Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Year End Review

Thursday Night Tville
2017 started off with a New Year’s Day run on the Housatonic, and ended with an early December trip to the Slatersville ReservoirIn between, it was another great year for paddling.  

I did 56 trips this year, which is a little below my 7-year average of 58 trips. I did a few new trips including the Housatonic, the White, and Great SwampAs always, I did a lot of RICKA trips, and helped to organize the Flatwater Training at Stump Pond and the SUP Night at Lincoln Woods. I also did several trips with the CTAMC including the Upper MillersWestfest, and several Thursday night runs at Tville; and one with the NHAMC - the WhiteHere are some of the year's more significant trips:

JanuaryNew Year’s Day on the HousatonicAssabet – Maynard
FebruaryFife Brook
MarchBranch Rive IcebreakerAssabet – Acton to Concord
AprilUpper MillersOtter Brook
MayWhite – Granville to StockbridgeTvilleGreat Swamp
June - Thursday Night Tville, and more Thursday Night Tville
JulyLower DeerfieldPawcatuck – Shannock to RichmondPoint Judith PondWickford
AugustRiver Bend FarmLower Deerfield
SeptemberPawcatuck – Alton to BradfordSeekonkWestfest
October Lower PawtuxetPiscat Drawdown
November - Upper MillersAssabet – Acton to Concord
December - Slatersville

Here are some of my favorite trips from 2017 from RICKA Movie Night.

RICKA Movie Night - Erik Eckilson from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

I got to paddle almost every day of my summer vacation in Narragansett

Scenes from a South County Vacation from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

In  addition to the RICKA Wilderness Overnight, I also did a great Columbus Day Weekend camping trip on the Upper Connecticut River with Bill, Tommy and Mena.  

Camping on the Upper Connecticut from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

I did a little more hiking this year, mostly with the Papa Joe Hiking group:

Mass Central Rail - Holden, MA
Nonet Woods - Dover, MA
Bearsden Conservation Area - Athol, MA
Mount Pisgah - Berlin/Northborough, MA
Noon Hill - Midfield, MA

In terms of my resolutions from last yearI didn’t do so well on rolling practice, but I did get some camping in. 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 to paddle, plenty of trails to hike, and plenty of places to go camping. Bring it on! 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Noon Hill - December 30, 2017

At the top of Noon Hill
I was off this week, but due to the cold weather I didn’t do any hiking or paddling. After a week in the house, I was looking forward to getting outside for a little exercise. When Hiker Joe cancelled the Noon Hill hike due to frozen pipes, Bill, Jonathan, Conrad and I decided to go anyway. Noon Hill and the adjacent Shattuck Reservation are Trustees of Reservations properties in Medfield  MA. 

Temps were in the single digits as we headed west out of the parking lot toward Noon Hill.  At 370 feet, Noon Hill rises gently over the surrounding landscape with views south over Walpole and Norfolk. From there we headed south and then west across Causeway Street to the Shuttuck Reservation and a trail along the Charles River. Nice trip - not paddling, but still a nice way to end the year.

The Crew - Bill, Conrad, Jonathan and Erik

Monday, December 25, 2017

Too Many Boats - December 25, 2017

I don’t know that too many boats is my problem. I have 8 boats, and regularly paddle 5 of them.  I do tend to hoard pictures though. They end up on my desktop or in the download file, and I just can’t seem to delete them, even after I have copied them into a trip file somewhere else. It drives my wife crazy and slows down the computer, so yesterday I started to clean things up, but I ended up making a video instead. 

The pictures are still on my hard drive - haven't deleted one of them. Thanks to Cheryl, Bill, Chuck, Jonathan, JoAnn, Ed, Steve, Denise, Doug, Paul, Tommy, Mena, Mike, Joe and others for taking them.  Great song by Jerry Vandiver, even if it isn’t true in my case.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Slatersville Reservoir - December 2, 2017

It has been a while since I have had my Wildfire out, so I decided to stay local and paddle the Slatersville Reservoir with the RICKA crew.  The day was cloudy, but otherwise not bad.  We didn’t make it far up the Branch River due to a river-wide strainer, so we just paddled around the reservoir instead.  Nice trip.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mount Pisgah – November 25, 2017

Heading out
I was hoping to paddle, but one of Papa Joe’s hikes fit better into my schedule, so I hooked up with Bill for the Mount Pisgah hike.

Mount Pisgah is an 83-acre conservation area in the towns of Berlin and Northborough. The property includes four pieces of conservation land. The two central properties are managed by the Conservation Commissions in Berlin and Northborough. To the south is a Mass Dept. of Fish & Game property, and to the north is privately owned land (formerly the Devine farm) under a conservation easement.

