Saturday, September 12, 2020

Quid Quo Quin

It'd been awhile since I'd last paddled the waters of Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester and Shrewsbury, MA.  Figured that by waiting until after Labor Day I'd find a quieter Quinsigamond...and I did.  Launched close to sunrise on Tuesday from the Leo R. Corazzini ramp in Shrewsbury near the lake's northern end.  Other early risers were quietly gliding upon the lake in sleek rowing shells between the 290 and Rt. 9 bridges...



Was a little surprised to also encounter two power boats each leading an accomplished water-skier up and down the lake as early as 7:30 am.

A bald eagle watched over Drake Island...

At the lake's south end I entered Flint Pond and followed it to a small dam at the pond's outlet.  After a short portage, I found myself in the Quinsigamond River and looking back towards Flint Pond...

The water dropping over the dam will travel via the Quinsigamond River to the Blackstone River and ultimately Narragansett Bay

The Quinsigamond River is small and short...

My foray down the river ended abruptly at the stone arch bridge carrying CSXT and MBTA trains...

The arch receives additional support from a configuration of iron and steel.

Turned around at the bridge and headed back to the lake's north end on a fast-warming summer's day.  Wigwam Hill loomed over the Route 9 bridge...

  

Yesterday, while staying closer to home, I paddled some of the Sudbury and Concord rivers through the area known to Native Americans as Musketaquid...


The weather had changed considerably and a cool breeze out of the north brought with it the feel of fall.

The South Bridge Boat House was staged and ready for action...


The Egg Rock inscription sat high and dry despite the previous day's rainfall...

...at a quiet confluence...


Nearby this heron enjoyed an uncrowded beach...


This buck didn't seem aware his 9-point antlers gave away his location...


Trash included a wayward balloon cluster with only one still inflated...

...and this head-scratcher on an island where someone crushed their beer cans before tucking them in a nook beneath a sign kindly asking that trash be "carry out"...


Trash found on Quinsigamond...

...and on the Musketaquid...


With yesterday being the second Friday in September, and having the feel of fall, I was reminded that John and Henry Thoreau returned to their home port of Concord on just such a Friday back in 1839.  Upon their awakening that morning Thoreau noted in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers "We had gone to bed in summer, and we awoke in autumn; for summer passes into autumn in some unimaginable point of time, like the turning of a leaf."

They also had a breeze from the north which helped them along; "We had made about fifty miles this day with sail and oar, and now, far in the evening, our boat was grating against bulrushes of its native port, and its keel recognized the Concord mud,..."

A visit to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord found this fitting marker in the Thoreau family plot...

 

 



Sunday, September 6, 2020

My Week on the Merrimack and Sudbury

Seems each year on the last day of August I find myself giving thought to Henry David Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.  His book memorializes a journey by boat he and his older brother, John, undertook in 1839.  They rowed, sailed, and camped as they traveled from their hometown of Concord, MA to Hooksett, NH and back.

Early on the morning of August 31st I paddled into the Merrimack from Southwell Park in North Chelmsford...

Was surprised by the number of folks camping alongside the river in a variety of structures.  This stick-built creation was the most unusual...


I went downriver to the dam at Pawtucket Falls before turning about...

...and heading north.  Some railroad activity was noted in the area below the mouth of Stony Brook.  A set of multiple locomotives was in the process of setting off several freight cars and a bright red switching locomotive on the New Hampshire Route mainline at the 28.65 stone arch bridge over Stony Brook...
According to folks on the railroad.net forum the nearly fifty year old SW-1000 locomotive formerly belonged to the New Orleans Public Belt Railway and was being transported to new owner Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad.

Not a cloud in the sky as I passed under the Tyngsborough Bridge...

...and rounded what Thoreau called the "Horseshoe Interval"...
...before turning around and heading back to Southwell Park.  Took a bit of a shortcut through the Wicasee Canal where lots of welcome shade waited...

Midweek I stayed closer to home and paddled the Sudbury River in Lincoln and Wayland on a showery morning.  While doing so I was provided the opportunity to give a bird in a bind an assist.  The bird had both of its legs stuck in the muck...
...and was flailing its wings without success.   Placing my paddle-blade under its stomach and gently lifting freed the bird.  Not sure what kind of bird it was.  Perhaps a dove?

The Sudbury River was a happening place with two large snapping turtles engaged in a joint venture of some sort...


This cormorant's eyes were almost bigger than its mouth...
It took the fish underwater three times before finally getting it down the hatch.

A lone heron stood sentry at Lee's Bridge...

