Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year End Review

First successful run through
Stokers on the Scantic
2016 started off with a swim on the Lower Winni on New Year's Day, and ended today with an uneventful run at River Island Park.  In between, it was a great year for paddling.  

I did 62 trips this year, which is a little above my 7-year average of 57 trips. I got on a few new rivers including the Lower WinniNeponsetBungaySaco and SheepscotI did a few less RICKA trips, but I did lead or co-lead trips on the AssabetPawcatuck and Sudbury, and organized a SUP Demo at Lincoln Woods. Here are some of the year's more significant trips:
Paddling my new Wildfire on the
Pawcatuck River
In February, I finally got the composite Wildfire that I've always wanted, and I've been loving it. I did get one good camping trip in – the Moose River Bow in ME. I was going to do a fall camping trip with Jonathan, but we ended up doing day trips instead – the Saco and SheepscotI also got to paddle every day of my summer vacation in Narragansett.  

I did a little more hiking this year, even though we didn’t have as much snow. 
Here are some of my favorite trips from 2016 from RICKA Movie night.

RICKA Movie Night - My Favorite Trips of 2016 from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

In terms of my resolutions from last yearI didn’t do so well on rolling practice, but I did get a camping trip in, and did paddle in all six New England States. Resolutions for next year;
  • Practice rolling – I’ll keep including it until I do it.
  • Do at least one camping trip – hopefully two with one in the spring and one in the fall
Overall it was another great year, and there are still plenty of rivers I would like to paddle. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Manville Dam - December 26, 2016

I went down to the Manville Dam for a quick, late-afternoon paddle.  Considering how low some of the other rivers are, I am surprised that the Blackstone has so much water - 2 feet, 500 cfs.

Manville Gage

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bring on Winter!

The first snow of the year has come and gone, and it got me thinking about all the great winter trips I’ve done.  There is nothing like paddling in the snow, but lately it seems that snow brings out the hiking boots and snowshoes more than the canoe.  Oh well, let's see what happens this year - bring on winter!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Tville - December 3, 2016

The crew
We finally got some rain last week, and the message boards were busy on Thursday and Friday with people getting out to paddle.  Unfortunately, I had to work, so I watched as the gages gradually dropped.  By Saturday, the options were pretty limited, but an old stand by was running – Tville on the Farmington River in CT.

Tville (or the Traffiville Gorge) is a class II/III run just north of Hartford.  It’s only a mile and a half long, but it has something for everyone – some easy surfwaves at the beginning, a bigger play hole in the middle, and some fun rapids and ledges as you run though the gorge.

Party Wave
Temps were in the 40’s, and there was a brisk wind blowing as we put in at Tarrifville Park.  We had 8 boats – one canoe (guess who) and 7 kayaks (Merrie, Jo-Ann, Shawn, Dennis, Sollie, Brad and Benjamin).  Level was 1.5 feet, 500 cfs - low, but runnable.  

We took our time and played on the easy surf waves above the gorge.  Entering the gorge, we ran Bridge Abutment, Play Hole, Ledges and Typewriter.  Run took us about 2 1/2  hours.

Surfing at Cathy's Wave

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Flint's Pond - November 27, 2016

On Sunday, I decided to join Bill on a hike with the “Hiker Joe” group at Flint's Pond in Lincoln, MA. Flint's Pond is just east of Walden Pond in a beautiful area of Lincoln. We met at the Lincoln School complex parking lot at 84 Ball Field Road in Lincoln. The hike was about 6 miles long and included an opportunity to tour the DeCordova Sculture Garden.


Albion to Ashton - November 26, 2016

I usually get out to paddle on Black Friday, but the weather was bad and nothing was running.  Instead, I put up Christmas decorations.  On Saturday, I decided to stay local, so I put-in below the Albion Dam and paddled down to the Blackstone Canal in Ashton. I portaged the Ashton Dam on the left to catch the wave below the dam before portaging over to the canal.  The Blackstone River Watershed Council cleared out the canal a couple of weeks ago, and it looks great.

