The First Flood at Tomaquag Trail

By HHA Member Tom Helmer

Photos by Marne MacNamara, Harvey Buford, Bob Miner & Tom Helmer

In March of 2010, the Hopkinton area was hit by the last of 3 storms in quick succession that produced a “500 year flood”. (Please see “The Flood Comes To Woodville”) The bridge and 280′ boardwalk across Tomaquag Brook and flood plain, and the re-built stone bridge over Wine Bottle Brook were engineered to withstand a “100 year flood”. Judging by the weather in the early morning of March 30, 2014, the planning passed the test, as the following photos will attest.

Overnight we were deluged by 5.5 inches of rain! The Tomaquag Brook Watershed responded immediately, and water covered many roads as the area’s culverts were unable to keep up. That afternoon, David Benn, Ted Dionne and Harvey Buford tried to reach the two bridges via the Grills Sanctuary trail head at Chase Hill Road.

They made it as far as Wine Bottle Bridge. The bridge was performing admirably, and the overflow swept across the trail on either side. This portion of the trail had many fist sized rocks mixed in with the dirt, which proved to be a good idea, but were unable to cross due to the depth, and not being able to see if there was a gully cut into the trail. Safety first.

Being among the top ten resourceful men in all of Hopkinton, (Bob Miner was recovering from an operation and was not present, but he also is on that list!) They made their way up Chase Hill Road and descended to the far side of Tomaquag Brook Bridge from David’s property. The bridge was high and dry, but at that time the boardwalk was covered by an estimated 7” of water all the way across the flood plain, which was filled with flowing water from bank to bank.

The following morning, I set out in sprinkling drizzle and came home in sleet after making the trek to Tomaquag Brook Bridge. Along the way I detoured to see the Pawcatuck River, greatly expanded, as the Wood River / Pawcatuck River watershed passed the bulge of water pouring in from all their tributary books and streams. Later, at the point where the Peninsula Loop Trail plunged under the flood waters, I shot a video of the water from the Pawcatuck river flowing “Upstream” towards Tomaquag Bridge.

I attribute this to the delay time as the bigger watersheds are still rising while the local Tomaquag Brook watershed had rapidly cleared away the deluge. While Harvey reported 7” of water and a current at the boardwalk, I found 16” of still water at the boardwalk the next day. Ain’t Hydrology Grand!

I intended to cross the boardwalk, thinking the water would be less than 7” deep, but was disappointed on arriving to find that the water level went up overnight, and was now at the same level as my boot tops, 16”. Seeing every step of the boardwalk construction and hydraulically augured piles, I was confident that the structure was sound. (Please see “Grills Trail Bridge Progress” for photos and a video of placing one of the hydraulically augured piles) I hate it when I have to be a sensible adult, but this was one of those times. A half mile walk back to my car with boots full of ice cold water was not on my agenda for this day. Maybe in the Summer.

The photos on this page tell the story with minimal text.

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3/21/14 Meanders 60’ downstream from Wine Bottle Bridge
3/21/14 Meanders 60’ downstream from Wine Bottle Bridge
3/30/14 Floodwaters overtopping Wine Bottle Bridge, mud from corn fields upstream
3/30/14 Floodwaters overtopping Wine Bottle Bridge, mud from corn fields upstream

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The “Suction” whirlpool on the upstream side of Wine Bottle Bridge. True to the Coriolis Force, it rotates Clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere
The “Suction” whirlpool on the upstream side of Wine Bottle Bridge.
True to the Coriolis Force, it rotates Clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere

Surprise, Surprise! It’s a Homer’s “Odyssey” Pop Quiz!

According to Greek Mythology Odysseus had to pass between two sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis, on his journey home to Ithaca. One was a giant whirlpool, one was a hazardous rocky shoal.

What was the name of the whirlpool?

Learn more at Scylla and Charybdis on wikipedia.

3/31/14 Looking back across Wine bottle bridge
3/31/14 Looking back across Wine bottle bridge
Looking downstream at the bridge outflow current
Looking downstream at the bridge outflow current

 

Looking Upstream from Wine Bottle Bridge
Looking Upstream from Wine Bottle Bridge
The overflow on the South side of Wine Bottle Bridge, continuing on Tomaquag Trail
The overflow on the South side of Wine Bottle Bridge, continuing on Tomaquag Trail
Nine inches of water w 16 inch boots
Nine inches of water w 16 inch boots
4/2/14 Approach to Wine Bottle Bridge
4/2/14 Approach to Wine Bottle Bridge
4/2 Upstream culvert intake, no whirlpool
4/2 Upstream culvert intake, no whirlpool
4/2 Upstream culvert intake, shooting calm intake video
4/2 Upstream culvert intake, shooting calm intake video

4/2 Bob Miner looks back at calm outflow downstream
4/2 Bob Miner looks back at calm outflow downstream

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Since the trail head, I could see a set of fresh tracks that went out and back prior to me starting my hike at 9:30 AM. Wading through the Wine Bottle Bridge overflow, I was certain that whoever had those big feet turned around at the bridge’s watery obstacle. But NO!

