Saturday, December 1, 2018

Santa’s Reindeer – Wickford Harbor – December 1, 2018

Santa's Elves at the beach
I was debating what to do this morning, and my options included a hike with the Papa Joe group (always a good option), a run on the Quabaug (I need to do that again) or an easy trip escorting Santa into Wickford Village. I opted for the easy trip in Wickford.

Wickford is located on the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, and is built around a large, well-protected harbor. It was settled in the early 17th century when Roger William purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and established a trading post. Wickford grew to become a major port and shipbuilding center.

Ready to go!
Today, Wickford is a picturesque village whose waterfront streets are lined with shops, restaurants and colonial-era homes. Each year the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce organizes the Festival of Lights in the village with holiday themed actives. Since 2010, RICKA has participated in this event by escorting Santa down the harbor for his big arrival at the Town Dock.

I arrived at the put-in at the end of Main Street next to Gardners Wharf Seafood around 11:30 to decorate my boat with reindeer and elf cut-outs. We met Santa around 12:15 for the paddle down to the town dock. I was amazed at the size of the crowd. After escorting Santa, we took a little time to paddle the backwaters of Wickford.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Borderland State Park - November 25, 2018

The crew
Usually I paddle at least once over the Thanksgiving holiday, but it didn’t work out this year.  Instead I did the Papa Joe hike at the Borderland State Park. 

Borderland State Park was of the former estate of the Ames family. In 1906, Oakes Ames and his wife Blanche purchased this land on the border of Sharon and Easton where they built a mansion and created a nature preserve with woodland paths and roadways and man-made ponds. Today the park includes 1,843 acres with more than 20 miles of trails including sections of the  of the Bay Circuit Trail.

We started at the main entrance, and hiked 6.3 miles around Leach Pond and through the park. It didn’t rain during the hike, but the many of the trails were flooded.  Still a good time.  


Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Windy Day on the Sudbury - November 10, 2018

Heading out - Erik, Bill and Al
After hiking last week, Bill, Al, Jonathan and I decided to do some paddling on Saturday. Throughout the week we debated locations, but potential rain, wind and high water kept us close to home. In the end, we decided to paddle the section of the Sudbury River from River Street/Route 27 in Wayland.  

The Sudbury - a National Wild and Scenic River - arises in Westborough and flows generally northeast for 37 miles to its convergence with the Assabet River at Egg Rock in Concord to form the Concord River. In Sudbury and Wayland, it forms the huge wetlands that are part of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. In hindsight these wide-open marshes weren’t the best choice on a day when strong wind gusts were forecast.

Portage at Pelham Island Road
Bill, Al and I had paddled up to the Route 27 Bridge from Sherman's Road back in August, so this would be continuation of that trip. We met at the put-in on River Road (Route 27) in Wayland, and checked out the Old Town Bridge before paddling west toward Route 20.  The water was high, the sky was cloudy, but fortunately we didn’t get any rain. 

With the high water, we had to portage the Pelham Island Bridge. As we continued upstream toward Heard Pond the wind picked up. After 3 miles, and knowing that we would be paddling into the wind on the return trip, we decided to turn around and head back to the put-in. Wind gusts of 25-miles per hour made for a long slog back – especially for Jonathan who was paddling solo. Even so, it was a good time.

The Crew - Al, Jonathan, Erik and Bill

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hop Brook/Memorial Forest - November 3, 3028

Planning the trail
The forecast was for clouds and rain but warm temperatures, so why not go for a hike. I have been looking forward to the first hike of the year for Papa Joe’s “Winter” hiking group.  

The first hike was at the Hop Brook Conservation Area. Straddling the border of Sudbury and Marlborough, this 615 acre track of public and private land includes the Hop Brook Conservation Area, the Memorial Forest and Wildlife Sanctuary, the Marlborough State Forest, and other conservation land owned by Sudbury and Marlborough.

Heading out
Bill was at my house at 7:30 for the drive to the trailhead at 347 Dutton Road in Sudbury.  We had 11 hikers for this 5-mile loop. It rained on and off throughout the hike, and we were constantly avoiding flooded trails, but it is a great area with gentle terrain and lots of features. We stopped for brunch at the Sunnyside CafĂ© in Marlborough. 

Plenty of rain 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Little Suncook - October 20, 2018

The crew meets at the put-in
It was 6:00 a.m. when I headed out to meet Paul at the Wendy’s on Route 495 in Milford  for a trip to New Hampshire for a new whitewater river – the Little Suncook.

The Little Suncook is a short river (just 4-miles long) that flows generally west from Northwood Lake in the town of Epsom through Bixbey Pond to join the Suncook River near the Epsom Traffic Circle. The river can be difficult to catch running during spring runoff, after periods of heavy rain, and in the fall for the annual drawdown of Northwood Lake. Unfortunately, there is no USGS gage on the river.  

Looking upstream from the put-in
We headed north to meet Joe and a group from the NHAMC at the rest area on Route 202 in Epsom. As we checked out the river from the put-in we found a narrow, creek-like river with lots of rocks, drops and waves. With the dam release, the water was in the trees making eddies tough to catch. We knew that we would have to be on our toes due to the constant twists and turns.  

We ran the shuttle down to the take out behind the Cumberland Farms (16 Black Hall Road, Epsom). We had 8 boats – 4 canoes (Joe, Harry, Charlie and me) and 4 kayaks (Eric, Tim, Brian and Paul). We skipped the top class III/IV rapid, but even so, the river gets your attention quickly with a tricky class II+ rapid just downstream of the put-in. We had our first swim there as Joe dumped in a shallow drop.  He got out of the water easily, but his boat went about ¼ mile before Harry was able to get it into one of the shore eddies.  

