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Archive for August, 2012

Cotuit Bay – Cotuit Cape Cod

Cotuit is where Jeff’s Uncle Walter has a summer home that he shares with the family. Andrea and Jeff have been lucky to be able to use it several times. A few years ago they let me use an ocean kayak to try it out. I took it out to the Bay for a spin. To tell the truth it was not very comfortable and I’ve made up my mind I would never buy an ocean kayak. I need comfort! The seat is the most important thing to concentrate on when buying a kayak!

There is a nice launch on Old Shore Road off of Putnum Ave. The only issue is parking, it’s very limited and your supposed to have a Barnstable parking permit. Needless to say I’ve been lucky…

Standing tall in the bay

I’ve been out on the bay once in 2010 on the ocean kayak, once with Jeff in 2011 when we went across the harbor and once with Jeff and Andrea this year. It is great paddling through boats of all kinds anchored in the harbor and sometimes stopping to talk with the sailors aboard. Across the harbor is The Grand Island… It’s grand all right; I’d say the average price of one of the mansions on the bay would be about three million dollars!

Osprey family in nest, Rich family watching!

I especially like one that had it’s very own Osprey nest! Imagine being able to watch the family grow year round through the comfort of your living room, den, or hammock! Jeff and I made it to Sampson’s Island and then half way through the channel that goes to West Bay.

Sampson Island

Sampson’s Island is a protected Audubon wildlife sanctuary. We got out to look for the terns that nest here. You can watch them darting around but they were too fast and far away from me to get good pictures. The interior grasslands are roped off to humans and dog are banned from the island. It’s worth a stop anyway as it’s a great experience; it’s nature at its finest!

When going through the channel with Jeff, Dead Neck Island is on the right, it was here that we really enjoyed watching hundreds of hermit crabs retreating from the shore en masse into the weeds as we moved our kayaks closer then inching back the same way after we were still for a few minutes. Every time we moved, they moved! Outstanding!

Osprey after lunch

On the trip to Sampson Island in 2012, while waiting for Jeff and Andrea to arrive I sat in my kayak and watched an Osprey dive feet first into the bay for breakfast. He then flew up and perched on top a tall pine where I watched him preen his feathers for about a half hour before he decided to fly off to who knows where. When they arrived we made our way out to the Sampson’s Island. For Andrea and Jeff it was about collecting sea shells on the beach. Andrea was happy to get some great ones for her collection. While she was collecting her shells I watched a gull open a clam he had found. After several attempts of flying the clam up about fifty feet and dropping it hoping to hit a rock to break it open he was successful. So fun to watch.

Returning home we found that Cotuit Bay is hard to kayak in the wind so pick a calm day. There was a storm approaching and the wind was kicking up the waves making it a tough paddle back. But as with just about all my kayak trips it was worth the effort.

So if your ever in the neighborhood bring your kayak, camera, and binoculars and enjoy another great kayak spot. I sure loved Cotuit Bay and would not mind living here,,, or anywhere on the Cape as far as that goes!

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Put-in above dam looking towards Chicopee Center

I’ve just about been on every stretch of the Chicopee River that’s kayakable since I first put in with my brothers Ray and Don 12years ago at Red Bridge. The river between Chicopee Center and Chicopee Falls has always eluded me. A few years ago we found a trail of Granby Road but it was very long and steep. Don and I walked it and in my mind we were going to return someday with the kayaks. But it never happened probably because we both knew the carry back up would have been murder.
Then last winter while I was at the Chicopee Library I scouted the river behind its grounds. I found a path down to the corner of the fence and continued through to the newly built bike path. That day I took pictures of the dam and mouth of the Chicopee canal. I took a walk up the bike path along the river until about a hundred yards up I saw a trail that went down the embankment to the waters edge. It looked like a great kayak put in. I said to myself, return I shall. This spring i took Andrea and Don down to see it. I could tell Don was reluctant to come back to give it a try.

I’ve suggested several times this year we should try it and each time we found reasons to go elsewhere. But on this beautiful cool August morning I brought my kayak wheels and there was no talking me out of it. We strapped both kayaks on and descended to that spot. Going down was not that bad.

Yet another Great Blue…

We put in and I immediately knew it was going to be a great paddle. The water just above the dam was quite calm. There was a Great Blue Heron on the opposite shore. He watched us for awhile before flying off with a gak gak gak… There were ducks aplenty, Cormorants, swallows, and more Great Blues along the way. Looking up the embankment on the right were the backs of the businesses and soon the Chicopee Electric Light Department. There was some debris along this side of the river but I am told that the Chicopee River Watershed Council has done a lot of cleanup here. Kudos to Ralph Shrewsbury and his gang!!! I do have to make it to one of their meetings some time…

On the left side going upriver was nothing but green trees. You could guess that there were houses and streets behind them but nothing visible. Was just so nice. The river grass flowing downriver beneath to surface made a finishing touch for a perfect paddle.

River view of UNIROYAL

Seen better days…

Before we saw the old FISK buildings looming in front of us. The FISK later UNIROYAL has been closed for over thirty years now. In its heyday it was a booming tire factory and probably a big polluter of the river. Now, it’s just sitting there waiting for demolition. Looks like nature is trying to reclaim it while waiting for that, but that will take a long time too. For now it is home to birds that we could see from our kayaks and probably, rats, bats, skunks, and whatever else you could imagine.

