Solo Canoeing, Hamilton Rod and Gun Club – Sturbridge

This past weekend, I took ownership of a genuine “beater” pick-up truck.  This truck is old enough to drive, and it looks it.  But it can do one thing our family SUV can’t — handle a canoe atop it.


The white sections are metal trim my father-in-law and I fastened to the body to make it pass inspection.  The truck used to be his, and when he took it off the road I gave it a new home.  I don’t know how long it will last, but a summer of canoe trips will be worth the cost of insuring it.


For my first trip alone with the canoe I chose a body of water I’d already paddled around (albeit with my father-in-law), the third pond (“Fish Pond”) at Hamilton Rod and Gun Club, where I’ve been a member for a few years.  I chose this for a few reasons — water is fairly shallow, has almost no current, and is unlikely to have any other boaters on it, being a pond on closed club grounds, which only allows canoes and kayaks.

The pond is fairly quiet, though I could at times hear road traffic and lawn work being done. The club also has several firing ranges on it, so the occasional echo of shooters’ target practice rang through as well.  Still, overall, it’s a quiet and peaceful experience to paddle around this pond.

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Of course, paddling isn’t enough to hold my attention; I had to bring a rod and net with me.  I caught a couple respectable perch and a large pickerel — all returned to the pond to be caught again another day!044

After about an hour and a half on the water, I made for the shoreline and the truck.048I managed to stay dry, catch fish, and successfully transport the canoe to and from the pond without any help.  I’d say it was a successful first paddling expedition.  I’m already planning the next one….


(Solo) Opacum Woods – Sturbridge

Spring fever is in full swing, and when I found myself with a free afternoon I knew I had to spend some of it in the woods.  I debated my options for a while but ended up returning to Opacum Woods, a site I’d been to a few times before (last time, with Jess, was in the fall).


This time, in early Spring, the woods were much different.  The trees (other than the evergreens) were largely bare, and the high water from the spring melt totally transformed the landscape.

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At one point, the trail was swamped.  I took this first bridge…


But shortly thereafter I found myself unable to continue without being in water up my shins.

017 Turning back from the swamped section, I took another trail which stayed on higher ground.  There was the constant sound of water as numerous small streams had swelled and were constantly being fed by short-lived rivulets across and near the trails.


This boulder always tempts me to climb it.  Not today, though.


On the other hand, this tiny cave always freaks me out. I feel like the girl from The Ring is going to come crawling out of it.


Portions of the trail here are on old roads, making for a relatively easy hike along stretches of it.  It’s not all so smooth, though; there are some fairly steep sections as well.  I was tired by the end, which I think had more to do with my “Winter body” than the terrain.


One thing on plentiful display in Opacum Woods are dead trees being consumed by the wild — woodpeckers, beavers, and wood-boring insects all slowly turn these old dead giants into sawdust.


After looping around the entire property I took a few more snapshots of the tree-lined paths and headed back up the path I had come down.


Did I mention it was a bit wet?


Overall, this was a pleasant afternoon out of the house.  My legs were tired at the end, reminding me that I didn’t do this much over the winter.  I also seem to have bumped up against some kind of poison ivy or similar — as I write this days later I’m still itchy in a few spots.  Such is the price of the outdoors!

Fishing and Exploring in Sturbridge

No big hikes this weekend, but there was plenty of the outdoors.

Saturday, my in-laws came to visit, and my father-in-law and I got out our dusty fishing equipment and decided to try and hit the Quinebaug River to see if we could land any freshly stocked trout.  We fished two separate sections near Old Sturbridge Village, exploring the shore and trying from a dozen different spots.  We got a few hookups but landed no fish.  It was a beautiful day with highs in the low 70s, and regardless of what the fish were doing we couldn’t have been more content.  The water was clear, we saw fish and birds, enjoyed the warm air, and enjoyed some good company.

022This area is near to where the tornado passed through in 2011; it seems we are surrounded by reminders of it.

026Of course, we did a tick check after our bushwhacking expeditions, and each had to pull off one tick that was on board but hadn’t started feeding yet.  It doesn’t take much….

The next day, Evie decided she was sad she hadn’t been part of the fishing trip and wanted to fish.  I wasn’t quite ready to take her to the river; too much bushwhacking and not enough empty ground.  So we went to the Rod & Gun Club I’m a member of, and fished one of their ponds.

027We caught no fish here either, but saw some perch nervously guarding their egg sacs (which we saw plenty of).  We also saw young salamanders swimming away from us as we walked the shoreline.

