Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunset Cruise Trouble

The last days of summer are passing quickly and so is the opportunity to just hop in the kayak during the daytime.  Today was just so lovely, but we weren't able to break away midday to play on the river.

My brother, who recently received a kayak for his birthday from his wife, called me at 6:00 p.m. and said he could go out for a paddle.  A sunset paddle would be a first for both of us! Yes!

By the time we met up and put our boats in at the West St. area it was around 7:00 p.m.  There was a gentleman fishing who asked us if we had our life vests (which we did have but tucked inside our kayak).  It seemed odd that he would mention it, but we went on our merry way without too much thought.

The view was spectacular.  There were some stratus clouds hovering around the sun which seemed to magnify the beauty.  We came upon a great blue heron who was not really happy we were in his territory. He was sure to let us know with his loud and menacing squawk.  Many fish were jumping at the water bugs that were scurrying atop the water.

We came upon a couple of fishermen in a motor boat who were enjoying the peacefulness too.  At one point we heard a paddler coming up behind us who was heading downstream with great speed.  It seemed others were enjoying their sunset cruises as well.

Well, we got caught up in the beauty of the marshy area of the Charles River.  The evening got away from us when we realized it was starting to get dark.  (It seemed like we had paddled for only 15 minutes when it was actually around 45 minutes.)

It was getting dark and I left my flashlight in the car.  (I'm the experienced kayaker and I should have known better!) We assured ourselves that there would still be some light till 8:45ish.  How wrong we were!  It seemed like a dimmer switch had been instantly lowered and the sun along with it!

Our restful paddling turned into a more steady, more urgent, more powerful paddle.  All of a sudden our senses were more in tune to our surroundings as we could no longer depend on our sight.   Woosh, woosh, woosh.....coming from behind we could hear a fellow paddler moving rapidly - no doubt trying to return to the same area as us.  As it turns out, it was the kayaker who had been headed downstream.

Affixed to the top of his boat was a huge spot light (not yet turned on).  "Do you have a light?  No?  Is this your first time out here???"  We must have seemed like country bumpkins to him.  He offered to show us the way with his light.  "We're fine, we're fine - we are almost back," I said (almost to reassure myself).  "Okay-You should be okay but watch the rocks near the end," he shouted as he rounded the bend.   The rocks-hadn't given them a thought.  Sure would be scary to bump into one of those in the dark!

After that, the two of us got rather quiet and focused on our paddling.  We were only about 15 minutes away from our destination.  Secretly, I was admonishing myself because I truly knew better than to be out that late on the river without proper equipment.   I'll admit I was a bit nervous (Dad, it reminded me of our hike in the White Mountains).

Around 8:30 we pulled into the landing.  "Are you alright? Do you want me to shine my headlights on you?" we heard the now familiar voice in the parking lot say.  It was our friend.  We politely declined his offer (mostly because we felt silly about the whole thing).  With a little effort, we exited our boats and loaded them onto the car.

Next time we will carry flashlights, life vests strapped to the top of the canoe (not stowed away), a whistle and a charged phone.  Being on the river in the dark is not something I would like to repeat as there are too many potential pitfalls.  Planning ahead and making sure we have the right equipment will ensure a safe, fun trip.

Our adventure will be remembered for it's beauty and lesson learned!

View West Street, Medfield, MA in a larger map

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

River Rescue

Well, it wasn't quite the 'river rescue' you might picture in your mind...it was more of a 'rescue to allow us to GET on the river'.  Here's what happened.

It was a sweltering Sunday (July 31st) and three of us decided to head out to one of our favorite areas on the Charles River, called Peter's Point (see map below).  We arrived with our boats in the back of our trusty red truck.  As we were getting ready to take the boats out of the truck, one of us, I'll not name her (okay it was me), closed the truck door with keys, credit cards, wallets and gloves on the front seat.  Although we trust our fellow kayakers, we were uncomfortable at the thought of leaving for a 2 hour paddle with that in plain sight.  A call was made to bring the spare key so we could collect our things and begin.

Not to worry, Dave M. was on his way (after he finished his grocery shopping!).  Luckily, we had packed some cold beverages in the back of the truck.  We unloaded the boats - set them up at the edge of the river, then sat in the shade with a cool drink.

