Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tenny River


In a recent interview I was asked this places are my favorite.  That was a hard question because it depends on the day and what I am looking for.  On Sunday when it was a bit breezy when I left my house I decided Tenny River was my destination.    Tenny is a place I return to frequently.  Here is a link to previous post with directions and details: Click Here. 

Body of Water:  Tenny River/Tenny Stream, connects Crescent Lake to Panther Pond, Raymond/Casco [Maine Gazetteer, Map 5 B2]

Directions (From Portland, Maine): Take Rt. 302 North through North Windham into Raymond. At the intersection of Rt. 302 and Rt. 85, turn right onto Rt. 85. (You will notice a rest area on your left.) Stay on Rt. 85 for about 6+ miles. After going over a small bridge (which is Tenny Stream) the boat landing will be on your right.

Boat launch: Located on Rt. 85, close to the intersection of 85 and Plains Road. This is a small, concrete boat landing, plenty big for kayaks!  People do launch bigger boats from this boat landing.  The boat landing is right next to the road.

Parking: Free.  There is no parking lot.  Vehicles park on the sides of the road along Rt. 85.  There is a small beach area that is fenced off, private for residents I believe, and there is some parking there, not muckhwider than the length of your vehicle.  As with most areas in the Sebago Lake Region, this spot is busier on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

Wildlife: Turtles, ducks, maybe a loon or a Canada goose, and you may see some fish and snails if you look in the water.  There are a lot of plants, and depending on when you go, water lilies.  
 
 
Notes:  I had not anticipated paddling Tenny in a brand new kayak, but that's what happened on Sunday.  I had my trusted Loon 138 on the truck and ready to go and then I stopped at Shaker Hill Outdoors...and came away with this beauty! 


Truthfully I had been looking for a while so it wasn't a COMPLETE surprise that I purchased my new Loon 126.  I LOVE it.  The seat is so comfortable, that is really what sold me on it.  I had stopped here about a week and a half earlier and couldn't access Tenny because Crescent Lake was still frozen.  I was happy to see it wide open on Sunday!  As always I followed the shore of Crescent lake to the entrance of Tenny River.  A woodpecker flew over me and landed in a nearby tree.  I think this is a pileated woodpecker... it was big! 



As I approached the tunnel the water was moving pretty quickly, faster than I have seen it.  The paddle through the tunnel was fast! 

After the culvert I paddled over to where I often find pitcher plants and found some.  Thought I am not sure if these are new plants or leftovers from fall..these are carniverous plants, very interesting. 

It was so nice to get here! I love this place.  It is secluded and always full of wildlife, though there was less on this day.  I did see two other paddlers on the river. 

Because it is early in the season the water is high and the reeds have not yet grown in to block some of the most secluded parts of this river.  I got to paddle back in this spot and kept my eyes open for otters as I had seen a pair here a few years ago... no luck! 


As I approached the boyscout camp it looked like they had done some work to the bridge.  It looks nice. 

Paddling out to Panther Pond made it clear that the water was high!  Usually there is a lot more land exposed.  The wind was picking up and I did not venture out into Panther. 


ON my way back from Panther Pond I caught a glimpse of a turtle!!!  Which led to many other turtle sightings! 





I also saw a Canada goose.  I was surprised to see it solo.  In years past I have seen several geese here and know a spot where they often nest.  I saw no signs of a nest, though I think it would be a little early.  I hope they nest again! 



This is a great spot for paddling.  I return here throughout the season so that I can see the changes in vegetation and see more wildlife.  I was happy to be out before the bugs!  

Happy paddling!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Town Loon 126 - -My kayak review

Shaker Hill Outdoors is located in Poland, right on Rt. 26.  I stopped by there today to talk to them about carrying the book as it pairs well with their customer base.  My publisher had reached out to them and I decided to follow up in person.  While I was waiting for the man I needed to talk with, who was with other customers, I asked if they had any of the Old Town Loon 126's in stock.  Yes...yes they did.  