Reflections on the Blackstone Canal

Monday, November 14, 2016

Turkey Paddle – November 12, 2016

The family was heading out to do some shopping, so I headed over to Wallum Lake for the Turkey Paddle with the RICKA Flatwater crew.  Good time, even though I didn’t go with them for dinner.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Pemi Bristol – November 6, 2017

I wasn’t planning to travel, but no one was interested in doing anything local, so I decided to go up to NH to paddle the Pemi in Bristol with Ginny, Lora and Pat.  The river was at 1.5 feet, 1,000 cfs. - nothing difficult and easy to find things to do.  I took a swim at the playspot – tipped offside on the top of a wave and over I went...


Friday, October 28, 2016

Burning some vacation time – Saco and Sheepscot – October 26 and 27, 2016

Swans Falls on a the Saco
I looked in the rear view mirror as I crossed over the Massachusetts line into New Hampshire, and saw the sun just beginning to rise. The traffic heading south was bumper-to-bumper, but fortunately I was heading north for a few days of paddling in Maine with my friend Jonathan. 

Since I missed the Allegany camping trip with the RICKA Wilderness crew, I had hoped to squeeze in a few days of camping before winter set in. Jonathan, who recently retired, was more than happy to join me. Unfortunately, a forecast for cold and rainy nights convinced us that day-trips from Jonathan’s house in Wiscasset, Maine would be a more comfortable option. The plan was to start in Fryeburg for a trip on the Saco River, and then head east for a trip on the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset with its famous Reversing Falls.

met up with Jonathan in Conway to check out the Conway Rips (a small class II rapid) before heading over to Fryeburg to run the shuttle. As we paid to leave a car at the Swans Falls Camping Area, the attendant looked concerned and commented that it “might be a little cold on the river today”.  “No problem” said Jonathan, “we have our drysuits”.

The Saco River arises from Saco Lake at Crawford Notch in the White Mountains and flows 136 miles generally southeast through New Hampshire and Maine before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Saco Bay. There are several exciting whitewater runs on the Saco as it tumbles down the White Mountains, but today we would be paddling the flatwater section below Fryeburg. This is an extremely popular run in the summer when hundreds converge on this section of the river for weekend camping and paddling trips.

We ran the shuttle down to Walkers Bridge and were on the river by 11:00. The river was low but runnable with the wide sandy beaches that make this section so popular for camping. On this day, we didn’t have to fight the crowds. We pretty much had the river to ourselves. We paddled under the Canal Bridge and pulled over at the beach at Fiddlehead for lunch.

What is now the "official" course of the Saco River was actually constructed as a canal in the 1800’s to make transportation on the river easier. The 6-mile long “Canal River” is 15-miles shorter than the “Old Course”, which still twists and turns to the north, reconnecting with the “Canal River” a few miles below Fiddlehead. I paddled a mile or so up the “Old Course” just to say I did while Jonathan did some fishing.

Sheepscot Village 
From there, we continued downstream to our take out at Walkers Bridge.  Many people continue further downstream to Brownfield or Hiram for multi-day trips, but that will have to wait for another day. We packed up our gear and headed east to Jonathan’s house in Wiscasset for dinner and a nice warm bed. 

We awoke the next morning to frost and a temperature of 28˚. It was nice to be in a warm house rather than a cold tent. We had a leisurely breakfast waiting for the tide to come in before heading out to paddle the Sheepscot River from Sheepscot to Wiscasset. This section of the Sheepscot River couldn’t be more different than the section of the Saco that we had paddled the day before. While the Saco was a beautiful freshwater river, this section of the Sheepscot is a saltwater estuary – wide, windblown and subject to the tides.

We put in just after high tide at the pretty Village of Sheepscot, and rode the outgoing tide down through a narrow channel would form the “Reversing Falls” as the tide dropped. I’d have to wait to see that on the way back. We continued downstream to Wiscasett where we eat lunch at Sarah’s Café waiting for the tide to come back in for the return trip. 

