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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

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 Don’s number one kayaking sight for sure. Every week for the past few years if I say where do you want to go it will be here.

A Buttonbush

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. Then there is 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! 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.

Cedar Waxwing swooping in for a dragonfly!

Cedar Waxwing swooping in for a dragonfly!

Cedar 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. Other memorable trips might be spent watching a variety of other beautiful birds; Great Blue Herons, Red-Tail Hawks, Pileated Woodpecker, Virgina Rail, Great Egrets, Red-bellied, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Swallows, Song Sparrows, Swans, and Mallards. Or there is the occasional glimpse of a White-tailed Deer, and Beavers… One year the beavers built a pretty long dam across a section of the river that required getting out of your kayak to get over. One time I came face to face with a big one look down on my as I passed him on coming round a bend. Another time we just sat there and watched him swim back and forth guarding his territory.

The Mill more then anywhere else changes every time you go. It changes with the seasons, the weeks, and the day! The bird or animal you see makes a difference 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 square miles of lush forest. As with the Manhan, kayaking in the flooded forest is a real treat.

To be continued…

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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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