Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Keeping the Distance

Out on the Assabet River yesterday, it occurred to me that I've been practicing social distancing for years...without even realizing it.  Not sure if that's good or bad...it just is.  Therefore, when out on the river it's fairly easy for me to forget all about our pandemic.  After each paddle I return to land with hopes of hearing there's been a breakthrough in dealing with the virus.

Some of the non-viral things that caught my attention were this moss-covered roof...
...and a pair of red-tailed hawks...

Lots of folks were out and about on seemingly every riverside trail.  Sort of like a collective "cabin fever".

The only trash handled were these plastic items which clearly predated the virus...

Friday, March 27, 2020

Precious Time on the Water

The Sudbury River had ample water and sunshine yesterday for this socially distanced paddler to explore.  More than ever before I appreciate being able to get out on the water, wondering if it might be my last.  Thanks to the higher water levels access to Heard Pond was, simply put, a breeze.  In fact, I even saw a small power boat successfully navigate the passage from the pond to the river.  Just before entering the pond-proper I stopped for lunch at the end of a narrow spit of land and came upon this triangle-shaped piece of quartz or possibly old glass about the size of a quarter...
...which almost looks like a broken arrowhead.

A view of the pond from its northwest corner...

There were lots of wood ducks, musquashes, beavers, and processions of mute swans...

The old abandoned 4-arch bridge and its associated route were visited...

Some trash was rustled-up...

I couldn't help but admire this beaver who'd found a dry spot for his afternoon siesta...
...oblivious to all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Oxbow Tranquility Broken

The Nashua River in Harvard, MA was unusually quiet today....until around noontime when the low rumbling of  an eastbound loaded coal train livened-up the valley...

The CSXT train came to a stop at Still River Depot Road leaving a few hundred tons of coal atop the bridge...


After a short breather they got underway again, continuing their journey northward.   Soon they'd be leaving the Nashua River Valley and hopping over to Stony Brook which they'd follow to the Merrimack River.   Journey's end would be in Bow, NH where the coal will ultimately be used in generating electricity.

After this little midday drama the river settled back into quiet repose...until some late season snow began falling in earnest...

Plenty of plastic found afloat...
...including another 3 dozen nip bottles.

By the time I got home the ground was white and things looked wintry again...for the first time in awhile.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Escaping It All on the Nashua

Felt very lucky to get out on the Nashua River in Lancaster, MA, yesterday.  Social distancing wasn't a problem as I didn't encounter another soul.  Launched from Seven Bridge Road (aka Rt. 117) and found numerous obstacles in the form of blow downs.  The fallen trees across the river act as trash traps, especially for plastic items...

This particular plastic item serves to remind us all of the need for keeping our heads...

Hard to believe that just a few weeks ago "going viral" was considered a good thing.

The day was a beauty and our early spring continues...

Getting out on the river got my mind off of the virus/pandemic issues and concerns.  Gathered up a fair amount of plastic while doing so...
The haul included 76 nip bottles which is surprising (even to me) for just a 1.5 mile stretch of river.

Over the course of several hours I managed to lose myself in the river and it was strange to seemingly awaken back to the new normal on the short drive home.  Hope all stay well!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Familiar Waters/Uncharted Waters

Got out on familiar waters this past Sunday and, under bright sunny skies, paddled to the point where the Sudbury and Assabet rivers join to form the Concord.  Though everything seemed ordinary I couldn't help but think of how fast things are changing and all of us are heading into uncharted waters.  The Covid-19 virus is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives and none of us of know what tomorrow will bring...all of which weighs on our level of enjoyment.

I remember my grandfather telling of his being an 18 year old ambulance driver in Boston during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.  His job was bringing sick folks from their homes to the hospital and, despite the close contact, he never caught the flu, though many of his co-workers did. 

On Sunday the Old North Bridge was a popular spot for families looking to get outside for awhile...

I do, however, take comfort in knowing that despite whatever changes take place the rivers will still flow and creatures such as this musquash will continue to conduct their affairs same as it ever was...