A Bald Eagle followed us as we paddled back up the Sheepscot River.  By the time we reached Sheepscot Village, the Reversing Falls was flowing. Surfing the waves would have been a little too much for our tandem canoe, but I’d like to come back with my whitewater boat sometime. It would be fun trip for a summer afternoon when the inevitable swim would be more enjoyable.

Reversing Falls at low tide
We awoke the next morning to gusty wind and pouring rain. Once again, it was nice to be in a warm house rather than a wet tent.  Unfortunately, the weather was too windy to paddle, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and I headed back home - great way to spend a few vacation days.

And by the way, with these trips in Maine, I've now paddled in all six New England states this year - first time I have done it!

Reversing Falls with Jonathan's trusty Explorer

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Upper Connecticut River Camping

I decided to take a couple of days off to do some paddling with Jonathan. We were hoping to do some camping, and one of the suggestions was the Connecticut River Paddlers Trail. Jonathan had planned out a 3-day, 2-night trip:

Put in - Canaan VT Access 373
First Night – Holbrook Point 361
Second Night – Maine Central Railroad Trestle 341
Take out – Maidstone Bridge – 336 

Total trip was 37 miles, which may or may not have been a stretch depending on currents and water levels. The numbers are “mile markers” as shown on webpage for campsites in VT and NH.

As it turned out, the weather turned cold and we decided to do some datytrips from Jonathan’s house in Wiscasset, but this one will stay on the list for next year.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Piscat Drawadown and BBQ - October 22, 2016

The last dam release of the year is on the Piscataquog River in Goffstown NH. It’s not a tough paddle, and the run is short, but there are a couple of fun play spots. It has also become a bit of a ritual for the RICKA crew to attend this event, and this year the crew was me, Paul and Dan.

The day was warm, and the river was at its usual release level – 5.5 feet, 800 cfs.  This year, arrangements were made to take out at Henry Bridge Road, which eliminated the flatwater section at the end, and allowed us to do a couple of runs before the BBQ. 

The water turned on at 10:00, and we headed downstream around 10:30. I started off with a swim at the very first rapid. I wasn’t paying attention and flipped on a rock as I was grabbing my camera for a picture.  The water was only knee deep, so I was quickly back in my boat with little more than a bruised ego.  

We worked our way down to the surf wave at Henry Bridge Road.  I did my usual side surfing flip in this rapid.  This year I lasted about 45 seconds before the inevitable swim.  Good news was that we had time for another run.

The inevitable swim...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Leaf-peeping at the the Blackstone Gorge - October 16, 2016

Putting in at the Bike Path
I would have liked to do Bill’s trip at the Neponset River but I didn’t have time, so I decided to do some leaf-peeping at the Blackstone Gorge. 

I put in under the Bridge (or maybe Canal) Street Bridge and paddled up to the Gorge.  By spring, the parking lot for the new section of the bike path should be open making access to this section of the river a lot easier.  It will still involve climbing down a steep bank, but at least there will be a place to park.

Blackstone Gorge
I paddled upstream past the Lonsdale Powerhouse and Mill.  The river is shallow here (7’ on the Route 122 gage), but I was able to paddle up without getting out of the boat.  I paddled past the convergence of the Branch River, which is a nice side trip, but it was a little too shallow today. 

I paddled up into the Gorge to get some pictures of the lower drop.  This is a view that most people never see since the trail along the river is up on the cliffs and the rapids are obscured by trees.  I hiked up the North Smithfield side of the river to get some pictures of the Rolling Dam.

Rolling Dam

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pawcatuck – Bradford to Potter Hill – October 8, 2016

Below the Bradford Dam
I needed to stay local, so I decided to join the RICKA Flatwater trip on the Pawcatuck River from the Bradford Landing to Potter Hill Dam.  It’s a nice 7.5-mile trip, and I wanted to find the bushwhack campsite below the Bradford Dam in the Grills Preserve of the Westerly Land Trust that Jim and I had found a few years ago.

We put in at Bradford Landing, paddled under the Route 91 Bridge, and portaged the Bradford dam on the right.  I checked out the surfing opportunities below the dam, but there wasn’t much - the water was very low - 4ft, 69 cfs on the Westerly gage; 2ft, 21 cfs on the Wood River Junction gage. 