Robinson Caruso and I were both equally surprised to discover the foot print of another human!

If this is your boot track, and people size 10 and smaller need not bother to apply, you have won the prestigious “Tom Helmer Old School Hiker Medalion”, with both the “Extreme Determination” and the “Dubious Sanity” clusters! Made of recycled cans and cast in the ubiquitous “Losten Foundary”, you will be the first recipient, as soon as Losten Foundary releases the shipment after I pay the bill.

The Pawcatuck River expands into its flood plain
The Pawcatuck River expands into its flood plain
About ten feet of the Peninsula Loop Trail is out of the water at this end. The video that follows shows the water flowing upstream towards Tomaquag Brook Bridge. The Pawcatuck is still in flood stage while Tomaquag Brook has drained lower.
About ten feet of the Peninsula Loop Trail is out of the water at this end.
The video that follows shows the water flowing upstream towards Tomaquag Brook Bridge.
The Pawcatuck is still in flood stage while Tomaquag Brook has drained lower.

3/31 The Bridge approach
3/31 The Bridge approach
4/2 water is still at 15” on Boardwalk, too deep for Bob & Tom’s Boots
4/2 water is still at 15” on Boardwalk, too deep for Bob & Tom’s Boots
3/31/14
3/31/14

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April 2nd ended for Bob and I with the water too high to allow passage with boots.

On April 4th, the water level had dropped to about 6” deep, and Marne MacNamara became the first person to cross. Among the usual suspects I hike with, Marne is the resident botanist & geologist.

If Mike, Rick, Harvey, Bob or myself exclaim “Wow!”, it is usually some form of archaeology. When Marne lets loose with a “Wow!”, 75% of the time it is some form of tree or rare plant, 15% of the time it is an unusual rock structure, and 10% of the time she is just feeling great to be out in the forest!

Marne hikes barefoot from late Spring through early Fall. She is one tough cookie! To cross the flooded boardwalk, she just took off her shoes, rolled up her pants and left everyone behind.

“Galoshes? Galoshes? I don’t need no stinking Galoshes!”

Marne surprises us frequently! She is a delightful hiking companion with a lot of insight.

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3/21/14 Ted Dionne at the standard bridge photo spot above high water in early spring The 3/31 flood water level is the blue line
3/21/14 Ted Dionne at the standard bridge photo spot above high water in early spring
The 3/31 flood water level is the blue line

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4/5  The boardwalk emerges
4/5 The boardwalk emerges

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3/6/14  Winter water level
3/6/14 Winter water level
3/21/14  Spring high water level
3/21/14 Spring high water level
4/5 High Water Level
4/5 High Water Level
3/21/14  Spring high water level looking downstream at Courage Bridge
3/21/14 Spring high water level looking downstream at Courage Bridge
4/5  Looking Downstream, w Courage bridge completely submerged
4/5 Looking Downstream, w Courage bridge completely submerged
3/21/14  Spring high water level looking downstream
3/21/14 Spring high water level looking downstream
3/21/14  Spring high water level looking upstream
3/21/14 Spring high water level looking upstream
3/31/14  A second exploratory party descended from Chase Hill Road to Polly Coon Bridge. It was also high and dry, although the low approaches were also flooded. Note that the old central support foundation is submerged, producing turbulence in the river.
3/31/14 A second exploratory party descended from Chase Hill Road to Polly Coon Bridge. It was also high and dry, although the low approaches were also flooded. Note that the old central support foundation is submerged, producing turbulence in the river.
3/31/14  The Cedar Swamp Trail remained afloat, but just barely
3/31/14 The Cedar Swamp Trail remained afloat, but just barely
Guess why they call these “Dead Falls” and “Widow Makers”
Guess why they call these “Dead Falls” and “Widow Makers”
3/31/14  The water was only 6’ from the Cedar Swamp Trail
3/31/14 The water was only 6’ from the Cedar Swamp Trail

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3/6/14  John, my hiking companion from Westerly, looks at the red oak Time Bomb
3/6/14 John, my hiking companion from Westerly, looks at the red oak Time Bomb

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3/31/14  A fallen white cedar on Cedar Swamp Trail
3/31/14 A fallen white cedar on Cedar Swamp Trail
At noon, 3/31, the water level was 21 inches below the bottom of the side brace planks
At noon, 3/31, the water level was 21 inches below the bottom of the side brace planks
The side wash from Chase Hill Road
The side wash from Chase Hill Road

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How do I safely take pictures out in the rain for hours?

I built a cheapo water resistant housing for my digital camera!

The first thing you need is the big plastic container of Planter’s Peanuts. After you dispose of them, carefully slice an appropriate size section out of the middle of the container. This is Tough plastic, so use a sharp xacto knife and be extremely careful.

You have to locate and drill a hole for the attaching bolt and shim that will screw into your camera’s tripod base, typically a ¼ 20 bolt and thread. Make up the spacer for the camera mount so the lens is roughly centered behind the container lid but deep within the box. Then make up a shim to support the far end of the camera.

