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Archive for May, 2011

Uncle Euclid's Camp

Nine Mile Pond is a special place for me because my family used to spend a lot of time here at my Uncle Euclid’s camp. His camp was a great big white house with a nice big front porch overlooking the pond. The kids didn’t spend much time in the house as there was a great beach and diving dock. Seams all my memories are great times with my family and all the aunt’s uncles and cousins. Tubing and cannonballs off the dock. We were in the water most of the time but there was also the greatest hammock and great big picnic table and stone fireplace for an occasional picnic. It’s a short drive from Chicopee and on the way the best memories are signing silly songs and stopping at State Line Potato Chip factory to get a “fresh” bag of chips! They were the greatest!

The Other Side!

We rarely boated, the canoe always stayed in the garage L But when we were a little older I do remember water skiing on the lake. It was like glass compared to the first time I got up on water skis on the ocean. Those good times came to an end after Uncle Euclid and Aunt Lillian pasted away sadly. The property is still in their family so a couple of years after I began kayaking I returned here with my brother Don and we found there was plenty of water to kayak on for a small pond and being out looking back towards shore and the old camp sure put a different perspective on things. On a sunny Sunday summer morning it’s the most peaceful place in the world. Especially round the bend of the pond where there are fewer houses and more Lilly Pads and Cat Tails. I’ve been back here several times and once came alone with a good book for some quite time. I was reading John Adams. What a man, what a life!

Great Blue on takeoff

We have lift-off!

I guess I was surprised to find Great Blue Herons hanging out here, never saw one all the time we swam here, oh yeah, we probably scared them all away with our yelling, diving and splashing!!! Oh what fun it was. I don’t think there would have been a way for my parents to keep 6 to 14 kids quiet enough for a Great Blue to visit!

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The Mill River

Under re-write 🙂  8/5/17

Easily one of my favorite places. Part of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary it’s a haven for a large variety of birds and mammals. This is also by far brother Don’s number one kayaking sight for sure. Every week for the past few years if I ask where do you want to go, it will be here. I guess you could say this is our happy place.

I will say that kayaking as in life is about the moments.  Precious moments in time when something special happens. The Mill more then anywhere else has more of those special moments then anywhere else.  It changes every time you put in.  It changes with the seasons, the weeks, and the day! The birds or animals you see makes such a difference in the experience of each trip as does the stages of growth of the flora both in and surrounding the water.  It changes with the river level even more! The Mill flows into the Oxbow which flows into the Connecticut River. When the Connecticut is high the water backs up into the Mill and overflows the banks, flooding several hundred square feet of lush forest. Kayaking in the flooded forest is a real treat.  Most of the flooding I’ve experienced has been in the spring which is nice but summer flooding is so much more to behold.  One sunny Sunday morning in July is all it takes to turn you into a believer.   The sunlight shinning through the trees and reflecting off the water back up to the underside of the leaves is a sight to remember.  Oh yes, I should mention when the river floods it is very easy to become disorientated and can be hard to find your way out.  On this July morning Don and I did not agree which way was back to the launch.  Well it turned out I was right as I validated by looking at Google Maps!  It was fun to see just where we were as the satellite followed me, the little blue dot, kayaking the flood plains of the Mill.

When we first started coming here we were putting in at the Route 5 Oxbow launch and paddling up to the Manhan River and then to the Mill River.  We soon realized that it was easier to take East Street to Fort Hill Road and put in at the mouth of the Mill.  We’ve put in both to the right and left this side of the bridge and to the right on the other side so whichever is your preference.  Oh and when the river is flooded you may be forced to stop your car where the road goes underwater and launch from there!

While there are signs posted to alert you of the fact that there is no fishing or hunting in this wildlife sanctuary, you can still experience some great sightings of birds, deer, beavers, and fish.