Checking the map
We entered at the (31) Smith Road parking lot in Northborough (although there is also a parking lot on Linden Street in Berlin) for a 5.5-mile loop. The loop took us south to the South Terrace Overlook, then north over Mount Pisgah to the North Terrace Overlook before returning. While there are no views from the summit of Mount Pisgah itself, there are great easterly views from two overlooks at the North and South Terraces along the ridge.

Another good hike, and we were home by noon.  I do like the early morning start.

The crew  Erik, Brian, Darren, Bill and Conrad

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bearsden Conservation Area – November 19, 2017

Climbing Round Top
Yesterday I was paddling, today I was hiking, with many of the same people. Bill met me at my house at 6:30 for the drive to the Bearsden Conservation Area in Athol.  The Bearsden Conservation Area has 10 miles of trails in over 1,000 acres with great views of the Millers River and nearby hills. 

The rain was just ending as we met at the parking lot at the end of Bearsden Road.  I was glad to see Mena, Tommy and Jonathan who I had paddled with yesterday.  We took the trail up to Round Top and the Warren Vista.  From there we took the trail down to the Oxbow on the Millers River and to the Duck Pond. Good time had by all.  The shelters look like a great place for camping.

Jonathan and Joe working the map

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Assabet – Acton to Concord – November 18, 2017

Had a nice trip today on the Assabet River with Mena, Tommy, Marshall and Jonathan.  We paddled from Acton to the Old North Bridge in Concord.  The level was 2 feet, 100 cfs – great for poling, not bad for padding.  Stopped for a beer and burger after at the Battle Road Brew House.

At the Old North Bridge on the Concord River

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Noanet Woods – November 11. 2017

Heading out from Powissett Street
I made the last-minute decision to join Papa Joe on his hike at Noanet Woods in Dover.  

Over the years, Noanet Woods has seen many uses from a Native American hunting ground to the Dover Union Iron Mill that manufactured barrel hoops and nails in the early 1800’s.  In 1923, Amelia Peabody purchased the nearby Powissett Farm, and over the next six decades acquired hundreds of acres of open space, including the Noanet Woods. 

View of Boston from Noanet Peak
Noanet Woods has 17 miles of trails adjacent to the Hale Reserve.  We started our hike at the Powissett Street entrance, and hiked into the Hale Reserve and the Noanet Pond.  From there, we hiked over to the Mill Ponds to check out the old mill site and dam.  Then, we hiked up to the Noanet Peak to check out the view of Boston before heading back to the cars.

We were on the trail by 8:00 and done by 11:00.  Great day.

The crew at the Mill Pond

Friday, November 3, 2017

Upper Millers - November 2, 2017

I played hooky yesterday and went paddling. With the storm earlier this week a bunch of local rivers came up, and I knew that I couldn’t paddle this weekend, so it was now or never.

The canoes outnumbered the kayaks on this trip (6 canoes to 3 kayaks), and my old Encore was feeling a little long-in-the-tooth with all the nice Millbrook boats (1 Blink, 1 Outrage, and 2 Shachos). 

We paddled the Upper Millers from Royalston to Athol in MA.  It’s usually an easy class III.  Yesterday the level was a little higher (estimated at 1,650, but the gage is offline), so it seemed like a solid class III to me. 

I spent most of my time dodging rocks and dumping my boat.  Not sure if it is me or the boat (probably both), but the guys in the Millbrooks were hitting the biggest waves, and bailing out their boats with sponges.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Piscat Drawdown and BBQ - October 28, 2017

I had a good time with Jonathan, Sandy and Brian at the Piscat Drawdown and BBQ. With the recent rains water was flowing over the dam when we arrived, and the release was a little higher than usual - 6 feet, 1,000 cfs. The higher water made for bigger waves, fewer eddies and a quicker runs. Jonathan and I did two tandem runs in the Mohawk, and we had two successful surfs at the playspot above the bridge - no swims.

Piscat - tandem surfing in the playhole from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

Steak tips were great as usual.


My Pictures
Goffstown Gage
River Description from American Whitewater

Monday, October 23, 2017

Lower Pawtuxet –– October 22, 2017

With the nice weather, we had a great turnout for the RICKA trip on the Lower Pawtuxet.  We had 20 paddlers in 16 boats.  We put in at Knight Street and paddled to Rhodes on the Pawtuxet – about 7 miles.  The river was low (3.7 feet, 35 cfs) but still fluid. The leaves were just about peak. 