Lunch at the Polly Coon Bridge
From the Bradford Dam to the Route 3 Bridge, the river twists and turns trough the woodlands of the Grills Preserve owned by the Westerly Land Trust and Hopkinton Land Trust. We stopped for lunch at the Polly Coon Footbridge before continuing downstream. I kept my eye open for the campsite, but couldn’t find it. Below the Route 3 Bridge there is more development and the river meanders though open marshland to the Potter Hill Dam.

Parking can be a problem at the take out, but Mike had arranged for us to park in the open lot on the right above the Potter Hill Road Bridge.  This is the easiest spot to take out and portage around the Potter Hill Dam. To continue downstream, you can carry down Potter Hill Road and put in below the dam on the right, or carry up Potter Hill Road to Post Office Lane and put in below the dam on the left.

Early foliage on the Pawcatuck River

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The rescue that should have been – West River – September 24, 2016

Put-in at Cobb Brook
I lug my throw bag along on almost every trip, but I rarely take it out. Yesterday I should have. 

I was paddling the annual fall release on the West River (Ball Mountain Dam to Jamaica State Park1,500 cfs.) with the usual crew (Andy, Pat and Paul). We were on our third run, and the rest of the crew decided to hike up to the dam to run the first rapid – Initiation. I decided to pass, and found a spot about half way down the rapid to take some pictures instead.

David running Initiation
With 2-3 foot standing waves interspersed with rocks, Initiation is the biggest rapid on this section of the river. About a half-mile long, the rapid drops quickly from the dam dumping much of the flow into a pile of boulders on the right side about half way down. Most people catch an eddy on river right above the boulders, and then ferry to the left the finish the run on the left side.

I found a rock downstream that gave me a good view of the section below the boulders.  Dave came down first catching the eddy on the right. He just hit the left side of the boulders before styling the rest of the rapid.

Andy's long swim
After Dave, I watched as Paul and Pat hit the eddy above the boulders. I then saw Andy’s boat head toward the eddy. Andy was obviously in the water, but I didn’t see him until he bounced over the boulders into the nasty hole below. Fortunately, it flushed him out quickly, but he was now swimming down the middle of a long, fast-moving rapid.  Pat was in front of him chasing the boat, and Paul was behind him, but there really wasn’t much they could do. 

I watched helplessly as Andy floated not 10-feet from me. It was another quarter-mile before the end of the rapid, and I knew that Andy would be swimming the whole way. If I had my throw bag, it would have been and easy throw, and would have saved Andy the long swim, but I didn't.  Live and learn.

Heading to the take-out

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ashton to Manville Loop - September 18, 2016

I haven't done one of these in a while, but here's a video of yesterday's trip on the Blackstone from Ashton up to Manville and back. Two portages on the way up, two portages on the way back down, and I carried my boat up to the Manville Dam for the run back down. The water was low below the Ashton and Albion Dams, but otherwise it wasn't bad. I didn't paddle much of the canal, but it didn't look bad either.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Carnage at the Gap - Deerfield River - September 3, 2016

It’s been a while since I had my whitewater boat out, so I headed out to western MA for the dam release on the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield River.  I paddled with the CT AMC, and we had a huge group – 19 boats (17 kayaks, 2 canoes).

The release was 800 cfs – low but OK.  By the time we reached the Gap the level was dropping, and I think the Gap is tougher with lower water.  Since the current seemed to be pushing everything left, I didn’t think I would make my usual line hugging the right shore.  Instead, I caught the eddy at the top and tried the left line.  I didn’t have enough momentum going down the shoot and flipped in the wave at the bottom.  I  had plenty of company – here are some of the other runs:

My 50/50 record running the Gap stands secure – 12 attempts = 6 successful, 5 swims and 1 walk.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stump Pond – August 30, 2016

I missed most of the “official” trips, but I was able to make the last “unofficial” Blackstone Valley Paddle Club trip at Stump Pond.  We had a couple of swims by the bridge, including me practicing an assisted rescue – got back in the boat fine.  Nice night.