I closed out the week on Friday with another visit to the Merrimack starting from Riverfront Park in Tyngsborough and heading upriver towards Nashua.  Reaching Salmon Brook I picked up the trail of the Thoreau brothers as described by Henry: "Salmon Brook comes in from the west under the railroad, a mile and a half below the village of Nashua"...
Did they pass under this very bridge upon entering the brook?  It's of stone arch construction and there's no date on either keystone.  The railroad between Lowell and Nashua was built in 1838 and had been operating less than a year when the Thoreau brothers passed under the tracks.  The stone work can be seen in this eastward-looking photo...

I found online two sources referring to it as the 37.87 stone arch bridge and both stating it as having been built in 1840...which is pretty close to September 1839.  This bridge still shoulders freight trains and has done so for 180 years.  It was built to last.

While at Salmon Brook Thoreau devoted several pages to the area's history noting it "was a favorite haunt of the aborigines" and that "about one mile up this stream stood the house of old John Lovewell".
He also states "As late as 1724 there was no house on the north side of the Nashua, but only scattered wigwams and gristly forests between this frontier and Canada."  As navigating the brook by boat is not possible these days, I did later drive to the site of Lovewell's home where this stone marker explains its historical significance...

Seeing mention on the stone of Hannah Duston spending her first night here after escaping her Native American captors leaves me to wonder how she knew to hang a right at this particular brook and then paddle her canoe a mile up it?  Suppose there was a sign on the river?

While Thoreau was writing of Salmon Brook he mentioned an event which occurred on September 5th back in 1724 in which ten or more colonists were ambushed by the very Indians they were pursuing.  All but one were killed.  Thoreau's description of the burial place intrigued me: "It is a wild and antiquated looking grave-yard, overgrown with bushes, on the high road, about a quarter of a mile from and overlooking the Merrimack, with a deserted mill stream bounding it on one side, where lie the earthly remains of the ancient inhabitants of Dunstable."  This was another location I visited post-paddle and it was found to be anything but wild and overgrown...
...in fact it was an oasis surrounded by strip malls and multiple lanes of traffic.

Thoreau went on,  "You may read in the churchyard at Dunstable, under the "Momento Mori," and in the name of one of them (Thomas Lund), how they "departed this life" and

"This man with seven more that lies in this grave was slew all in a day by the Indians." 

With some help from History of Nashua, The Cemeteries Ancient and Modern by E. E. Parker I found "The Old Burying Ground" and the gravestone matching Thoreau's description...

The graves of three additional victims are immediately to the left.

In keeping with Thoreau's mention of Salmon Brook being "a favorite haunt of the aborigines" it's only reasonable to expect the Native Americans were less than pleased to discover a two hundred square mile parcel of their homeland had been granted to English settlers in 1673.  According to John Pendergast's book The Bend in the River "Although it has never been mentioned as such, it would perhaps not be unreasonable to consider it to be one of the immediate causes of the King Philip War.  It was the largest single taking of land in colonial history up to its time."   The map below shows outlined just how large this tract of land was...  



All of this was food for thought while paddling another mile and a half upriver to the Merrimack's confluence with the Nashua River...
...passing along the way a rental bicycle perched atop one of the long-abandoned Worcester, Nashua, and Portland Railroad's bridge piers near the middle of the river...

Some rounded-up trash encountered between Pawtucket Dam and Tyngsborough Bridge...
 
...which included a side of Hooksett disks...


A bit from the Sudbury...
...and finally Friday's stuff gathered en route to Salmon Brook and the Nashua River...





Friday, August 28, 2020

This Buck Stopped Here

 ...alongside the Sudbury River in Wayland, MA yesterday.  Furthermore, he stood his ground...

...not moving an inch, antlers encased in velvet.

I'd launched from Route 20 after finding access to River Road closed due to emergency repairs being made to the Route 27 bridge...

Heading back upriver saw considerable areas of shallow water, especially from Wayland High School up into Framingham.  Just how low the water was can be seen by this engine block...
...and this what appears to be literally "the bottom of the barrel" with the staves still attached to the barrel-head...

In this same area I came across these two old bottles...
...which were in relatively good condition considering their age.  Both later cleaned-up well...


The Kriger Farms milk bottle has an embossed address of 90 Second Street in Sherborn, MA.  In trying to date the bottle I was surprised to find no such address in Sherborn nor any mention of such a farm.  I believe it was part of a 565-acre parcel Sherborn annexed to Framingham in 1925.  If so, this helps to date the bottle to a time prior to 1925 when Second Street was in Sherborn rather than Framingham as it is today.  The other bottle bears no markings but has side-straps.  

Trash found along the way...

The haul has that long-in-the-water patina which is very similar to today's trash haul out of the Assabet River...


The Assabet had plenty of depth, thanks to the Ben Smith Dam, but also an abundance of duckweed...
...and riverside blossoms...