A Buttonbush

I have many outstanding memories kayaking on the Mill.  Starting with my first discovery of a button bush! Ever see a Button Bush in full bloom? Pure white little balls with very symmetric stems capped with tiny yellow flowers. Such perfect little globes in every respect. God gets an A+ for this one.  You’ve got to be there on the perfect day to catch ’em when they’ve just bloomed and still bright white.   A precious moment.

Cedar Waxwing swooping in for a dragonfly!

C

Then there was my first encounter with a flock of Cedar Waxwings! We were sitting in our kayaks on a sunny Sunday morning while we watched these beautiful birds swooped right in front of our kayaks picking off the damselflies and dragonflies one by one! They seem to prefer the smaller damselflies. The Cedar Waxwing is a gorgeous bird to look at. I’ve got some great pics of them doing the same on the Swift River, one of which hangs proudly in my living room.

 

IMG_1655aCedar Waxwings are nomadic and usually fly in groups so it’s not like you can go back and see them again, it’s all about the luck and timing. That’s a precious moment!

This will be true of so many of the great  memorable trips I’ve had on the Mill.  I’ve spent many wonderful Sunday mornings here  watching a variety of beautiful birds; Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Eagles, Red-Tail Hawks, Coopers Hawks,  Virginia Rail, Canada Goose, Spotted Sandpipers, Kingfishers,  Goldfinches, Swallows, Robins, Flycatchers, Crows, Killdeer, Swallows, Song Sparrows, Swans, Mergansers, Mallards, Red-headed Woodpeckers , Pileated Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Each sighting a precious moment.

IMG_0621Everything is about the luck of the day.  In my 12 years on the Mill,  I often wondered why I hadn’t seen a deer, one year I caught one running away from me, too quick to get a shot, but this year (2017) was different. I’ve seen this guy a few times and both times he stayed around long enough to have his portrait taken. A precious moment!

One trip in late May in 2010 Don and I started our morning as we normally do in Hulberts Pond having our morning coffee and breakfast sandwiches when out of the blue we heard a huge splash! then another and then yet another all from different spots in the pond.  Then out of the blue, one right by my kayak!  We soon realized we were in the middle of them.  They were Carp and it was spawning season.  With the water just a few feet deep throughout the pond it must have been perfect timing and conditions.  Here’s a link to one of the videos I captured from that day. https://youtu.be/Kj_ZrrWiRz8     There were probably about 40 of them paired off, they’d swim side by side quietly for a spell and then they both would convulse so rapidly that the splash would be heard  from across the pond. When they did it aside your kayak you’d think someone hit it with a baseball bat!     A truly precious moment, one I will never forget.

Several years the beavers build dams across a sections of the river that required getting out of the kayak to get over.  In the river this year (2107) there is one that is about 100 feet long holding back about a foot of water.  We have portaged around it and it of course was well worth it.  We’ve also seen a huge dam  that stretched the entire back of the pond.  They have to dam both areas to hold the water back because water does flow from the river into the back of the pond too.   While these dams can ruin a kayak trip I find that they once they are up it takes a real flood to bring them down.  When all else fails just kayak out into the Oxbow to see the marina or it’s a short paddle to the Manhan River.

Beavers are always fun to watch here too. one year paddling upriver, I came face to face with a very big beaver his face just a few feet from mine as he was up on the bank and I lower in my kayak.  He looked down on me as I passed him coming round a bend.  It happened so fast I could not get to my camera fast enough.   Other trips we take our time to watch them swim back and forth slapping their tails in warning that you’re in their territory.    I’ve heard a fellow kayaker tell of seeing bear, however the closest we’ve come is seeing bear scat on a fallen tree.

IMG_4517We’ve made it a few times all the way up to the dam at Route 10 in Easthampton but only when the river is flooded.  Most years you’ll be stopped at the dam of trees up past the Cathedral.  That’s where I’m at now, the blue dot on the Google Map.  What’s the Cathedral you ask?  🙂 Well it’s the name Don and I have given the area between the blue dot and the first elbow of the Z just below it.  This area is just the most beautiful, spot on the river, as Don would say..  Wunderschon!   Here the trees tower high above leaning into river as if to create high cathedral arches.  This has always been the heart of our happy place.  It’s always quite and peaceful.  I’d like to point out here that my banner picture for this blog is a picture of me in the straw hat enjoying that peacefulness!    The only thing that will make our stay short is if the mosquitoes are biting.  While that happens some times it’s never enough to keep us from returning.