Last BVPC paddle at Stump Pond

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Lincoln Woods Again – August 28, 2016

You never know who you are going to run into at Lincoln Woods. Today it was Daniel O'Shea paddling a canoe. A new convert!  I tried some self-rescues – could get the boat empty, but couldn’t get back in.

Danny in the Wildfire

Monday, August 22, 2016

RICKA Picnic at Colt State Park – August 21, 2016

Golden Keyboard Award
I headed down to Bristol for the RICKA Picnic at Colt State Park

Colt State Park is the former cattle farm of Rhode Island banker Samuel Colt. It is located on Poppasquash Neck, and the entire western shore looks out over Narragansett Bay. I paddled with Jim in my Spirit II. We put in at the boat ramp and paddled south along Poppasquash Neck. We didn’t make it around the point into Bristol Harbor, but we did get great views north to Warren and Providence, west to Warwick Neck, and south to Prudence Island.

After the paddle we had a cookout at one of the shelters, and did the annual RICKA Awards. I received the Golden Keyboard Award from Chuck for my work on the Paddler Newsletter.  Nice day as always.

Paddling with Jim

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

North Branch of the Pawtuxet – August 15, 2016

I led the RICKA "Meeting on the Water" on the North Branch of the Pawtuxet last night - 14 boats.  I had never done this paddle this late in the summer, and was surprised how much grass was growing in the river - good thing Chuck was there to lead the way.  It was a hot night, and fog was rising off the cold water up near the dam.  It was like a natural air conditioner.

Dam at the Scituate Reservoir 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sudbury River - Wayland to Concord - August 13, 2016

Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge
We’ve done a few trips on the Assabet the last couple of years, but it has been a while since we’ve been on the Sudbury.  I got out yesterday with Bill for a RICKA trip on the Sudbury River from Wayland to Concord

The Sudbury River arises in Westborough near the Hopkinton line and flows 37 miles general to the northeast to its confluence with the Assabet River at Egg Rock to form the Concord River. The 15-mile section from the Danforth Street Bridge in Framingham to the Route 2 Bridge in Concord has been designated as a Wild and Scenic River; and the 2-mile section from the Route 2 Bridge to Egg Rock has been designated as a Recreational River.

Main Street Bridge
We put in at Sherman’s Bridge Road in Wayland and paddled down to Lowell Road in Concord  - about 8 miles. For much of the trip, the Sudbury meanders through marshland that is protected as part of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. We stopped for lunch at Brooke Island at Fairhaven Bay. 

After lunch we continued downstream into Concord.  There were a lot of paddlers in rental boats as we paddled under the stone arch bridges in Concord.  Since we had all been there before, we skipped the trip down to the Old North Bridge.

Paddling through Concord

Friday, August 12, 2016

SUPing at Lincoln Woods - August 11, 2016

Joe explains SUPing
I got to do some SUPing at Lincoln Woods with RICKA and EMS.

I bumped into Joe Sherlock last month at Lincoln Woods while he was teaching a SUP class. One thing led to another, and Joe offered to run a SUP session for RICKA.  We ended up coming to an arrangement that the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club would rent the boards, EMS would provide instructors, and any RICKA member could attend.

It worked out great.  We had 18 paddlers who got some basic instruction and could try lots of different boards. I got to try a touring board, a surf board (fell off that a few times) and a general-purpose board – lots of fun.

With Michelle and Justin

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fort Weatherill and the Newport Bridge - July 28, 2016

West Cove at Fort Weatherill
I headed back to Jamestown today to paddle at Fort Wetherill. Like Fort Greble on Dutch Island, Fort Weatherill was coastal defense battery and training camp. It is located on 100-foot high granite cliffs on the East Passage of Narragansett Bay across from Newport and Fort Adams. 

I put in at the Fort Wetherill boat ramp at 7:30. As a paddled out of the West Cove into the East Passage the bay was dead flat with the only waves being an occasional boat wake. I paddled east around Bull Point and headed up to the Dumplings to get some pictures of the Newport Bridge.

