Winter to Fall and back again
Even a little after noon there was still plenty of snow (albeit slushy) to ski all the way back to the car. Owen and I got down, grabbed a quick lunch, then drove west to Rutland, then south on Route 7. It was surreal to be able to so casually drive between seasons, trading the snow-covered pine trees of Killington for the spectacular foliage in the lowlands. Near Danby, VT a deep canyon cuts up into the high plateau in the Green Mountain National Forest. At the bottom of this steep canyon flows the Big Branch river, one of the best class V creeks in the northeast. With all the precipitation over the past few days, the Big Branch was a raging torrent, high above the level it is usually run at. Owen and I met up with a crew of whitewater kayakers and decided with all the water conditions were perfect to explore the upper reaches of the river and try to run it from up in the mountains high above the usual put-in. Some of the crew would then go on and run the harder, lower section at the insanely high level while the mere mortals in the crew would hike out at the usual put-in.
We pulled out the gazetteer and found a lonely dirt forest road leading high up on one of the tributaries that combine to form the Big Branch. Once again we left fall behind in a blaze of color (some of the best foliage I’ve seen anywhere this season!) and found ourselves back in winter. The put-in was a lonely dead-end at around 2000′ where we stood around in patches of snow in 35 degree air while others set shuttle. It was hard not to wonder if it was a bad idea, but the allure of exploring a perhaps never-before-run stretch of river was too much to pass up.
Shivering at the put-in
Soon we were floating down the river. The upper section was mostly class III, with shallow rapids and snow flurries all around as we floated through the Vermont woods. The rapids built up as we descended lower though. Just as the river seemed to be getting more interesting and big, my boat hit an especially sharp rock the wrong way and cracked. Honestly I’m still pretty surprised it cracked, since it wasn’t a hard hit, but bad luck happens sometimes. Lacking the proper materials to fix it on the river, I had to hike out (fortunately the long trail was nearby, allowing an easy escape route!) while the others continued down river. Next time!
About half the group opted to hike out at the regular put-in, as the rapids began tipping toward the big Class V end of the scale. The other half ran the lower gorge, and emerged with tales of huge, pushy features between great moves. There was one swim (and given the crew that was paddling, this is a testament to the level of the river!), but all the gear was recovered. I snapped a few pictures of the last rapid from the take-out…
Ted in the last eddy
Alan launching off a bump in the middle. I love the contrast between the water and the foliage!
Justin boofing into the drop
And styling the finish!
Even though the whitewater portion of my day was cut short by my boat cracking, I had an amazing double day out in the Vermont mountains! I love flirting with the line between winter and fall in these shoulder season storms, as we played with the mountains, gravity, and the precipitation in its many forms, following its journey from mountaintop to valley.
Thanks for looking! Keep posting to FISWX and stay tuned for more snowliage skiing!
Anson schussing seasons
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