Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 2: Stetson Pond to East Monponsett

After rendez-vousing at the Herring Run Park in Pembroke with my mother, Seth, and Olaf, we drove to Stetson Pond where the Eisenbergs' very nicely let us launch from their property (thanks!). I had originally intended to paddle the entire length of the Herring Brook up til near Rt. 36, but just getting to Rt. 14 took me almost four hours, so we decided that it would probably be a good idea to jump ahead to Stetson Pond if we wanted to make it to our campsite for the night. After restocking water, thanking the Eisenbergs and taking a few pictures, we set out across the pond to the south where we were then able to portage into the Chaffin Reservoir.

After hopping over a small bank, we continued to the southwest on Chandler Mill Pond to the railroad tracks. Debating whether or not portaging over the railroad tracks would be dangerous, we finally decided to quickly hop over with our gear and canoe and relaunch into the beginnings of Stetson Brook. About ten minutes after we had gotten back into the boat, the sound of a passing train confirmed that our speedy portage (thanks to Seth's light canoe and great portaging abilities) was a good strategy. The water looked a little dirty, almost orange at first, but the multitude of fish flitting under us reassured us that
the pollution (if present) was not too dangerous.

Stetson Brook begins without being that bad, as one bank borders a field and it is not too overgrown. Looking down, we continued to see many fish swimming around in the shaded depths. However, it is a pretty deep stream so when it becomes more overgrown as you get farther to the south, with branches hanging over the brook, it gets to be more difficult as we had to get out at times and stand on logs, etc. in order to not get soaked. The brook quickly degenerated into a first-rate swamp reminiscent of Apocalypse Now or some kind of Malaysian jungle and Olaf rued his decision not to buy a machete on his pre-trip REI visit (they were on sale and would have been very useful). The overgrowth made it hard even to drag the canoe forward, so we rapidly exited the canoe, discovering the depth of the mud (up to our knees at best; up to around mid-abdomen at worst) and began our slog towards East Monponsett Pond.

Our one piece of good luck was that locals Ray and Mark Grimasson had been there before us with cutters, and had cut most of the larger branches that blocked our passage. We tried to find a better way to either side; but it just gets harder and more overgrown if you try to go either east or west, so the best (and pretty much only) way forward is to just follow the direction of the current to the south. We definitely wondered how the Wampanoags dealt with the almost impassible swamp that is Stetson Brook; perhaps they kept up the Canoe Passage much better than it is today. Nearing the end of the brook, the disembodied voice of my mother floated towards us --- she had come bearing Tecnu, a lotion to help prevent the rash caused by poison ivy, a plant present in great numbers in the portion we had just completed. Finally, we had achieved victory: the open water of the Monponsetts!

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