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I’ve had a couple of great paddling experiences on the Herring River. There is a boat launch right off Route 28 in West Harwich, and it’s an easy in and out. Being close to where we stay in Dennis Port it’s great for a quick morning trip before the Mrs. wakes up!!!

Launching from Route 28 and heading inland the river winds through a very large salt marsh. It winds so much you’ll soon realize you’re not going to get anywhere fast, but who’s in a hurry when your on vacation? Heading into a tidal marsh you’ll want to pay attention to the tide and launch when the tide can carry you in and back out so you don’t have to work too hard, especially if the sun is out.  More then once I’ve had to paddle against the current and it’s not easy. It kinda takes the fun of the day away.

Looking at Hermit Crabs!

Looking at Hermit Crabs!

Megan, Matt and my brother-in-law Don Croteau were with me on my first trip inland in 2002.  We enjoyed watching all the hermit crabs popping in and out of their little holes in the freshly exposed mud banks. We also saw several Canada Geese as well, but the real memory of the trip was the winding this way and that into the marsh. There were many off shoots and it seemed that it was way too easy to get lost in the maze. I guess we were pretty lucky to find our way in and back out without getting stranded inland during low tide! Now that would be a bad day! Lucky for us that never happened.

The Herring Marsh

The Herring Marsh

We’ve never made it all the way to the head waters of the river, which is at the herring ladder on the West Reservoir (be sure to read my blog) but we did make it to the Bells Neck bridge where we got out and walked up the trail a bit. If your into hiking this is a nice place to explore. The trail goes through the marsh and in-between the East and West Reservoir. Looking around the East Reservoir I could never find a good put in, but looking at one of my kayak books it seems that one of the offshoots of the Herring River goes there… Perhaps I’ll try to get into it one of these years!

On our way to the Sound

On our way to the Sound

On another trips we’ve paddled south, downriver into the Nantucket Sound.  The wind will determine just how this trip will be.  Windy weather will mean one way of the trip will be tougher then the other and when you hit the Sound you’ll be faced with either smooth paddling or waves that could easily swamp your kayak.  On one trip with Andrea in 2003, in our two man Old Town kayak, the waves were about two feet high. We paddled through many a wave with water splashing into the kayak and Andrea loving every rise and fall.  I do have to admit I enjoyed the trip as well, but for my daughter Andrea, who loves roller coasters this was her kind of kayaking.  Now I ask myself, would I do it again? The answer, NOT A CHANCE!  Here’s why, a few years after this trip my brother Ray gave me a kayaking video which described just how impossible it is to get back into a kayak without the proper equipment.  If your thinking of doing an Eskimo roll that can only be done if your hips are form fitted tightly into your seat and you have a kayak skirt that is capable of holding out the water.  As all my kayaking to date has been in an open kayak that is out of the question.  Next, if you do tip over your kayak, the only way you’ll be able to get back in is if you have a paddle float. I’ve yet to have purchased one.  So thinking back on how far we were out there, if we had been swamped by a wave, I shudder to think of the outcome.  I’ve been back a few times in this direction but never out to open water.  It is a nice trip even if your not going to do the ocean kayaking. Just looking at the waterfront properties and the boats moored is a nice morning.  Maybe someday I’ll hit the Powerball!

 

As I’m always looking for a new spot to kayak, I joined the Western Mass Kayaking Meet-Up group. Sadly it looks like most of their trips are either during the week or on the weekends in the afternoon. I’m an early morning kayaker so I may have to wait for a vacation or until I retire to do a few meet-ups with the group. Anyway, I was intrigued by Dotty’s description of Ashmere Lake. It sounded like it was my kinda lake with some nice areas to explore.

Mallard waiting for???

Mallard waiting for???

So on a beautiful Sunday morning in August, maps in hand, Don and I were off! We set our sites on Ashmere Lake. It’s a fairly long drive for us, over an hour, but the back roads winding through the countryside made it a pleasure.

