Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mirror Image

Welcome to another Wordless Wednesday on New Hamphire Love It or Leaf It. Thanks for stopping by! If you're curious to find out where this photo was taken, click below.
Streeter Pond in Sugarhill, NH

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Down by the Riverside

No kayaking or biking this weekend (sigh), but I would like to share a little about the Nashua Riverwalk we took two weeks ago. The photo above shows a view of the river from the restored Cotton Transfer Bridge (completed in 2007). You can access this "bridge to nowhere" from Water Street, behind Clocktower Place apartments in downtown Nashua. More on the bridge in a minute. For now, I hope you'll keep reading to find out more about the Nashua River and other riverwalks in the state.

A Little History
I've lived in the area long enough to remember back to the 60's and 70's when the Nashua River was a smelly, polluted mess of industrial waste -- in fact it had the dubious distinction of being among the top 10 dirtiest rivers in the United States. We used to hold our noses to avoid the smell of rotten eggs when driving by!

I'm so happy that those days are behind us and the river has been cleaned up so we can all enjoy it. I've learned that the clean-up came about largely through the efforts of one very dedicated and tenacious housewife named Marion Stoddart. She took on the clean-up of the river almost single-handedly and didn't quit until it was done. Thank you, Marion! If you're interested, you can learn more about the Nashua River and Marion's amazing efforts to save it at Work of 1000.

Nashua Riverwalk Project
Now back to our walk. We joined a group led by Kathy Hersh, Nashua's Community Development Director, for an interesting talk about the ongoing work to create a true riverwalk in downtown Nashua. It's been part of the city's master plan since 1983 and is happening slowly (can I say very slowly?) but surely.

The historic 1910 Cotton Transfer Bridge (to nowhere) is part of that effort. Right now it's a pedestrian walk to an abandoned cotton storage building, but eventually the building will be demolished and the bridge will connect the south bank of the river to a boardwalk on the north.

Plans are also underway to improve the safety of the existing (and little known) river walkway behind the Nashua Public Library. For now, if you're in or around Nashua, you can get up close and personal with the river at various points, including from a small park on the west side of the Main Street bridge, or from Le Parc de Notre Renaissance Francaise, accessed from Water Street. From there, you can see (and walk) the Cotton Transfer Bridge. Better yet, you can canoe or kayak the river like we did this summer.
Other River Walks in the State
Here's a list of a few scenic river strolls in New Hampshire. I haven't walked any of these so I can't make recommendations or give specifics. My guess is that none of these are destinations in themselves. But if you're in the area, it's a nice way to slow down and explore the waterfront.

Cocheco River in Dover
Check out Henry Law park which has sidewalks and a covered bridge

Bellamy River Sanctuary
Bayview Road, Dover
Trails through woods along the Bellamy River

Oyster River in Durham
Oyster River Landing, Mill Pond and sidewalks

Lamprey River in Newmarket
Town Landing and Heron Point Sanctuary (off Bay Road)

Squamscott River in Exeter
Swasey Parkway, sidewalks, boardwalk, walking paths

Laconia Riverwalk
This 1.03 mile stretch along the banks of the Winnepesaukee River features several historic buildings and sites. There are many access points, including Rotary Riverside Park on Beacon Street East and Stewart Park on Union Avenue.

Riverwalk of Littleton
Off Mill Street, there is a covered walking bridge that connects to a short walking path along the Ammonoosuc River.

Add to the list?
If you know of others in the state, please send us a comment and let us know. I'm sure there are many more!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where's the Water?

I won't leave you guessing! This week's "Almost Wordless Wednesday" photo shows Mount Lafayette as seen from the top of Cannon Mountain. We were in the Franconia Notch area at the end of June and "yes," we did bring our kayaks.

You can read more about where we paddled here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beautiful Day Kayaking on Contoocook River

I'm sure there are many put-ins to the Contoocook River, considering that the river begins near the Massachusetts border in Jaffrey and flows north to the Merrimack River in Concord. We signed up for a trip with the Contoocook River Canoe Company in Concord and were shuttled to a launch site about nine miles away in Contoocook Village. You should definitely learn about this river before attempting it, because there are sections of flatwater and sections with rapids up to Class IV. It all depends what you're looking for!

