrive tomorrow it won't be long before the bay is frozen all the way across.
My patrol up to Fairhaven was pleasant. Temperatures were in the low 40's and there was almost no wind. Trash was recovered along the way with most being found under the MBTA commuter rail bridge. A solitary bufflehead duck was seen a little ways upstream of said bridge both on the way upriver and on the way back down.
I had planned to stop for lunch at Brooke Island but 40 feet of ice between me and the beach, changed my mind. Instead, I stopped at Lee's Bridge Landing and enjoyed a sandwich with my hot cocoa...

Continuing upriver, I encountered this small hawk at the outlet from Farrar Pond...

He allowed me to get fairly close from two different angles before he finally took flight. My guess is that he's an immature sharp-shinned hawk but it is only a guess and an uneducated one at that.
Also seen today were several groups of wood ducks, mergansers, and mallards, as well as numerous Canada geese and a pair of red-tailed hawks in Fairhaven Bay.
Upon reaching the mouth of Pantry Brook, I found about 30 feet of ice between the barrier and my boat. As I snapped this photo, I noticed a beaver swimming just beyond the sheet of ice...

Apparently, the beaver was not aware of my presence and swam under the sheet of ice towards his lodge. He surfaced about 2 feet from my cockpit and, needless to say, we both were equally startled! He then swam across the river twice before giving an emphatic tail-slap to the water's surface. I took his hint and departed from the area.
The trip downriver was quite enjoyable for mid-December. After a very brief sprinkle of rain, the sun actually started to break though the cloud cover. Near Heaths Bridge another kayaker was encountered heading in the opposite direction. I believe it was Lisa H. getting in some distance training perhaps. She was the only other person seen on the river today.
At my takeout location, the day's catch posed alongside my boat's hull...

They numbered 24 and were made up of 15 recyclables (13 redeemable) and 9 pieces of misc. rubbish such as styrofoam, plastic bags, spray-paint cans, etc. My YTD total stands at 5559.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Westvale & Return

As you can see from the adjacent photo, there is still some sand in the 2009 hourglass but it is starting to run out fairly fast.
This morning I launched my kayak into the lower Sudbury River and paddled downstream to the confluence with the Assabet at Egg Rock. There was a tongue of ice extending out about 30 feet from Egg Rock. Here, I began my ascent of the Assabet River and soon found myself paddling against a fairly steady current due to recent rain & snow events. Dodge Rock was mostly submerged except for what looked like an old man's white-haired head...

No trash was encountered until after passing Spencer Brook. Wildlife observed today consisted of numerous Canada geese, mallards, a few wood ducks, one merganser, one large hawk, and one small hawk (perhaps a kestrel).
About a quarter-mile below Route 2, I came upon this crude shelter...

Perhaps Les Stroud aka Survivorman was in the area recently!
Passing beneath Route 2 my trash count was nearing 30 and by the time I reached a sandbar upstream of Pine Street I needed to transload 46 pieces of trash below deck. The sandbar provided a perfect spot to enjoy a sandwich and hot cup of cocoa while basking in some mid-December sunshine.
Heading upriver from the sandbar became a little challenging due to several trees that have fallen across the river. I passed a couple of tricky spots where the river's flow was being funneled through narrow openings.
I turned around at the large rock between Westvale and Marshall's Farm...

Beyond the rock were several more fallen trees.
The trip downriver was a swift one and before long I was stopping to admire this wintry scene at Egg Rock...

The earlier sunshine had disappeared behind cloud cover.
Reaching my takeout location, the day's catch of 63 pieces of trash assembled alongside my boat's hull...

The beakdown was as follows: 30 recyclable (6 redeemable) and 33 pieces of misc. rubbish such as styrofoam, plastic bags, nip bottles, a beach ball, a prescription pill bottle (with a few pills still inside), and an empty can of Ortho "Weed-B-Gone". My YTD total stands at 5535 and my paddleodometer just passed 700 miles for the year.
Concerning the 25-lb propane cylinder recovered from last week's patrol of the Assabet, thanks to the Town of Acton Transfer Station, it is now residing in a fenced enclosure with about a dozen other barbecue veterans. I'm happy to report that it is the most grizzled & gruesome looking one of the bunch!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Concord River - Egg Rock to Davis Hill & Return

As evidenced by the adjacent photo, conditions were fairly nice out on the upper Concord River today. Plenty of sunshine and temperatures on the good side of the freezing point. Imagine it won't be much longer before some of these waters start becoming solid.
Today's trash patrol got off to a good start with a brief shore raid just below the Lowell Road bridge. It netted 24 empty containers, mostly beer cans.
At the Old Manse, a little snow from Saturday's storm could still be seen...

