Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mount Sugarloaf Hiking

I've passed Sugarloaf at least 20 times this year and each time I say "I'm going to hike there sometime".  Today was that day.  Mount Sugarloaf is a small mountain with pretty much only two trails.  They have an auto trail and a wooded trail.  We took the wooded trail and it was a little under half mile straight up and we climbed about 500' in elevation in that half mile.  It reminded me a lot of hiking Bash Bish Falls.  It was a beautiful day for hiking, 25 degrees with little wind and even less clouds.  At the top we got treated to clear views of other mountains such as the Holyoke Range and Mount Toby.  We were also treated to a hawk fight from the scenic lookout, which is just past the parking lot and observation tower.  It was pretty impressive to watch a hawk flying at 700' just tuck it's wings and dive down in a blink of an eye.  On the way down the mud got a little worse and it became slippery.  I decided to slip in the mud and start sliding down the side of the mountain, thankfully I've been in the woods enough to know to not panic and think quickly.  I grabbed a small tree with a kung-fu grip and hiked back to the trail and made my way down the mountain.  I had only slid 7' or so, not bad at all.

For more info on Mount Sugarloaf click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chapel Brook Hiking

I was WAAAAYYYY overdue for some outdoor activity, besides cutting and splitting wood.  Thankfully a conversation with my buddy Dave resulted in the mutual decision that we've been working hard and it's time to get back outdoors and enjoy ourselves.  I had every intention to finally go to Purgatory Chasm until I found out they close the caves in the winter because of ice.  What a world we live in that we have to be protected from ourselves.  That's a conversation for another day though.  I have recently been looking more and more at trails owned and maintained from The Trustees of Reservations.  We decided to go to Chapel Brook to hike up Pony Mountain and to walk down the brook and look at the falls.  

We made the trek out to Ashfield, MA and parked at the trailhead in the late morning.  The weather was fantastic for a December day.  It was clear, calm, and in the upper 30s.  As we walked up to the main section the first thing that we noticed was the incredible rock faces that are there.  There was a spot you can actually climb up if you didn't want to hike.  I'm not a climber but if I were I'd certainly give it a shot.  There isn't a trail map located on their website and as luck would have it there wasn't any to take at the trailhead.  Thankfully they had a large version behind glass we could look at, it's a small area so there were basically two trails to get to the top.  We took the Summit Trail up to the top.  The Summit Trail loops around the rock face and comes in from the back.  Once we got to the top we got to look out over the surrounding communities and we investigated the climbing section.  We decided to take the Ledge trail down which was a steeper trail that followed the rock face all the way down.  The hike was shorter than expected, around 2 miles, so we unloaded our packs and went across the street to follow Chapel Brook to the various falls.  Of course I tried to scout the area for Trout, but didn't see much.  I saw what I thought was a fry (baby fish) but that was it.  I saw quite a fool pools that LOOK like they could have held Trout but who knows these days.  

For more info on Chapel Brook click here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tips: De-Skunking Kit

Here is a GREAT De-Skunking recipe that I found from Pheasants Forever.  I haven't been "lucky" enough to try it myself but I know many people who have used it and it works great.  So here goes:

Dog De-Skunking Ingredients

  1. 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide
  2. ¼ cup baking soda
  3. 1 teaspoon of dishwashing soap with grease cutter
  4. Sponge
  5. Rubber gloves
  6. Small bucket


Mix these ingredients together in the instructed proportions.  Simply dumping a bottle of each doesn’t create an effective de-skunking mixture.  After you’ve got the paste-like mixture prepared, here are the directions for de-skunking your bird dog.

De-Skunking Directions

  1. Put on rubber gloves
  2. Mix solution in proper measurements
  3. Wet dog down
  4. Work in the solution
  5. Leave on the dog for 3 to 4 minutes
  6. Rinse and repeat if necessary

Thursday, December 1, 2011

News: Cape Cod To Use Cannon To Scare Off Eiders

From The Cape Cod Times

CHATHAM — Every fall, eiders flock to Chatham Harbor and settle in for six months of snacking on mussels, one of their favorite foods.

But this year, the thousands of sea ducks will get a booming welcome.