I have been keeping my eye on the Loon 126 for a while.  My boat has always been the Old Town Loon 138.  I have loved that boat for many reasons.  The first being that it was my mom's boat... so the sentimental value is priceless.  Besides that, I love that it is a stable boat, tracks well, is comfortable, and has plenty of legroom.  For me, all of those things are important.  
Here is a direct link to the Old Town Loon 126 on Old Town's website: 

The red kayak I inherited after my mom died is still in great shape.  The only thing that it 'going' on it is the seat.  It has a couple of cracks and the back of the seat isn't as supportive as it once was.  I reached out to Old Town to try to replace the seat... but.. the kayak was made in the early 90s and they no longer make seats for it... which is disappointing.  So... I have been looking at the new Loons by Old Town.  Because I have had a red kayak and often mention the beloved red kayak I have paddled I have looked at the red version of the loons... and didn't like them.  They also come in 'cloud' which is blue swirled with white.  But... despite being pretty, I worry that a blue kayak doesn't show up well on the water... so that left lemongrass or sunrise... I like the idea of yellow, but... sunrise, when I saw it today, really caught my eye.  It has a lot of red in it, with yellow and orange.... 

Long story short... I bought myself a NEW OLD TOWN LOON 126 - the Sunrise color... THIS is my NEW boat:


Why did I buy it? Well as I said I have been looking at them for a while... and I sat in it... THAT was my downfall... THE SEAT!!  My oh my!  It was sooo comfortable!  I think I could take a nap in that thing!  It was roomy... width wise and the length of the cockpit was comparable to what I am used to in the Loon 138.  (And... it is possible that Miss Gladys would be able to join me in this boat... though we would be a bit cramped, it is possible! We tested it out later in the day!) 

So.. here is MY review... after ONE voyage in my new boat...

Appearance: I like the look of the new Loons, though I miss the older decal, the traditional Loon decal that is on the older boats.  The new loon looks more.... sphelt than the older loons, more modern.  

Size/Weight: The weight of the 126 kayak feels a bit lighter than my 138.  Being a bit shorter it feels a bit easy to maneuver off the water by myself.  

Cockpit: The width of the cockpit is plenty roomy.  The length reminded me of the cockpit in my 138.  Plenty of room for my legs.  (For those who do not know... I am very tall, 6'6"  and am not a skinny chick!  This EASILY accommodated me.)  
Oh.. another big selling point for me... there IS room behind the seat for the cart I use to transport my kayak solo.  The rear part of the kayak is blocked off, there is a compartment for storage which is nice.  I didn't try to access the rear storage while paddling, but I did have a sweatshirt in there in case I needed it! When I had looked at the 126  elsewhere I didn't think there would be room for my cart behind the seat, but there is!!  That was a big bonus for me!

Here is the kayak without the console. 

The console: I like the idea of a console... and need to have more experience with it to see if it is something I like or not.  But on my first adventure using it, I was not sold on having it.  (Perhaps because I am not used to it.)  There are two main reasons for which I am not an automatic fan... 
1.) It closes off the cockpit just where my knees go... so, if I wanted to pull my legs out to hang them over the edge which I sometimes like to do to change position and on those hot summer days when I want to dip my feet in the water I would have to remove the console to do that.  That being said, it would not be hard to take it out because the locking mechanisms which hold it to the cockpit are easy to move and the console comes off and goes on very easily.  In fact, I needed t take it out to get in and out of the kayak, to be able to swing my legs in/out, and it was easy to do that. 
2.)  On the bottom of the console there is a metal water bottle holder attached to it.  (See the photos below.)   In theory, I suppose it seems like a great addition... but for me... someone who, due to knee issues, likes to move my legs around a bit as I paddle, the drink holder got in the way.  It looks like it will be easy to remove, which I plan on doing.  I have never minded having a water bottle be on the floor of the kayak.  The drink holder leaves only about 6 inches of space between the water bottle holder and the bottom of the kayak.  I suppose that clearance would be enough for some people's legs, but I didn't care for it. 


See the water bottle holder?  Hangs well below the console. 

This is the console IN the kayak... (Sorry it isn't a better picture, I used my phone and the lighting isn't great...)  It does show that there is not a ton of space below the console for legs to move around... Perhaps designed by people who don't spend hours on the water?  I think I could use it for shorter trips, but don't want to have it on my console, not for my comfort. 

