Wednesday, December 2, 2020

After the Bluster

 

The sense of calm I found on the Assabet River in Stow, MA yesterday was more than a little strange given just how wild things had been the previous afternoon and evening.  November got booted out to the north by a storm sporting heavy rain and strong southerly gusts up to 50 miles per hour.  This resulted in my awaking to morning temperatures in the upper 50s F and a balmy feel in the air...perfect conditions to kick off the month of December with an Assabet paddle.  The above photo is looking toward Stow's Gardner Hill/Town Forest.

Reaching the river's confluence with Fort Meadow Brook the box culvert looked busy handling the brook's additional flow...


A little further upriver this hawk held his wings in a distended position...

...perhaps trying to dry them out.

Past the second crossing of the river by the abandoned Boston and Maine Railroad's Marlborough Branch I noticed a section of woods having recently been cleared on the river's north side, probably for new homes.

The sun began to prevail more and more as the day progressed.  Temperatures stayed mild though the wind did pick up a bit.  The area between Crow Island and Stow's Gardner Hill/Town Forest...  

December greeting us in this fashion is AOK with me, and may we all experience the same sense of calm after the 'bluster' is gone.

Trash gathered up, some of which may have floated out of the weeds thanks to the storm...



   

Monday, November 30, 2020

Assabet Arising

 

The newly elevated water level at the Egg Rock inscription told me an ascension of the Assabet River would be in the cards on the last Sunday morning of November.  The weatherman predicted "wall to wall" sunshine and delivered exactly that.

Worked my way upriver to Westvale in a slow and steady manner.  After turning about, the trip back down with the current was a breeze.

Paddling along a riverside trail below Pine Street...


Train time in West Concord...


  Route 2 by the prison...


Trash gathered up along the way...



Friday, November 27, 2020

Up to the Oxbow

Got out on the Sudbury River in Wayland on Wednesday and found much improved water levels from Monday's rain storm.  Though a paddle into Heard Pond looked doable, I decided instead to see if the old mile-long oxbow further upriver close to Saxonville would be navigable.  At each successive potential obstacle I found enough water to allow passage.  Past Heard Pond a well camouflaged duck-blind stood where the river takes a sharp bend...


Soon enough the old stone-arch bridge built in 1857 appeared ahead...

Next came the "hot dog bridge"...
...also known as the Weston Aqueduct delivering drinking water to greater Boston.

Finally I reached the entrance to the oxbow and left most of the river's current upon entering.  This photo shows the point of entry to the left while also showing the river's present day course on the right while looking upstream...

Once in the oxbow large rafts of ducks and geese appeared as did this 5-nest heron rookery...

A vocal pileated woodpecker was seen...

I worked my way further upstream not knowing if I'd find clear passage or need to turn around.
This spot showed the original bank...

Exiting the oxbow and returning to the river's main channel required briefly exiting my boat and pulling it over the buildup of mud and silt at the oxbow's upstream entrance.

According to Ron McAdow's The Concord, Sudbury, and Assabet Rivers the neck was breeched in 1957.  McAdow also mentions Henry David Thoreau having boated through this area in July of 1859.  On the Walden Woods web site I found Thoreau's actual journal entry for July 31, 1859.  Some of his comments:
"At about one mile below Saxonville the river winds from amid high hills and commences a great bend called the Ox-Bow.  Across the neck of this bend, as I paced, it is scarcely twenty rods, while it must be (as I judged by looking, and was told) a mile or more round.  Fishermen and others are accustomed to drag their boats overland here, it being all hard land on this neck.  A man by the bridge below had warned us of this cut-off, which he said would save us an hour!"

In the paragraph before his comments on the Oxbow Thoreau stated "For refreshment on these voyages, (we) are compelled to drink the warm and muddy-tasted river water out of a clamshell which we keep, - so it reminds you of a clam soup, - taking many a sup, or else leaning over the the side of the boat while the other leans the other way to keep your balance, and often plunging your whole face in at that, when the boat dips or the waves run."  Interesting even for 1859 as I suspect the water quality was already being compromised by discharges from the many mills.

The Sudbury River's Oxbow as it appeared on a 1951 topo map (before the breech) and perhaps close to how it was in 1859...

Thoreau ended his July 31st entry with "This sixteen miles up, added to eleven miles down makes about twenty-seven that I have boated on this river to which may be added five or six of the Assabet."  This was less than three years before his death in 1862. 
  
On my return trip back downriver the upcoming observation of the Thanksgiving holiday during this Pandemic was in my thoughts.  This hawk's steady forward gaze reminded me that we have little choice but to do the same...  



...and like the beavers within this lodge I'm thankful for having a warm home awaiting my return...


The increased flow had trash on the move...

...a feline-themed balloon...

