Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saving the Streak

With my streak of 71 consecutive months paddling Massachusett's waterways in serious jeopardy, I decided to do whatever it might take to keep it alive.  So with the necessary cold-weather paddling gear donned, my boat and I slid into the Sudbury River from a snow covered shore. 
The weather conditions could best be described by the first lines of text on the memorial marker for George Bradford Bartlett...
"By the ancient hemlocks grim and gray, our boat drifts slowly on its way"  The marker is located under the 'Leaning Hemlocks' on the Assabet River.

Prior to visiting that spot on the Assabet, I'd paddled down the Concord River from Egg Rock to Davis Hill and been pleasantly surprised by the large numbers of eastern bluebirds encountered.  Capturing their beautiful shade of blue with my camera proved difficult as they wouldn't stay still very long.  Eventually I caught this one lingering...
... and this one taking flight...
At one point I had a blue jay and bluebird in the same frame but was unable to click fast enough.

A small mink played peek a boo from the base of this tree...

Near Davis Hill this beaver lodge had a very wintry look...
The opening photo was taken near this spot and shows the view looking downriver towards Rt. 225.  At some point before the bridge open-water gives way to ice.

Mallards congregated on Concord's Mill Brook...
Other ducks seen today were hooded mergansers and wood ducks.

A small haul of trash was recovered along the way...
There were 11 recyclable containers (4 redeemable) and 10 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish. 
YTD = 315
After dipping my paddle into the waters of the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers today my streak has been extended to a 72nd month.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Riverside Visits Looking for Spring

This morning I dropped by the Annisquam River in Gloucester to see if access by boat might be possible there in the near future.  I found an almost spring-like scene with a group of mallards enjoying the ice-free water and mid-February sunshine (above photo).

Then in the afternoon Mrs. Trashpaddler and I visited the Assabet River in Concord where this mated pair of hooded mergansers were enjoying similar conditions...

The Annisquam visit netted this batch of trash within a few yards from where I stood...
...including yet another Hooksett Disk.  My collection of these delightful little wafers now stands at 1024... almost enough to stock an aquarium-sized wastewater treatment plant.

Later, on our afternoon hike home from the Assabet, this batch of trash a la mode was encountered along the street and sidewalk...
Hard to believe someone would dispose of their insulin syringes in this fashion.  The trash in the above photo was deposited along a 1 mile stretch since last Saturday's snowstorm.  Most of it probably came flying out of passing vehicles under the cover of darkness.        YTD = 294

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Sleeping Ipswich River

Having snowshoes in my car's trunk (for work purposes) was all the impetus I needed to visit the Ipswich River in the Willow Dale Hill section of Bradley Palmer State Park this morning.  The view above is looking upstream from the wooden footbridge which allows passage over the river from Ipswich into Hamilton.  Once across the bridge there is quite a network of trails that can be hiked.  I chose one that followed the course of the river upstream into Topsfield.

Compare the above picture with this view of a fairly wide-open Assabet River near my home...
Both photos were taken today.

Meanwhile, the Ipswich lies fast asleep under a thick blanket of ice and snow.   It leaves me to wonder just how long this nap will last and what might be going on under there...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Have We Lost Something?

Living fairly close to the busy double-tracked Fitchburg Division commuter rail line I've noticed, over the years, that fresh snow cover greatly reduces the sound of passing trains.  However, yesterday there were no sounds to be muffled as train service along this line ceased to operate.
As the photo depicts, the inbound (to Boston) track looking towards the signal lies buried under the snow whereas the outbound track on the left saw one (non-passenger) train earlier in the day.  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority had thrown in the towel before the fight even got underway. 
Since many comparisons are being made between our recent storm and the Blizzard of 1978, I found my copy of the Boston and Maine Railroad Historical Society's B & M Bulletin edition for spring 1978, and after blowing off some dust read the following editorial in the White Flags section:
"Yet through all the physical trauma associated with the storm, the trains ran.  Sporadically at first and with any pretense at maintaining normal scheduling completely ignored, they did manage to serve the Boston metropolitan area with adequate service at a time when all non-essential driving had been prohibited. (Amtrak also came through admirably with the Shore Line route, which never shut down, being the only means of transportation available in and out of the state as Boston's Logan Airport was closed until Saturday, February 12).  A combination of a fortuituous abundance of locomotives, some old-fashioned common sense in dealing with the snow and motivation and dedication of railroad personnel all combined to keep the trains moving. ....It will be a long while before the people of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts forget the "Great Blizzard of 1978".  Unfortunately what will be forgotton all too soon is that the B & M (as well as Amtrak and Conrail) were able to maintain rail service during and after the storm while all other transportation modes were completely immobilized.  Well done!"
Sounds to me like they rose to the occasion.  Today, oh well.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Are We Resigned to Our Fate?

The Bedford Boat Launch at the Concord River had remained fairly trash-free until just recently when someone decided to dispose of this assortment of 6 television sets and computer monitors.
Perhaps we could eliminate the disposal fees that this culprit avoided paying.  Incorporating future disposal costs into the purchase price of television sets and computers might prevent scenes like this one.  It's something we could do.