I did like the compartment in the console.  Big enough for my phone, sunscreen, and a thick pair of wool socks!  (It was still a bit chilly today and I brought them just in case my feet got cold!)  The console has a USB port which connects to a usb cord inside the water tight compartment.  This is designed to have a battery of sorts inside so people can power their devices or phone... I suppose that would be good if your phone battery was low... because I do use my phone a bit when I paddle to take photos and videos... 
But... there is something in me that doesn't like the idea of having a charging station in my kayak.  For me kayaking is about getting away from it all... I don't want to listen to music while I paddle...I want to listen to the sounds of nature and listen for critters... but... I know some people like to listen to music.  And... perhaps having a battery would allow fishermen (and women) to use their fishfinders or other fishing tools... so... I won't say it is unnecessary, but for me... not needed.  
I can foresee  myself taking the console on trips (without Gladys of course!)  where I am in salt water coves and for shorter paddles.  I will keep you updated on whether or not it grows on me! 

The Seat: The seat!  Oh my goodness the seat!  Now.. perhaps my point of view on the seat should be taken with a grain of salt... I have been sitting in a kayak seat that is the hard plastic molded seat.... a hard plastic molded seat that is close to 25 years old, complete with a couple of cracks and lack of great back support, but THIS SEAT!  I love it!  It is so comfortable even while wearing my pfd!  I will say that I don't think I had to adjust my pfd once to make myself more comfortable.  The back came up high enough on me where I felt supported and the butt part of the seat is also comfortable.  I like that it is adjustable so that I could raise and lower the part of the seat that was on my lower thigh.  In my other boat I often took a styrofoam pool noodle to put under my knees because sometimes my legs would fall asleep when I paddled.  The pool noodle helped change the angle my legs were at... I don't think I will need the noodle again!   The seat folds down for easier transport.  There is a small bungee with a plastic cip on it to connect it to a similar bungee and clip on the seat to keep the seat folded.  I wonder about the durability of the plastic clips... but time will tell! 


The red bungee like cord in the circle of the seat is how you adjust the height of the front of the seat.  

Maneuverability: Since I had planned on getting on the water today anyway... I kept my plan and headed to Tenny River.  (post on that later...or sometime this week!)  I was so excited that the water was open and accessible!  (What a difference a few days make!)  
Getting into the kayak was similar to my other boat.  (though I miss the bungee on the side of the boat to secure my paddle.  The kayak did come with a paddle holder that can be attached to the kayak... I am choosing to NOT attach it because a - my paddle doesn't fit in it and if it were attached to the kayak in the location where it is supposed to be,  and b- it would likely get damaged when I load the kayak onto my truck.  It is supposed to sit towards the back of the cockpit... and I think that when I pulled it off the truck It would get caught and get banged up.  I transport my kayaks cockpit side down... which I know not all paddlers do. So, for me, the metal type paddle holder is not a feature to highlight.  I am going to see if I can figure out a bungee system similar to what is on the old Loons.)  The stability of the boat was VERY similar to my old Loon.  I was SO happy about that!  
Tracking-  I don't think the tracking was quite as good as the longer Loon 138, but would say it was still good.  I found that when I tried to 'float' to take photos, I would often turn more than I expected when I would try to slightly adjust my position. It is something I think I will quickly adapt to.  
Speed - I have paddled with a lot of people who have described their boats as 'faster' due to their design.  To be honest it is not something I was too concerned about because the Loon 138 met my needs.  That being said... I think this boat is a little faster in the water.  I am not sure what about the design makes that the case, but, I did feel like my paddling strokes got more bang for my buck, so to speak. 


Overall I am in love with this new kayak! It is, because of the seat, more comfortable than my other Loon... I am not yet sold on the console, but would bet that I will end up doing some trips with it and will like it just fine... AFTER I remove the water bottle holder.  In the meantime I am going to try my 'deck bag' I got last year, pictured here: 

I think this may give me what I am looking for while allowing me to have the more open cockpit... but time will tell.  And I need to find a way to secure my paddle to the boat, which should be easy to find and hopefully to install!  

