Saturday, February 15, 2020

Solace on the Charles

The way things are going with our country of late, it seems the need for finding solace is fast becoming a regular occurrence.  We all have our places to go to when the need arises.  Mine is on the water, preferably a river, where at least for a few hours something close to normalcy prevails.  On a day this past week which belied the season, I paddled the Charles River from Bridge St. in Dover down to the South Natick Dam and back.  It's an excellent stretch of river that includes paddling alongside Peter's Reservation as well as Mass Audubon's Broadmoor.  An ascent of Broadmoor's Indian Brook is possible when water levels are high enough...
Surmounting this beaver's handiwork allowed me to proceed further and visit his fine abode...

Back on the Charles, the river does a few zigs and zags before passing under this foot bridge...
...and shortly after arriving at the South Natick Dam where things looked perfectly normal (if it were mid-March)...
There's little in the way of warning for those unaware of the dam that lies ahead...

Three bald eagles were seen in the sky about mid-way down.  I later wondered if they might have been feeding on this deer carcass...

Trash was decidedly light...
...but included a balloon of the color suited for the upcoming St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Pre and Post Groundhog Day

The last day of January revealed wide-open water on the Assabet River, even the shallow areas by Crow Island.  An eastern bluebird was the cherry on top...

The gateway to and from Fort Meadow Brook was navigable...

Then, the day after a certain groundhog wasn't frightened by his shadow, I returned to the Nashua River Oxbow stretch and, once again, found all things quiet on the western front...the Fort Devens gun ranges were silent...


Enjoying all that peace and quiet was this distinctive pair...

Some extracted plastic refuse...


As to the groundhog...whatever he says is just fine with me!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ruckus in the Oxbow

It had been unusually quiet on the Nashua River in Harvard, MA yesterday with not a peep heard from the Fort Devens gun ranges.  The late January day was yet another respite from what often is deep winter.  Dare I say it, but spring was in the air. 

The stone chapel perched on a small island looked idyllic...
...and the Worcester, Nashua, and Portland railroad bridge...
...sported Mel Gibson's (William Wallace) last blood-curdling words from the movie Braveheart...

While paddling in the vicinity of the long-gone Union Turnpike bridge I heard the blood-curdling screams of an animal not too far from my location.  It sounded like a creature undergoing the same torture as Wallace...perhaps the unfortunate victim of a fisher or possibly a bobcat.  Approaching closer my attention was drawn to the trees where two creatures were seemingly engaged in battle...
Two raccoons!!... and after some wild swinging (about) the one hanging on for dear life dropped about 15 feet or so to the ground with a thud...then popped up and began wailing to anyone who would listen...
 The victor watched silently from above...

I suppose it's possible that the whole dust-up may be related to mating behavior as I read that the mating season for raccoons occurs from early to mid-February.  Maybe the raccoons are telling us that spring's arrival may be a little ahead of schedule. 

Just the day before the moss on top of Egg Rock sure had a nice green tint...
  ...and the Old North Bridge was hosting visitors...

Most of all there was a very different light as seen on the lower Sudbury River...

Over the course of the past two days, portions of the Assabet, Concord, Nashua, and Sudbury rivers were enjoyed.   Some plastic trash was rounded up along the way...


Is this Old Man Winter taking a sip from a nip?...
 
While on the Assabet River a fellow paddler had the misfortune of his paddle breaking while ascending against an opposing current.   Seeing this served to remind me of the benefit of keeping a spare paddle onboard.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

An Unreasonable Expectation?

Yesterday I wondered how our record-breaking 'January Thaw' affected one of Old Man Winter's favorite haunts around here, Fairhaven Bay, so...I set out from Sherman's Bridge and paddled down a nicely-full and ice-free Sudbury River at Weir Hill (opening photo).   At Pantry Brook (aka Gulf Brook) there was no ice and nearly enough water for paddling over the sheet-piling structure...

After paddling under Lee's Bridge I poked into the slough leading to the Lincoln Canoe Launch to find the biggest chunk of ice I'd see all day...

Shortly Fairhaven Bay opened up before me...
...almost completely ice-free.  Normally in mid-January ice fishermen would be seen especially in the more shallow sections of the bay.