On Sunday, Doug & I paddled the "Took" with about 38 kayakers from the East Hampstead Kayaking Meet Up Group. Yes -- that's a very large group, but this river can take it. We never really felt crowded, since paddlers quickly fanned out. We did see some motorboats on this gorgeous summer weekend, but most of them quickly slowed their speed when they spotted our flotilla of kayaks.

As we paddled down river on this quiet water section of the Contoocook River, we encountered high tree-lined banks, some downed trees in spots, and "wonderful" smells from area farms. There were some houses along the bank, but they were set up high, of course.

We didn't see much in the way of wildlife except for birds overhead, but part of that may be because we were paddling steadily for a total of about 3.5 hours. We didn't have a chance to sit leisurely by the shore and look for turtles or other critters.
Some highlights of the trip: The group pulled over on an island for lunch, which was a nice break. Later in the paddle -- at about 7 miles, we took another break at Daisy Beach, located in Lehtinen Park in Concord. There's a picnic table, a rope swing, rustic outhouse, and also walking trails through the park. It's a great spot to swim, picnic, or just relax from all that paddling.

Things to Know Before You Go: There are several ways to approach an excursion on the Contoocook. To be honest, the 9-mile paddle was too lengthy for us (It was "Aleve" and ice packs for me afterwards, thanks to my recurring back problems.) It all depends on your fitness level, but I would say if you have any question at all about your stamina, then don't take the shuttle to the launch site in Contoocook Village.

Instead, you can put in at the Contoocook River Canoe Company, paddle upstream as far as you want and then turn around and paddle back -- they charge $3 per person if you bring your own boat; Rentals are also available onsite. It's only 2 miles from their put-in to Daisy Beach, where you can have a picnic and enjoy a swim before paddling back or exploring further. Be sure to check their website for more information and other options.

Safety Notes: The Contoocook is a high volume river, which makes it a powerful river. According to one source, even sections of the Contoocook River that are generally "flat water" can become turbulent when the water level is high (AMC's Discover Southern New Hampshire by Jerry and Marcy Monkman). The authors say, "the best time to run this river is in the fall, when the current is negligible and the trees are ablaze in color." Again, it all depends what you're looking for...but I strongly recommend you do a little homework about water levels and the exact section you plan to paddle before heading out.

Directions to Contoocook River Canoe Company: From I-93 North and South, take Exit 15W. At the second set of lights, take a right hand turn (45-degree turn) onto Rte. 3 North. Continue on this road past the NH State Prison until you come to Bog Road (2.2 miles from the prison). Take a left on Bog Road and follow it to the end, where you'll stay straight over the bridge onto Horse Hill Road. The Canoe Company is the first building on your left.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kayaking/Camping on Squam Lake

Today's post was written by Patrice, a fellow kayaker and blogger from the Concord area. She writes here about her camping/kayaking adventures on Squam Lake. Be sure to visit Patrice's blog, Life Less Ordinary, to see more photos and read about her adventures, both in and out of a kayak. Enjoy! And thanks to Patrice for sharing!

My husband Justin and I kayaked, along with three other people, to Moon Island on Squam Lake for two nights. This was our first kayak-to-camp trip and it was great!

Squam Lakes Association controls 12 backcountry campsites on three islands on Squam Lake. You can do a day trip and launch from the SLA in Holderness for a small fee, but we secured a camping permit months ago (in January) to camp. We used our kayaks, although the SLA rents kayaks, canoes, and sailboats as well.

Our permit was for Moon Island, which is about a 2-mile paddle from the SLA launch site. This paddling is not for beginners because of the open water. We had a sunny day with 10 mph winds, but the lake is generally pretty choppy, especially on weekends when there's motorboat traffic.

Since there were five of us, we had to stock up on food and supplies. We brought a 2-burner stove, but probably could have left it at home. We ended up cooking most of our meals over the fire grates at the campsite. This takes more time and patience, but in hindsight we realize it's worth it, to save the weight of the stove and propane.

