Monday, September 26, 2005

Waquoit Bay

Waquoit Bay
Originally uploaded by KSCChef.

After some coaxing from Brommer I decided to join in on the KSC Waquoit Bay kayak expedition. I originally thought I'd do it as a day trip, but Advil convinced me that I should head down Friday night to ensure a full day of yaking fun on Saturday.

This was my first kayak trip requiring gear transportation. After cleaning out REI I loaded up my gear - only to discover that the large dry bag didn't fit in the boat. After repacking the car was loaded, the boat was loaded, the first panic attack (did I have enough food, too much food, would I be able to manuever the kayak with the extra weight ...) was calmed and I set off. My departure was later than originally planned but it looked like I could still make the 7PM scheduled put in. After stops at the grocery store to stock up on water, and the local pizza joint for dinner food I hit the highway and quickly came to a halt. The delayed departure put me on 128 during rush hour. Aaargh - now I started to worry that I wasn't going to make the scheduled departure. Traffic continued heavy in pockets until I got over the Sagamore Bridge. As I wended my way toward Waquoit Bay the clock continued to tick off the minutes. When it got to 6:30 I started to get anxious, at 6:45 I decided that I needed to contact Brommer. A call to the number on his email with directions connected me with Mary. Luckily Mary was able to provide me with his cell number. Called the cell - got his voice mail. Hit the road again after a pit stop. Arrived Edwards Boat Yard at 6:58pm. Street name doesn't match email. Hhm, am I in the correct place. Don't see any other KSCers. Did a short recon - determined this has to be the right place. Called Brommer again - voice mail again. Finally ask a man putting in a power boat, who reassures me that this is the place, and invites us to join EMS for a clinic on Saturday.

At this point I relax, mostly, find a spot in the parking lot and decide to eat dinner. Partway through my salad a car with kayaks on top pulls in - it's Slush and Steve. Another level of relaxation is achieved. And just then my cell phone rings - it's Skibody calling from Brommer's truck. They've gotten a later start than planned and at that point are 45 minutes away - preceeded by Fritz. Slush and Steve head off for food and a final pit stop in a real bathroom. Rain begins to fall while they're gone. They return followed shortly by Fritz, Brommer and Skibody, and Goat in quick succession.

We head down to the put in, unload boats from cars, and load our gear into the boats. Luckily the rain has ended. I feed Fritz the sub I'd picked up - which disappears quite quickly. Brommer provided each of us with a glow light for the back of our PFDs these prove quite useful as we head toward the island. It's a cloudy night which makes it hard to see each other as we spread out on the water. The Slush, Skibody Steve and I put in with help from Goat and Brommer. We huddle up together to wait for the rest of the crew. We wait, drift, wait some more. After a fairly lengthy wait we were off. Bromer took the lead with his high powered head lamp. The paddle was fairly easy - surprising to me given the amount of extra weight in my boat. I had a nice chat with Goat as we headed up the Seapit River. As we rounded the point of Washburn Island we hit a very shallow section requiring a fairly wide swing around the north end of the island. I caught up with Brommer who, minus his headlamp which had run out of juice, was trying to determine navigation around the sandbar which because it was low tide was quite extensive. He set off to find a navigable route, while I held back to wait for the result. Slush and Steve caught up and after unbeaching ourselves we follow in his wake with Slush hugging the edge of the sandbar.

Once around the sandbar we began the task of locating our campsites - in the dark. The signage was definitely not designed for late night arrivals. With some assistance from other campers we finally located our site - or at least what we thought was our site. In day light it was revealed that we were a good 10 yards or so closer to the water than our actual site. Upon arrival we set about the task of unpacking boats and setting up camp. My tent setup required the able assistance of Goat since it has been many years since it had been used and I couldn't remember how to do it. Thanks Goat! Next on the agenda was an ultimately fruitless attempt to locate the composting toilet (in the light of day it turned out that I was about 20 yards or so from it). I arrived back at camp to find the crew enjoying s'mores and popcorn provided by Brommer. The festivities quickly died down and we headed for our sleeping bags.

