Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Rocky Narrows - November 28, 2021

I had three days off from work for Thanksgiving, but with the holiday, family stuff, Christmas decorations and yard work I didn’t get my canoe out once. On Sunday an early morning hike with the Papa Joe crew fit into my schedule better than a mid-day paddle, so I hiked instead.

The hike was at the Rocky Narrows Reservation. The site is named for the granite cliffs that rise up over the Charles River as it twists and turns between the Sherborn Town Forest in Sherborn and the Medfield State Forest in Dover. I have paddled beneath these cliffs many times, but had never been to the top.

In 1897 The Trustees acquired 21-acres on the Charles River known as Rocky Narrows, the “Gates of the Charles.” It became their first reservation. Populated with a mixed forest of hardwoods and evergreens and the 50-foot cliffs that date back 650 million years, the site would grow to over 80-acres with later acquisitions.

We met at the trailhead at 100 Forest Street in Sherborn and headed north to Mount Misery. We then headed south past the Farm Pond and Canoe Landing before climbing the cliffs up to the overlooks – the Narrows Overlook and King Philip Overlook.


Monday, November 22, 2021

Charles River Lakes District - November 22, 2021

At the put-in
There was a time when you rarely saw a tandem canoe. Everyone wanted to captain their own ship and paddle their own boat. Now people are realizing the benefits of paddling tandem – especially on windy flatwater. With tandem paddlers the toughest part of organizing a trip can be figuring out who paddles with whom, and who brings the boat.

I was talking to Al last week at the Papa Joe hike, and we decided to paddle the “Lakes District” on the Charles. The Lakes District is formed by the backwater of the Moody Street Dam and runs for 5.8-miles from Washington Street in Wellsley to Moody Street in Waltham.

Sculptures on the banks
In it’s glory days, this section of the Charles was home to Norumbega Park in Newton, named for the Norumbega Tower just downstream, and the Riverside Recreation Grounds a little further upstream in Weston. Established in the 1890’s, these parks were located at the end of the Boston trolley lines and attracted hundreds of thousand of visitors each year. The Lakes District became the most heavily canoed river on earth with more than 5,000 canoes berthed at over a dozen clubs along its length.

Today, there are two put-ins on this section of the river - the Duck Feeding Area at the end of Norumbega Road in Weston (across from the Marriott Hotel) and 48 Woerd Avenue in Waltham. We decided to launch in Waltham. Conrad and I were going to paddle tandem, but I ended up bringing a solo boat for him instead.

Matching WildFires
We headed upstream past a home where the homeowner has placed statutes along the river – an elk, a bear, some deer and a life-sized bison and Native American. Shortly after we came to the dilapidated boat ramp at Norumbega Tower.

Nurumbega Tower is a stone tower erected in 1889 to mark the supposed location of Fort Norumbega, a legendary Viking fort at the confluence of Stony Brook and the Charles River. We hiked over to the tower and climbed to the top to check out the view.

Waltham Watch Company
Unfortunately we had a few problems getting back in the boats. First Georgie jumped out of the boat and landed in the water. Then, with an unstable boat, Julie tipped over at the dock. We got everyone back in the boats, and decided to head back downstream in case Goergie or Julie got a chill.

Julie and Georgie were fine, so we paddled past the put-in and down to the Waltham Watch Company. This huge mill was also known as the American Watch Company and produced over 40 million watches between 1850 and 1957. We continued down to the Moody Street Bridge (and dam) before turning around and calling it a day.

The crew at Norumbega Tower

Monday, November 15, 2021

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary - November 14, 20221

With all the rain this week there were plenty of opportunities to paddle this weekend, but none seemed to fit my schedule, so I decided to join Papa Joe’s hike at Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

 Meadows is an old farm that has been converted into a 1,124-acre wildlife sanctuary with 12-miles of trails through woods, wetlands, and meadows. The trail system makes connections to the Midstate Trail and the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation. We set out from the Visitor Center and headed south down to the Quartz Boulder, then west on the Brook Trail, then north to Brown Hill – about 4.75-miles.


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Turkey Paddle - Wallum Lake - November 6, 2021

After visiting my mother at rehab, I headed over to Wallum Lake for the Turkey Paddle with the RICKA Flatwater crew

Wallum is a 200-acre lake on the border of MA and RI. The northern section lies in the Douglas State Forest in MA. Much of the west shore in the southern half lies in the Buck Management Area in RI. It is about 2 miles long and ¼ to ½ mile wide.

