Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fishing in 2010

Boy was I a true fisherman in 2010. It was an awesome year for fishing. My brother and I got ourselves each a fly rod, giving us something new to try, and I was able to spend a lot of afternoons fishing after work. It was a great way to come back to earth, especially after a tough day at work. I fished in 3 states this summer, and with this entry, I wanted to reflect on some of my fishing highlights this year.

First Bass On Fly Rod
Crystal Lake in Haverhill, MA is a pond that doesn't get a whole lot fishing pressure. There are trails nearby, but none that connect all of the way around. There are a couple places to park, though. If you walk in from Crystal Street, you can take small trails toward the lake that offer a pretty quiet fishing experience, but the fishing here has never been anything to write home about. However, it was where I landed my first bass on a fly rod. I was fishing in a separate section of water from the bigger part of the lake. I wasn't really sure if I was going to catch anything, because I have maybe only caught a few small bass and some perch before. I sometimes take 3 rods with me when I go fishing, so in this spot, I had been trying out a jitter bug and different lures, and wasn't getting anything to move. The spot was really tricky for fly fishing, but I was eager to try anywhere. I must have gotten my fly stuck in the tree above several times, but I happened to capture my first bass on a fly on camera, while nearly falling into the pond, and I have no idea why I grab the fish on its side and not the mouth, but I couldn't believe it, I think I wanted to hold it sideways for the camera. I can't imagine how funny it would have been if I fell in while catching this fish??

Catching Squat
If there was something I did most of this summer, it was fishing. I cast a line in the brook next to my house, even tried the pond across the street. We used to catch eels and see a turtle that I swear was the biggest, but this summer, all I saw was some minnows, but I tried. There is this one place, I don't know what it is...Putnamville Reservoir on the Danvers/Wenham line is a drinking water supply pond that gets a good amount of people fishing in the summer, but its still pretty quiet, and you can take a walk in towards the middle of the pond, but its not really deep. Just about everyone that I have talked to there says there's fish in there. I have to say I probably fished here the most this summer, because it was so close to my house. I recall going for an hour a few times. I seriously caught squat here all summer, maybe a sunfish and a freaking perch maybe? I tried all along the wall, the middle, along the weeds, fly fishing from the grate on the other side, everything, and I never got any action all summer, kind of a weird pond if you ask me. I see people fishing all of the time here, but I also never see or hear the nearby people taking in a nice catch, but they certainly talk about them???? (Anyways, no fish, so theres no reason to have any pictures, sorry!!)

Catch of A Lifetime (so far)
In my post about filming and using my Olympus Camera, I posted my video of me catching the Arctic Char (Blueback Trout). It's a rare fish that's found in some of Maine's Lakes. This one was caught on Gardner Pond, where there is a confirmed population of the Blueback Trout. I take pride in this video and having caught the fish because of its rarity. Other people fishing in the area were anxious to know how we had caught two of them. We were taking our kayaks out of the water as the week-long campers staying by Deboullie asked of our success. I edited my video to inform the viewer of what I feel makes the difference, and ultimately catching the fish. Although it doesn't look huge, it was well over the limit of 6 inches. It was very exciting.

Fishing Up the Camp Was The Best in 2010
My family has a place and boat on Lake Winnisquam in NH. This year, I definitely got several great weekends of incredible fishing. The size of the bass in here are immense, and I know there are bigger. I love going out on Winnisquam at 6AM when the hounds have just been let loose for a fishing tournament. The boats are screaming through the no wake zone to get to a great spot. The tournaments usually don't allow worms or live bait, but I love when nearby boats get a glimpse of us pulling in some huge bass left and right with our nice juicy night crawlers. It's even funnier to me when we release them back! This has happened twice in the last couple of years out fishing early in the morning, but I suppose that's the reason no worms are there are less fish taken. Anyways, I caught tons of huge bass this year on several different rods, including my niece's tiny princess rod (whatever it was). That was hilarious. I also had an awesome pickerel fight early in the year. This video shows me and my father fishing, catching several, in the early morning of June 20, 2010.

I just described 4 fishing experiences this year, and there was so much more. I caught fish in many waters all over the place, including the ponds in Harold Parker State Forest, several different sections of the Ipswich River, and other ponds throughout the North Shore of Massachusetts, including ponds in the cities of Peabody, Lynn, Lynnfield, Danvers, Middleton, Wenham, Boxford, North Andover, Salem (Greenlawn Cemetery), and likely more. I also fished in Tully Lake in Athol, MA. I still want to get out fly fishing in some rivers and get the art of it down much better, so hopefully I have some chances this summer, so hopefully in 2011 I am able to squeeze some fishing in with my hiking :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mt. Monadnock - December 11, 2010

Me at the Summit of Mt. Monadnock
What a beautiful day for a late fall/early winter day hike. Bill, looking for practice towards more strenuous hikes, suggested that we consider a hike about 5 miles with about 1500' in elevation gain. I said, "Well, how about Mt. Monadnock?" Sean, bills friend, was also available to come along. The trip takes about 4 total hours from the parking lot on route 124. There are many trails that summit the mountain, but we took the same trails that I used when I hiked in October. What a difference when you hike the mountain without hiking 20 miles before reaching the summit!