What happened next, made the inconvenience of locking ourselves out pass quickly.  Pulling up along the river bank was an orange-topped, 17 foot long, sleek-looking kayak.  It approached the shore with ease and it's owner hopped out.  What a different kayak from ours! The owner, a young man from the Netherlands, was more than happy to give us a tour of his kayak.  The water-tight hatches can fit a week's worth of camping gear. The rudder, which folded up for transporting, is operated by foot-peddles inside the cockpit.  He surprised us all by asking us if we wanted to try it out.  Dee, the outgoing, kayaker of the bunch, jumped right in a started paddling around the area.  What a treat!

Not too much later, David came to the 'rescue'. We opened the doors, got our gear and off we went for a lovely paddle.  Never a dull moment on the Charles!   

Next time you're looking for a great place to paddle, try Peter's Point out of Dover, MA

View Peter's Point, Dover, MA in a larger map

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Perfect Day to Paddle!

For days the air conditioning has been running non-stop because it has been so hot outside.  Then last night a quick storm passed by bringing with it a change in temperature.

The result today: A perfect day to paddle along one of the sweetest spots on the Charles River.  The air was crisp but warm, and the sky was a deep blue with billowy, white clouds which reflected beautifully upon the water.

We arrived mid-morning at our destination.  After transporting the kayaks down a somewhat short, but narrow passage, Lisa, Carol Ann and I quickly pushed off the shore heading upstream at the Route 27 bridge for an afternoon of respite away from work and daily chores.

What kind of plant is this?
Although it was only Thursday, we were soon to realize that we were not the sole visitors of the Charles this day.  We no sooner rounded the first bend, and we passed by 3 other women kayakers (playing hooky from work!).  Surprisingly, we passed by a total of 11 kayakers and a gentleman fishing from atop an old railroad bridge.  Even still, we traveled the waterway with the feeling that we were the only people on the river!  It was just lovely!

There were many turtles on logs and rocks taking the opportunity to catch a little sun. We saw a couple of great blue herons, who seemed bothered that we invaded their space. (They flew away just a short distance upstream, only to have to fly away again when we passed by.)  Carol Ann seemed to think that one Blue Heron was playing a game with us!

Which way to the Charles Cafe?
One of the recurring discussions along the paddle was trying to identify a certain plant.  I of course insisted it was purple loosestrife while Carol Ann insisted it was NOT...after further researching, I am publicly saying I was wrong and Carol Ann was correct - that plant is NOT the loosestrife!  Which makes me wonder what this plant is....if you know, please leave let me know in the comment section!

Other highlights of our trip included coming upon a couple of men fishing in kayaks.  We witnessed one of them catch a 16 inch bass - nice! Another highlight was when we pulled up on the shore at the Charles Cafe, in Millis for lunch.  We stayed there just long enough to eat some delicious sandwiches and have a glass of ice tea on the outdoor deck which overlooks the river and chat about our day.  We then returned downstream to finish off the 5 mile round-trip paddle.

The Charles River continues to provide a peaceful interlude and mini-vacation from our daily activities.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Butterflies, Beavers 'n Bats on the Charles River

After six days of grayness and rain we were surprised by the most beautiful day ever.  The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was mild - perfect for a kayak adventure.

We decided to stay fairly close to home and push off from Forest Street.  The plan: to head downstream to the Shattuck Reservation,
then head upstream toward the Rt. 115 Bridge and some fast water!

As we neared the water's edge we were greeted by an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.  She flitted around us gaily as if she was singing "Quick, get on the river! Quick!"

Downstream: This part of the Charles River is rather shady and not too wide.  There were some downed trees that required a little easy maneuvering.  It was near one of these trees that we spotted the first of two beavers who was swimming quietly along the edge of the river.  He scooched away quickly.  

Upstream: As we paddled along the river,  we were parallel to the Cedariver  trail which is in Millis (which I had hiked a few weeks ago).  It was rather quiet except for the birds singing happily on this beautiful day.  We saw redwing black-birds, grackels and a majestic blue heron.  Another beaver graced us with his presence but swiftly made his way into the thicket.  

