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Quabog 003The Quaboag Pond and River was an exceptionally nice paddle. As I’m always partial to rivers and streams both times here we paddled to the river.

In June of 2002 I did this paddle with my brother Ray his son Anton and my daughter Megan.  Gee that was 14 years ago! It was a great outing for us and the kids as much then as my paddle this year with my brother Don.  The most memorable part of our first trip was watching a seaplane do about 20 landings and takeoffs on the lake.  We figured he was a beginner so we stayed out of his way of course!  I can remember my expert brother Ray pointing out all the plants and animals we saw.  Who would ever have known what a bladder-wort looks like and why they exist if not for him?  Ray pointed out the little flowers as if something sacred.  After years of kayaking rivers and ponds I now know why.  Life on this little planet of ours is so precarious!  Seeing how evasive plants spread and change the balance  is sometimes frightening!  To think that someday a beautiful pond will no longer be navigable for the weeds is very sad.  Too many ponds are already like that in late summer.

IMG_6079Looking back at the pictures this first trip was quite the same route we took in 2015.  On that second paddle in August of 2015 with my brother Don we launched from Quaboag St / Shore Road near the mouth of the East Brookfield River.  There is a pubic boat launch right there as well if you’d like to put-in on the ramp.  On this day, we decided to shoot for the Quaboag River instead of exploring the East Brookfield as it looked a bit overgrown. It does look to be a great paddle as it meanders north to Lake Lashaway.  I might try it earlier in the season next time.

IMG_6062aThe Quaboag River turned out to be wise choice!  The paddle was nice watching swallows flying to and fro above the water at mach speeds picking off their morning breakfast.  The real treat however was the river.  Compared to the last time I was here the river was a masterpiece of vibrant color as the magenta flowers from the plants lining the sides of the meandering river were in full bloom.  Beautiful!  Not sure of the name of these plants (Ray what are they???) but I just parked my kayak into a patch of them and took in the color.  I watch the bees pollinating the flowers one after another. Another wonder of nature we have to be careful not to loose.

IMG_6098When we were putting in there was another couple  doing the same.  They were heading south to Quacumquasit Pond for the fishing.  We found quite a few lone fishermen in the Quaboag River too.  Clearly there are fish to be had here if that’s what you’re after.   On our way out we drove down to Lake Road to take a look at the Quacumquasit and found it had a great ramp to get into the pond which was right next to the inlet to the Quaboag Pond.

I’ll close with “I’ll be back!”   Looks like three really great paddles here, one down two to go!

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IMG_2239For years we’ve summered in Dennis Port and kayaked without fail on the West Reservoir. Always looking for a new spot we’ve frequently passed the Swan Pond on the left hand side of Depot Road. As there never seemed to be a put in marked on any of my maps we continued to pass it by.  This year however, I found the town landing pinned on the “Launch Sites” application I just downloaded so I decided to give it a try one morning with my oldest daughter Danielle.  The launch was very nice with plenty of parking and a nice sandy put in. There were no signs on Depot Rd. but the put-in on Clipper Lane is not too hard time find by taking Stafford Circle or Otis Kelly Road.

IMG_7738The morning we launched it was cloudy but calm.  From Depot Rd and from looking at the maps it always looked like a private lake with a shoreline of beach houses. While natural shorelines are always preferable to me it’s nice to see how the other half live, the other half that have water views that is. Needless to say I’d be happy if I owned any of them on this pond. Of course my preference would be one with a per-existing dock, however, I did like the creativity of the house that had its own little lighthouse!  I was somewhat surprised that there was some substantial undeveloped shoreline to enjoy and a small island that we did not take the time to explore.  The natural shoreline was mostly on the south west quadrant that leads into the Swan Pond River. Most vacationers know this river as the place to rent Kayaks while in Dennis Port. Swan Pond River often resembles a great kayak autobahn. I’ve never had the inkling to try putting in here while there are so many other great un-populated waterways nearby.

 

IMG_7718As with any water on the Cape we saw Ospreys, Kingfishers, Swans, Mallards, Cormorants and Gulls. A few provided some pretty good photo opportunities. After a dozen years of kayaking I know it’s all about being at the right place at the right time to get that picture that you want to hang on the wall. This year that Osprey picture happened on the nearby West Reservoir.  I’ll post that picture on that blog.

