Afterwork Vermont Whitewater Adventure
A few days later, it rained again, this time to the tune of over 5” in a few places in northern Vermont. The Lamoille River hit 10 year recurrence highs and we decided we needed to go kayaking. Our target was Joe’s Brook, a small creek that drops about 1000 feet from a pond near Rte 2 to a confluence with the Passumpsic River. Joe’s is normally a spring-time run, fueled by melting snow in the mountains, but we had high hopes it would run from the massive thunderstorms so Nick, Brian and I piled into the car after work and headed north.
When we got to the river it was clear it was running and we suddenly had to figure out what our plan was. We stashed a road bike at the take-out for shuttle, then drove up toward the top. The full run is 10 miles, realistically too long for the few hours of daylight we had left. There was a road crossing about 6 miles from the take-out, so after stopping briefly at the top so Nick could scout a massive ~50 foot steep slide directly below the dam and above the regular put-in, we put on. I threw a headlamp in my drybag “just in case.”
We estimated flows at the low side of medium, based on the rocks we hit on the smaller rapids. Still, the bigger slides were all in beautifully, and we made good time. Nick pitoned on the biggest drop and decided to run it again to get a cleaner line. This time he styled it, taking his time and hopping from eddy to eddy before committing to the final slide.
Lower down there was a great 10 foot waterfall that we ran a few times in search of perfect boofs. All the time, the clock continued to tick. It was one of those evenings that sneaks up on you – it doesn’t feel late until the sun has already sunk behind the wall of the deep valley you’re in. Suddenly it began to feel very late and we paddled hard through the boogie water trying to make time before true nightfall.
We ran a few drops with questionable light, reacting to the feel of the water as much as what we could see with our eyes in the failing daylight. Finally we found ourselves in a dark mini-gorge, with the rapid ahead of us completely obscured by darkness. Although we weren’t overly worried about the difficulty of the rapid, we were worried about an unseen tree or “strainer” in the water which could quickly trigger a dangerous situation. We decided to do the prudent thing and hike.
We made it back to the road without much difficulty and I left my gear there with Nick and Brian and jogged toward the take-out, cursing the feeble light from my almost-dead headlamp batteries. Once I got there I turned around, this time on my bike, and headed back up toward the put-in. The night ride seemed to last forever, taking on a bit of a surreal feel as I road past the dim light of my headlamp up invisible backwoods Vermont dirt roads. Every once in a while heat lightning flickered on the horizon, and the moon was completely obscured. By the time I finally got back to the car, I was ready for the ride to be over. We packed up the gear and finally made it back to Hanover around 11. A nice after-work adventure!
Nick and I failed to learn our lesson from our first nighttime adventure, so when the radar showed thunderstorms in southern Vermont the next day, we wasted no time in throwing the boats on the car and heading down, again leaving after work. Our high hopes were crushed when our primary target, the Big Branch looked mountain-bike-able from the take-out. Maybe the storms had gone further south? Since we were already all the way over on the other side of the greens, we decided to drive south in search of water.
We found some in the drainage of the Roaring Branch, near Stratton. It was certainly low – roadside scouting made it look REALLY low. Still, we had already driven all this way and had our boats, so we drove as far up the drainage as it looked worthwhile and gamely put on around 7.
It really was low, but surprisingly fluid (one of my favorite parts of kayaking culture is the nomenclature “fluid.” It just seems so redundant for a river sport!). The drops all blended into each other, with only small river side eddies, but the moves were fun, and there were a good number of decent boof ledges, some of which didn’t land on rocks! We didn’t stop for pictures given the late time, but ended up running over 2 miles of the river before the gradient flattened and the in between rocks became more annoying. We took out on the river-side road and I jogged back to the car. Of course I forgot to take my headlamp out of the drybag in my boat, so by the time I got back to the car I was running blindly in the dark.
We put on so late for the Roaring Branch that we didn’t stop for pictures, instead opting to just bomb through. Sorry! I’m going to the Raquette River in New York for a release this weekend though, so we’ll try to get some pictures there for next week!
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