Construction at the Flint's Bridge (Monument St.) project looks to be nearing completion as crews are now working on the side fencing...

Reaching the location of my favorite cabin, a little below Saw Mill Brook, I noted curtains in the windows and a couple of canoes stored near the foundation...

Good to see it being used again as opposed to having that abandoned look which it wore for several years.
In the last mile before Davis Hill, 2 blue herons were observed faithfully manning their posts within 50 yards of each other. Apparently, they've elected to stay up north rather than fly south for the winter. Hope they don't regret it. Other wildlife seen today were Canada geese, mallards, and a red-tailed hawk.
The trip back upriver was into a near-blinding low-angle sun almost the entire way.
At my takeout location, the day's catch of 81 pieces of trash unfolded next to my kayak...

The breakdown was: 48 recyclables (28 redeemable) and 33 misc. trash such as styrofoam, fishing gear, nip bottles, and plastic bags. My YTD total stands at 5472.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Trashpaddler's December Daydream

Driving over the Route 27 overpass, I look down to the railroad tracks below and see a small local freight sitting on what’s left of the Boston & Maine (B & M) Railroad’s Marlborough Branch at South Acton Junction. The train is waiting for the dispatcher in North Billerica to activate a green signal that will allow them to pull out onto the Fitchburg Division mainline and head to the east.
About an hour earlier, I had met with this train’s conductor and filled out the requisite shipping forms so that my three carloads of river trash could be pulled out of the weed-choked siding where they had been loaded. The conductor and I were able to escape the December chill and attend to our paper shuffling business within the warm confines of the coal-stove heated caboose. Once inside the small caboose, I was surprised to see a fully functional, mobile office where railroad freight business has obviously been conducted for many years...

There was quite a bit of paperwork involved for what would amount to a fairly short trip by rail to Concord Junction where the railroad will deliver the cars to the Concord Reformatory & Redemption Center (CRRC). That is where the cars will be received and their contents unloaded for processing.
Finally, with all our paperwork in order, we stepped outside and watched as the engineer nosed his diesel -electric locomotive # 1270 slowly into the siding and up to the first of the three cars. The big knuckle at the front of the engine coupled with the one on the car and brake-system air hoses were connected. After walking to each car and releasing its hand brake, the brakeman signaled to the engineer that it was OK to start pulling. Rich black smoke rose up from the short exhaust stack on the well maintained and recently painted S-4 switch engine. This first generation diesel powered switcher had been built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in Schenectady, NY back in 1950, about 6 months before this trashpaddler issued forth. The ALCO 539 turbocharged diesel engine whined as the engineer notched up the throttle and several of the doors along the engine’s side began shaking until finally, despite some protesting squeals from stubborn wheels, the three cars began to move.
I watched as each car exited the siding. The first was a B & M boxcar just behind the engine and it contained all of the non-recyclable miscellaneous trash recovered so far this year. Miscellaneous trash such as styrofoam, plastic bags, and paper represent 44% of what I’ve removed from local rivers. This car will be “set off” at CRRC’s trash-burning incinerator where its content's combustion will help to generate electricity and heat for use within the facility.
The next car, a covered hopper, is filled with recyclable (but not redeemable) containers and represents 33% of the recovered trash. Most of these plastic and aluminum containers are identical to the more valuable redeemable containers, but, sadly, are not included in the current Massachusetts Bottle Bill. This car’s contents will be dumped into the large sorting bin for later re-processing.
Bringing up the rear, the car just ahead of the caboose, another covered hopper, is filled with the redeemable containers and represents 23% of the recovered trash. These plastic and aluminum containers will join the non-redeemable ones after redemption. This car has noticeably less wear & tear than the other two. Hopefully this will change when Massachusetts updates the Bottle Bill to reflect the changes in people’s beverage consumption that have taken place since the Bottle Bill was enacted 27 years ago.
The HDPE and PET plastic portions of the containers will be re-processed into various plastic products by the facility’s state of the art equipment. The facility is a joint public/private venture providing gainful employment for inmates, and uses the same technology once utilized by a local kayak manufacturer. Aluminum and glass containers will be sold to container manufacturers for recycle.
After finally getting their “High Ball”, the train pulled out onto the mainline and I snapped these photos, while standing trackside, of first the engine and then the caboose as they exited the Marlborough Branch…