When we arrived we looked for access as there was no public boat launches marked on the map. We tried a few side streets but ended up at a nice put-in right where Route 147 where it intersects the lake. We should have tried that spot first. There’s room for several cars and it’s a short carry down to the lake. There were a few fishermen which to me means, if there are fish, there will be birds!

Another Great Blue - I'm just visiting!!!

Another Great Blue – I’m just visiting!!!

We first put off to the south where we could see a fairly wide open expanse, we explored an open cove but then decided to head north through the culvert as the map indicated there would be a more interesting shoreline to explore in the northern section. Sure enough, Dotty was right in her description of the lake, the first cove we explored on the left was beautiful. A few houses tucked back on shore with great little wharfs and a well manicured walking path complete with a Great Blue Heron who looked like he owned it. I already didn’t want to leave… But, there was more to see. We continued northward hugging the shore and enjoying the Sunday morning calm of the lake. Once again I am longing to own any of the lakeside houses, all so inviting.

Camp Taconic - (Photo Credit - Don Samson)

Camp Taconic – (Photo Credit – Don Samson)

As morning progressed we began to hear the stir of many children and then the screams of excitement as they cheered for their favorite soccer team. We were drawn to a large camp which was positioned on the slope of a small hill which spilled into the lake. On one side we see the game going on and on the other side a collection of docks with many teams of kids participating in a variety of water games. The camp up on the hill was quite nice with quaint log cabins laid out all in a row. I later learned that this was Camp Taconic. I joked with a fisherman in a small rowboat what a nice “little rich kid” camp that was, he laughed in agreement.

The journey begins!

The journey begins!

Paddling back to the south we explored one of the many inlets. There was a big old Great Blue Heron that drew me in to the cattails. After he flew away I found a nice little water channel winding into the thick grove, I couldn’t resist… I paddled into the channel fighting my way every foot. I felt like I was Humphrey Bogart trying to get the African Queen out of the river to freedom. Great movie, but I could do without the leaches! Anyway, crazy as I am, I finally hit the end of the road not seeing anything of real significance. Time to turn around. Oh,,, that’s not possible when the water way is only the width of your kayak! Oh, but the adventure, and the memories of Bogart and Hepburn!

Heading back through the culvert between the north and south I realized how narrow it was, too small for any good size boats, in fact it is kinda tight even for a kayak but keeping your paddles tight its’ fine. I was sorry to leave and found myself wishing it was closer to home. Even still, I will return.

ImageIf you paddled in from the Sound and up the Bass River you would end up in Follins Pond.  A few years ago I had scouted the area and found a Town Landing on Follins Pond Rd, which is off Mayfair Rd.  It looked like a good spot to put in so I added to the list for a future visit to the Cape.  This year I decided it was time.  The weather was half of the story here as it had rained in the morning, but the iPhone said 0% to 5% chance of rain so I was off.  When I arrived at the landing the sky looked quite ominous but it was not raining.  Perhaps it would stay south of me, so I took the kayak off the car and loaded up.  Just as I was about to shove off it started to sprinkle so I put on my trusty poncho. Who’s afraid of a little rain?  Surely not I…

ImageI was able to shoot a quick picture of a Cormorant before the rain started to get a bit heavy.  As I was also in the middle of breakfast (usual kayaking fare,,, Dunkin Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich) I paddled to the shore and parked under an oak tree.  For a while I was sheltered from the rain but that quickly changed as the rain soon saturated the tree.

ImageWhile under the tree I heard the familiar call of an Osprey, he was hold up in the trees just ahead of me. It wasn’t long before he came out and circled, and joined by two others!  I knew that I had to see more, rain or not.  I headed out staying along the north shore of the pond.  It’s a fairly large pond with plenty of development around it. Normally, houses really take away from the natural beauty of a lake or pond, not here though. Much of the shoreline here must be protected and the sea grass is flourishing.  The homes that don’t have a beach or dock are built for the view. There was not one house I wouldn’t die for!