The day's haul...




 


Monday, November 23, 2020

Back to Bogastow

 

It'd been awhile since my last visit to the meadows region of the Charles River where the river runs between Millis and Medfield, MA.  Yesterday provided a chance though late in the season.  After launching from  just downriver of the Dover Road bridge I headed toward the old railroad trestle pictured above noting it having recently received some much needed TLC.  Some new boards at the decking, a few new cross-braces, and a couple of concrete-bolstered piers...


 Within sight of the trestle sits one very lonely looking Bay Colony locomotive...

...patiently awaiting it's next trip atop the trestle above the river...


It was less than 2 miles downriver to the confluence where I took a left into Bogastow Brook for the short trip to South End Pond...

 Aside from 2 fishermen in a small boat and this blue heron...

...I had the place to myself. 

This hawk I'm guessing to be an immature broad-winged was also seen in Bogastow Brook...

A trip further up Bogastow Brook was cut short by a beaver dam, so it was back out to the Charles and some upriver paddling to see if another tributary, the Stop River, was accessible.  Surprisingly one of the 2 portals under Causeway Road was wide open...

I passed through with hopes of making it to Devilsfoot Island and got to within sight of the island when yet another beaver dam...
...convinced me to turn back.

Trash gathered up along the way...




Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Bit Nippy on the Assabet

 

It only took a half mile of paddling down the Assabet River from Cox Street in Hudson yesterday to realize that unusually high numbers of nip bottles were being encountered.  Another half mile produced the pile sitting atop my boat's rear hatch cover.  As a rule I no longer count the trash picked up, but on this day I made an exception and counted 83 nip bottles at trip's end.  That's a record number in all my travels.  

One thing for sure is that the littering of nip bottles is getting worse in Massachusetts and, from what I hear, in most other states as well .  The state of Maine placed a 5 cent deposit on nip bottles in 2017.  Would such a deposit help here?  I don't see how it wouldn't.  However in my opinion the deeper issue is that these small containers of hard liquor are being tossed aside by folks wanting to get rid of the evidence of drinking on the job.  A deposit won't help in that regard.    

Yesterday was a decent day to be out on this picturesque stretch of the Assabet...


 It's only about 2 miles down to the dam at Gleasondale where I turned about and headed back upriver.

Sunday night's rainstorm provided enough water for me to pass around the end of a fallen tree above Cox Street.  This allowed my first passage through the abandoned Central Mass RR trestle in quite awhile...


The nip bottles retained top billing when joined by their larger plastic associates...




Monday, November 16, 2020

Back to the Real November

 

This immature eagle's landing caught my eye from a distance as he spread his wings while establishing his perch on a tree limb arched across the Nashua River.  Above the limb this small stone chapel sits silently upon a riverside drumlin... 


By Wednesday of last week the string of unusually warm and sunny days had finally come to an end. 

This abandoned osprey nest further downriver attested to what season we're really entering...

Not much in blossom along the river except for these strange things having a weird beauty all their own...


On a cloudy and cool Friday the Assabet River in Stow and Hudson provided the perfect backdrop for  hearing Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald  (a true November song).

The box culvert at the entrance to Fort Meadow Brook looked tempting but the offer was declined...


This red-tailed hawk kept a close eye on me...


This past Sunday saw morning temperatures in the mid 20s and my wetsuit was pressed into service for the first time this season.  Despite the cold conditions several other boats were encountered including a pair of canoes and a pair of kayaks.

The Assabet River in West Concord was graced by this Boston-bound train...


According to the Boston Globe the MBTA is considering the elimination of weekend trains starting in 2021 due to budget constraints.  

Extracted trash for the past week included...






Tuesday, November 10, 2020

An Assabet Straggler

 

This strap-sided old timer (above) caught my eye while ascending the lower Assabet River the other day.  While it's not at all unusual to come across an empty bottle floating in the river, stumbling upon one perhaps a hundred years old is.  The bottle was in good condition, considering its age, and I believe can be described as a union strap-sided quart flask with a post base mold.  That's based on info found on the antiquetrader.com and sha.org web sites.  Both sites lead me to believe the bottle was made between the mid 1800s to 1920s.

So, why did this long time river resident decide to come up for air now?  Once retrieved the bottle cleaned up easily and surprisingly wasn't the least bit waterlogged...


Interesting to me was there being no embossing or any maker's marks that I could discern.  It'll now join ranks with the other river refugees in my collection.

My paddling time this past week was spent enjoying stretches of the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord rivers.  The weather was unusually warm for November.  Some photos:

Rounding Willow Island on the Assabet near sunrise...


Martha's Point on the Sudbury...


The Old North Bridge on the Concord...


This reminder to wear some hunter orange...


Some trash rounded up...