 

IMG_7427There are so many great places to kayak in Massachusetts you would think we live in the land of a thousand lakes. I’m sure there are not that many but we have our fair share. What is really surprising to me is the number of rivers, ponds and lakes within populated cities that are overlooked by the masses who don’t really appreciate the beauty of what Mother Nature has given them.  Taking the time to explore these gems is a favorite kayaking pastime for me. Most of the time, like on Nashawannuck Pond, you’ll find that while some of the waterway is near a city or road that can detract from the quiet calm of nature, there is often a pleasant haven waiting for you at another end or inlet. It’s in these little havens that I often find myself asking why I’m here alone; why others haven’t discover the beauty?  After asking, I then waste no time in laying back in the kayak to soak it all in. Usually with the morning sunshine poking through trees that are  providing shoreline shade so welcomed on a warm summer’s day.

IMG_7413Nashawannuck Pond provided such an experience.  Launching from the public park in the city center the first photo op is the great American flag suspended over the pond.  Surely it’s the focal point to everyone passing over the Route 141 Cottage Street bridge on their way to work, school, or daily activity.  We were drawn to the park as the put in by a pin on the “Launch Sites” iPhone application, it was not a great launch site. Once we paddled south across the pond we found an official state launch site, complete with a concrete ramp and port-a-potty! Next time, we’ll take West Green Street off Route 141 for an easier put in.

First order of business,,, coffee and breakfast sandwiches while floating under a great shade tree.  It’s always a pleasure kayaking with my brother Don, he’s a great conversationalist who knows when it’s time to sit in silence to enjoy the moment.   With breakfast behind us we paddled off to explore the further reaches of the pond.  Next to our launch was the cemetery so as you can imagine the shoreline there was quite peaceful, next up was Nonotuck Park.  The only thing visible from the park was an amphitheater over looking the water, I imagine a great place for school children to watch nature shows.  On this Sunday morning, there was only a lone fisherman who did not seem to be having luck but was enjoying the day as was I.

IMG_7404There were a few houses on the pond that had small wharfs and  a few had manicured lawns right down to the water but mostly it was a tree lined wonderland.  The birds were signing and the sun was shining, what more could you ask for?   How about a chance to get a great shot of a Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker?  This was my day!  I spotted him on the bank side by side with a Baltimore Oriole. Seemed like an odd couple but they soon went each their own way.  The flicker however stuck around to feed on a tree right in front of me.  I felt lucky as any I’ve seen in the past were deep in the shadows of the woods not conducive to my lens.  There was certainly enough here on this visit for a return trip some day and I’d encourage anyone thinking of kayaking to go for it.  If you live in Massachusetts there are plenty of great kayaking spots close to where you live.  Everyone has their favorite spots but for me it’s about discovering the beauty of each new pond, lake, or river.

IPhone Pano of the put-in

iPhone Pano of the put-in

In August of 2015 Diane and I tried a new spot on the Cape called Ocean Mist for a few days. It was right on the Sound not but a few hundred feet from the mouth of Parkers River which looked very inviting on the map with several small ponds and a few open marshes to explore. However, when 6:00 AM arrived I found it a bit to breezy to put off from our beach. So as I had to find a Dunkin Donuts anyway, I headed to Route 28 to see if I could find another good put in. On the way I found a perfect spot right near the old ZooQuarium and Captain Parker’s Pub.   I knew this was going to be good when I walked over to the water line to look closer at the put in a Great Blue Heron took to flight squawking as I interrupted his morning peacefulness. Loading up my gear I realized I forgot my camera! What a tragedy! Oh well, not going back now, besides, I had my trusty iPhone so let’s see how it does.

As I was north of Route 28, getting to the mouth of the river and into Lewis Pond I would have had to go through the underpass. As the tide was high and going out, the constricted size of the tunnel caused the water move real fast, I thought there was no way I’d be able to paddle back up so I pushed on up river thinking I’d make it into Seine Pond and maybe into Long Pond further up.

A Perfect Morning

A Perfect Morning for Mourning Doves (iPic)

Pretty quickly I realized I was in for a treat. I was face to face with a Green Heron. He was sitting right in front of me on the boulders leading up to the underpass. Where was my camera? Moving on I see a man-made Osprey stand with a large nest. Then I saw more Green Herons, probably about four or five, more than I’ve ever seen together in one trip.   The Herons held my attention most of the way up the river. Then there was the sound of Ospreys. They were in the scrub pines watching over the calm of the river in the early morning. I saw three natural Osprey nests in the pines as I made my way to Seine Pond. Normally I haven’t seen many Osprey nests in trees as every year when the Osprey return to their nest they add on which increases the weight and they become too heavy for the trees and fall.  Going up river I thoroughly enjoyed watching the receding river expose the banks which were teaming with hermit crabs and mussels.  The sea grass was another sight to behold.  It seemed shorter than other mash areas I’ve observed. In one of the pine trees I spotted a couple of Mourning Doves.  A little out of placed I thought, but then it occurred to me I was the one probably out of place. This was their home most of the year, I was lucky to come by for a visit once or twice a season.