The moonlit bay as viewed on several late night tree watering sessions was beautiful, the sunrise as viewed from my tent (which has a side window) was stunning. I finally arose to the sounds of breakfast preparations. The highlight of breakfast were Fritz's stove assembly efforts. Most of us had eaten before he got started on his pancakes. Thanks to Slush's Mom and Slush for providing the tasty zuchini bread.

Post breakfast we headed out onto the bay - minus Fritz who was still cleaning up. Our morning's paddle took us North into the wind. After a brief stop at Bird Spit and a small amount of seaweed flinging we continued our journey. Our ultimate destination was the Waquoit Bay Estuary Visitor's Center, which despite the signs saying it was open from 10 -5 was closed. Lunch, sunbathing, and swimming were engaged in at the boathouse before we headed back onto the water.

We settled on another stop at Bird Spit to swim. Fritz was first to make land. I followed a little more quickly than planed when I ran aground requiring a rescue from Fritz. The image of Fritz flapping his way to and through the assembled seagulls on his way to assist me will stay with me for a long time. Fritz and Goat soon set about rearranging the spit eventually creating a channel big enough for a kayak to pass through. Despite the warm water at the spit, the wind made swimming less pleasant than I would have liked.

We soon headed back to camp in small groups. On the way back I decided to do a little more exploring and headed south. A brief paddle along the southern end of the bay brought wonderful images of two fellows out wind boarding.

After changing clothes - I was really cold and wet, snacks and sunning on the beach it was time to pack up. Despite the best efforts of the assembled KSCers I headed back to civilization about 4:30. The wind had died down so it was an easier paddle than it would have been earlier in the day. The sun was brutal on the Seapit River portion - which made it seem like it took forever. But I was soon back at the put in. I chatted briefly with some locals at the put in then set about packing up the car for the journey home. I arrived home tired (10 hours of sleep took care of that) and sore (I know, Goat, I need to drink more water) but extremely happy.

Charles River - Natick to Sherborn

Sunday, September 18th I headed out for a paddle on the section of the Charles upriver from the dam in South Natick. The launch site is a small picnic area south of the river with convenient parking. The launch site is somewhat unpleasant with several inches of muck on the bottom of the river. Once in the kayak I headed upriver (downriver not being an option due to the aforementioned dam!). This section of the river is very calm. Early on in the paddle it follows Route 16 fairly closely so it's not particularly quiet.

Shortly after setting out I startled a heron from its perch on a submerged log. The heron and I had a couple more encounters as we both headed upriver. About a mile into the paddle the river takes a turn to the east as it skirts the edge of the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, and the sounds of the road dissapate. The banks of the river through this section show no signs of human habitation, and are populated by birds and turtles.

As the river moves into Dover houses appear on the eastern shore. There were several houses for sale and I found myself imagining what it would be like to live on the riverbank. Of course these houses are well out of my price range so this was just idle imagining.

After another wild section passing through marshland where I spied another heron, the river crosses under Bridge St/Farm Rd. At that point I turned around to ensure a return to the launch site before dark.

It was a very peaceful paddle, and I intend to return again when I have more time to explore even more of this section.

Lake Cochituate

After spending several days in Newport, RI - at the Northeast Lawson Users Group meeting I returned home with several hours of daylight left and decided to make a quick trip to Lake Cochituate. The park itself was closed but the boat launch was open. It's a launch designed for power boats - lots of concrete and docks which sit high above the water. This meant entering the kayak from from the "beach" which in this case was lined with rocks. My first attempt was unsuccessful and I ended up with a scraped and bruised elbow as a result. The second attempt was much smoother and I headed out. I travelled south toward Route 9 exploring the eastern shore. There were several power boats out and the water was a bit choppy. I also explored the small pond just under route 30 - a much calmer body of water.