 If you want a stable boat that provides comfort and efficiency, especially if you are above average in the height/weight department, I doubt you could find a better rec boat!  
Happy to answer questions from folks who may be looking to get a Loon 126, shoot me an email at mainekayakgirl@gmail.com!


As a side note... I love supporting local businesses, and am happy to support/endorse Shaker Hill.  I also support Sebago Trails Paddling Company located in Raymond.  Sebago carries a lot of brands of kayaks, but if I remember correctly from conversations with Bill, the owner, the Loon 126 is not one they sell.  I encourage folks to check out both businesses!

I reached out to Bill at Sebago after I got home and am pleased to announce that this year he IS becoming an Old Town dealer!  So whether you go to Shaker Hill or Sebago Trails, know that you will be well taken care of and are in good hands!

*I feel like I should add, I am reviewing this kayak totally independently.  I have always been a fan of Old Town products, and reviewed the kayak based solely on my experience and preferences! 

Runaround Pond - Early Spring

Click Here for the link to a previous post with directions!  (This is also a trip in the book and those directions are a bit more efficient!)  

Body of Water: Runaround Pond, Durham, Maine.  [Maine Gazetteer Map 5, B5, close to the edge of the page]


Directions (From Portland, ME):
Just off Runaround Pond Road in Durham

Boat Launch: Called Runaround Pond Recreational Area, just off Runaround Pond Road.  Launch site is dirt/gravel. 

Parking: Free. There is no formal parking lot, people park along the ‘driveway’ that leads to the boat launch.  There is a good amount of space for parking. (There is an outhouse here.)

Wildlife: Turtles,ducks, geese, and an osprey
Notes: I have been to Runaround Pond several times before... but never this early in the season.  I was used to this view when paddling close to shore:
 
 
But... getting to this pond just after the ice is out was a very different experience.  The pond was wide...open... with lots of small offshoots to explore.  (You know I love offshoots!) 


One of my friends, Rico, from out of town was visiting and he had never kayaked before.  Because it was early in the season I was a little nervous taking someone out who had never been in a kayak, but he has experience with canoeing and I knew that Runaround Pond was a good spot for a first time paddler.  (Thanks for Peter, a friend from social media, for letting me know this place was not frozen over and was accessible!) 

We got on the pond on Monday, April 17th.  It was a cool spring day with a slight breeze, but the sun was shining... (and reminded me that I need to always wear sunscreen, even this early in the season!) 

It was a GREAT spot to take Rico for his first paddle.  Of course we had to go under the bridge to the gorge area which is so beautiful...

I love the way this area looks.  The water here was higher than what I have seen it, so if you go please pay close attention so you do not get too close to the dam.  Typically the water is not moving fast enough to push you over the dam, especially with lower water levels, but I was a bit nervous this trip.  Again...be smart! 

Heading back to the pond, under the bridge, I was sad to see this graffiti... 

Rico enjoyed paddling through the tunnel... we returned to this area at the end of our paddle...just because! 

As we paddled I caught a glimpse of a turtle!  My first turtle of the season!   (We saw many more later in the day!)

 There was still some ice along some of the shores... but overall the pond was wide open.  I would expect that the ice we saw is probably disappeared. 

 There were several pairs of Canada geese.  They were loud!

As we paddled I kept my eyes open for any signs of the Maine Forest Yurts... and saw this sign: 

This was the approach to the sign for the Yurts!  (If you don't know about Maine Forest Yurts, take some time to click on the link above...) 

The clouds... were really pretty... and I love looking up while I am paddling... you can see a lot! 

More Turtles!!! 


I like this picture... the ripples in the water and the lines in the clouds almost look like they line up to make a curve... 



These geese were taking off... I rarely get any pics of that, but was happy with this one! 

Turtle Love!  
So, if you are looking for a place to go for your first paddle of the season, check out Runaround Pond!  It is well protected and it is a great chance to see this place!!! 

One of the MANY things I love about paddling is being able to see different places... and this paddle reminded me that even going to the same location can be very very different simply because of the time of year.  

It is still early in the season, the water temps are still cold... and the water levels are still high... be safe and smart out there! 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Opening Day 2017

It's finally here!  Time to be on the water!  That being said there are still a lot of places that are inaccessible due to ice.  Many lakes and ponds are still covered with ice.  I had it in my head today that I could EASILY get to Tenny River, my typical first paddle of every season.  But... when I got there this is what I saw:
The ice was too close to the shore to get to Tenny River!  Noooooo!  

