Monday, October 9, 2017

Upper Connecticut River Camping – 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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wickford Harbor - July 30, 2017

I ended my vacation back where it started – in South County. I joined the RICKA trip in Wickford.  We padded the backwaters around Rabbit and Cornelius Islands, and then paddled along the breakwater into Wickford Harbor and around Wickford Cove. 


Friday, July 28, 2017

Newport/Kings Beach and Gooseneck Cove Marsh - July 28, 2017

Looking out from the put-in
I’ve been working my way through the Newport launch sites on Rhode Island Blueways, and today I got up early to paddle among the rocks at Kings Beach off Ocean Drive. 

Kings Beach is is typically a sea kayak put-in since conditions can change quickly due to tides and weather. To the west is Brenton Point and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. To the east is the rocky coast along Ocean Drive and the Cliff Walk. 

Cormorants on the rocks
The sea was relatively calm when I arrived with 1-2 foot rolling waves. Unfortunately, fog was rolling in as I launched, and visibility eventually dropped to zero, so I was forced to return to the put-in. With my original trip cut short, I decided to paddle Gooseneck Cove Marsh at Green Bridge, to the east of King’s Beach on Ocean Drive.

Gooseneck Cove Marsh is a wetland that has undergone a 10-year restoration by Save the Bay. A dam was removed and culverts installed along Ocean Drive to improve the flow of sea water into and out of the marsh. I put in at Green Bridge and paddled up the marsh as far as Hazard Road. Green Bridge would also be a good place to put in to paddle the ocean since it would avoid the paddle around Price Neck to the west of Kings Beach - I may try that next time.

Old boat in Gooseneck Cove Marsh

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Newport/Fort Adams - July 27, 2017

Fort Adams
It was another nice morning, so I headed back to Newport to check out the put-in at Fort Adams. 

Fort Adams was established in 1799, and the current fort was built from 1824 to 1857. During World War II, Fort Adams was part of a network of coastal forts that protected Narragansett Bay including Fort Greble on Dutch Island and Fort Wetherill, Fort Hamilton on Rose Island, and Camp Cronin on Point Judith.

Newport Folk Festival Stage
In 1965, the fort and most of the surrounding land was given to the State of Rhode Island for use as a state park. The park is best know for hosting the Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival.  The park was preparing for the Newport Folk Festival the day I paddled by.

I paddled out past the fort and into the east passage before paddling back to check out the harbor.

Newport Harbor

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Newport/Rose Island – July 26, 2017

Newport Harbor (Goat Island) Light
After several rainy days the sky finally cleared, so I headed over to Newport to paddle out to Rose Island.

I put-in at the Washington Street Boat Ramp, paddled out through the Goat Island Marina, and past the Newport Harbor (Goat Island) Light. The first lighthouse was constructed on Goat Island in 1823, but it was moved to Prudence Island in 1851 where the structure still remains as the Prudence Island Light. The current Newport Harbor Light was constructed in 1842.

Rose Island Light
I paddled out into the channel for the 1-mile crossing to Rose Island. With its strategic location on the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, fortifications were constructed on Rose Island as early as the American Revolution. In 1798, the U.S. government began constructing Fort Hamilton on Rose Island. Like Fort Adams, Fort Greble on Dutch Island, Camp Cronin on Point Judith and Fort Wetherill, Fort Hamilton was a coastal defense battery during World War II, and was also used store explosives as part of the Naval Torpedo Station.

With increased shipping traffic around Newport in the mid-1800s, Rose Island seemed like an ideal place to build a lighthouse. The Rose Island Light was completed in 1870. The lighthouse stands atop a bastion of Fort Hamilton, which was built in 1798-1800. The wooden keeper's dwelling features a mansard roof with an integrated 35-foot light tower.

Barracks from Fort Hamilton
The government stopped using Rose Island as a military base after World War II. After the Newport Bridge was completed in 1969, the lighthouse was also abandoned and fell into disrepair. 