Looking up at Monadnock
We started up the Halfway House Trail around 12:30pm. We knew there was ice on the sides of the road, but I was pretty surprised to see so much snow and ice there was on the trail. Once past the site of the Old Halfway House, the trail begins to ascend steeply up a stair-like river bed. The entire trail from this point was icy and extremely slippery. Other hikers were using winter traction. That is the very next piece of gear on my list along with crampons and snowshoes. There were several locations where a short bushwhack up an incline on the side of the trail was necessary.

Icy trail
As we left the trees, we could now see the summit and the steep climb ahead to it. I personally feel that the top part of this climb is as challenging as some of the mountains in the whites, especially to those who may not hike/climb frequently. Parts of the white arrow trail going to summit require good holds on rocks and the ability to pull yourself up with a pack on. This is not as easy as it was in October with no ice. The rocks at the summit had a glaze of ice over them.

When we reached the summit, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was not very windy, but it was chilly at the top. A nice windblown glaze of ice covered all of the rock on the summit, causing each of us to walk cautiously as we explored the summit. This was the first summit of Monadnock for Bill and Sean, who enjoyed this hike tremendously. The views from the summit were very good considering the lack of light through the overcast sky. I turned to Bill and Sean and I pointed in the direction of where I hiked from in October (towards Royalston, MA). I said, "Hey, you see those mountains way over there? That's where I hiked from." We hung out at the summit for a little bit, had some stick of pepperoni, trail mix, and water. It was great being at the summit with the ice and no wind. I did not stay long last time, as time was closing in on me, so it was great to spend a few more minutes and take in the surroundings.
Bill, Sean, & Me on the icy summit

It had taken about 2 hours to summit, and about 2 hours down the trail. We realized we got down pretty quickly, but it still clocked in at 4 hours. This hike was great. There was a minimal crowd for Monadnock. After this hike, I really can't wait to get into some winter hiking with crampons and snowshoes.

Hike Stats
Trails: White Arrow Trail
Mileage: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1800ft
Book Time: 4hrs

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hiking Royalston Falls With Bill & Kiara

Bill & Kiara at Royalston Falls
Still catching up on some past hikes, I thought I would catch up on this one with my brother Bill and his daughter Kiara from September 12, 2010. Bill had purchased some hiking boots for her at REI a short time ago, so this was her first lengthy hike, if you will. We went to Royalston Falls again, where we have hiked multiple times this year. This area is fantastic, and it worked out to be just good enough for Kiara, as she handled the terrain just fine.

Again, the trail starts at a parking lot on rte 32 and descends a half mile quickly to the Falls Brook Shelter. At the shelter, there were two hikers or campers hanging out that spent the night like we once did. We passed and moved onto Royalston Falls, which is just south of the shelter about .3 miles. Unfortunately, it was pretty dried up compared to the other times we have seen it. We took some pictures and had some snacks. Kiara wanted to explore everything and go up the path of most resistance!
Playing in the shelter

While in the vicinity of the falls, we noticed a trail that began at the top of the hill. The area where the falls are located is pretty steep. It is basically a gorge on one side with a gradually steep slope on the other side, where the trail winds. We decided to take the trail a little bit and see where it ended up. Come to find out, it leads to a parking area on Falls Road. This parking area is accessible by a rough dirt road. Kiara found it hilarious that a pair of underwear was left as a flag on a pole at the parking lot.

We got going. Once back on the Tully Trail, and back towards the shelter, we spent some time walking along Falls Brook. Kiara wanted to look for some frogs, and it was not long until we did find a couple. We were trying to help her corral one for herself. She loves to collect bugs, worms, anything.

She did a fantastic job handling the terrain and did not complain once until the end when we were hiking up the hill to the car. (Who wouldn't its a decent climb up.) All in all it was a great few mile hike for her and a good enough hike to keep me and Bill going. She enjoyed it very much.

Hike Stats
Trails: Tully Trail
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 ft (+/-) Only gain is the .5mi hike from the shelter back to the trail head.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (Sections 19-22)

Me on Gap Mountain headed towards Monadnock
Having been out to the Royalston Falls area in Royalston, MA several times now, and having camped at the Falls Brook Shelter, I knew that the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail passed through the area. There is a sign on the other side of the foot bridge below the shelter that reads 18.7mi to Mt. Monadnock. From that sign to the summit consists of Sections 19-22 of the 114-mile long trail that runs from CT through the Berkshires to Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH. When hiking out there, that had became one of my goals, was that I was going to hike to Mt. Monadnock from there. 

