VT Summertime Whitewater! (West Branch Deerfield)
Though apparently easier than it was a few years ago due to rocks moving in flood, Tunnel Vision is still an intimidating, complex boulder garden with some great gradient. It’s the kind of drop that depends precision from the top to the bottom, from the entrance slide to the last boof before it enters the Tunnel – a ~100 meter long culvert under the road that hides a Class III rapid.
None of us were sure whether we wanted to run Tunnel Vision or not (after all –it’s an easy portage!), but after getting a good look and choosing a line, I decided to fire it up. With Brian on the camera and Chris setting safety near a sieve, I nervously hiked to the top, got in my boat, and paddled in.
My favorite thing about any “downhill” activity, be it skiing, mountain biking, or whitewater kayaking, is the intense focus you get when you’re in the middle of a line. Everything else falls away in those seconds after you’ve dropped in, and all you think about is the next move, staying one step ahead, making all the right moves. Moments like these are what make whitewater kayaking and skiing seem so similar to me.
I got caught a little off guard by a curler above a 6’ ledge, and wasn’t able to get as good a boof (a move to launch your boat off a ledge) as I wanted to. I made it over the hole below the falls but landed off balance and flipped. I was able to roll right away though, and get back on line for the last part of the line before the tunnel. The tunnel itself was one of the strangest rapids I’ve run, with the waves only dimly visible and the spooky, echo-y sound of the flowing water all around. I finally got to the end of it, eddied out, and ran back around to see Chris and Brian.
Chris decided to run it too, while Brian decided to put in right above the tunnel. Chris ran a great line through most of it, although he got endered (shot out vertically) by the hole at the bottom of the same waterfall I had trouble with. Soon we were all sitting below the tunnel with huge smiles pasted across our faces.
The rest of the run was easier, but the glow of catching a new steep creek at a great level in the middle of the summer didn’t go away. To cap off a perfect day, we ran into some other paddlers who had a shuttle set already and gave us a ride back to our car at the put-in, saving us from jogging shuttle!
Read about the author: Ben