Three air cannons will fire every 20 to 30 minutes during the daytime from three rafts in the harbor located near the prime mussel beds that fishermen want to harvest come spring.

Part of the test is to see if the cannon will also disturb nearby waterfront homeowners and guests at the posh Chatham Bars Inn.

The hope is that the ducks will move away from the irritating noise to mussel beds in ocean waters where they can dine in peace, said David Likos, vice chairman of the shellfish advisory committee.

"We definitely think these cannon will have an effect," he told selectmen Tuesday.

Big money at stake

At stake is possibly $800,000 worth of mussels, the value of the crop that survived to be harvested in 2007-08 as well as an estimated $500,000 worth of young softshell clams, also a favorite eider dish. It's money that could help the town's shrinking commercial shellfish industry. The number of commercial permit holders has dwindled from 540 in 1993 to 279 last year, according to town reports.

Last year, the ducks wiped out a potentially record crop of mussels, Likos said.

Given the importance of the shellfishing industry to the town, "I think it's worth the experiment," Selectman Tim Roper said.

He was among the three Chatham selectmen who unanimously approved the test, with conditions, including notifying the inn and other property owners "so when they hear this, they won't all jump out of their skins," Selectman Florence Seldin said. "We realize the importance of the shellfishing industry as well as the residents."

The committee wanted to use the cannons from November to March but "a weeklong test is probably prudent," said Robert Duncanson, director of the town's Department of Health and Environment. He promised to react quickly to any complaints.

"If that means turning them off, or relocating them, we'd do it as quickly as possible. I suspect, once we get (the cannon) deployed, if we get complaints, we'll get them right away," he said.

The committee also agreed to notify the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which oversees the plovers and terns that will nest next spring on Tern Island near two of the proposed cannon locations.

First time on Cape

No starting date for the test was given. The town must spend an estimated $400 to $500 for two cannons, to be paid for with a portion of commercial permit fees. Chatham's commercial fishermen have offered to buy a third cannon.

Two cannons would be moored a quarter to four-tenths of a mile east of the fish pier, and the third north of the new inlet, about two-thirds of a mile from the mainland, Likos said.

"You hook up a can of propane (to the cannon) like you normally would to your barbecue," he said. "The barrel can be adjusted to regulate the loudness of the pop."

The cannons have not been used elsewhere on the Cape, according to the committee's research, and nobody really knows what the "pop" will sound like offshore, where sounds can be muffled or amplified, depending on wind and waves. The noise from the cannon shots hits 100 to 125 decibels, far less than the 155 decibels of a shotgun blast, Likos said.

"I think the noise is somewhat like a lawn mower," he said, and, given the distance from shore, the cannon "would sound like an eggbeater. ... It's going to be a shot off in the distance."

The eiders themselves are naturally noisy, according to Likos, who played a video of a scene off Scatteree Landing as a boat came by and scared thousands into the air.

"In about 20 minutes, they found their way back to the landing but the noise they make is almost deafening. It's incredibly loud," he said.

Because of the unknown impact of the noise, Robert Oliver of Old Harbor Road, which is near two cannon sites, asked the selectmen to shoot off a cannon before approving their placement and to consider the impact on the Chatham Bars Inn and the owners who rent their homes.

"This is interesting and I'm not necessarily opposed," he said. "I don't live very far from these locations and I'm concerned. And if I'm concerned, other people will be also."

Long-running issue

Eiders and humans have competed for the same Chatham shellfish before. The eiders fly in from Labrador, where they breed, to winter in Chatham, Likos said.

In 1953, the town hired boats for $10 a day to drive around and disperse the ducks, which did save many thousands of bushels of mussels.

Nowadays, the cost of labor and gas is too expensive, although the committee is encouraging boaters and fishermen to drive through flocks as they pass.

In 1956, the town got federal permission to kill eiders, but "we're only interested in dispersing, not in killing them," he said.

Another year, the town got federal permission to use pyrotechnics and powerboats to disperse the eiders. The rockets worked for a while but then "the ducks got used to the noise," Likos said.

The town already fires rockets, called "screamers," from a shotgun three or four times a day at the disposal area to scare away gulls. But it's too expensive and labor-intensive, Likos said.