Because Don and I enjoy the Mill so much we are always eager to bring friends and relatives here to show it off.  IMG_2998 11X14In 2014 we made the trip with five of Don’s friends from Germany.  Ludwig, Isabelle, Ula, Yergen, and Phillip were treated with sightings of a Great Blue Heron, a Spotted Sandpipper, a flock of Canada Geese, and we also had the great experience of gliding under a Golden Eagle who’s watchful eye followed us as we passed under.  On another trip in 2011 with Ludwig and Isabelle we were surprised as we entered “the Cathedral”  to see a great big hornets nest up in the top arches of the trees.  I should mention here that Ludwig is a beekeeper.

IMG_1544Seasons can also help make that precious moments.  Spring to me is the beginning… every year I look forward to the first sings of spring because I know it’s that start of another year of kayaking.  Usually in early April it’s exciting to see the first specs of green in the vast sea of grayish brown that winter seams to leave behind.  The first green fiddle heads poking through or the spray of ground foliage racing to be first.  Summer speaks for itself.  We are so taken by the changes in the river as plants grow.  Precious moments are abound. Sunshine in the trees and cool breezes on a warm morning are what makes kayaking here in summer.  It’s sad though when the water level gets real low and the river grass so gets thick that it makes getting into the Mill nearly impossible. even that is a precious moment.  In fall as in spring there’s also an added benefit of  greater viability for bird watching.  Winter, while I’ve not kayaked on the river, I’ve walked the shores, only to experience another precious moment.  This would be the combination of melting ice and the receding river. Picture the river flowing high into the trees and the winter’s chill forms an ice shelf along the shore. Now the river level falls as the Conneticut empties into the ocean.  What’s left is a sheet of ice suspended above the water clinging to the trees and bushes.  Next, here comes the sun.  Gee, that’s one of my favorite songs!  Well as the sun melts the ice it falls away from the trees!

If your up this way be sure to stop by Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.  There are great trails that run along side the river and Huberts Pond.  There’s even an elevated observation deck for wildlife viewing.  And to the right of the Meadows Conservation Area there is a large Heron Rookery with about 20 nests and in the past it’s had a few Eagles nests as well.

To be continued…l

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Aldrich Lake

Don't take your kayak over this dam!

Don't take your kayak over this dam!

Aldrich Lake is another great local place to kayak.  We could throw our kayaks on the top of the car and be there in 30 minutes. We could probably make it there in twenty but of course there is the ten minute stop at Dunkin’ Donuts!  I used to drive Amherst Street almost daily when I went to UMASS. I loved this little country road with it’s twists and turns.  Then there was driving by the lake!  Many times I’d see cars parked by the road, fishermen I always figured.  Whenever we pointed to the map and said let’s go here that was a good decision.  The first time we put in was on the west side of Amherst St. there was a bit of a downhill carry. After that we found the east side was much easier.

The eastern half of the lake is a little smaller but very nice.  There is a dam at the far side above the Aldich Mills. A drive down Aldrich St to visit to the mill is worth the trip. Love the old mill’s waterwheel.  There is a nice little cove to the north.

Spring Ice Kayaking!

As you kayak into it you’ll notice some great fishing spots on the banks.  Once we got out and walked into the woods. Finding the remains of an old stone foundation made me wonder who built it and lived here so close to such a nice little lake. How long ago was it that the house standing here?   I think it’s almost like what it would have been living on Walden Pond!  In fact kayaking one cold March morning there was still ice on the lake. If you’ve ever read Walden you’ll remember the description of ice melting in the spring. How little bubbles form on the ice as it melts. As the ice gets thinner it takes on a honeycomb pattern.  Exactly as Thoreau describes in 1847

Gong under the road in one of the two steel tubes that connect the lake is a nice experience,,, that is unless you’re not afraid of spiders!  I think there were a few.  Renee told me once she and Don were doing kayak fishing here one night after supper and a thunderstorm came up so they took cover in the tubes.  Only later to be told that it’s a more dangerous place to be while on the water in a thunderstorm. UGH!