Then you cut a hole in the top of the box, and tape a cut up rubber glove over the hole with enough slack so you can turn the camera on, and press the shutter. As you can’t see these buttons, magic marker dots on the glove above their location. I had to add a felt dot to my power button, because it was too small to feel through the glove.

Steal the laces from your friend’s hiking boots, or buy a new pair, make some holes in the side and bottom, thread the laces through, being careful to get the center of gravity of the camera below the top exit points.

Now go out in the rain and shoot, just don’t loose the container cap, otherwise you have to eat more peanuts.

High Tech Archaeology & Architecture

By HHA Member Tom Helmer

Lidar Maps by Carol Baker and Kathryn Zuromski, Laser Scans by Al DiOreo

I first heard of Lasers when I was in High School c.1965. I also remember they were called “The answer to a question that had yet to be asked”. A product of scientific research, they had no application using them, but they did have the best safety warning sign I have encountered down to this day:

Do Not Look At Laser With Remaining Eye

50 years later lasers are unremarkable, an inescapable technological part of our lives. But recently, HHA had 2 encounters with laser applications which were stunning. The first was Lidar Mapping of the great outdoors, the second was 3D laser scanning, not of supermarket bar codes, but an entire building!

Lidar Mapping

Somewhere along the way, someone discovered that if you flew an airplane with a laser pointing down and scanning rapidly back and forth, and recorded the reflections coming back to the plane, and ran that data through the Transmogrifier, you could render the trees invisible and see the underlying topography hidden beneath the forest canopy. Or, you could focus on the reflections coming back from that same forest canopy and see the mixture of specific species of individual trees in the forest below. Or you could search for certain characteristics to find special habitats across broad swatches of the landscape.

Big Deal. So What.

By scanning for special plants, wetlands can be rapidly identified. (So can pot farms hidden in the woods)

Forestry can monitor overall tree health and the expansion/contraction of specific species.

Archaeologists can spot likely old roads, ruins and areas of interest to guide “on foot” investigation.
This one excited Hopkinton’s Land Trust, Conservation Commission & Historical Association.

Carol Baker, who is a GIS Professional, (Geographic Information Systems) gave a Lidar presentation to 15-20 interested people at Town Hall, and supplied us with maps to let the technology do it’s thing.

Here are several images of an area in Hopkinton

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View from Google Earth

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The Lidar Map w/o contours and graphically enhanced
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The Lidar Map with site interpretations ready for “In Field” verification

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In that sequence, it was possible to deduce there were stone wall boundaries to the fields on the right from Google Earth, but you see the presence of a cemetery in the upper right corner of the top field? Look for it in the Lidar Map,then see it’s small stone walls outlined in the Field Guide. On the tree covered Left side of the Google Earth picture, did you see the radical topography hidden beneath the tree canopy? Did you see the faint outline of dual stone walls lining old farm roads? It would take a hiker days to map these details, but only hours to confirm the Lidar interpretations.

HCC and HHA have begun to use Lidar mapping to further explore the Canonchet Preserves. The foot exploration is covered in depth on the page “Making The Canonchet Trail”, but here is the web site’s first peek at a composite Lidar map of the huge Canonchet Preserves.

 

Canonchet Preserves in Google Earth
Canonchet Preserves in Google Earth
Canonchet Preserves in Lidar
Canonchet Preserves in Lidar

Learn more about LIDAR.

3 D Laser Scanning

After the meeting in Town Hall where Carol was showing us Lidar, Al DiOreo, our local surveyor, approached Rick Prescott about using some new technology to create a 3 Dimensional Laser Scan of the HHA Meeting House, pictured on our Home Page.

This building was built in 1790, and Al said what he wanted to do was create an architectural 3 D drawing of the entire exterior. This would not be some fancy composite photograph, the information he would collect would consist of millions of discrete data points, and each one would be in perfect spatial relationship with every other individual data point.

In simple terms, just like an architect’s blueprint showed the dimensions of major details, his 3 D scan would allow measurements on demand all over the building. But unlike an architect’s drawing, the measurements would be derived via the laser, not a crew working off of scaffolding using tape measurements. This produces an accuracy orders of magnitude superior.

Al set up his equipment with a surveyor’s precision, (Garbage In, Garbage Out) his machine did it’s scan, and when the data was processed, he had an exact digital model of HHA’s Meeting House. With the proper computer software, you could manipulate this model in any plane, measure the radius of the molding on the steeple, the dimensions of the door, or count the floats on one of the shutters.

He also gave us a presentation in the Meeting House, and presented Rick with the copy of the entire building on a thumb drive.

The applications for this technology are growing. You can exactly duplicate a building, both interior and exterior. You can direct restoration maintenance on old buildings to the precise spot needing work, and often figure out what is causing the problem to fix that, as well as the symptom.

You can alter the detail to reproduce the finest nuances of sculpture, The topography of land, or the archaeology of ancient structures. Here are the photos of Al at work, and a print of the visual representation of the building’s model. As always, when local businesses work with HHA, we showcase their business card as our way of saying “Thanks!”

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Al DiOreo showing the detail of the steeple’s architecture
Al DiOreo showing the detail of the steeple’s architecture

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