We went under the Forest Street Bridge and thought for sure we would hit our heads on the top as it sloped downward.  Luckily, we were able to make it by ducking just a bit.  We caught a glimpse of someone's handiwork -  there on the inside of the bridge wall was scrawled the image of a shark! 

At the 115 bridge the fast water looked very enticing.  The push was on to paddle up through 25 yards of rushing water to the bridge.  We paddled and paddled - it was as if we were standing still in the water.  After exhausting ourselves we gave in and let the water take us back down stream. A fun ride for sure. (However, it was a good reminder that when in fast water one needs to be careful.)

On the return trip we spotted a bat...very unusual indeed (check out the heading: Health Information ).  We did paddle a little faster after seeing that little creature.  Soon we were landing back at Forest Street.  The day was a beauty, and we decided it was a PERFECT day to be on the river.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Marathon Monday - South Natick Dam

Normally we would be standing on Route 16 cheering on the Boston Marathoners, but today the river was calling us.

Arriving at the South Natick Dam area of the Charles River, we quickly unloaded our boats into a pine grove then set out for a paddle on the river.  The day was bright, sunny but a bit chilly at around 51 degrees.  The strong southwest wind made the temperature feel even cooler.
Paddling upstream was rather difficult as the current was fairly strong.  Our newest kayaker looked as though she were standing still while paddling under the footbridge.  It was like being on a water treadmill!

Wildlife:  Almost instantly we spied a pair of mute swans lingering near the shore.  As these are aggressive birds we made sure to give them a wide berth.

Nearby a female Canada goose was sitting on her nest while her male counterpart was distracting anyone/thing that came close.

Basking on logs and in the matted swamp area were many turtles.  Paddling to get a closer look only made them plop into the river.

Overhead we heard the unmistakable call of a red-tail hawk.  Swooping easily through the trees he made his way in search of lunch.

Our Lady of the River
Landmark: As always one of the highlights was viewing 'the praying woman statue' otherwise known as, "Our Lady".

There are many stories surrounding this mysterious statue, but she was erected on a boulder on the side of the river before the Depression by a writer named Daniel Sargent. 

Our trek back to the landing area was rather quick as the swift current carried us without much effort (as if in repayment of our hard work and effort going upstream.) We spent 2 hours paddling upstream and it took only about 40 minutes to get back to the South Natick Dam.

 We just love how each adventure on the Charles River is different from the previous one! You know it was a good day on the river when you can feel your muscles ache and you're ready for a good night's sleep!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Maiden Voyage 4-9-11

Splish! Splash! Splish!  Kayaks teetered as we carefully placed our left foot, then right, into the boat. With just a little effort we pushed ourselves into the waiting river! Our paddles plopped in too and we were off for our 'maiden voyage' along the Charles River on this beautiful spring day!  The temperature at 62 degrees was perfect for our first  outing of the season!  Heading upstream the wind was blowing briskly in our faces at a strong 7 miles per hour.
The river looked very different from our last paddle in the fall.  The trees that once held brightly colored leaves were mostly bare.  Upon closer inspection some of them were beginning to bud - a sure sign that soon it will be full of color once again.    Homes, paths and other landmarks not visible in the summer and fall could now be seen. The sparseness provided us with a contrastive view of our familiar playground.

Life on the river was rather quiet as well. Although the Peter's Point parking area was crowded, there was only one other fellow kayaker (he had a sleek fiberglass kayak equipped with racing paddles). However, one or two painted turtles, five turkey buzzards, a pair of busy mallards moseying about, a pair of boisterous Canada geese protecting their nesting area, and a favorite, the majestic  great blue heron were spotted during the trip.
Heading Down Stream

Hikers and walkers were seen on high atop King Philip's Overlook, the rocks near the Rocky Narrows section of the river.  Paddling through this narrow stretch of the river surrounded by the high rock formations, always makes me think about the Native Americans who might have paddled the same section of the river hundreds of years earlier.

Pulling into Peter's Point after a Great Day of Paddling!

After the mile or so paddle to the Route 27 bridge, we headed home with the wind at our backs and the sun peaking in and out of the clouds.  It was a perfect ending to a perfect day out on the Charles River.