Knowing Osprey were here I paddled on, past many nice docks and speedboats. So, here is another good reason for kayaking in the rain, you don’t have to worry about being run over by a speedboat! I was the only one on the pond besides the Osprey, Cormorants, and Seagulls.  One thing was very evident, the fishing was great!  I saw Cormorants in the water pulling out their favorite food, eels.  Second time I saw one toss an eel up in the air to swallow it!  I saw a gull fly by with a crab in its beak. And to top it off, an Osprey with a good size fish sailed by, just a few feet off the water right if front of me. Another Osprey wanting to share was following him, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with that! They flew to the east shore and a little later he came back alone with the fish in tow! I wondered what he did to shake the unwanted company.

By the time I reached the northeast corner of the pond it was really pouring hard. The wind was driving from the west and that meant to get back I’d be paddling into the rain. I wanted to take a picture of myself, as I’m sure I was a sight!  I had my plastic yellow poncho over my lifejacket and my straw hat on. The hat kept my face dry by absorbing the water. Well that was good until I turned into the diving rain to go home.

This trip while it may sound like a washout was far from it. There were Osprey and gulls soaring the whole time I was on the pond.  I would do it again in the rain, in a minute!  And next time I might make it out of the pond and head into Kellys Bay and Dinahs Pond and just maybe into the Bass River.

Put in area below the dam with a Great Blue Heron flying off

I found this spot in my Quiet Water kayaking book. Reading about it sure sounded like a nice spot. So early on a cloudy Sunday morning I picked up my kayaking buddy Don and we loaded the kayaks on the car and headed to Dunkin Donuts to pick up fuel for the ride. Getting there from Chicopee was a bit of a trip but once again, a common theme, it was worth the effort. We took Rte. 20 to Rte. 8 south. The turn off was on the right just after passing the Chicken Farm. We stopped in the store after our trip, surprise… they had eggs!!! Interesting store, maybe this was how Walmart started? The put in was just a bit down the dirt road and below a man-made dam. As I said it was a cloudy day and there was a chance of showers, but hey, we’re diehards so we put in and shoved off. We made our way down river in quite the lazy fashion. There was a variety of beautiful scenery with hills, swamps, open grassland, and treed areas to enjoy. The river had plenty of twists and turns to make it very interesting. I don’t remember much in the way of birds in the area, it may have had something to do with the threat of rain.

Don pushing over a beaver dam

This was surly beaver territory! Going down river we first went over a ruptured beaver dam. This looked like a area that beavers might have tried rebuilding dams every few years and after floods come up dry. But soon after passing a large beaver lodge we hit a formidable beaver dam. Sitting there in front of such a magnificent beaver dam that stretched well over fifty feet and stood over ten feet high… Wow < Click here to see it! > ! You have to hand it to those beavers! This was probably the largest dam I’ve seen so far. As it turned out a light rain broke out just as we arrived at the dam. We took shelter under the trees,,,,

This was the second time Don and I enjoyed sitting in a kayak in the rain, it’s wonderful! The sound of the raindrops on the water and the lily pads is so soothing!!! < Click here to experience it! >

The Lodge

The trip down the Farmington was only about a mile but given the extra time we spent at this dam made it all worth while. This brought back many memories of books I’ve read that chronicled the lives of beavers and the pioneers that settled this great country. The Centennial and Astoria were a couple of great books that chronicled the lives of beaver trappers that I’ve read. Perhaps if born a few hundred years ago…

Oyster boat

In 2006 on one of my yearly Cape Cod vacations we stayed in Chatham.  Great spot overlooking the sound.  Looking for a new place to kayak I noticed Oyster Pond on a map and just had to go.  So on this trip Megan and I met up with my brother Don and we headed towards Oyster Pond River.  I’d spent many summer vacations in Harwich Port and Denis Port and from there Chatham was a frequent destination, but I never had a kayak on top of my car! Launching on Oyster Pond River from Vineyard Avenue, Oyster Pond was on the left. I thought the river was more like a harbor with so many boats moored there. Oyster Pond is what it is named for, as oyster farming here is what it’s all about. Not only were there plenty of oyster cages but it was the first time I observed an oyster shucking boat. Pretty interesting to see, but I wouldn’t want to work on one! The cages and machinery are sea weathered, dark and dirty. Not sure I want to eat oysters anytime soon either. Gee, I think I said that in my Nauset Marsh post. 🙂