Running the upper rapid
We after the first set of rapids, we continued downstream into Bixby Pond – the impound from the Bixbie Pond Dam that we portaged on the right. The dam can be run on the left, and Eric made it look easy.

Below the Bixby Pond Dam the river alternates between quickwater and rapids with three challenging class II+/III rapids.  The first is a short technical rapid about a quarter mile below the dam. The second is at Center Hill Road - Tim had a swim here. The third is about a mile downstream under a small footbridge where there are several holes, drops and big waves – Tim and Brian had swims here. While Brian got his boat to shore quickly, Tim’s boat traveled downstream and got pinned on a large strainer – it took a while to get it off.  

One picture of me
With 4 swims and one pinned boat, the 3-mile trip took us about 2 1/2 hours, which meant we didn’t have time for a second run. Still a fun run and I will be back. I was in the upper section and caught this paddler as he came through, which happened to be Mike Rock - small world. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Little Suncook

I'm going to try the lower section of Little Suncook this weekend with Joe and the NHAMC. This will be the annual release/drawdown. The upper section is class III/IV - I'll skip that. The lower section is class II+ with a 6-foot dam that can be run, but I'll probably portage. Here is Joe's video - kind of looks like the Shepaug.

River Description from American Whitewater
Joe's Video

Monday, October 15, 2018

Planning for the last section of the Upper Connecticut River

Bill and I have been working our way through the weekend trips on the Upper Connecticut River. We've done the sections from Canaan, VT to Blooomfield, VT, Bloomfield, VT to Lunenburg, VT and Woodsville, NH to Orford, NH. With the easy stuff done, its time to deal with the dams on the section from Lunenburg to the Woodville - 39-miles, four dams, three (or maybe four) nights. Here's a potential itinerary: 

Put-in - Mount Orne Covered Bridge – mile 307- small parking area and hand-carry launch, just south of the Mount Orne Covered Bridge on the Vermont side of the river.

Portage and Intermediate Campsite - Gilman Dam – mile 302- take out river left on the NH side in a small cove marked by a portage sign. Follow trail through grassy field where camping is allowed. Put in after the dam. (Length: 0.2. Percentage wheelable: 0.95.)

First Night -Dalton Primitive Campsite – mile 299- located just north of the high tension line that crosses the narrow, north arm of the reservoir, on the New Hampshire side.

Portage - Moore Dam - mile 290- take out river right on the VT side and descend along a well-marked portage trail, mostly on grass. (Length: 0.33. Percentage wheelable: 0.95.)

Second Night - Moore Primitive Campsite – mile 290- recently established campsite for paddlers only on the NH side. Features include five tent platforms, picnic tables, and fire rings. No toilet facilities (yet) but one can walk about 1/4 mile downriver on the trail to the boatramp and use its porta potty.

Portage - Comerford Dam – mile 282 - take out river left on the NH side by boat access. Walk along dam access road before descending the steep, mowed embankment adjacent to the dam. Descend stairs to a path. Walk downstream toward a gravelly beach. Warning - river levels can rise unexpectedly here - by as much as 3'! Do not leave unattended gear close to the river, and listen for sirens. (Length: 0.36. Percentage wheelable: 0.75.)

Third Night - Stevenson Campsite – mile 280 - located on a shady river terrace on the NH side of the river, across from the north end of Stevens Island.

Portage - McIndoe Falls Portage – mile 276 - take out river left on the NH side and follow timber access stairs up to McIndoes Falls Rd. Follow path across road down to a landing beach. (Length: 0.1. Percentage wheelable: 0.5)

Optional Forth Night - Stephan's Island Campsite – mile 273 - peaceful island with sandy beach, towering pines, and rocky knoll located on the second island between McIndoe Falls and Dodge Falls. 

Optional Forth Night - Fiddlehead Island Campsite – mile 273 - a large but often overgrown campsite located on the third wooded island between McIndoe Falls and Dodge Falls. 

Optional Forth Night - Dodge Falls Campsite – mile 272 - small campsite at the portage of Ryegate Dam, about .5 miles north of Dodge Falls. Small shelter. Portable toilet near dam.

Portage - Ryegate Dam – mile 272 - take out river left after sharp bend. Follow trail past the campsite, along edge of field, down an access road, and along a rough path to the river. Warning - put-in is rocky with difficult footing. (Length: 0.3. Percentage wheelable: 0.8.) 

Take out - Woodsville Access – mile 268 - small, sandy beach in town of Woodsville. Downstream of bridge, on Connecticut Street. Unimproved ramp, car-top access only.

I would also like to do the 21-mile section below Orford:

Put in - Orford Boat Landing – mile 240 - improved ramp and dock.

First Night - Roaring Brook Campsite – mile 235 - grassy site between two brooks on the VT side

Second Night - Patchen's Point Campsite – mile 224 – a pleasant and roomy camping spot nestled in a grove of White Pines north of Hanover on the VT side. Warning - this can be a popular hang-out spot for local kids, especially on weekend nights.

Intermediate Campsite - Gilman Island Campsite – mile 220 – a popular group campsite on Gilman Island provided by Great River Hydro on the south tip of the island, managed through a partnership with LL Bean's Outdoor Discovery School in West Lebanon, NH.

Take out - Wilder Dam Portage – mile 219 - unimproved path, car-top access only.

Maybe one in the fall and the other in the spring.

Connecticut River Paddlers Trail