Porcupine encounter!!
On October 30, 2010, I decided I was going to go for it. With less daylight for this hike, I arrived at the Trustees of Reservations trailhead on Route 32 around 5AM. Getting an early start would end up being essential in making it in time. Honestly, when I pulled into the lot and was making my final equipment check and adjustments, it was so dark, that I was pretty nervous about animals. The trail from the lot to the footbridge is a 1/2 mile descent into the woods. Within my first 2 minutes of walking down the path, I already heard something right in front of me. It was a huge porcupine that basically forced me to walk around it, because he wasn't moving. That certainly was a small adrenaline rush to start, and now, just 3 or 4 minutes in, I was feeling pretty nervous, what the heck could be next, a black bear? Coyote?

Reddish sun coming up
Once I passed the footbridge and began hiking on the trail, which parallells falls brook for quite a while, the brook turns into deeper gorges as you elevate, and the trail is not all that easy. I quickly realized that, although well marked in most areas, the trail markers take you through the woods without it feeling like you are on a trail. Almost all of the wooded sections of the trail have this feel. It's great. Once you leave the brook, you end up on a few logging roads in NH, where you have to follow signs very carefully. Some of the original trail is involved in land disputes, so you have to pay attention to where the trail has been updated, which I did, and it was still not easy. I was still using my headlamp and flashlight at that point. I could see the sun coming up through the trees, and it had incredible color. For almost an hour, just as the sun was coming up, there was uncertainty as to whether I was going in the right direction. The white markers can be seen on the telephone poles of Route 119. I did not really expect to be on main roads, other than crossing them, but in actuality, you have to walk a decent distance on gravel and asphalt roads. 

Ice on pond
Now that it was fully daylight, I was past the confusing section, and entered the most remote and wooded section in the town of Fitzwilliam, NH. In the middle sections of this hike, I was entertained with mile after mile of varying terrain and teaser views. The first view came when I reached Little Monadnock Mountain at 8:30am. At 1,883 ft, it offers the first full view of Mt. Monadnock in the distance. After seeing how much farther I had to go, I went on. I passed a small pond that had some ice leftover from the chilly night before. Continuing on, the trail empties out into a neighborhood, and at the end of the paved road, I came into the town of Troy, where I was met with another challenge. I did not have a trail map. Thats not always a smart move, but I was confident with the reading up I had done and having a print-out of the online-trail guide in hand. Once into town, there is a long bike path that I thought might be the trail, as it passes through town. I had stopped at this second-hand store in the square, and asked the gentleman if the path behind the store was the trail, and named the trail. He said, "oh yeah, yes, goes right behind the houses." Ok, great, so I continued for a little while, again with uncertainty, until I felt I had to ask some bikers on the trail. After hiking back to the square, it took a little bit of wandering to realize that I needed to walk through the square, take a right, and walk over a half mile along Route 12. I could have strangled the guy!

Somewhere in the middle of that confusion, I must have dropped the trail guide. Back on track though, the trail passes the Troy dump and back into the woods going up and then down NAME OF HILL. During this section, I summitted Gap Mountain, which is a small summit that provides a closer commanding view of Monadnock. I met a father and son on the summit and we swapped photo duties before I marched on. It seemed as if Monadnock was going to make me gain every single on of the 3,165 feet, as the trail seemed to keep descending. After this descending section, I came to Route 124, where I crossed the road, and entered Monadnock State Park. Having hiked almost 20 miles, I was now faced with the fairly tough climb to the summit of Monadnock. My ascent took my up the White Arrow Trail, which is steep in many places, especially at the top. The leaves being mostly all down, made it challenging to find the best places to step. Although Mt. Monadnock is possibly the 3rd most summitted mountain in the world, I was pleasantly surpised to see how steep and challenging the last push to the top of the mountain was. Once at the summit, there was a large amount of people there. The wind was blowing hard consistently. I asked someone to take a photo, and began to descend on which I thought was the same trail...

Me on summit of Mt. Monadnock
I made my destination, but I was not done. It is about 3 miles from Route 124 to the summit, so I had the same to return to Route 124, where I would be picked up. I realized that I had gone off the White Arrow Trail, and ended up on the Halfway House Trail. From the marking on the summit, I knew I would end up at 124, so I continued down the trail, as opposed to going back to find the White Arrow junction where I veered off. Just before 4:30pm, my father arrived at the parking lot on Route 124 to pick me up. Driving back to Royalston, MA, he was flabbergasted at how far I had hiked. It was far, but this is another aspect of hiking I want to experience more of. I have added the goal of completing the complete length of the M&M trail to my list.