Cormorant with breakfast…

Going out to the bay through the Oyster Pond River was not my idea of fun as this particular day brought hundreds of tiny black flies that we’re biting ferociously! We’ve had better days kayaking. Once we were clear of the river and in the bay it got better. Now there’s a benefit of kayaking that you normally don’t think of unless your experiencing a swarm of black flies or mosquitoes, once far enough out they don’t bother you. We watched a Cormorant swimming peacefully when suddenly his head went down and he came up with an eel! It sure was entertaining watching him toss it up in the air several time as he worked at swallowing it whole! Not something you see very often.

Megan – Harding Beach Point

As I said, in the pond and the river there were an assortment of small boats moored, but as we entered out into the bay they were much larger. There was one yacht sitting by itself near to mouth of the bay that I swear looked like a cruise ship! I felt so small next to it, but took solace in not having that gas bill! We paddled fairly hard across the bay to reach the other side which, looked very inviting with its long white sandy beach facing the bay and the dunes, sea grass and ocean beyond. Once there though, it seemed rather desolate and I could only think of having to battle the black flies again on the way back. However, desolate as it was, we did linger as it was very beautiful as well. I might go back here some day but being as a Great White was sighted in the harbor this year I might think twice and stay in the river and Oyster Bay.

Mirror Lake from the Inn

If a name was ever so just… In 2008 we decided to take a family vacation somewhere different so we booked a suite at the Mirror Lake Inn. It was a magnificent old mansion overlooking the lake. This is where the “Fuller Brush Man” went when he retired in case you didn’t know. 🙂 The Inn was truly a first class experience. The wood working and furnishings were superb. The view, the pools, and the Adirondack setting were all outstanding.

Let the games begin?

Most striking was a game room done up with such warmth that sitting among dozens of wild animals was so soothing. Had some great times here with the family.

The hotel had paddle boats and kayaks available to its guests so we tried both. Paddle boats weren’t worth a dam, maybe they were just bad as we could never get them to go in the direction we wanted. Kayaks on the other hand allowed us free reign around the lake! The dock and beach like the Inn were first class. The lake bordering the town was developed but the remainder was quite pristine. In the distance were beautiful Adirondack hills to round out the experience.

The town was definitely a bit worn with its memories of the 1980 Olympic winter games of past. But what made the week was the Iron Man Competition being held in town. It was abuzz with contestants running, biking, and swimming.

Lake Placid is also right in town, but sorry to say, I really didn’t find a good place to kayak on the lake. It was two or three times the size of Mirror Lake and had much more private development surrounding it that made access hard. So Mirror lake it was…

Ironmen! (and women too!)

The lake was set up for the Ironman competition with cones marking off the coarse for the triathlon swimmers. Just paddling around the course in the kayaks took quite a bit of time. Just imagine swimming it! They do a swim of 2.4 miles! Of course we kept our distance so not to distract them but we were still close enough to really experience the feat they were accomplishing. There were a couple of large groups of contestants taking their turns at it. When watching them close to shore I was amazed at the age span. You really had to marvel at their strength and stamina. Maybe it was just my take as I’m a lazy river kayaker 🙂

Black Duck – Black Sheep?

We saw Black ducks paddle the lake and really enjoyed watching a mom with her seven little ones, one of which was a lone yellow cutie. So was he not the black sheep of the family? When dining later that evening we watched as ducks waddled casually into the restaurant to our table. Actually it was quite fun eating while watching the ducks come in through the sliders and the waitress shoeing them right back out. While kayaking around we saw a wedding boat waiting under a makeshift boat house for the next bride and groom.