Whitehall Lake

Whitehall Lake is a former reservoir in Hopkinton. It's now a state park and was my destination the weekend after Labor Day. From the boat launch the lake looks quite small. A short paddle reveals that the launch is situated in a small cove. The lake is full of coves and the full size is never completely obvious. I decided to keep the shore to my port side and travel the edge of the lake - all 560+ acres of it.

It was a lovely clear day, and though I saw powerboats the size of the lake mutes their impact. The shore is lined with many large rocks. My first wildlife sighting was a cormorant and a seagull resting on a rock together. I'd decided that was going to be it for the day when I rounded a curve and came upon a heron a couple of feet away. I'm not sure who was more surprised - me or the heron. The heron quickly exited. I came upon several more herons (or maybe the same heron several more times) as I continued around the lake. I also sighted a swan in a more marshy section.

Total paddle time for the day was 3 hours. This is definitely worth another visit - it's a beautiful lake and offers both open and secluded spaces.

Labor Day Weekend

I got out on the water twice on Labor Day weekend. On Sunday Colin (who was visiting to "check out colleges") and I headed to the Charles in Boston. From the Charles River Canoe and Kayak rental hut on Soldier's Field Road we headed downriver to just beyond the BU Bridge. This was the first paddle with my new kayak and it came through with flying colors. The paddle was a more stressful than I would have liked alternating between chasing Colin down (and up) the river with trying to convince him to continue on. My boat did pass its first wake tests with flying colors - although I did end up with a lap full at one point. Colin was a big help with kayak transportation.

After Colin left on Monday, I loaded up the kayak and headed to Walden Pond. I'd been swimming at Walden a few weeks earlier - note to self avoid Walden when the swim area is busy. The pond lies in a bowl and it holds and amplifies any noise from the swim area. It was much quieter on Labor Day although quite windy. I paddled the perimeter of the pond then did a couple of quick trips end to end. Walden is a weird contrast. It has been preserved to honor Thoreau and the peace he sought but in the time I was there it was assaulted by the sound of traffic on the road at the east end, airplanes flying over and the commuter rail passing on the west end.

Charles River Part II

A week after my solo paddle on the Charles I made arrangements to meet Bill aka Brommer for another trip on the Charles. I was a little nervous about paddling with Bill since he's an experienced kayaker, but he quickly set me at ease. We had a lovely paddle covering most of the same section of the river I had done the week before (the only difference a different fork early in the paddle). Bill had never been that far downriver before and really enjoyed it. Wildlife were again out in abundance. We had the river mostly to ourselves on the way downriver. Heading back upriver we encountered many more people heading out to enjoy the day. We included a short jaunt upriver making it just beyond the bridges. On return to Charles River Canoe I outfitted the car with the necessary equipment to carry a kayak.

Later that day Amy and I headed out to EMS in Acton (the saga of finding the kayak I wanted is a story all it's own) to pick up and pay for the kayak they were holding for me. It took a while to get the kayak onto the car the first time. Once we had it secured we headed over to Karen and Peter's, since we were in the neighborhood. After showing off the new boat, we had a lovely chat and got to try out the Adirondack chairs we gave them for a wedding present.

Kayak Chronicles

The time I spent out in the kayak at Rainbow Lake has blossomed into a full blown addiction. Even before we got back I'd started thinking about acquiring my own. The Massachusetts tax holiday (a weekend of sales tax free shopping) prompted me to voice this desire out loud after many hours of Internet research. Amy convinced me, and Terri and the sales woman at REI backed her up, that I shouldn't buy a kayak without having tried it on the water. I did acquire a paddle, though.

The next week I made a short visit to Charles River Canoe and Kayak in Newton to try out one of the kayaks. A highlight of the short paddle I took was having a heron swoop across the river, join up with a second heron and fly off. I kept that visit short, but returned the next Saturday for a longer try out.

