family-friendly floating and legendary fishing. Below Center Falls it gets more complicated with a series of dams and pools until Middle Falls where things head seriously downhill.
The Battenkill's level above Middle Falls is 305 feet and it joins the Hudson at 80 feet. That's a drop of 225 feet in just four miles. Yet there's some great flatwater paddling in this stretch. What gives?
Currently the water power here is used to generate electricity but the site has a long history dating back to 1766. Called at various times Arkansaw and Galesville, it finally became Middle Falls in 1875. Plaster and cement, woolen and flouring mills have all been located here.
The shale gorge here may be a relatively new landscape feature, cut since the last glacier melted. I've heard theories that the pre-glacial Battenkill used to flow south thru the Cambridge valley towards the Hoosic before being diverted by ice and outwash deposits into its present course. In any case, the river you see today has cut down thru its own delta of unconsolidated sediments (gravel, sand and clay) which built up where it entered a lake 13000 years ago.
As you stand high above the gorge (keeping a tight grip on dogs and kids) you are looking down at the upper reaches of a nice paddling destination. But, as you've probably guessed, you can't get there from here. It's time to get back in the car and drive to the lower end of Windy Hill/Hogsback Road, past the H&V mill, across the bridge to a right on Pulp Mill Lane.
From a parking area at the end carry your boat a few hundred yards thru an old mill yard till you're on the upstream side of the second Clarks Mills dam. The gate here is closed in late afternoon, just when most people get out of work and have time to paddle. Some miscreants have been known to carry around the right side of the gate when its shut. Once you're above the concrete dam look for a small launch site. I'ld like to say its clear sailing (or paddling) from here but I'ld be lying. The water close to shore can be choked with aquatic vegetation until you get out in the main channel. Persist and you're rewarded with a pleasant flatwater trip of several miles until you reach the shale gorge that leads up to Dionondahowa Falls. Here its up to the water level and your ambition how far you go against a progressively stronger current.
There were colorful strings of lights and music could be heard but not a single person seen on a beautiful summer evening. Several weeks later on a Saturday night Holly and I drove in off Fiddlers Elbow Road past a sign proclaiming "Bobby James, the singing DJ in concert". There's a long dirt road descent, you cross RR tracks and take a left at the Snob Hill sign. The Wrek wasn't exactly hopping but we did see a few signs of life: a couple of girls on floats in the river, a scattering of people sitting outside their campers and that was about it. Apparently Bobby James is the very quiet, invisible singing DJ because we neither saw nor heard a peep out of him.
Place at the Table - Fish and Drips
Big Falls always leaves me with a big appetite. Good thing the corner of Rt. 29 and Windy Hill Road is nearby. That's where the Moby Dick Fish Fry wagon is parked next to the Ice Cream Man most of the summer. Dinner here includes a big pollock sandwich, onion rings or fries and some cole slaw. This place bucks all the foodie fads and I love it. It doesn't pretend to serve local, organic or even fair trade, whatever that means. The rolls aren't whole wheat or gluten free and everything but the cole slaw is fried. Furthermore, according to a recent Outside magazine article we shouldn't be eating anything out of the ocean. So enjoy a small helping of guilt along with a nice selection of condiments and great summer time cart food. And here's a little known fact about Moby Dick's Fish Fry...Herman Melville was inspired to write a novel after eating here!
This week it's a case of the early bird getting the moon... and some planets. In the wee hours between 4am and 6am the waning crescent moon will be threading its way past Venus, Mars and Jupiter and approaching Mercury on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 8-9-10. All this takes place near the constellation of Leo so its bright star Regulus also is part of the mix. Later in the month on the 17th the three planets form a close group and on the 25th Venus and Jupiter are side by side before sunrise. It's also a good month for meteors with the Draconids on Thursday the 8th and the Orionids on Tuesday the 20th.
I've always thought that from now till the end of the year offers the best sunsets and cloud formations. I don't have a scientific explanation, just years of personal observations. Also more sundogs from fall thru winter.
I spent the day disking a field of corn stubble in preparation for a rye seeding. Had lots of help with a red tailed hawk swooping down on mice right beside the tractor, and flocks of geese landing in adjacent fields. Now as I write in the evening a barred owl is hooting outside. I think I'll go out and listen to what he has to say...