So, the Weekly Rider is "rolling on" into a broader blog dealing with The Great Outdoors more generally. You'll still get biking updates on occasion, but this week, it's paddling.
I’ve been doing a lot of paddling on Otter Creek lately, and there’s nobody else out there. So, it’s time to go public:
There’s some phenomenal canoeing and kayaking to be had in our backyards.
You could literally paddle in the backyard a few weeks ago, but this is more figurative.
I know, I know. Otter Creek is rumored to be 95% agricultural runoff. I’ve heard it’s unsafe to paddle there after dark, because you can’t see to fight off the infections climbing over the gunwales.
But, this evening, we were out after dark and the only thing we had to fight off was a curious llama. Really.
“That’s a stump.”
“Yeah, but you know what it looks like?”
“… a llama.”
Then it walked down to the bank and looked pleadingly at us. Like it wanted a carrot, or to be transported back to the Andes.
We also saw two beavers, a muskrat, great blue and night herons. A pair of kingfishers led the way down the river, and the muddy banks were traced with the tracks of freshwater mussels, scooching along on their giant feet. Last week my girlfriend and I collected 25 of these and cooked them in a fra diavlo sauce for pasta. They were tough and tasted like mud, but very few of our dinner guests turned them down.
So, here’s the challenge. The first person who finds me paddling on Otter Creek and tells me they read this blog post will get a free mussel dinner, courtesy of moi. I paddle a red Old Town Tripper named Emma on the flatwater, and a kayak on the whitewater.
This week’s backyard destination is between the Pulp Mill covered bridge and Belden Falls.
At high water levels (check out this gage for current river levels. The river fluctuates between 100cubic feet per second in the dead of summer to over 4000cfs in the spring. One cubit foot is about the size of a turkey wrapped in duct tape) it’s easier to paddle this section top to bottom with shuttle at the bottom. At lower levels, it’s easy enough to paddle back upstream.
Park at the Pulp Mill parking area off of Morgan Horse Farm Rd.
Walk your boat to the river, putting in below the rapids. Paddle downstream for a mile and a half. Depending on your vigor, this will probably take less than an hour.
When you reach a big yellow sign on the river right, warning you about Belden Falls, it’s either time to get out or turn around. If you take out here, do it on the right and walk through the woods out to the Belden Falls Rd (which comes off Rt 7 across from River Rd).
You can catch trout, pike, and bass in here, and I’ve seen people duck hunting in the backwaters.
It’s getting cooler out, so make sure you’re dressed for the air and water temperature. Non-cotton clothing is warmer and safer when wet. Bring your lifejacket, and stay away from the dams and rapids at the top and bottom of this section.