Monday, October 9, 2017

Upper Connecticut River – Bloomfield to Lunenburg - October 6-9, 2017

Typical section of the Connecticut River
Bill arrived at my house at around noon for the drive up to the Connecticut River in Vermont. We had been planning this trip for months, but the weather didn’t look promising. Oh well…

The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England flowing south for approximately 400 miles from the Canadian border through four states before emptying into Long Island Sound. We would be paddling the section of the Connecticut River Paddlers Trail from Bloomfield, VT (North Stratford, NH) to Lunenburg, VT (South Lancaster, NH). From the put-in near the mouth of the Nulhegan River to the convergence with the Upper Ammonoosuc near Groveton, NH we would also be paddling a section of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

At the Old Man of the Mountain
As we drove through the Franconia Notch, we decided to take a break and check out the Old Man of the Mountain. I can remember stopping to see the “Old Man” as a kid. It was actually a series of five granite cliffs on Cannon Mountain that appeared as the profile of an old man’s face when viewed from the north. The rock formation was 1,200 feet up, and came crashing down on May 3, 2003. It’s still a pretty view.

We arrived in Lancaster, NH at around 5:00, and stopped at a local pub for dinner. On the way to the campsite, we stopped to check out the Wyoming Dam Portage in Guildhall, VT, and Tommy and Mena pulled up behind us. We followed them up Route 102 in VT to the Belnap Campsite where we would be spending the night

Belnap Campsite
Belnap Campsite is a small campsite at the convergence of the Connecticut River and the Nulhegan River. The Nulhegan River arises in Brighton, VT, and flows generally northeast across Vermont to its convergence with the Connecticut River in Bloomfield village. There is a whitewater run on the Nulhegan, but it probably above may skill level.

We parked at the Northern Forest Canoe Trail kiosk, and carried our gear to the site for the night. No campfire this night. We set up camp and chatted in the dark enjoying the stars until it was time for bed. 

Breakfast with Bill
I woke up early on Saturday, made a cup of coffee, and walked over to the bridge over the Nulhegan River to watch the sunrise.  The morning was cloudy so the sun was mostly obscured.  By 7:00, everyone was up and we were having our breakfast and making plans for the day. 

We would put in at Debanville Landing – a grassy landing across the street from the campsite (mile 348) - and shuttle down to the Mount Orne Covered Bridge (mile 307) in Lunenburg, VT - a trip of 41 miles. This section of the river generally follows Route 3 in NH and Routes 102 and 2 in VT.

A well loaded boat
By 9:30, we had run the shuttle and we were anxious to the trip underway. On this day we would paddle 13 miles to the Samuel Benton Campsite (mile 334). Once Bill and I got our gear to the put-in, we wondered if it would all fit in the boat. It did, but just barely.

The river was wide, but very shallow at the put-in. With our heavy load, Bill and I had to wade out quite ways to find water deep enough to float the boat, and we still put in a couple of good scratches in the hull.

Heading downstream
We headed out under mostly sunny skies, but clouds rolled in as the day progressed, and we got some scattered rain in the afternoon. With our heavy load, Bill and I had to be careful to avoid the many rocks and sandbars. The foliage was just about peak, but with the cloudy skies it wasn’t as bright as I would have liked. 

After 13 miles we arrived at the Samuel Benton Campsite (mile 334). The campsite is situated in a grove of trees on a sandy bluff at the edge of large hay field. The nice grassy site gave us plenty of room to spread out. We quickly settled into to a familar routine – set up camp, gather firewood, cook supper, and gather around the campfire for the night. The sun setting over the mountains was spectacular.

Breakfast at the Samuel Benton Campsite
We got up on Sunday morning to fog and mist. The morning routine was similar to the evening – make coffee, get a small fire going, eat breakfast, break camp and head out. A light rain at about 7:30 got us moving quickly, and we were on the river by 8:30 heading downstream. 

The river continued to be shallow, but was not a boney as the previous day. Throughout the morning showers passed, so it was rain gear on, and rain gear off. As we passed the confluence of the Upper Ammonoosuc River, the river opened up a bit. 

Wyoming Dam Portage
The Upper Ammonoosuc River flows north and then west across New Hampshire to empty into the Connecticut River near Groveton. I had run a portion of the Upper Ammonoosuc as part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail several years ago. There are also a couple of whitewater runs on the Upper Ammo (class IV/II and class II) that I would like to try.

After 11 miles, we approached the Maidstone Bridge and the Wyoming Dam Portage. The old Wyoming Dam is a hazard due to rebar jutting into the river. Even without rebar, it looked too boney to run at this level anyway. Fortunately the rain let up as we hiked the portage trail. After a quick lunch we continued downstream to the South Guildhall Campsite. 

