Sunday, March 19, 2017

Branch River Icebreaker - March 18, 2017

Gearing up at the put in
Snow, ice, strainers and rocks pretty much describe yesterday’s trip on the Branch River.  There were four hardy paddlers - Bill and I (tandem in my Mohawk), Conrad (kayak) and Jonathan (solo canoe). The river was low (2.5 feet, 150cfs), so we spent most of our time bouncing off rocks. 

Whipple was runable, although Bill and I got stuck half way through. There are a couple of strainers below Whipple Drop that need to be cut out – we had to carry around one.  There was lots of ice at portage at the Oakland Dam, but fortunately it was still thick enough to walk on.

Jonathan running Whipple Drop
Bill and I portaged the Glendale Rapid since there was no way we would get my big Mohawk through with the huge tree and wood in the middle of the rapid.  Conrad bumped is way down the right side, and Jonathan took the sneak route to far right.

Atlas Pallet was low, but runable, as was the small rapid below the Nasonville Dam.  The day ended with a beer and burger at Gator’s Pub. Not a bad way to end the winter 2017 paddling season.  On to spring!

Me and Bill below Glendale
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Monday, March 6, 2017

River Island Park - March 5, 2017

Only the die-hard paddlers were out this weekend, and most of them were on bigger river than I wanted to run, so I took my boat down to River Island Park. Level was 2.5 feet, 500 cfs, which is actually not bad. I walked up to the dam to get some pictures, and then played in whatever features I could find. 


River Island Park from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

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My Pictures 
My Video 
Woonsocket Gage

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Does walking make you less of a paddler?

Last weekend, I was sitting down on the rocks in the middle of Zoar Gap taking pictures. The rest of the group had just paddled through, and now it was my turn. I could have easily slipped my boat back into the water, pealed out into the current, and attempted to hug the right line through the Gap as I have so many times before. Instead, I decided to walk my boat, and I’ve felt guilty about it ever since. 

I know that my guilt is entirely self-imposed - no one in the group said a word, or even seemed to care. Still, it brings up a question that I struggle with on occasion – does walking a rapid make you less of a paddler? In some ways it definitely does. There is a lot of truth to the old adage “if you aren’t swimming, you aren’t trying hard enough”. To become a better paddler you definitely have to push yourself to take risks, and if walking becomes a crutch, then that’s a problem. Based on the number of swims that I have taken over the past few years, I’m not worried about that yet.

But does that mean that you need to run every rapid? Stretching your abilities is one thing, but I also try to temper that with the desire to be self-sufficient. I joke with another paddling friend that we are class II paddlers with class IV self-rescue skills, and we over estimate our self-rescue skills. It’s good to know that the group is there to support us, but it’s always better if they don’t have to.

So I have come to the conclusion that occasionally it is OK not to run a rapid. Paddling is not about a single event. It’s about running the river, and getting home that night to run another river another day. It’s about pushing your abilities, but not putting yourself or others at unreasonable risk. It’s about enjoying a day on the water with a great group of people. So if my ego gets bruised occasionally, either by swimming or by walking, I’m OK with that.

So to all my paddling friends, here's the deal - if I’m tired, if I’m cold, if my gut is telling me that today is not the day to run that rapid, I might walk.  But if I don't, thanks in advance for fishing me out when I swim
Zoar Gap - that's me sitting on the rock on the left

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fife Brook - February 19, 2017

Carbis Bend
As I drove up Route 91 into Deerfield, I saw snowmobiles in the fields and ice fishermen on the lakes, and I wondered if it was a good idea to drive 2 hours to go canoeing.  Then I drove over a bridge and saw that the Deerfield River was flowing high and ice-free, and I knew it was going to be a good day.

As things turned out, I had a couple of paddling options. There was a group doing a low level (500 cfs) run on the Lower Winni. I definitely want to do that somethime, but decided it would be better to do with a group I know when the water is a little warmer. There was also a group doing a Tville run. As much as I like Tville, I’ve run it a lot lately, so I decided to run the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield River instead.   


Freight Trainb 
I met the group of 6 kayaks and 3 canoes at the take out for the shuttle up to the dam.  The river was at a nice level – 3.5 feet, 1,100 cfs.  It looked like winter with snow on the ground, but felt more like spring with temperatures in the high 50’s. 

We put in at around noon and began working our way downstream. We ran Hangover Helper, did some surfing at Carbis Bend and Freight Train, and played in Pinball for a while.  When we reached the Gap, I headed down first to get some pictures.  Everyone made it through fine.  When it was my turn, I looked at the rapid, looked at my boat sitting on the rocks, and wimped out and decided to walk. Oh well, at least I didn’t swim…

Hangover helper
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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mass Central Rail Trail - Holden, MA - January 28, 2017

The crew heads out
I saw that Hiking Joe was doing a hike along the Quinipoxet River, so I decided to join in.  There were 9 of us who hiked 5 miles of the Mass Central Rail Trail along the along the Quinapoxet River in Holden, MA.