We took walks around the town and enjoyed a concert on the town green. While we listened on the lawn while others were floating on the lake! Wished that it where I was. We rode to neighboring sites.

Whiteface Mountain – View from the top…

We went up Whiteface Mountain in a gondola. So very beautiful up above 3,500 ft. One note, we were surprised they allowed mountain bikes up in the gondolas and more surprising allowed them down the slopes! We also took a day to visit Lake George. There we took a boat ride around the lake; seemed too big to kayak to me. We also went to a beautiful gorge nearby and walked into its depths.

“The Trill of Victory…”

Oh one more thing, on the way home we stopped at the Olympic Bobsled course. We just had to stop for the kids. Well, me too… In summer without the ice all that remains is cement; sounds pretty dangerous but I’m thinking slamming into an ice wall is equally as fatal. Anyway except for Diane, we were up for the adventure. The bobsled held the driver and two daredevils. With hard wheels on hard concrete it was a really fast, really bumpy, really jarring ride to the bottom. Would I do it again? No. The girls? Yes I’m sure.

This way from South Pond to Middle Pond

One Sunday morning I was looking at the map for a new experience. There it was, Congamond Lakes, and it was only a half hour away. There was a boat launch on the top of Middle Pond which would ensure an easy in and out. However, on arrival we found they wanted $5.00 per kayak to launch. My sad face must have struck a nerve as I was graciously given a map and shown where a good kayak put in was. The attendant had just bought kayaks and knew of a great spot on Congamond Road road just by the bridge between South Pond and Middle Pond. We were told “If you go by Crabby’s Cafe you’ve gone too far! Kayaks are better, they don’t pollute!”

There was a nice parking area right near the South Pond, the only caution here was a couple of large sink holes, so watch your step if you go. The water was very inviting, with only few boats out at that time of the morning. We were drawn to the right, behind Crabby’s, looks like a great place to have a meal and or drinks. We then went under the bridge into Middle Pond and made our way to the South Ramp. One good thing about state run boat ramps is they have “facilities”!  Of all the boats docked, a large proportion were pontoon boats.  It must be quite the way of life floating your summers away on a pontoon boat. Maybe when I get too old to get in my kayak I’ll think about one. 🙂

Like a kayaker enjoying the sun.
(Photo Credit – Don Samson)

We didn’t stay in Middle Pond long, as we liked what we saw in South Pond. Deciding that we weren’t going to stay long we decided to head to the east side of the pond for the morning shade. There’s a really great feeling you get when you paddle out of the sun into the cool morning shade. It is really revitalizing when you’re floating in a kayak with nowhere special to go. The spot we landed in was no exception. Trees overhung the water which was crystal clear and the bottom was covered with stones that had been worn smooth by the running waters of previous centuries. It’s a time like this when your kayaking with my brother Don that the conversation will inevitably turn to some new fact about the cosmos or other equally deep subject. Don is a great conversationalist and kayak buddy! I don’t have to ask him if we are going kayaking on Sunday mornings, it is assumed!

Grand-Daddy Blue (Photo Credit – Don Samson)

While sitting under the shade we spotted a Great Blue standing peacefully in the weeds on the nearby shore of a little cove.  We headed in to take a closer look.  He was a granddaddy for sure.  We watched him and he watched us for quite some time before he decided he wanted more privacy and flew off gackling.

As we came out of the cove our attention was shifted to some radio controlled sea planes flying the skies above.   There were three of them and they were doing some serious maneuvers.  Secretly I was hoping to see a mid-air collision…  Two came close once but I think that showed the skill of the pilots.  Heading into shore the pilots were on the nearby shore. We watched as one of the sea planes landed and was taxing in the water around their dock when out of the blue a second seaplane flew in from my left right across my bow only a few feet away!  It could have been a murder by seaplane! Did he know I was secretly hoping to see his plane destroyed in mid-air?  Maybe I should have known I was in his landing zone… or maybe he should have known he was in mine!!!  In the end I escaped to live another day to blog about another yet to be experienced paddle in my kayak.