We also brought a cooler with hot dogs, hamburgers and brats for the first night; eggs, sausage, and pancakes for breakfast, then a Backpacker Pantry meal for the second night and oatmeal for breakfast. And of course, we brought beer and water! Our kayaks were all pretty weighed down!

The site itself (#3 on Moon Island) had enough room for three tents. All the sites include a bundle of firewood for each night's reservation. It rained one night, but there's a lot of tree coverage and with the right rainfly, we kept dry. We also set up a tarp so we had an area to retreat to if there was a lot of rain.

We spent all day Sunday exploring the other islands and coves. We went from Moon Island to Five Finger Point (great beaches, hiking and cliff jumping) and into Rattlesnake Cove, Squaw Cove, and Bear Cove. Lots of beautiful homes and lots of good bird-watching, especially loons. In total, it was about 9 miles roundtrip.

I would say the only downfall of the whole trip was the mosquitoes. No amount of deet and fire smoke could really keep them away. Overall, I would definitely recommend either a day trip to Squam or an overnight adventure, if you're up for the hardcore paddling and the skeeters!

Learn more about the Squam Lake Association.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From the Frog's Perspective

How else would you get this view if not for kayaking or canoeing? Welcome to another "Almost Wordless Wednesday" on NH Love It or Leaf It. Curious to find out more about where this was taken?
Read about our paddle on Turkey Pond.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kayaking Great Bay

We kayaked Great Bay in Greenland yesterday. What a gorgeous summer day and a beautiful place to paddle! Great Bay is a large estuary (a mix of salt and fresh water), that is fed by seven rivers. The Bay interconnects with the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Maine. We were part of a group of 16 kayakers who signed up to take a guided paddle from the Great Bay Discovery Center.

Doug and I aren't experienced enough to paddle a place like this on our own -- hence the guided trip. I would recommend this approach for anyone wanting to venture out beyond the smaller ponds, lakes, and marshes in New Hampshire.

Part of the beauty of Great Bay is that it's largely undeveloped. In the area we explored yesterday, we enjoyed wide open water with forests, fields, and marsh grasses embracing the shoreline. We spotted a deer and saw a number of birds including cormorants, ospreys, ducks, and swallows.

The water was smooth, although we had to paddle a little harder than we normally do since we were obviously contending with a current produced by the tide (more on that in a minute). We also encountered about four or five motorboats, but all of them were respectful of our kayaks.

Towards the end of the trip, our naturalist guide took us into a small creek lined with marsh grasses which was very pretty, but we didn't get too far because of a downed tree. If you decide to go this route, be sure to use insect repellant!

Overall, we both enjoyed Great Bay for a change of pace. I learned afterwards that there are at least 24 boating access sites to the Bay; each area no doubt offers a different experience. This is a large body of water -- something like 5,000-plus acres of surface water and 150-miles of shoreline. I guess Great Bay makes up for the fact that New Hampshire only has 18 miles of seacoast.

A Note on Tides: You should be knowledgeable about the tides before paddling this estuary. The timing of high and low tides varies considerably from one end of the Bay to the other. So you can't just consult a tidal chart for Portsmouth, for example, if you're planning to put in at Dover Point, which is 1.5 hours behind. We paddled during high tide. Once low tide sets in, the Bay in Greenland is about 50 percent mud flats. And as I understand it, you can't drag a kayak across a mud flat without sinking!

Conservation History: Great Bay is beautiful and protected today, but it wasn't always that way. In 1973, oil tycoon Aristotle Onassis planned to build the world's largest oil refinery here. To quote from a Great Bay newsletter, "Residents along the Bay knew something was up when locals started talking about strangers who were pulling up to the farms around Durham Point and offering 'wads of money' for the land." Thankfully, townspeople, organized by a 27-year-old housewife, organized "Save Our Shores" and successfully defeated Onassis' plan. Since then, the Bay has faced a number of other threats that have been fought by concerned citizens.