The Mass Central Rail Trail follows the route to the old Massachusetts Center Railroad that connected Boston to Northampton.  We would be hiking a section in the Wachusett Greenway. We met at the parking lot for the Mass Central Trail on Manning Road (265 Manning Street, Jefferson (Holden), MA), and hiked up the street to Springdale Road. We the hiked down Springdale road past the remnants of the old Springdale Mill Village to access the rail trail.

The rail trail itself was wide and clear, but we broke off into the woods at several places to follow the river.  We were near 1000 feet in elevation and the 2-3 inches of snow made the walking extra crunchy.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Assabet through Maynard - January 7, 2017

Ben Smith Dam
There was snow in the forecast for the afternoon, so a morning run that was close to home was in order.  Fortunately, the class II section of the Assabet River in Maynard was running, so that is where we went. 

The Assabet River arises in Westborough and flows approximately 34 miles west to meet with the Sudbury River at Egg Rock in Concord to form the Concord River.  There’s lots of great flatwater paddling on the Assabet including the section from Gleasondale to the Ben Smith Dam, and from the PowdermIll Dam down to Egg Rock.  The section through Maynard is an easy class II with some nice surf waves by the Ben Smith Dam and along Walnut Street near the mills. 

Brooke below the Ben Smith Dam
In 1847, textile manufacturer Amory Maynard purchased land in what is now Maynard from a farmer named Ben Smith and built a dam to power his textile mills.  Originally known as Assabet Village, this became the town of Maynard in 1871.  Maynard’s downtown textile mills, now Clock Tower Place, were the home of Digital Equipment Corporation from the 1960’s to the 1990’s.  Digital became a major computer company with 140,000 employees in 1987. 

I met Andy and Brooke at around 10:00 in the parking lot on the left side of the Ben Smith Dam to run the shuttle. The river was at a nice level – 3 feet, 400 cfs on the Maynard gage.  We played in the waves below the Ben Smith Dam before heading downstream.  There are six bridges over the Assabet River as it flows through Maynard.  The first is the double arch Great Road Bridge.  Either side is runable.  A pipe runs along the downstream end producing a surfwave (Crack Baby) that can be caught from the left side. 

Andy at the Mill Waves
The next bridge is the triple arch Mill Street Bridge.  We ran the far left arch due to wood on the right side.  Generally, all three arches are runable.  After some easy riffles and flatwater comes the Florida Road Bridge.  The river then turns right along Walnut Street and mills.  There are a couple of nice surfwaves (Mill Waves) before you reach the Main Street Bridge.    

Downstream from the Main Street Bridge, the river then turns left as it goes under the Walnut Street Bridge.  There are a few more riffles an one more substantial rapid as you approach the Waltham Street Bridge and the take out at the Elks Hall.  We spent about and hour and a half on the river, and it just started to snow just as we finished up.  Fortunately, we were close to home because the roads were slow for the drive home.

Here's another poem by Tom (canoeswithduckheads) that was posted on P-net.

Ole Blackfly don't mind the cold,
he runs red hot when rivers fold,
with liquid motion he flows on yet,
some take that Option Assabet.


Snow falling and water on the lens, but still a happy crew
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Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year’s Day on the Housatonic – January 1, 2017

West Cornwal Covered Bridge
One of the rivers that has been on my to-do list for a while is the Housatonic.  When I saw that a group would be paddling it on New Year’s Day, I decided to tag along. 

The Housatonic originates in the Berkshire Hills of western MA and flows south for 150 miles along the western border of MA and CT before emptying into Long Island Sound.  There’s lots of great paddling along the Housatonic River. The best-known whitewater section is a class IV run known as Bulls Bridge - it's well above my skill set.  There is also a pretty flatwater section from Ashley Falls (MA) to Falls Village (CT), and a nice quickwater run from Falls Village to Kent.  We would be running part of the quickwater run – putting in above the Covered Bridge in West Cornwall, and taking out at the at Housatonic Meadows State Park.

Running the Covered Bridge Rapid
The day was sunny and traffic was light as I did the 3-hour drive out to western CT.  A light snow covered the Northwest Hills as I met the group at the Covered Bridge in West Cornwall.  We ran the shuttle, dropping our boats off on River Road above the Covered Bridge, and leaving cars at the picnic area below the campground at the Housatonic Meadows State Park.  The river was at a medium-low level – 3 feet, 900 cfs. I guess you can run it down to about 500 cfs, and medium flow is around 2,000 cfs.

The West Cornwall Covered Bridge was first constructed in 1762, and is one of the earliest bridges across the Housatonic River.  Beneath the Covered Bridge is a short class I/II rapid known appropriately enough at the “Covered Bridge Rapid”.  This is the site of an annual spring slalom race.  We spent some time playing in the rapids before heading downstream.

Playing in the Covered Bridge Rapid
A little ways below the Covered Bridge Rapid is a shorter class I/II rapid known at the Ledges.  From there, the river alternated between flatwater, quickwater and riffles.  It took us a couple of hours to do the 5-mile run. 

I’d love to come back in the summer and spend a night or two at the Housatonic Meadows Campground.  We could paddle from Falls Village to the campground on day 1. Paddle from the Campground to Kent on day 2.  And maybe even do the section from Ashley Falls to Falls Village on day 3.  We’ll see.

A pretty section of the Housatonic
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