In 1984, the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation was established to restore the lighthouse. The lighthouse now functions as a bed & breakfast, and the island is a wildlife refuge. 

Newport Bridge

Monday, July 24, 2017

Waves at Black Point - July 24, 2017

With rain and winds out of the northeast, there will be no paddling for me today.  I knew it, but just to convince myself, I went down to Black Point to see the waves.  Yup...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Snug Harbor – July 23, 2017

Winds from the northeast
It was high tide, and my original plan was to paddle down to Potter Pond. It seemed fine as I left the cottage, but by the time I reached Snug Harbor, a strong wind from the northeast was kicking up 1 to 2 foot waves. I paddled into the inlet behind Snug Harbor, but never made it to Potter Pond. I decided that paddling back to the cottage into the wind would be enough of a workout today. I crossed over to the east side of Great Island at Galilee, and did my best to stay out of the wind on the way back up to the cottage. I made it back fine, but it was a slog!

Fishing boats in the Port of Galilee
My Pictures

Point Judith Pond with RICKA – July 22, 2017

Put on at the Upper Pond
It was a beautiful day, so I decided to join the RICKA crew on a joint Flatwater/Sea Kayak trip on Point Judith Pond. I paddled up to Marina Park in the Upper Pond where the group was meeting. We had twelve boats, and the toughest part of this trip was launching at the busy boat ramp.

In all the years we have been staying at the cottage, I've never done an end-to-end trip on Point Judith Pond. We headed out of the Upper Pond, and headed down the the east side of Point Judith Pond along Harbor Island, Ram Island and Great Island. 

Ready for the crossing
On entering the Port of Galilee, we bobbed in the waves and debated where to stop for lunch.  We finally decided on the beach in Jerusalem.  Of course, that meant crossing the busy boat channel.

From there, we paddle up the west side of the pond along Snug Harbor to Plato where we crossed the busy boat channel again.  I stayed with the group until we reached Gardener Island, and then I headed back to the cottage. 

Lunch at the beach in Jerusalem

Friday, July 21, 2017

Harbor of Refuge – July 21, 2017

Harbor of Refuge from Camp Cronin
After several aborted attempts due to fog, I finally got to paddle around the Harbor of Refuge from Camp Cronin. Its not a long trip – about 3 miles, a mile each leg – but its great for paddling in waves.

Construction of the Harbor of Refuge, which protects the Breachway and the Port of Galilee, began in 1890 with the construction of the east and west jetties. The breakwater was not completed until 1910 with the completion of the center jetty.

Fisherman on the east jetty
During World War II, much of the land on Point Judith was part of Fort Greene, a major coastal defense battery that included what is now Camp Cronin. Named for Revolutionary war hero Nathanael Greene, Fort Greene was part of a network of forts protecting Narragansett Bay including Fort Adams in Newport, Fort Greble on Dutch IslandFort Weatherill in Jamestown, and Fort Hamilton on Dutch Island.

There were a couple of fishermen on the rocks when I put in at around 6:30. The tide had just peaked and was going out. I was paddling into 1-foot rolling waves along the east side of the jetty. When I reached the east passage the wave increased to 2-feet - it's easier and less stressful at low tide.

Waves breaking on the center jetty
I hurried across the east passage, and was amazed how much of the center jetty was missing or underwater. Birds were everywhere, and waves were breaking on the rocks and flowing through the openings. By the time I got to the bend at the center, the east side seawall was almost gone.

As I paddled down the west jetty the waves were coming from behind. When I reached the west passage, I stayed out of the main channel and headed toward Salty Brine Beach and the Breachway. The Block Island Ferry pulled in just as I reached the Breachway. From there, I paddled perpendicular to the waves along the beach past Sand Hill Cove, and back to Camp Cronin.

Block Island Ferry in the Breakaway at Salty Brine Beach