031(There’s one in the picture above, right by the dark leaf in the bottom right-hand quadrant).

After fishing for a bit and enjoying a snack by the shore, we did some exploring, trying to get up to the Plimpton Land which borders the club and is in the process of (hopefully!) being secured for future generations to enjoy as open land.

034We walked through some land which had been partially cleared as part of a green forestry initiative to create better wildlife habitat, and explored a bit, but didn’t end up on the right trail, and looped back.  I’ll go back another day and see if I can puzzle out the trail markings.

So — a beautiful weekend in early Spring, a little fishing, a little exploring, a little quality family time.  No real hikes to describe, but these feet got plenty of exercise anyway….



Grand Trunk Trail – Brimfield

Last time we hiked in Brimfield, it was December and fresh snow was on the ground. Now, it’s April, and on a beautiful sunny day we wanted a hike without too much mud (it rained all week, and snow is still melting) and without too much strain on the legs.  Brimfield seemed to fit the bill again.


As you can see, it was a beautiful early Spring day. The sky was rich blue with a bright warm sun, and giant puffy clouds drifted overhead.

We parked at the Route 20 parking lot, and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sun.  Temperatures were around 50 but the 20 mph winds made it feel a bit more brisk.  There were a handful of cars in the lot, and we passed several families walking with dogs and/or kids, as well as a couple sets of cyclists.  We weren’t the only ones thinking today was a good day for the Grand Trunk.


I set out trying to find signs of Spring, but didn’t come up with much.  Most of the snow was melted, save for a few shaded areas, but there was still lots of ice on the standing water.  We saw no rabbits, no snakes, no turtles, and no frogs — all animals we’d seen on our summer trips here.  Plenty of birds were singing, though, and that helped.


As you can see, the trail is broad and flat; it becomes a bit more winding later on but still remains a very bike- and horse-friendly trail.


On both sides of the trail were frequent small ponds, fed by the melt.  Most had some ice still in them.


For a good chunk of our walk, a plane flew overhead, perhaps some kind of training exercise.  It would do wide banking flyovers at fairly low altitude and then repeat.  I’ve encountered this sort of thing before in this area, at the nearby campground and the nearby reservoir. I didn’t get a shot of the plane at its lowest but I did snap one on a higher fly-by.033


We followed the trail for nearly two miles, crossed a dirt road, and almost made it to the other parking area where we’d parked for our December hike.  037

It was there that we saw the first real new growth of the year we’d encountered — bright green thorn bushes.  The first thing to grow is the nastiest?  We turned around and headed back at this point, rather than continuing on towards the other end of the trail.


Walking back out of the more wooded areas we entered the broad, flat section again, and were reminded of the total devastation caused by the 2011 tornado.  It’s likely that the damage to this landscape will outlast us.  We finished our walk quietly, thinking of what the years ahead will bring both to us, and to this scarred section of land.





Spring Fever…

So, it’s been a while since my last post, because it’s been a while since my last hike! February was basically a wash — so much snow.  We had snow on 9 consecutive weekends, from January through March.  We had a month of frigid temps.  It was just too nasty to hike, and we were too busy clearing snow off our own property to think about hiking out in the wild.

In the midst of all that, I traveled to both Canada and India for work, and to Boston for a fun weekend playing games with 50,000 friends or so.

So, yeah, not much in the way of the great outdoors, but plenty busy.

But the snow is melting, the air is warming, and soon it’ll be time to put boots on and get muddy!

To help remind myself why I enjoy the outdoors so much, I watched Mile, Mile and a Half on Netflix the other day.  It’s a documentary about traveling the John Muir Trail, 200+ miles of mountain wilderness in California.  It’s not an amazing movie, and it glosses over a lot of what you might wonder about a major through-hike, but it succeeds brilliantly in presenting the outdoors in all its glory and making you wish you were out there in it.

There’s a great moment, early in the movie, where one of the filmmakers is being wished well by his father, who tells him that hiking the JMT was always one of his goals, but that he never did it.  The look of regret on the father’s face was brief but powerful. As much as the beautiful scenery, it reminded me to get outside.  Here’s one of John Muir’s quotes, called out in the movie:

Wander here a whole summer, if you can. Thousands of God’s wild blessings will search you and soak you as if you were a sponge, and the big days will go by uncounted. If you are business-tangled, and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy-laden year … give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven.

Powerful words from the father of our National Parks.