Hopefully, we'll all navigate these troubled times and emerge unscathed in the near future.


Not much in the way of trash was encountered on this day...


   

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Nashua, Merrimack, and Assabet Bits

They're three rivers in the Merrimack River watershed, and I paddled bits of each this past week.  Started with the Nashua River in Still River (Harvard, MA) on the only seasonable day of the three...
...where a couple of deer looked surprised...
Though I often paddle this stretch, for some reason on this occasion, I was more aware of its deserted look and feel. The launch at Oxbow NWR is at the bottom of Still River Depot Road.  The depot is long gone and the roadway which once served as a county road ends at a chain-link fence...
...at the river's west shore.  The creation of Fort Devens back in 1917 fenced-off this area.

At the spot in Still River village where this road leaves Route 110/111 a stately sycamore tree attests to a once busy intersection...

An even statelier sycamore stands about a mile or so distant...
...at Captain Pollard's Flintlock Farm.  This sycamore is known as the "whipping tree" because back in 1782 a Shaker was tied to the tree and whipped.  So much for religious tolerance.  The tree is said to be the 4th oldest sycamore in Massachusetts and reportedly measures almost 21 feet in girth. 
Seeing these ancient trees reminded me of all the trying times they've weathered over the years.  I like to think their survival tells us we'll get through our present troubles.

A few days later, with wildly unseasonable warm temperatures, I drove through Rocks Village in Haverhill, MA and crossed the bridge over the Merrimack...
...to where I launched at Ferry park in West Newbury.

 The Mighty Merrimack downstream from the bridge has big river feel...
...especially at the top of a 9.5 foot tide.  A building westerly breeze kept the river lively.  I didn't see another moving boat and noticed the river being in a still undressed state with no docks yet in place.  Also there was no vegetative cover to hide all of the plastic refuse along the shoreline...
There was much more of it than I would have expected to see.  The many plastic containers are but 14 miles or so from the open sea.

For my third paddle I decided to stay close to home and get on the water earlier in the day to beat the predicted afternoon winds.  I drove only a couple of miles to Ice House Landing in Maynard, MA and launched into the Assabet River which was calm and warm...
After paddling a little more than a mile, I saw a pair of eagles...
Approaching closer it became evident they're the same pair I've been seeing quite often.  The eagle on the right has a dark area around his eyes and is holding one foot in a clenched position...
While these guys were in sight, two other immature eagles were noticed affording me the opportunity of having 4 eagles within my field of vision at one time and only 5 miles from home.  As recently as 5 years ago I'd wouldn't have believed this could happen.
Immature #1...
...and immature #2...

I believe the four eagles were focused on this group of common mergansers...
...who nervously swam first one way, then the other.

Further upriver red-winged blackbirds were everywhere...
 ...and skunk cabbage is emerging...


Trash from the three rivers ran the plastic gamut:
Lots of nip bottles...
...more bags and Styrofoam...
...to downright stingy...
Nip bottles because of their relatively small size pose more of a threat to wildlife if ingested.  I guess it's only natural that the New England state with the most common sense would actually address this situation by providing a redemption value on these little pests...
Yep, my hat is tipped to the independent-minded State of Maine.  Hopefully, others will follow in their path.


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Spring Gets Flowing

Similar to the arrival of red-winged blackbirds, another harbinger of spring is the sprouting of buckets on sugar maple trees.  Even better is seeing the collected sap being carried away in pails...
...showing the sap is flowing.  Waffles and pancakes come to mind!

The majestic stand of old maples paddled past yesterday is hard by the Sudbury River below Lee's Bridge...
...and in the yard of this stately homestead...

Soon after passing the maple syrup birthing place, Fairhaven Bay appeared...

Temperatures were above 60 degrees F. with several boats of fishermen upon the bay.  Water levels allowed my entry into the peaceful confines of Well Meadow.

The previous day I was further up the Sudbury and ventured into the winding channel which sometimes allows entry into Heard Pond...
The route was relatively easy to navigate and the pond soon opened up before me...


Some trash gathered up...