We made it a little further past the plant to within sight of the FACEMATE tower in Chicopee Falls. Sitting quietly on the shallow pebbles we had gone as far as we could. Maybe when the river is higher we could make it to the falls? Anyway, sitting there for a rest was very nice. We could hear the wreckers working on the FACEMATE buildings making way for the new Senior Center. Gee I’ll get to use it when I retire in a few years! Hope it has a great river view!

Heading back we enjoyed more of the same. The only new addition was the roar of the turbines that were now making electricity at the CELD. Other then that we have the portage back up the embankment to the car to look forward to. 😦 it was in the end not too bad, but Don and I both agreed this would not be one of our frequent kayak spots. But I must say I certainly am glad I found and conquered it! 🙂

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Swift River – Belchertown

Megan and the three ducks…
(Photo Credit – Don Samson)

The Swift River has always been one of our favorites. I have probably been back here over forty times. When I first returned ten years ago to kayak it immediately bought back some great memories of fishing with my friend Neil and his dad. Neil’s dad was an avid fisherman who took us to some of his favorite spots on the Swift River. The beginning of the Swift right below Quabbin Reservoir was a beautiful spot for fly fishing, and further down river was great for casting off the banks. Seeing these spots after an absence of thirty five or so years was thrilling. Just as beautiful now as it was then.

The launch is off Route 9 just east of the main Quabbin entrance, look for the sign to the Fish Hatchery on East St. At the end of East a left onto Cold Spring street and a quick right will put you at the launch. From the boat launch we love going both up and down river. Each way will provide a great experience as both are uniquely beautiful. Oh and by the way, stop by the fish hatchery to feed the fish sometime too, kids big and small will love it!

Open Marsh on the Swift – Fragrant Water Lilies and Pickerelweed

For many years we returned to find the same lone man in a canoe every time. We soon learned it was John Berry, an old guy in a homemade racing canoe with one lung. He knelt in his canoe just so and paddled on one side. John had some good stories about the races and racers in his past. He had a lot of knowledge of the Swift, as we came to find John was there almost every day of the year. In winter he was seen chopping ice with a hook in the end of his paddle! Some years he’s made it into mid January. He told of days past before they built the fish hatchery. Of how their waste goes into the river and has caused rapid growth of green weeds in the water. Makes him mad as it used to be clear all the way to the dam. But to many of today’s kayakers the flora on the river’s bottom is a draw. To see the vibrant green leaning down river on a sunny day is stunning especially when you spot a Rainbow or Brook Trout swimming by. John also called the Swift a Kayak Super Highway! No wonder when you see how many there are on a sunny Sunday! (We go early to try to beat the crowds.)

Louise, I, and the Spider in the morning fog
(Photo credit Don Samson)

Don in the morning fog

I’ve been here with so many friends and family over the years. Many times at their request to return. Each may have their own reasons why it’s a favorite. The clear water or the fact that you can see the brook and rainbow trout swimming underneath maybe but for me it’s just the feel of the river, both closed in by the deep forest or opened up to pastures and marshes. The morning fog on the water is really great here as the water is always fifty degrees year round. There is nothing like being on the river in early morning in a fog hanging over the water. It’s surreal! Or on what’s going to be a hot summer day you might experience some great variations in the temperature of the air. What a feeling it is to paddle into a pocket of “refrigerated air” just sitting invisibly before you. You’ll ask yourself “Where did that come from?”

House by the dam down river

There are time of quiet when you might be alone to enjoy the quiet beauty or your able to pass pleasantries with people who live on the banks, passing fishermen and kayakers . These days all will have something to say about losing the dam. It in real danger of being lost. See the Swift River Preservation Association if you’d like to help! “Save Our Swift!!!”

The Cedar Waxwing!

There were also some great birding experiences here. One I’ve enjoyed countless times is just listening to the Veery singing in distant trees. This is one bird song I’ll never forget, its ethereal! By far my favorite. I so look forward to hearing it again. You’ll have to paddle north river to go by his favored home deep in the neighboring forest. Another lucky experience was happening upon a small flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding on bugs over the river. The Cedar Waxwing is in my opinion the most beautiful bird in this part of the God’s little earth. The buff yellow breast, the “Lone Ranger” mask, and the slicked back head feathers make it like no other. These birds are nomads so finding them is sheer luck. Feeding time is mesmerizing to watch as I described in my Mill River blog. This one Sunday, I watched with Don, Alice and Tim as they fed. Every time they returned to the lay down it was a perfect photo opportunity! We just hunkered down against the lay down and took pictures for thirty minutes or so. I have this picture framed along side a Great Blue and an Osprey in out living room. Beautiful!!!

I should also tell of the time I flipped and went for a unexpected swim! I had my nine year old nephew Anton with me in my kayak and we were headed down river with Ray, Don, Danielle, and Megan when approaching a little maze of lay downs. I noticed Danielle was going backwards. I warned her that she wouldn’t make it through that way and she should turn herself. As she did she pinned us against the second lay down and in a split second we were both in the water! I grabbed hold of Anton who was paddling across the river towards his dad and then my camera. We struggled to get Anton into Danielle’s kayak without dumping her. I had to float my Old Town down river about a quarter mile before finding a spot I could stand firm to be able to right the vessel for the wet trip home. Lost a cell phone and my camera was never the same. It was a long wet trip home but at least we were all safe.

Fall on the Swift

I’ve talked about houses on the river, there are quite a variety and most will send you wishing they were yours. I did look at one with Diane once but alas,,, it was not meant to be. Oh well, I can be content with my Sunday visits for now. There is more I could say about the Swift but I’m thinking I should leave some of it’s gems out so as to leave some new discoveries for you as I’m sure you’ll want to paddle the Swift soon….

Enjoy!

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