Newport Bridge
The Newport Bridge was completed in 1969 and is the longest suspension bridge in New England.  It spans the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay from Newport to Jamestown.  The main span is over 1,600 feet long, and the road deck is more 200 feet above the water.  The towers themselves are over 400 feet tall.

I was surprised at all the birds gathered on the Dumplings - a grouping of rocks just off Bull Point.  The most prominent of the Dumplings is Clingstone or the "House on the Rock".  This massive post and beam home was built in 1905 and has been recently restored.

Clingstone - better known as the "House on the Rock"
My Pictures
Trip Description from Rhode Island Blueways

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wickford Harbor – July 27, 2016

Smith's Castle
I was on the road again today – this time to the other side of the Verrazano Bridge at the Wickford Harbor.

I put in at Wilson Park and paddled along Rabbit Island to Smith’s Castle. The land on which this house was built was the site of Roger Williams' original trading post. Williams sold the land to Richard Smith who constructed a large fortified house on the site in 1637, giving the house its nickname the “Castle”. That house was burned, and the present structure was built in its place during the King Philip's War in 1678.

Verrazano Bridge from the breakwater
I paddled around Cornelius Island and out to the breakwater in Wickford Harbor.  Wickford Harbor is was one of the best-protected natural harbors in the northeast. In the eighteenth century, it grew to become a major port and ship building center. 

From there, I padded into Wickford Cove to check out the Beach Rose Café at the Brown Street Bridge and the Boston Neck Road Bridge.

Boston Neck Road Bridge

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Potter Pond - July 25, 2016

Boat at Snug Harbor
Yesterday, we went to Newport in the morning, and took my canoe out for a trip aound Potter Pond in the afternoon.  Potter Pond is located off the southwest corner of Point Judith Pond behind the behind the Matunuck barrier beach.  A short tidal inlet at Snug Harbor connects Point Judith Pond with Potter Pond. If you have eaten at the Matunuck Oyster Bar on Succotash Road, you were sitting along the inlet.

I paddled down the west side of Great Island into the Port of Galilee.  I sat at the top of the Breachway to watch the boats come and go before crossing over to Snug Harbor at the Snug Harbor Light. It was
Matunuck Oyster Bar
high tide so the sand flats along the short inlet into Potter Pond were covered with water, and you can see the beachhouse at East Matunuck.
  After paddling under the bridge at Succotash Road I entered into Potter Pond. 

The southern end of Potter Pond looks like a typical coastal salt pond with Jerusalem and Matunuck visible in the distance.  The Matunuck Oyster Farm operates in the shallows along the southern edge.  The northern end is a wooded kettle pond. 

East Matunick Beachhouse from the inlet

Dutch Island – July 26, 2016

Verrazano Bridge from Dutch Harbor
I took a road trip over to Jamestown to paddle at Dutch Harbor. The wind was quiet, and the West Passage was dead flat, so I paddled out to Dutch Island to check out the Dutch Island Light. 

Dutch Island is located in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay and took its name from the Dutch East India Company that established a trading post here around 1636. In 1654 English colonists purchased the island from the Narragansett Indians.

Remnant of Fort Greble
For many years, the island was fortified to protect the West Passage from invasion by sea. During the Civil War, soldiers of the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, an African American regiment who later served in the Battle of New Orleans, constructed first earthwork defenses on the island.

In the 1890’s the Army established Fort Greble here. Like Fort Weatherill on the East Passage, Fort Greble was active through World War II and was part of a series of heavily fortified artillery placements that protected Narragansett Bay.

Dutch Island Light
The first lighthouse was completed on the southern tip of Dutch Island in 1826.  The original tower was replaced with the current tower in 1857. The lighthouse remained in service until 1979 when it was replaced with a flashing buoy.  It then fell into disrepair until 2007 when it was restored by the Dutch Island Lighthouse Society.

I put in at Dutch Harbor, and paddled out into the calm water toward the Dutch Island Light.  After snapping a few pictures, I continued around the west side of island before retuning to the take out.

Dutch Island Light