And even where it looked like open water... it wasn't... a thin layer of ice...  I was bummed!  

This was across the street and up 85 a bit looking at the stream... wide open.  I will say there was a strong current coming through that culvert, stronger than I have seen before.  

I was so tempted to put in here... there were Canada Geese off in the distance honking and honking... 


I was bummed!  I had driven over Tenny River and saw that it was open so anticipated being able to get there easily.  I debated about getting to the stream from a different spot and did find a possible place, but it was a bit of a steep bank and I did not have the right footwear to do so safely while pulling my kayak... so with my father's voice in my head, reminding me to be safe, I decided not to risk it and drove towards the Songo Locks and put in there... 

I got to the Songo Locks and the water was HIGH! Check out the comparison pictures

Today: 


Usual levels looking from a different angle at the same dam: 

It may be hard to tell, but there is a huge difference! 

There were a couple of nice new additions to the place where I usually launch for the Songo and Crooked Rivers,  a launch for paddling vessels and a couple of fishing platforms.

Check out this nice new launch!   I bet it will usually be out of the water!

Here are the fishing platforms. 


 Very nice additions!

As I watched people fishing and looked at the water... I decided the current here was a bit strong...and decided I would go down to the state park launch and see how that looked.

Body of Water: Songo River via Sebago State Park

Directions:  From Portland head to Windham via 302.  Stay on 302 through Raymond and into Casco.  Follow the signs for the State Park.  (I apologize for not thinking about directions today as I was just trying to find water!)

Boat Launch: concrete/grooved, with nice dock

Parking: Lots of parking, most spots are for vehicles with boat trailers, but there are a few other spots as well. 

Fees: There is a fee for access to the state park. Even though the ranger's booth is unmanned fees are still expected to be paid. 

Bathroom: There are outhouses that are kept in very good condition. 

Wildlife: Today I saw a blue heron, several water fowl, and I think an osprey

Notes:
 There were a lot of boats here today which surprised me... it was Friday and it is early in the season... but they were here!  I talked to a couple and some had good luck catching salmon and togue.  I could see the current of the Songo River from the boat launch which is unusual.  I also could tell that there were areas I would be able to explore that normally are inaccessible because of the high water.  I decided to stick close to shore and explore. 

Here is the view from the launch.  (It was about 52 degrees in the parking lot... cooler of course on the water!) 


There were patches of ice in most of the off shoots.  

It was cool to see the reflection of the under side of the ice... 

I headed towards the Songo Locks, but did not get that far.  

I can imagine in just a few weeks that the trees will be green with leafs! 

There were some pine cones holding on to their branches.  

There was a lot of water fowl... some I did not recognize, including these beauties... they were quick... one minute they were there... 

And the next... they had flown away... I kind of like this picture though, their splashes from take off! 

Juuust enough room to get through... and put my paddle in the slush on top of the ice as I paddled... cool sounds! 

I got to watch these Canada geese climb onto the ice which was kind of cool.  

They are pretty birds... I know they are often nuisance animals but they are beautiful.  




This one tried to hide... or maybe nap!  



This inlet was inaccessible due to the ice... 

This bird flew over me... and I think it is an osprey, but it seemed different to me... as it flew over me it's belly was white but the under side of its wings were not the typical plumage of osprey... but a beautiful bird.  


I heard several woodpeckers...and saw some of their recent work... I thought it was cool that the sap was dripping... 




I enjoyed being on the water today.  I feel such peace when I am out in my kayak.  Today I was reminded that safety is such an important part of this sport.  I saw a canoe with a man and a boy, I presume a father and son.  The son had a life jacket on, but the father did not.  With the very cold water temps and today's breeze and current... that is very risky.  Especially when you have a kid with you, you have to be able to stay afloat to help your kid.  
So... while I know many of us have been 'jones-ing' to get on the water.. please do so safely.  Temps are rising and as things warm up it gets safer.  

But..man did it feel good to be out there again!!!  
Happy Paddling!