Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lonsdale Ashton Loop – April 22, 2017

It was gray and rainy, but the water levels were great, and we are starting to see some green on the trees.

Blackstone Canal in Ashton

Monday, April 10, 2017

It’s Miller Time - April 9, 2017

Doane's Falls

The day started with an early morning stop at McDonald’s to meet Paul for the drive up to the Upper Millers in north central MA. As we approached the put-in, we took a short diversion to check out Doane’s Falls on nearby Lawrence Brook in the Tully Lake Recreation Area.  If the water flowing down this waterfall was any indication, it was going to be a great day.

I first ran the Upper Millers with Mike and Tommy back in 2007, and it has been a favorite ever since.  The water on this section of the river is controlled by releases from the Birch Hill Dam. With the exception of a couple of railroad bridges, there is nothing to break the wilderness feeling of the river.

Above the first railroad bridge
We met up with a group from the CT AMC – 16 boats with 14 kayaks and 2 canoes. The day was sunny and warm, and the water level was perfect (4.5 feet,1.500 cfs).  In fact, the Ranger that controls the flow from the Birch Hill Dam stopped by to tell us that he had increased the flow for the day – nice!

The fun began immediately with a long wave train just below the put-in. From there, the river alternates between quickwater, rock gardens and long wave trains.  At this level, most of the rocks were buried just below the surface. I came close on a couple, but made it through. We worked our way downstream running waves, catching eddies, and generally having a good time. By the time we reached the take-out I was pretty tired, but it was great to get changed and pack up our gear in the warm sunshine for the trip home. 

Smiling on the Upper Millers


Monday, March 27, 2017

Assabet - Acton to Concord - March 26, 2017

Running the Damondale Dam
I got a nice surprise on Friday – an email from Jonathan looking to do some paddling.  I couldn’t paddle on Saturday, but Sunday was open, so I sent an email off to Suasco Al, Tommy and Bill, and we set up a trip on the Assabet. Tommy brought Mena, and Lora and Pat joined from Facebook, so we had a nice group.

We would be running the section of the Assabet from Acton to Concord.  It’s a pretty section that is mostly flatwater except for the broken dam at Damondale.  The river was at a nice level – 2.5 feet, 200 cfs.  We had quite a mixture of boats – Bill and I paddled tandem in my Mohawk; Tommy in his Osprey and Jonathan in his Courier paddled solo; Mena was poling in Tommy’s Souhegan; Lora and Pat were in whitewater kayaks; and Al had his long boat.

Through the blow-downs
We put in at around 10:30 at the Acton Canoe Launch.  The morning started off sunny and warm, but gradually clouded over and got chilly.  We spent a little time playing at the broken dam at Damondale before heading downstream. 

There were quite a few blowdowns below the dam, including the river wide strainer that gave us trouble last time we were here.  The canoes had better luck getting over than the kayaks, so I got out into waist-deep water to help - drysuits are wonderful things! We stopped for lunch in West Concord, and it started to rain just as we pulled into the take out at Lowell Road in Concord at around 2:00.  Nice trip.

Taking a break at Leaning Hemlocks

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

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.

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