Soon after new 2010 calendars are hanging on walls, the three, now empty, cars will make the return trip to the cold and most likely snow-covered siding where they will await being filled once again. Hopefully next year, the springs on the redeemable car will be the most compressed.
By the way, wouldn’t a Trashpaddling 2010 calendar look good on your wall? :) It can be purchased locally at Willow Books in Acton or online at this link.
Any funds remaining after printing & handling costs will be used towards the purchase of miscellaneous trashpaddling supplies such as gloves, trash bags, dry bags, etc.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not an Artifact - The Quest Resumes

Back in September, at a time of low water levels on the Assabet River, I found what I thought and hoped was a piece of hand-worked stone. The find was described here.
Yesterday, my presumed artifact and I traveled by train into Boston where we attended a meeting of the Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources. Following Commonwealth of Massachusetts policy, I had submitted an application for an Isolated Find Exemption. As stated on the application form "Artifacts recovered from state lands (submerged bottom lands, wetlands, and uplands) are state property. It is a violation of state law to surface collect or excavate without having proper authorization. The only exceptions are for surface collection of Isolated Finds and at Exempted Sites. The list of Exempted Sites is available from the Board. An Isolated Find is an artifact displaced from its original archaeological context through erosion, water currents or other natural processes. Determining a resource to be an Isolated Find rests exclusively with the Board."
After the board dealt with some interesting shipwrecks along the Massachusetts coast, it was time for my presumed artifact to be examined. Each board member examined it and after a brief discussion, the senior archaeologist concluded that my piece of slate was natural stone and did not show evidence of having been hand-worked. He felt the one-sided edge was from a natural break in the slate.
Therefore, no action was required as to my application and my once presumed artifact and I returned home by train. The hand-cuffed attache case was no longer required.
Though disappointed, I appreciate the Board taking the time to examine my find and I found it very interesting to learn more about how underwater archaeological finds are handled.
My quest for finding a piece of hand-worked stone, which I thought was over, is now back on. Onward, into the past!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lower Sudbury and Assabet Rivers

It certainly was a pleasant day for a trash patrol on the lower Sudbury and Assabet Rivers. Especially considering what month we've just begun and how the weather could take a turn for the worse any day now!
I launched into the lower Sudbury River and began paddling downstream to Egg Rock. Enroute, I encountered a red-tailed hawk near the Concord DPW yard. A little further downstream, where the Boston & Maine RR (Reformatory Branch) used to cross the river, was enough trash to justify a short raid onshore. Trash there included an empty sword sheath, really large vitamin container, empty beer/soda cans, and plastic bags. A good little haul of 19 to start the patrol on the right paddle. Reaching Egg Rock, I decided to ascend the Assabet River as water levels were ideal. Quite a bit of trash in the first mile or so including a tidy little bag with 6 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. Not a brand I see very often. For some reason, I associate that beer with the late 1960s. Do they still advertise it?
A little before Dodge Rock, beavers have been very busy and a new lodge is under construction. Once again, a beaver has a tree ready to fall but it is still being held up by the limb of an adjacent tree. If the beaver isn't careful, the next bite could result in a serious injury or worse.
Large groups of Canada geese were encountered both on and off the water. Some mallards were mixed in with them. This seems to be their winter pattern. Blue jays, chipmunks, and squirrels were also fairly busy today.
Arriving at the mouth of Nashoba Brook, 87 pieces of recovered trash were onboard. It was then, I saw a white propane cylinder, typical of barbecue grills, stuck against some brambles. I moved it up to the river bank and after some hemming and hawing, decided there was no better time than the present to deal with it and sat the tank upright in the boat's rear hatchway.
Now with a good load onboard, my bow was allowed to be turned by the current and soon I was passing downriver under a somewhat backlit Route 2 overpass. The picture I took here is the opening shot of this post. Added a few more pieces of trash on the way back and arrived at my takeout location with 93 pieces. Took this photo of the gang as they lined up for inspection...

Of the 93, 40 were recyclable (14 redeemable) and 53 were misc. rubbish. My YTD count stands at 5391.
Does anyone know of how I can properly dispose of an empty propane tank?
Additional photos of today's patrol can be seen at this link.