The stone boathouse drew my attention...
...as a possible spot for Old Man Winter to be found taking a snooze and I came close to crossing the threshold...
...but elected to turn away and just enjoy the day...
...which got better by the hour with temperatures in the mid-forties Fahrenheit.

Trash was very light and with a sun-kissed theme...

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Winter Escapes Us

Here in southern New England we experience some form of a 'January Thaw' almost every winter.  However, in the nearly 150 years that weather records have been recorded there'd never been two consecutive January days with temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit ... until this past weekend.  Yesterday, I got to see the results first hand after launching into an impounded area of the Assabet River which is normally iced over at this time of year...

The view from a riverside hill was more typical of March...
...and brought tent-camping to mind.

Also released from winter's grip was this bit of trash...

Last Friday, on the eve of the meltdown, I enjoyed being out on a similarly open Nashua River in Groton...

A glance into the aptly-named Dead River provided one of the few remaining winter scenes...

This sight had me picturing two beavers competing...

Some trash 'on ice'...

I'm not sure exactly where Old Man Winter went but I hope he has a good stay and doesn't feel the need to return any time soon...yet I know he will. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Flotsam Sneak Preview

The sun had fought the good fight but eventually surrendered to the thickening clouds yesterday on the Assabet River.  The morning's abundant sun and relative warmth for early January drew me to a stretch of the river a bit further upstream than I usually paddle.

Before the clouds, this hawk (like myself) seemed intent on capturing every bit of available sunshine...

This beaver lodge had an unusually high mud to stick ratio...


The amount of trash was a bit on the high side for just a 2-mile stretch of river...
....almost all of it was plastic.  At least there was no Styrofoam.

Going further upstream on the Assabet than usual provided a trash preview of sorts...a bit like time travel.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Looking for Saddle Rock

While reading Robert M. Thorson's The Boatman (Henry David Thoreau's River Years) I came across the author's mention of a boulder historically used in measuring the river's depth: "The closest thing Musketaquid had to a local stage gauge was a large boulder known as Saddle Rock, located at Heard's Bridge at the southern end of Sudbury Meadows."  I was intrigued yet at the same time couldn't recall ever having seen a large boulder in this stretch of the Sudbury River.  Given yesterday's relative warmth and lack of wind, I decided to paddle upriver from the Sudbury Causeway (Route 27) and do some looking around for Saddle Rock.

At the start of my trip I paddled under the Old Town Bridge in Wayland (opening photo) built in 1848.  It is one of the very few bridges still standing from Thoreau's time and one that he almost certainly would've rowed, paddled, or sailed under.  The bridge was taken out of active service in 1955 but still spans an old oxbow channel.

Passing upriver through the once productive hay meadows that play a prominent role in The Boatman, I passed under Route 20 (formerly site of the Bridle Point Bridge)...
...and under the abandoned Central Mass Railroad trestle before taking a glance westward of Nobscot Hill which seems to have sprouted, yet another, cell tower...

Around the next bend was Pelham Island Road bridge which is said to have been the site of Heard's Bridge...

Aside from a submerged rock beneath the bridge there's nothing here that matches the descriptions of Saddle Rock.  In testimony before the 1860 Joint Special Committee on the Flowage of Meadows on the Concord and Sudbury Rivers Richard Heard, the man who used the boulder as a gauge, described it as follows "Saddle Rock is 2 ft 4 in. above the hard pan..."  Another family member, Horace Heard stated "At such times as I stood on the hard pan, the meadows were perfectly dry.  Then, the water would be six - perhaps ten - feet out from the Saddle Rock."  Other than these few mentions I can find nothing that reveals the actual location of Saddle Rock.

Finding nothing in the immediate area of the bridge I headed about .4 miles upriver and found this boulder...
...on the west side of the river which is the site of Heard farm.  Approaching closer I noted a depression between two rock sides which might be viewed as a saddle-shape...

On the right rock slope was an eye-bolt...
...perhaps showing that a boat was once tethered here.

Might this location possibly be Saddle Rock?...or is Saddle Rock submerged beneath the bridge?  Suppose anyone knows for sure?

At any rate it was more than a little surreal to be enjoying an afternoon on the water in early January.

Some trash gathered up along the way (from mostly around the causeway)...