Getting There: The Great Bay Discovery Center is located at 89 Depot Road in Greenland. It's a really nice facility with some great exhibits, handicapped-accessible walking trails, and wonderful children's programs that make me want to be a kid again. Check their website for directions and more information or call 603-778-0015.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

I've decided to take part in "Wordless Wednesdays" on the blogosphere, even though I'm not 100% sure how it works. Anyway, this is my version. Starting today, I plan to post a photo each Wednesday. You can click here to find out more about where it was taken or just enjoy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Taste of Things to Come

Happy Birthday, America (one day late)! We spent the weekend with family and friends, so we didn't get a chance to kayak or bike. That's okay...we're looking forward to two upcoming trips. One is on a salt marsh on the New Hampshire seacoast and the other is on the Contoocook River in Concord. I'm also hoping to take a guided riverwalk in Nashua on July 12th.
Here are a few activities on our calendar:

Salt Marsh Exploration: We signed up for a guided paddle on July 10th with the Great Bay Discovery Center, located in Greenland. We've never done any sea kayaking before, but this is listed as an easy paddle, and of course, it's in a salt marsh, not on the open ocean. This trip is booked solid, but check out the Great Bay Discovery Center for more paddling opportunities. And be sure to check back for our trip report.

Contoocook River: We're joining members of the East Hampstead Meet Up Kayaking Group for this excursion on the Contoocook River. We'll be shuttled to the put-in by the Contoocook River Canoe Company and then make our way back to our vehicles in a leisurely 5-hour paddle, including lunch and swimming. You can do the same even if you don't own a canoe or kayak, since they rent them here. Check out the website for more details.

Riverfront Walking Tour in Nashua: I'm hoping to sign up for this 1.6 mile walk on July 12th with Nashua Community Development Director Kathy Hirsch. It's sponsored by the Nashua River Watershed Association and sounds like it will offer some interesting history as well as a look at the City of Nashua's vision for the waterfront. See NRWA for more details.

After a cool, rainy spell that left us all a little stir crazy and cranky, we've now had two beautiful summer days. Let's hope it continues and I didn't just jinx us! By the way, if you've been out on the water or you're exploring New Hampshire outdoors in other ways, why don't you drop us a line and let us know what you've found?

Why You Should Invest in a Good Kayak Paddle

"Kayaking with a good paddle versus a clunker is like jogging in lightweight running shoes versus hiking boots."
--Ray Wirth on www.touringkayaks.com
I've been putting off writing about our new paddles because I thought I had just fallen for the marketing pitch and they couldn't possibly be that wonderful. But after several excursions on the water, I'm a believer!

I wrote in Paddle Envy about some things to consider before buying a paddle and then described our Werner paddles a little in Gearing Up. Now I'm going to talk about some of the features and why they make a difference.

Old (Flaire) Paddle: Heavy Aluminum shaft
New (Werner) Paddle: Lightweight carbon shaft
Difference: We never realized to what extent heavier paddles can cause arm and shoulder fatigue. We try to paddle with our larger torso muscles, but you still have to lift your paddle hundreds of times each hour. Lightweight means you don't get tired as easily and can paddle longer.

Old: Large blade
New: Smaller tapered blade
Difference: It's about water resistance. It takes more effort to move a wide blade through the water than it does a thinner blade. One manufacturer claims that small-sized blades are gentler on your joints. Again, it just makes paddling easier.

Old: You can adjust the angle of the blades, but with only two options.
New: We have many more options for "feathering" the blades. When you feather your paddle, one blade is flat and the other is at an angle.
Difference: I think the main purpose is to improve control of your boat in certain situations. But it also allows you to paddle with one hand dominant, relegating the other hand to a supporting role. This happens to be important to Doug because he had polio as a kid and as a result, his right side is stronger. It may help you, too, if you have carpal tunnel or other conditions that limit mobility on one side.

My point for sharing all of this is that we had no clue what to look for when we bought our starter paddles. But after three years on the water, we now realize it makes perfect sense to invest in the best quality paddle you can afford -- in our case, about $250 a piece. Wish we had done it sooner! Here's an excellent article on Choosing a Paddle by Ray Wirth if you want to learn more.