Sunday, March 17, 2019

Branch River Icebreaker – March 16, 2019

Filling the boat at Whipple Drop
RICKA ran it’s first downriver race on the Branch River in 1980. Originally known as the Branch River Race, and later as the Rhode Island Whitewater Championships, for many years it was the first race on the NECRA schedule.  It lasted for 25-years until 2005 when it was discontinued due to high insurance costs and difficulties with land owners, but we still try to run the race course each year on the traditional third Saturday in March.

The weather was warm and the river was high (4.5 feet, 650 cfs.) for this year’s run. Four of us would be doing the trip – solo canoe – Chuck, tandem canoe – Erik and Bill, and kayak – Brian. We stopped for breakfast at Waterfall CafĂ© in Harrisville before running the shuttle.

Taking the left line at Glendale
There were a few trees down in the upper section, but nothing that we couldn’t paddle through. Whipple Drop was flowing well, and I got a lap full of water on the way through. Glendale was flowing as well, but there was a strainer in the middle blocking the main channel. Brian took a slow boney line to the right, and Chuck, Bill and I took a more exciting but still boney line to the left. We all made it through fine.  

There were some easy surf waves in the old slalom course below Glendale. Atlas Pallet running high, although Bill and I hit a rock trying to catch the eddy on the right side – go left next time. From there it is an easy run to the take-out. 

Surfing at Atlas Pallet

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Goddard Park Hike - March 9, 2019

Once again, I was debating what to do today. The options were paddling (Tville or Fife, but both started too late), hiking with Papa Joe (Nonet Woods - been there before) or snowshoeing with Gary at Goddard Park. I decided to snowshoe at Goddard Park.  

I met Gary at the boat ramp at 10:00. We did a 2.5-mile loop from the boat ramp down to the beach and back. The trails were frozen, but off the trails there was a couple inches of crusty snow. Nothing tough, but it was nice to get out along the water. We probably could have stretched it out for another couple of miles at either end - next time.  


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Trout Brook – March 3, 2019

One of many Trout Brook crossings
I had a couple of options today (hike with Papa Joe, or paddle at Tville), but with snow on the ground and just a few hikes left, I decided on the hike. We would be hiking at the Trout Brook Recreation Area in Holden.

Trout Brook is a huge property that includes land owned by the Town of Holden, the MA Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the White Oak Land Conservation Society.  Temperatures were in the mid-30’s, and we had a couple of inches of snow on the ground – unfortunately not enough for snowshoes. 

The Crew
We met at the trailhead at 300 North Street in Holden at 10:00, and followed the Blue and Red Trails along Trout Brook. The trail was well packed, and the ice on Trout Brook was beautiful.  

From there, the original plan was to cross over into DFW land, and hike up to Dinosaur Rock and on to the White Oak Trail, which would take up past “Two Town” Stone and the old White Oak Tree before returning to the trailhead.  With the late start, we decided to cut the hike short and head back to the trailhead on the blue trail – about 3.5-miles.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Thinking about paddles - February 24, 2019

My "go-to" paddles
I have lots of paddles that lean against the foundation in my basement and collect dust, but I have three that I use all the time.  My "go-to" paddle is a 58” Werner Bandit. With a “T” grip and spooned blade it’s great for “cab forward” paddling – forward and cross-forward strokes with a minimum of correction. Most of my boats are set up for kneeling so I can paddle them like whitewater boats.

When I got my Wildfire I wanted to try some freestyle moves, and quickly realized that the Bandit wasn’t good for that. With the spooned blade I couldn’t do palm rolls, and it was tough to place the paddle for bow prys or jams. Based on advice I got on Pnet, I got a 56” FOX worx. With a pear grip and large blade, the Indian Stroke with a palm roll and in-water recovery is the easiest way to move forward, and bow prys are the easiest way to turn the boat. The large blade makes cross forward strokes a little more difficult.

The only boat that I can’t kneel in is my Spirit II, which is set up for "sit and switch" paddling with tractor seats and foot braces. For that boat I have the original 54" Race Mate bent shaft paddles that my father bought with the boat in 1988. They are a little beat up, but I still use them.  

I went out to the Manville Dam yesterday with my Wildfire and the FOX worx paddle, and tried to paddle like I usually do with lots of cross forward strokes. I realized that it wasn’t going to work - Indian strokes and bow jams it is. I guess the old saying "when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail" works with paddles too!

Above the Manville Dam

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Might Quin - Hiking not Paddling - February 23, 2019

Joe, Conrad, Tim, Roberta and Erik
If you can’t paddle it, you might as well hike along it. There didn’t seem to be any paddling trips today, so I joined the Papa Joe hike along the Quinapoxet River in Holden.  Smaller group, but still a great hike – lots of crunchy snow under foot.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Back to the Bog – the Quaboag that is! February 16, 2019

Heading out
One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 is to step up my whitewater paddling by getting on some more challenging rivers. One of those is definitely the Quaboag - about an hour away, it starts off with a class II warm-up, and then runs through a series of class III rapids.  The last time that I ran the Quaboag was in 2011. When Conrad posted a trip there, I was in.

We met at 10:00 at Lucy Stone Park (235 Old West Brookfield Road, Warren) for the shuttle down to the take out on Route 67 in Palmer (281 Boston Rd, Palmer). We had eight boats - two canoes (me and Brooke) and 6 kayaks.

Easy class II rapids
The first half of the trip is easy with a couple of miles of quickwater and class I/II rapids. The river was 4.4 feet, 475 cfs on the West Brimfield gage - a medium low level that is perfect for me in my open boat. The river is more technical at this level, and we did have to scrape over a few rocks (especially the last rapid at the bottom) and wiggle through a couple of strainers in calmer spots, but it doesn't have the big holes and waves that develop at higher levels.

The first class III rapid is Mouse Hole. There was a large old rotten tree blocking most of the usual line through right side. The log dammed up enough water so that we could run the left side, which is usually too boney at this level. I made it through the big drop, and was able to catch the eddy on river right to empty out my boat. 

One other open boat
Shortly after Mouse Hole is the Trestle Rapid. I went left under the trestle, and eddied out under the bridge behind some rocks along the center pier. I then pealed out into the main flow and caught the eddy behind the rocks on river right about half way down. From there, its an easy run through the rocks at the bottom.

After a few more class II rapids and some surfing at the play spot, we portaged the large dam. Just downstream is the broken dam that I ran left of center.  Below the broken dam is the Angel’s Field rapid – nothing difficult, just big waves. After the Angel’s Field we entered Devil's Gorge. The gorge has three distinct rapids. The first is the most difficult and terminates with a 3-foot drop known at the Quaboag Drop, which is run on the right. From there its waves and rock dodging down to the take out.  

Lined up at the play spot

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Browning Mill Pond - February 10, 2019

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Michelle and I decided to do a hike this afternoon. Our original plan was to go to Stepping Stone Falls, but we couldn’t get down the dirt road at Falls River Road - it looked like someone had gotten stuck there last week. Instead, we hiked around the Browning Mill Pond. It’s a 1.6-mile loop. The trail is well maintained with boardwalks to get over the muddy spots, but a few rocks and roots to be careful of. It took us about an hour.   

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