CRCK is located at the intersection of routes 128 and 30. From there I paddled down river through marshy areas, on into an open lake like section populated by several swans, past turtles sunning on partially submerged logs, a cormorant sitting on the pilings of a old pier, and on past an old mill. I ended up at Moody Street in Waltham (3 miles downriver). I returned by the same route - it is a river after all - but wasn't ready to end my paddle yet. So I continued upriver passing under the turnpike and turnpike ramps, past the Lesley College boathouse, and along the edge of the Leo J. Martin golf course. I spent some time watching a heron fish in the marsh near the golf course, before continuing on. A near miss from an errant golf ball made a loud, startling splash just after I passed under the road that runs along the golf course. A little further upriver the river gets quite shallow. At that point I decided I should turn around. I was quite surprised to discover that I had been on the river for nearly 4 hours. Distance covered nearly 10 miles.

I don't have any kayaking photos yet, mostly because I haven't acquired a camera I feel confident taking out on the water. I have taken quite a few pictures with one-time use cameras. As soon as I get those developed I'll post the best.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Whiteface Mountain

Tom and Nick on the summit of Whiteface.

Marcy Dam Trail

Hiking buddies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Boap, Boap

One highlight of our vacation was a visit from Tom and N. N thought the hardwood floors of the cabin were great - sure made pushing his trucks around really easy. The water was a great draw for him as well - especially if there was a "boap" (boat to the rest of us).

The first morning they were there N and I took a walk and quickly spotted a canoe whose passengers included a dog. This was of great interest to this dog loving little boy. By the time he'd been there a day he was an expert motorboat early warning system.

Another highlight of N's visit was his first high peaks hike. We tackled a portion of the Marcy Dam trail. N started in a back pack (he was just barely small enough to fit). It was a slightly gloomy afternoon with rain threatening. We stopped about half-way to have a snack. At that point the rain started in earnest and we decided to head back to the car. N, who Tom had taken out of the pack during our break, was adament that he was not going back into it. So we started back with N walking - and stomping in every puddle - some two or three times. At times it took all our persuasive efforts to convince him to leave one puddle for the next. He also insisted on climbing up and down every obstacle himself. He was especially fond of the bridges (which made his Daddy awfully nervous since the bridges along the trail don't have railings).

When the hike was finished Nick was one very happy and very filthy little boy. I'm not sure who was more excited about Nick's first hike - Nick or his proud Papa.

N was much less fond of the Rainbow Lake water - it was too cold for his liking. Amy thinks this shows that he is a very smart fellow. I think he'll come around when he gets a little older.

Day two of N and Tom's visit featured a drive up Whiteface and N's first (but probably not last) visit to the top of one of the High Peaks. He was not particulary happy to have to remain in the backpack, but did get a couple minutes of closely monitored freedom.

The trip down Whiteface resulted in a dead clutch on Tom's car - and led to an afternoon at the ice cream place in Wilmington. The good news is that we had shade, a place to sit, food, a bathroom and lots of trucks, dogs, trucks with boats, and people to watch. N just took this in as another part of the adventure.

The broken car meant a round trip to Albany for the Aunties so that the boys could get home. It was a long drive but traffic was light, and we were able to get back to the cabin that night.

Vacation at Rainbow Lake

Once again we spent 2 wonderful weeks in Owl Cabin. My favorite part of vacation is the lake. After unpacking my first order of business was a swim. Despite sleeping late the first morning (and being awakened by Amy asking me how she would know it was time to get up if I didn't go swim) the lake was calm and quiet when I headed out. It was so quiet in fact that at one point my eyes were drawn upward by the sound of flapping wings as a heron crossed over the lake.

Much of vacation was spent on or in the water. In addition to my morning swims (not all as quiet as the first thanks to construction on one of the houses in the cove), I spent quite a bit of time out kayaking. I have discovered a new addiction, but more about that later.