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Rounding the bend (iPic)

At the end of Parkers River as I rounded the bend into the pond there was a small windmill. All metal, it was probably put there to monitor coastal wind or water conditions. Seine Pond opening before me was larger than I had expected. All Pitch Pine on the right side, and several nice lake houses on the left. Further back I could several tall reed patches and I guessed that is where the feeder brook or river led up to Long Pond. I never found the entrance; it looked like the northern shore was nestled into a hillside not into other pond. No worries, a flock of swans caught my attention next. Congregated behind a bank of reeds I couldn’t count them, all I could see were long white necks. As they began filing out into the pond I followed and counted. Well over fifty, the largest flock I’ve ever seen in one place. Usually I’ll see one or two families, not fifty adults! I had been wondering why I’ve seen two names for this pond. My guess is the original name was Seine Pond and somewhere along the line Swan Pond came into being because of the large population residing here.

Paddling back I enjoyed a variety of gulls on their way to who knows where. There were Herring Gulls, Lesser and Greater Back Gulls and Bonaparte Gulls. I saw several Cormorants as well. Some were flying high overhead, while some raced across the pond two feet above the surface. I also witnessed a few takeoffs which is always a treat. One cormorant took off directly in front of my kayak, it was pretty cool watching him lift his wings up for that first burst that created the lift to rise him out of the water, from there it was a combination of wing and paddle power as he took off in the running takeoff fashion that is so typical of the Cormorant.

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Tree Swallows (iPic)

Back into the river the Tree Swallows became the next important inhabitants to observe. There were a couple of dead scrub oaks with flocks of swallows resting from the morning feeding I had witnessed on my paddle upriver. I heard several Catbirds crying in several spots along the river, and then I saw the Ospreys again. This time two of them were fending off an intruding band of crows. The crows seemed to reside in the woods further back and I was thinking that this must be a fairly common ritual as crows always seem to be the aggressor looking for a free meal.

As I rounded the last bend back to the launch I noticed how much fiercer the current had become under the Route 28 bridge, the tide had quite an effect. Had I chosen to go down river there would have been no to get back to the launch and judging from what I knew the steep banks looked like on the other side the only recourse would have been to paddle back down and out to the sound and around the beach in front of our hotel.

Well, getting out at the landing I was thankful, and the memories of vacations past when my parents took us to the Zooquarium in what was probably its final days.

Osprey in flight!

Osprey in flight!

I did go back the same spot the next morning this time with my camera and was I glad that I did. The second trip was dominated by Ospreys. Both on the way up and back they held my attention. Several times I would just sit beneath them and wait for them to fly off. It’s times like this that your rewarded with a great shot.

Diane and I did take an evening walk to the Red Jacket Inn to look at the mouth of the river. Lewis Pond was right across the river from our vantage point. I looked nice but not enough to entice me to it more than another trip to Parkers River again sometime. I hope the put in remains the same as thinking back on it the bank was really too high to get a kayak no matter what the level of the water. However, there was a perfect little shoot dug into the bank in which my single kayak glided into the water nicely. I’d like to thank that nice person that took the time  🙂

 

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Update: August 2016.

I visited the Cape a few times this summer and on the second trip I once again visited the river and pond with goals of a) trying to find a safer put-in and b) enjoying the river and taking a few more pics!

Last year I paddled north along the east side of the lake and found nothing so this winter I looked at Google Maps along the west coast and found a few possible spots.  I still launched from the Route 28 spot because I knew it however it was a little tricky.  I think the reason I choose it was that I enjoyed the river much more than that pond.  I sat in my kayak with a coffee and breakfast sandwich watching a Green Heron settle into a comfortable position as he waited for his breakfast to swim by!  There was also a great backdrop for viewing in the Osprey nest and perch that held three adults and at least a few offspring.   I could have stayed there for a long time but I had business.

I paddled against the current as the tide was going out. Upriver I paddled by the small windmill. I had done a bit more research on it as well, it’s purpose was not as I thought  but instead it is being used to pump air into the pond to help it’s oxygen level.  Live and Learn!

Paddling up the west bank searching for the potential put-in I actually found two.  The first was a small beach that I was afraid might be private.  I got out to investigate and it turns out it’s an Association Beach.  I asked a gentleman watering his lawn in the house across the  street if it was OK to park and launch from here and he said it sure would be OK.  After thanking him I got back in and paddled a hundred more feet or so and found the road I had seen on Google.  Lake Road ends right in the pond!  Right where I want to be next time out!

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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.