Rain gear on
As we headed out, the wind picked up and rain came down in sheets. It looked like it would be long 5-mile slog down to the campsite. Fortunately, the rain and wind passed as quickly as it started, and we had clear blue skies as we pulled into the South Guildhall Campsite (Mile 317). 

The South Guildhall Campsite is a wooded site up a steep bank with great views of the White Mountains to the south. We lugged our gear up the stairs and followed our usual routine - set up camp, gather firewood, cook supper, and then gather around the campfire for the night. 

The crew - Erik, Bill, Tommy and Mena
I turned in at around 9:00, and woke up the next morning at around 5:30 to Tommy taking down his tent. The sky was cloudy, and it was pretty clear that it was going to be a rainy day, so he wanted to keep his tent dry.  I figured I would have time for a cup of coffee, and I was right, but just barely.  I had to race to get my gear packed before the skies opened up. We loaded the boats, took a picture of the group, and were on the river by 7:30.

Monday would be a short day (10 miles) down to the take-out at the Mount Orne Covered Bridge (mile 307). The river was wider and deeper in this section. It twists and turns through corn fields that seem to go on forever.  The wind was calm, but the rain got heavier as the morning went on.  We passed the confluence of the Israel River, which runs general northwest across New Hampshire before emptying in to the Connecticut River in Lancaster. There is also a whitewater run on the Israel that I would like to try. 

Mount Orne Covered Bridge
We arrived at the Mount Orne Covered Bridge at around noon. We were wet and tired, but excited about a great trip. We retrieved our cars, packed up our gear and said goodbyes before the long drive home in the holiday traffic.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Westfest – September 23, 2017

At the put-in
I was up at 4:00 a.m., and met Paul at the MacDonald’s at 5:00 a.m. for the early morning drive up the Westfest on the West River in Jamaica, VT. We left early so we could meet a CTAMC group at 8:00, but those plans went awry when I took a sleep-deprived wrong turn on to Route 35 in Townshend.

By the time we reached Jamaica State Park, the CTAMC crew had already taken the shuttle up to the put in.  No problem. Charlie Sweet was waiting in the shuttle line, so we paddled with him for the rest of the day. 

The shuttle started at 8:30, but the release wouldn’t ramp up to its full release level of 1500 cfs until 10:00. The river on the first run was a little lower, and a little more technical with more rocks to dodge, but I liked it. I did the S-turn at the Dumplings - hugging the rock at the top, and then sneaking down the left side.

As I pulled my solo boat into the take out, I saw Dave Draper waiting.  The plan was for at least one tandem run with Dave in his Caption – we ended up doing two. 

By the time we got on the river for our second run, the river had reached its full release level. The Caption is a great boat, and very stable, but we had a hard time keeping water out. Maybe it was just poor route selection by the bow paddler (me), but we had to pull over to empty the boat after pretty much every big rapid. 

At the Dumplings, we took the left line, and were able to eddy out behind the second rock before heading down the left side to avoid the big waves.

With a little confidence after a successful second run, we decided to hike up to the dam to run Initiation on our third run. The line is just left of the small rock at the top (to avoid the rocks at the top on the right), then go right to avoid the big hole, and then catch the eddy right side.  We filled up with water in the big hole and got spun around backwards, but made it to the eddy before tipping over. 

Dave and Erik
Self-rescue complete, we ferried left to avoid the big rock on the right, and then rode the big waves down to the footbridge, where we emptied the boat again.  That pattern repeated itself for the rest of the run. 

After the third run I knew I was done. The shuttle line was short, so Paul headed back for one more run – a 15-minute shuttle ride up, and a 17-minute bomber-run back down. 

As tough as it was to get up at 4:00 in the morning, I did like getting an early start. We got two runs in before 11:30 with no lines at the shuttle - including the lower water run. Unfortunately, there is always too much going on to take many pictures. 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Seekonk River – September 9, 2017

Below the Pawtucket Falls
Our original plan was to put-in at Bold Point and paddle over to Providence, but instead we decided to paddle up the Seekonk River to Pawtucket. We hit the tide just about right. We put-in a little before 10:00, and high tide was at 11:00, so the tide was coming in on the way up and going out on the way back down. We made it all the way up to the Pawtucket Falls, and got to see the Dragon Boat Races at the Pawtucket Arts Festival at the School Street Landing.

Pawtucket Falls and Slater Mill

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Alton to Bradford - September 2, 2017

Below the Alton Dam
I knew it would be raining on Sunday, and I wasn’t sure what we would be doing on Monday, so when Frank suggested a paddle on Saturday, it sounded good to me.

