Monday, January 25, 2016

Cumberland Monastery – January 24, 2016

With only 3 to 4 inches of snow, we didn’t need snowshoes, but it was still nice to get out for a hike with Bill at the Cumberland Monastery.  Neither of us had been here before, and we didn’t have a map, so we just headed off into the woods and hoped for the best. 

I think we started out on the eastern side of the Nine Men’s Misery Trail, then took the Homestead Cartpath to the eastern side of the Homestead Loop, then took the eastern side of the Monk’s Quary Trail back to the Monastery.  Some of the trails were marked, but we didn’t have a map to know what they meant. 


Monday, January 18, 2016

Second Swim of 2016 – Lower Millers – January 17, 2016

A little over two weeks into the year, and I’ve already got two swims under my belt – this second was on the lower section of the Millers River in western MA.  I’ve done the Lower Millers several times in the past.  It’s a class II (maybe II+) river with the class IV rapid in the middle – the Funnel. 

The Funnel is pretty much what you would expect - the entire river funnels into a rocky shoot with big holes and standing waves. At 3.6 feet, 1,000 cfs, I thought I’d be able to run the Funnel, but as I approached I decided to portage. I put back in just above the last drop, and dumped in the standing waves at the bottom. I got myself to shore pretty quickly, and the rest of the crew was able to get my boat.

Once I got to shore I looked down and noticed that my pinky finger was pointed out at a 45-degree angle. At first I though it was just the glove, so I pulled on it, and that popped my finger back into place.  Fortunately it was over before I even thought about it, and it felt fine for the rest of the trip. It wasn’t even swollen when I got to the take out due to the cold water.

Here's a poem in honor of my second swim of the year by Tom (canoeswithduckheads) that was posted on P-net. 

Dis Joint Is (Rock) Hoppin'!

Son of Eckil.
Son of man,
 Son-of-a-gun Aquarian.
 On the rocks,
 stirrin' through ice,
 in the drink you go,
 not once, but twice!

Hang tough, E-Squared!
(And thanks for all the wonderful posts/pics/videos from that savage New Eng Land.)


Monday, January 4, 2016

And now for something completely different – Neponset River - January 3, 2016

SuAsCo Al
After blasting down the class III rapids of the Winni in a shredder on New Year’s Day, this trip was a little tame, but still very pleasant.  I got together with Bill and SuAsCo Al - the Trash Paddler to run the Neponset River. I have passed by this river for years on my way to work in Boston, but until Bill mentioned it, I never thought about paddling it.

The Neponset River arises at the Neponset Reservoir near Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and runs generally northeast to Dorchester Bay. We would be running the section from the Bade Canoe Launch  (100 River Ridge Dr, Norwood) to Pauls Bridge (Neponset Valley Pkwy, Milton) – about 8 miles. Gages were: Norwood – 6’, 32 cfsEast Branch – 1.3’, 36 cfsGreen Lodge Street – 8.3’, 132 cfsMilton Village - 2’, 268 cfs.

Even after the recent rain, the river was shallow at the put-in in Norwood.  It twists and turns though the woods until it enters the marshland on the other side of Route 95. The East Branch enters on
Bill and Erik
the right just upstream of Neponset Street providing more flow to the river, and the Neponset Street Canoe Access would probably be a better starting point at lower water levels.

After crossing back under Route 95, the river returns to the woods and follows the train tracks along University Avenue up to Route 128.  We stopped for lunch at the Signal Hill Reservation, and climbed to the summit to check out the great views of the Boston skyline and the Great Blue Hill.

After lunch, we continued downstream, crossing Route 128, and entering into the Fowl Meadow Wildlife Refuge and the Blue Hills Management Area before taking out at Pauls Bridge.  You can continue upstream another couple of miles before you hit the Tileston & Hollingsworth Dam, but then you have to turn around.  

