The Change Can Be Amazing

One of the best things about running year-round on the same trails is watching how the trails and the river change with the seasons.  Sometimes there are huge changes just over a few days.



This was the beaver dam just last week during the dreaded Polar Vortex.  There was a bit of water going over the dam, but the river was mostly frozen. The water drops a couple of feet as it comes over the dam.  



This is the same view this week.  The temperature is in the low forties, there has been a lot of rain, and the snow has melted. Now the water only drops a few inches as it comes over the dam.



And this is a summertime picture of the same place.  The rising and falling of the water can completely change the landscape.  When the river is really high, the trails disappear.  The difference can be quite disorienting, as many of my usual landmarks are buried.  The snow changes the landscape, too, but not usually as much.

I’m lucky to live so close to the trails, but you can even see this difference in your neighborhood.  Look at people’s yards, flowers, and trees, in the summer, the wet, and the snow.  The change can be amazing…go check it out!


If a tree falls in the woods…

If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make noise?  I have no idea, but it does make a mess!

I took my camera running with me on Tuesday, so I could take pictures of the aftermath of “Superstorm Sandy”. The first surprise was how much water there was in and around the river.  I expected the Corps of Engineers to hold a pond above the dam, that’s what it’s there for, but the water below the dam was high, too.  The outlet pipes in the pond below the dam were completely under water.  We didn’t have much rain with the storm, mostly just wind, so the water seemed high to me.

All summer, and thru the fall, the water level going through the dam has stayed at about 3 feet.  Two days after the storm, there was 7 feet of water going thru.  This is still pretty low, 10 or 12 feet isn’t unusual after a huge storm.  (The highest water level recorded at the dam was 27 feet high on the tower in April of 1987.  So 7 feet is no big deal). These are the fishing steps near the bridge.  They have all been out of the water for months, and now the three bottom ones are in the water.

There is way more water at the beaver dam than a couple of weeks ago. That was then:

This is now. I wonder if the beavers are still in the lodge, or if the water is too high for them.

There were a few trees down, but less than I expected with all the wind. This is another view of the big pine tree from the beginning of this post.









The new bridge didn’t float away! There was no way to cross it without getting your feet wet, but it didn’t go anywhere.











(By Wednesday, the bridge was accessible again.) It’s always interesting to see how the weather affects the landscape.  The water rises very quickly, but goes down even more surprisingly fast! Can’t wait to see what next week will bring.  Go play outside!  Do it now, before the snow.

River Rodents

Was running along a low bit of trail this week, and noticed water creeping up the trail. I think we have a new beaver dam.  There used to be a beaver dam just south of Greenbrier, and for a couple of years, the trail leading south from the little bridge below Greenbrier was often knee deep in water.  (Not a problem when the water is clear, but I’m always a little wary of stepping into water when I can’t see what’s sitting on the bottom.  Yuck.)  A pipe was installed under the bridge, and whether due to the pipe or beaver death or relocation, the water is pretty low there, now.  As a matter of fact, this spring the water was so low south of Greenbrier, that the canoe launch was unusable. Slogging thru deep mud isn’t a great way to start a paddling trip! A couple of days of rain temporarily raised the level, but it didn’t last.

I knew that beavers are rodents, but never gave it too much thought.  So are they cute overgrown hamsters, or gross rats in the river?  I think I like the hamster idea better.  I found some interesting info about beavers at Mass Wildlife.  They were hunted to extinction in Massachusetts in 1750, and didn’t appear in the state again until 1928 when they were spotted in West Stockbridge. They are North America’s largest native rodents and can be 2 – 3 feet in length with an additional 12 – 18 inches of tail.  They can live for up to 20 years, and are herbivores.  In 1996, voters in Massachusetts passed a referendum restricting beaver trapping, and since then, the state beaver population has at least tripled.

Well, back to the creeping water.  On the west side of the French River, just south of the gas line, is a low section of trail.  The river here is usually low, and some summers it’s been possible to cross here walking on the rocks.  The first year of The Dam Trail race, the runners crossed the river here.  (That was before either of the Rocky Hill bridges was built).  This picture was taken this  spring, around the same time as the canoe launch picture above.  Back in June, Seth and I went almost into the river here to see the other side of a sign that we thought was facing the water.  Turned out it was an empty sign, on the edge of the river, with no words on either side.  Why?  Well, the sign is gone now, but the spot where it was sitting is currently a couple of feet from the edge of the river.

The water level has been creeping up the last couple of months, and some days now isn’t much lower than the trail. There seems to be a beaver dam now , and a lodge.  The water is high enough that you could probably paddle a kayak right around behind the lodge.  On this side of picture, the water is trickling through a small opening, and running around the dam.  The Mass Wildlife site says that the sound of trickling water makes the beavers rebuild or re-enforce the dam.  I’m curious to see how big this gets.  But I won’t be too happy if we lose this section of trail.  Unless a new trail was cut there, we would have to detour out to the railbed.  The railbed is better than pavement, but not as good as trails.  I guess this isn’t a bad place for a beaver dam, as nobody’s property is being damaged.  But I find myself wishing them to go away, and not mess with my trails.  Oh, well.  Let’s see what the next few months brings!