Later, on a 1-mile stretch of sidewalk adjacent to High Street in Acton, this collection of trash littered either side of the walkway...
I guess the 23 nip bottles attest to it having been cold 'round here of late.  In 2013 we'll have another chance to expand and update our 1983 'Bottle Bill'.  It's something we could do.

Meanwhile the Assabet River continues to fall over the Powdermill Dam, seemingly indifferent to our short-sightedness...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Contoured Ice at Little River

This morning's outgoing tide and cold temperature created this scene at Little River in West Gloucester...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Not the Only Fish Out of Water/Skypaddling

Yesterday, while carefully avoiding casting a shadow, Mrs. Trashpaddler and I continued our mid-winter visits to some of the promontories usually seen off in the distance from local rivers.  Annursnac Hill is perhaps the highest elevation in the town of Concord, MA and can be seen from both the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers.  The hill's name is of Native American origin and is said to mean either "lookout place" or "place for gathering strawberries".  We hiked in from Strawberry Hill Road and followed the Bay Circuit Trail to where a blue-blazed trail veered off to Annursnac Hill.  After a short ascent we reached an overlook about 30 ' below the actual summit.  This overlook afforded a nice vista to the northeast and the Estabrook Woods...

The wisps of smoke that appear to be rising from the Middlesex School's Chapel are actually emanating from a smokestack just a little further distant.  I recognized the stack because many years ago, when I wore a younger man's clothes, I was responsible for the products of combustion that entered that brick chimney and also heated the gold-domed chapel.
Looking down on this scene from above stirred in me feelings perhaps similar to ones recorded by Henry David Thoreau in his journal entry for September 9, 1851:
"...The distant meadows towards the north beyond Conant's Grove, full of fog, appear like a vast lake out of which rise Annursnack and Ponkawtasset like rounded islands.  Nawshawtuct is a low and wooded isle, scarcely seen above the waves.  The heavens are now clear again.  The vapor, which was confined to the river and meadows, now rises and creeps up the sides of the hills.  I see it in transparent columns advancing down the valley of the river, ghost-like, from Fair Haven, and investing some wooded or rocky promontory, before free.  So ghosts are said to move.
Annursnack is exactly like some round, steep, distant hill on the opposite shore of a large lake (and Tabor on the other side), with here and there some Brush Island in the middle of the waves (the tops of some oaks and elms).  Oh, what a sail I could take, if I had the right kind of bark, over to Annursnack!  for there she lies four miles from land as sailors say.  And all the farms and houses of Concord are at the bottom of that sea.  So I forget them, and my thought sails triumphantly over them.  As I looked down where the village of Concord lay buried in fog, I thought of nothing but the surface of a lake, a summer sea over which to sail; no more than a voyager on the Dead Sea who had not read the Testament would think of Sodom and Gomorrah, once cities of the plain.  I only wished to get off to one of the low isles I saw in midst of the [sea] (it may have been the top of Holbrook's elm), and spend the whole summer day there." 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Slicing Through the Darkness

On most winter mornings, my commute to work has me driving through the pre-dawn darkness to the east and north.  This past week has been a memorable one as I'm sure many early morning commuters can attest.  Wednesday's drive began, for me, with glare ice for the first three miles.  Then yesterday's truly bizarre conditions made for a taxing commute that included dodging numerous fallen tree limbs, trash barrels and their lids, and even a lamp shade.  The air was incredibly warm, the south wind was howling with gusts over 50 mph, and rain was giving my wiper-blades all they could handle.  At several intersections, the traffic signals were swinging in the wind unlit.  By the time I reached my destination I was just about done-in...reminded me of that US Army ad that mentioned "doing more by 9 am than most folks do in a whole day"!
So today seemed like the "calm after the storm" and, once again, my car and I were seamlessly slicing through the darkness on dry roads.  Then on my car's radio came a song I'd never heard before.  It was sung by Willie Nelson and told the story of a guy down on his luck and homeless.  He's living under a bridge with a woman named Marie (the song's title).  The song ripped a hole through my gut.  Later I found it was written by Townes Van Zandt who passed away in the late 90's.  Willie's version is on the album Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt.  Quite an evocative song and perhaps worth a listen if you haven't heard it.

Earlier, before leaving home, I'd glanced at the Boston Globe and read an article by Jay Lindsay Fishermen say cuts cast a net of ruin: sharp reductions to cod quotas raise fears of industry collapse in New England.  Needless to say there was not much in the way of optimism in either the article or the song.

While I was at my first job the sun was also getting to work and by the time I got to Gloucester (not the Glen Campbell song) a bright blue February sky had developed.   Something made me detour a bit and drive down the bloulevard where the "Man at the Wheel" statue (which Lindsay mentioned in his article) was encountered...
What future does the "Man at the Wheel" see as he looks out over the ocean waters?  Is there any course that can be steered to good fishing? or will New England go the way of Newfoundland where the cod fishery did collapse and left thousands with no way to make a living?  This will be a tough year for our New England fishermen.