At the top of Signal Hill with Boston in the background

Saturday, January 2, 2016

First Swim of 2016 – Winni Icicle Run – January 1, 2016

The boats are loaded
As I was driving up to New Hampshire I heard a report on the radio about all the college football “bowl games” that would be played on New Year’s Day.  The final comment was that it would be a “great day to hang out on the couch”.  I don’t think so!  I was on my way up to First Day in Franklin to paddle the New Year’s Day Icicle Run with the Merrimack Valley Paddlers.

New Year’s Day trips are a tradition among northeast whitewater paddlers, and probably many others.  I’ve spent New Year’s Day on the Branch River, at Fife Brook on the Deerfield, and at Crystal and Tville on the Farmington.  This would be my first run at the best known of these events – the Merrimack Valley Paddler (MVP) run on the Lower Winni. 

At the put-in
The Winnipesaukee River (otherwise known as the Winni) is a 10-mile river that that runs from Lake Winnipesaukee to Franklin where it joins with the Pemigewasset River to form the Merrimack.  There are two distinct sections of the Winni. The upstream section connects a chain of lakes from Lake Winnipesaukee to Winnisquam Lake, and finally to Silver Lake.  The lower section begins at Silver Lake and passes though Tilton before entering a narrow valley that runs into Franklin. 

There are two whitewater runs as the Winnipesaukee flows through Tilton and Franklin. The Upper Winni runs from Tilton Road to Riverfront Park in Tilton.  It’s an easy class I/II run that is the site of an annual slalom race.  I have run a couple of times in the past. 

The first shredder heads out
The Lower Winni runs from Cross Mill Road Bridge to the Trestle View Park in Franklin.  This is a class III(+) run that is a little above my comfort level in my canoe. When I heard that the MVP would be doing shredder runs, I jumped at the opportunity. This would give me a chance to see the rapids at this higher water level, and what can go wrong in a shredder.  Famous last words!

A shredder is a two-man cataraft designed specifically for paddling big whitewater. It is relatively easy to control with forward and backstrokes, and is very stable as long as you keep it straight and moving forward as you punch through holes and drops.

Taking the left line at Coliseum
would be one six paddlers in the MVP’s three shredders.  We met at the Unitarian/Universalist Church at the other end of Central Street from Trestle View Park to change and inflate the boats. We then shuttled up to the put-in at the Cross Mill Road Bridge. The river was at a typical level for this event – 4 feet, 1,100 cfs.  Above 1,500 cfs. several of the rapids are rated class IV.  I’d like to do a first run in my canoe at between 500 cfs and 700 cfs.   It’s a relatively short run at about a mile-and-a-half, and most people run it a couple of times. 

The river starts off with waves and rocks as we ran through Snowmobile and Iron Ring.  The first major rapid is known as Coliseum. At higher water levels this can be a very dangerous rapid since about a third of the river channels into the foundation of an old mill building – the “Room of Doom”. At higher water levels there is a centerline that follows a boulder-strewn drop to the left of the foundation wall.  Most paddlers take the left line that catches an eddy and takes you in “Z” pattern through the rapid avoiding the rock in the center. We went left on both runs.

View from the bridge of Zippy's
Another half-mile downstream is the next major rapid – Railroad. The river splits around the center trestle of a railroad bridge with routes on the right and the left.  The left channel is probably easier, but we went right on both runs where there is a 3-foot drop directly below the bridge.  We punched through the drop fine on the first run, but on the second we got turned sideways in the hole.  As we got sucked back into the hole, I hit the current coming down the drop and got swept off the boat. It was a short swim, and fortunately Bob was able to stay in the boat. I was soon back on board and we continued downstream

There were more rocks and waves as we ran through Sulphite to the the last rapid - Zippy's Final Plunge.  The river runs under another railroad bridge – this time with three abutments creating five channels.  The second channel from the left is usually the easiest, with the middle channel being passable at higher water.  We hit the middle channel perfectly on our first run. On our second run, we lined up to run the middle channel, but drifted too far left.  At the last minute we shifted hard to the left and hit the left channel.

First run through Zippy's
We took out at Trestle View Park and enjoyed some hot chocolate and chili between runs.  The Central Street Bridge was closed for most of the morning to allow spectators to watch the paddlers coming through Zippy’s.  It was a great event.