We put-in at the boat ramp in Douglas (there is also a put-in in Burrillville that I have never used), and headed down the west side of the lake. The day was sunny and relatively warm, and the winds were light. After exploring some of the coves, we turned around and headed back to the put-in.

Most of the crew headed off for a turkey dinner.  I headed home for pot roast - just like in 2013.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Blackstone Gorge - October 23, 2021

I had errands to run with my mother on Saturday, and a birthday party with the kids on Sunday, so there wasn’t much time for paddling this weekend.  I did get out for foliage run up to the Blackstone Gorge.

I put in at the Bike Path in Blackstone.  After carrying down the steep hill, I paddled up stream past the Tupper Mill into the Gorge. This section of the river can be shallow, can have current, or both.  This time I had both. I lined past the island below the confluence with the Branch River. 

There was not much water flowing though the Gorge itself.  The color was OK, but I was probably a week early for peak color.  It has been a weird year for foliage – every thing seems later than usual. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Housatonic – Sheffield to Falls Village – October 9 – 10, 2021

Covered Bridge in Sheffield
My springtime trip on the Housatonic got me thinking that this would be a great river for a weekend camping trip. I decided to do a fall foliage trip with RICKA paddling the flatwater sections from Sheffield, MA to Ashley Falls, MA on Saturday, and Ashley Falls, MA to Falls Village, CT on Sunday.

The Housatonic originates in the Berkshire Hills of western MA and flows south for 150 miles along the western border of MA and CT before emptying into Long Island Sound. There’s lots of great paddling along the Housatonic River. The best-known whitewater section is a class IV run known as Bulls Bridge - it's well above my skill level. There is also the quickwater section from Cornwall to Kent that I have run several times.

Paul on the first log pile
Bill and I headed out on Friday to check out the put-ins and take-outs before heading over to the campground at Tatonic State Park in NY. As we checked out the put-in at the Covered Bridge in Sheffield a guy on a bike rode up and asked us if we'd seen any tingleys. “What are tingleys?” we asked.  “They are UFO’s” he said.  Apparently this was the site of a famous UFO sighting back in the 1960’s, but there were no UFO sightings or alien abductions on our trip.

When we arrived at our campsite we found Jim Cole waiting for us. He had made the 1,400-mile drive from FL to NY to join us - how’s that for determination. I originally wanted to stay at Housatonic Meadows State Park in CT, but it was closed for the season. None of us had stayed at Taconic State Park before, but it turned out to be perfect. We had 11 campers for Friday and Saturday nights, and a few even stayed through Columbus Day.

Portaging the broken dam
On Saturday, we did the 9-mile trip from the Covered Bridge on Covered Bridge Lane in Sheffield, MA to Rannapo Road in Ashley Falls, MA. In addition to 11 campers, we had 3 who came out to run this section as a day trip. The river was high – 4.7 feet, 2,500 cfs. on the Falls Village gage, after peaking at 6 feet, 4,000 cfs. on Wednesday. The higher water was a blessing and a curse. A blessing for the fast moving current, and a curse for the steep, slick banks and soggy lunch spots.

We put in at the Covered Bridge and headed downstream. The river twists and turns through fields and meadows along the foothills of the Berkshires. There was some nice color, but we probably missed the peak foliage by a couple of weeks. The trip was uneventful except for two river-wide log-jams that we had to portage, and a tough hill to climb at the take-out.

Jim below the broken dam
After the trip, Bill and I took a detour to check out Bash Bish Falls – the tallest waterfall in MA. We then returned to the campground for a nice potluck supper around the campfire. The food was plentiful and the conversation was great.

On Sunday, we did the 11-mile section from Rannapo Road in Ashley Falls, MA to the Great Falls Dam in Falls Village, CT. This trip begins where Saturday’s trip ended, so we once again had to deal with the steep hill at the put-in. The river had dropped slightly to 2.2 feet, 1,500 cfs. We still had good current but the banks were still slick and our lunch spot was still soggy.

Take-out at Great Falls
The main feature on this section of the river is the broken dam in Canaan. Supposedly the rapid on the right side of the island is runnable, but it would have been difficult to scout, so we all portaged on the left. Once again, a steep bank at the end made for a challenging portage, but we managed fine. 

From there it is about 5-miles to the take-out at the dam at Great Falls. We snapped a group picture and checked out Great Falls before heading out from another great trip.

Housatonic Foliage Weekend from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.