For more information on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, visit the AMC Berkshires Website for more information. 4R4EXAY5K978 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deboullie Ecoreserve - North Maine Woods 2010

Before we had even left Deboullie in 2009, my brother and I had already marked the calendar for our 2010 trip. We were also able to drag our friends Sean and Eric up to this remote area in late May. Having this trip planned an entire year in advance was hell, but it finally came. This year, we were stepping up our game and decided to make it a kayaking trip. We loaded 4 kayaks onto the roof, along with all of our gear, and headed up to the wilderness for 3 nights and 4 days. This was the first time going away with more than just 2 people, so I was looking forward to a great trip.

Our home for 3 nights
It is always more talkative with people, so the 6 hour drive was not as bad this time. Once we got into Portage and onto the logging roads, were were treated to 3 or 4 moose sightings on the way in, including one that darted right out in front of the car while I was driving! Pretty intense. Once we got to the parking lot near Pushineer and Deboullie Pond, we unloaded and packed up the kayaks with all of our gear. During our 2009 trip, my brother and I had set our goal on camping on Gardner Pond, where there is a remote campsite accessible only by boat. We put in at Deboullie Pond and began our paddle across the very deep Deboullie Pond. On the other side of Deboullie Pond, there is a portage of a couple hundred yards over to Gardner Pond. The entire paddle from the car to the camp site is close to 3 miles.

It was incredible to have hiked around the year prior, and come back and sit in the middle of this enormous glacial lake and look at the rock slide and formations from a different perspective. Once across to our destination, the exploration began. There is no possible way for someone to walk or hike to this campsite. It is protected on the southern shores of the pond by cliffs that go straight into the pond, and the northern shore, which is a steep hillside that is densely overgrown with large trees, roots, and underground streams. About twenty feet into the woods behind the camp site was more of the same. There are no trails around the campsite, but there are several hundred feet of rocky shoreline that become yours. Its almost like your own sanctuary, and if anyone is coming you will notice, because they are coming by boat.

Eric fishing just offshore
In 2009, Bill and I tried fishing however we never got a nibble. That was because we were using the wrong bait. This year, we had equipped ourselves with fly fishing rods and trout lures. One of our goals was to catch Maine's rare arctic char (Blueback Trout), which can only be found in 11 lakes in all of Maine, including these ponds. Our friend Eric was the first to pull a char out of the water. He caught it while fishing from the kayak. We certainly cooked that up, which led to an unfortunate getting deathly sick, or so it seemed. Although I have gotten sick before from fish, I did not believe or know whether I had an allergy. It seems that I may have an allergy to fish in the salmon family. To make a long story short, the fish tasted amazing, especially with our canned food, which we mixed the meat with. However, a couple hours later, I began paying for it, and I payed for it ALL night long, until the bile started coming out. I know, sorry.

Eric's Blueback up-close
My Blueback Trout
The next evening, when we were all fishing, trying to catch that night's fish portion for dinner, I had the opportunity to snag the Blueback Trout. I will never forget catching this fish, because I was able to capture it on video. It is clear from the video that technique, the correct position, and luck play a factor in landing the Blueback Trout. We were fishing on a shallow shore, but one that basically drops off into the abyss about 20 feet from shore. After a long time of no action, not even a bite between us all, I moved a few feet forward, allowed the lure to sink more than I had in any previous cast, and then it hit. It had been so boring, when I felt something hit the line, I knew that was it. Having this awesome and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experience on video is something that I will cherish forever. (Unfortunately, I could not eat my own fish that night)

On the last day before hiking out the next morning, Bill, Sean, and I paddled across Gardner Pond and back to Deboullie, where we then hiked a fairly strenuous elevation gain of 800 feet to the summit of Deboullie Mountain. Although the top is somewhat wooded, there are paths that lead to outlooks offering excellent views of the remote land. After heading down, Bill and I took Sean on the hike to Galilee Pond. When we made it there, there were two Brad Pitt River Runs Wild looking kinda guys in full fly fishing gear telling us they could not catch crap. I took off my boots and hopped into the pond as they looked on. I was using my Colorado, which I caught the Char with. I was in and out the pond in less than 10 minutes and caught about 3 smaller sized brookies

This trip never fell short of my expectations. In two trips, I have developed a connection with this area. Its true remoteness and beauty and will wow anyone who stands within it. Pictures do not measure up to what it is like to stand among such enormous and breathtaking geographic features, and do so with no other people nearby. What really gets me, is that even people who live and work in Maine will tell you that they have never heard of this place.

If you did not catch my Blueback Trout video on my previous post, check out that video on my YouTube Channel, along with a video showing the rough water on Gardner Pond.