The Blackstone would have been closer for both of us, but it is getting low, so we decided to run the Wood/Pawcatuck from Alton to Bradford.  We ran the shuttle, and put-in to the Wood River below the Alton Dam.  There were a few blow downs that we had to paddle around, but we made it through fine.  

Broken dam at Brudickville
The Wood River joins the Pawcatuck River about a mile downstream.  The level in the Pawcatuck was low, but fluid - 2 feet, 40 cfs on the Wood River Junction gage.   Because of the low water, we decided to carry around the broken dam at Burdickville rather than bounce down the rocks. 

We stopped for lunch at the Burlingame Canoe Campsites, and then paddled to the take-out at Bradford Landing.  The Bradford Dam is under construction, but I didn’t take the time to check it out – another time.

Approaching the Burdickville Road Bridge

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Paddle and Party at Spring Lake - August 22, 2017

Our Spring Lake Paddle and Party with Julie and Steve means that the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club season is coming to an end.  We put in at the Black Hut Boat Ramp, and paddled around the lake for pizza at Julie and Steve's house.  Always a nice night, but it is sad that the summer is coming to an end.  Bring on Fall!

The Blackstone Valley Paddle Club

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lower Deerfield - August 19, 2017

There was traffic everywhere – on the Mass Pike driving up, and in tubes on the river – but it was still worth it.  I headed up to the Deerfield to do the annual “Easy Whitewater” trip in the Lower Deerfield with RICKA. 

We ran the section from the Zoar Picnic Area to Charlemont Academy – about 7 miles.  We had 7 boats – 4 kayaks (Kate, Earl, Bob and Andy), 2 canoes (Brian and me) and 1 ducky (Sandy).  The river was at a nice level for the run (1,100 cfs on the Charlemont gage).  Since the release didn’t start until 11:00, we had to wait until 2:00 to put-in. 

I really do enjoy this section of the river.  It’s more quickwater than whitewater, but there are enough playspots to keep it interesting, and I can paddle my Yellowstone Solo.  There are even a couple of named rapids above Shunpike (I never knew that): 
  • Directly below the Zoar Picnic Area is the Blam Dance Rapid
  • Below that, the sharp curve to the left is the Spin Out Rapid
  • To the left of the island with the squirt line at the bottom is the Junction
Below Shunpike, it is mostly quickwater interspersed with easy rapids.  We pulled out at Charlemont at around 5:30.  After retrieving the cars, we stopped at Smokey Bro’s for BBQ on the way home.  Great day.

Approaching Shunpike

Friday, August 18, 2017

RICKA SUP Night at Lincoln Woods - August 17, 2017

We had a good time trying out SUP boards last night with EMS at Lincoln Woods. We had lots of boards to try, great staff to get us started, and a perfect night. I spent most of my time falling of the board trying to do pivot turns, but I was starting to get the back of it. Thanks to Joe, Benn, Cat and the rest of the EMS staff.

My Pictures
Lincoln Woods from Rhode Island Blueways

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lackey Dam - August 15, 2017

Julie and the water chestnuts
I haven’t done many Paddle Club trips this year, so it was nice to be able to get out and paddle the Mumford River at Lackey Dam.  This time if year, the pond is choked with water chestnut, but it is still a nice trip.  We paddled under Route 146, and up the Mumford River until the river was blocked by blow-downs.

Sunset over Lackey Pond
My Pictures

Sunday, August 13, 2017

River Bend Farm - August 12, 2017

Visitor Center at River Bend Farm
With the RICKA crew off to the Adirondacks, there weren’t any local trips planned this weekend.  Traveling wasn’t an option, so I posted a trip on the Flatwater Massage Board for a canal/river run at River Bend Farm.

River Bend Farm was the former Vose Farm, and is now the Visitor's Center for the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. It’s a popular place to hike or paddle with great views of the Blackstone Canal, the stone arch bridge at Hartford Avenue, Rice City Pond and the Stanley Woolen Mill.

Portage into Rice City Pond
I met up with Mike and Bill at 9:00 at the Visitor Center.  From there, we paddled up the Blackstone Canal before portaging over to Rice City Pond. The pond itself was shallow, so we paddled up the old canal to the Goat Hill Lock before turning around and heading back to the river. 

The Blackstone River was low but fluid - 3 feet on the Northbridge gage.  We crossed over at the dam and headed downstream.  Even at a low level, the river can be tricky with lots of twists and turns and low hanging trees. We crossed back over to the canal above the Stanley Woolen Mill for the trip back to the take out – nice morning.

Quickwater on the Blackstone River
My Pictures