The end of the road! Beaver Dam!

There is more open water on the west side of the road.  Here the destination is Batchelor Brook.  Early season best as late season has some weed restrictions.  You wont be able to get to far up the brook but it’s good to explore.  About as far as we ever made it was what looks like the remains of an old stone bridge. It’s king of neat paddling up into the current but we never made it past.  It;s a beaver dam that was holding us back.   There were markers on the trees the last time I visited here.  This made me wonder if I could ever have the opportunity to buy a piece of property on the water.  This was nice but far from the nearest road and was a bit to darkly wooded for my taste.  Not something Diane would go for, that was sure!  So for now dream on…

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The Manhan River was a great find on our first trip on the Oxbow.  When we first started kayaking our group was Don S., Ray, Don C., Renee, Matt, and Megan.  We did a lot of kayaking together.  Our first trips to the Oxbow were really about the Oxbow.  The Croteau’s all like to fish, The Samson’s just enjoyed the beauty of the water and nature. I remember there were always a few fish caught but what I really remember is seeing Renee meandering out of the mouth of a river and then seeing her pull up onto the front of her kayak this great big fish. I think it was a Shortnose Sturgeon . This thing must have been 3 feet long!  Would have been a great catch but really the poor thing had either been caught on one too many hooks or was hit by a boat.  It was barely alive but it was a sight to see.  That day was the first time we entered the Manhan.

Don on the Manhan

Paddling down this river is so nice.  It’s got that closed in feel that gives you a personal oneness with the river.  There is always something to enjoy on this river.  Like so many rivers you paddle the Great Blue Herons are always around.  They let you get so close to them then they fly 100 feet upriver, get close again and they fly another 100 feet.  The same thing with the Kingfisher… Two birds that you’ll normally see alone flying ahead just out of reach of your camera.  I’ll get a picture of a Kingfisher someday I thought.

After that first time down this river I had to know more about it. It was then I went out and bought a great map. A DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer of Massachusetts. This is the map every kayaker needs.  This map identified the Manhan River for me and so many ponds and rivers yet to come!

A Killdeer - a member of the Plover family

I’ve been back here many times and I’ve made the trip several times all by myself on early summer Saturday mornings.  I’m lucky that all the friends and relatives that I kayak with don’t mind that I stop to take pictures and sometimes wait quite a while to get the picture I’m trying for, but it great going it alone sometimes.  It’s nice to sit in one spot for an hour to wait for a deer or Kingfisher to come along with no one to hurry you…  then a surprise…  a Killdeer shows up to have it’s picture taken!

Most of the time from the Oxbow you can’t get to far up the Manhan River. There are river roadblocks or trees fallen into the river, “laydowns”.   At normal river levels you can get around most but sooner or later you get stopped.  On the Manhan you can rarely get up as far as the Fort Hill Road Bridge.  When the river is flooded, you’ll want to launch from the bridge and explore the woods in your kayak!  For the first few of my kayak years I longed to explore the woods when they were flooded.  Many times I could see great spots from the road but I could never find a good spot to launch.

Anyone home?

The Manhan and Mill rivers changed all that. When the Connecticut River is raging at flood stage the water in the Oxbow has nowhere to go. The same holds true with the rivers that empty into it.   Flood stage is really great.  This river stretches into both woods and fields.  In autumn floods you can be boating with bobbing pumpkins.  This spring Don and I came upon an abandoned camper half submerged.  One thing to be cautious of when kayaking a flooded river… your sense of direction can sometimes be confused.  More than once I thought I was going one way when in fact I was going the other.  I should bring a compass.

In short, this river is a gem to behold.

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