People don't really think of New England as having a "snowpack" or a snowmelt season for kayaking, but the truth is, most years we have at least a month of reliable creeking. Last year, we had more than two months during which the best rivers we have were running every day on a diurnal cycle. This year...well, the grim snowpack -- not surprisingly -- gave way to a grim snowmelt season.
Dave from WV on his way to Chicoutimi...with a pit stop at the Big Branch in VT.
Greg Sokol on a great new boof at the top of the last rapid on the Big Branch.
After I got back from the Grand Canyon (and skiing in Jackson) in February, I settled in for a bit more skiing before the kayaking season really started. But, we had a little bit of rain, and towards the beginning of March (March 4th), a couple of us decided it was kayaking season, no matter what the weather thought. So we ran the Mettawee at low water in the cold...then I took a day off to reflect, because it was about 35 degrees out. The next day, I decided I didn't care how cold it was -- it was kayaking season and the rivers were going to be kayaked whether they liked it or not. So I paddled the next 46 days straight. There were some highs and lows -- the first day, it was 20 degrees out and I had to sit in my car for 10 minutes before my gear thawed enough to take off. A week later, I was running the Middlebury Gorge and it was 80 and sunny. After the water ran out, I had to get a bit more creative, but the truth is, if you really want to go kayaking, you pretty much always can. Sometimes I attained a local class II run. I ran the Quechee Gorge (II-III with one IV+) more times than ever before. The lack of water forced me to paddle a handful of new rivers that turned out to be phenomenal, if only class II-III -- the Black, the Mad, the Otter Creek Gorge.
Christian Woodard, somewhere in the woods of Northern NH (I doubt I could find it on a map if you asked me to) -- Chickwolnepy Creek.
I spent two days (overnight) circumnavigating Manhattan by full moon, which turned out to be one of the coolest trips I've done in a kayak. Thanks to Kenny Unser, who is "the guy" if you're a whitewater paddler and want to circumnavigate, we had a great tide pattern and the trip turned out better than I could have imagined. Be wary of giant cruise ships -- they're even bigger when you're in a tiny kayak in a shipping channel. The sunrise as we came around the battery was absolutely incredible. If you ever get the chance, do this trip -- obviously it's not a long trip, but in my opinion, it's right up there with the Grand Canyon, the Middle Fork of the Salmon, etc. etc. I can't wait to do it again.
The Manhattan Crew: Kenny Unser, Mark Trahan, Me, Greg Sokol, Christian Woodard (left to right). Taking a break on someone's dock.
The boats, the Bronx.
Next time you find yourself sitting around complaining about the lack of water, go paddle class II-III. Most rivers have really interesting and hard lines on them, no matter how easy they are. And, if you really can't find anything fun going down a river, well, get a long boat and go up it. And, if you don't feel like doing that, find the nearest city and paddle around it in a sea kayak.
Alan Panebaker, paddling hard from the open boater chasing him on VT's newest dam release class IV/V, the Green. At 100%.
And...here's a short video from my Grand Canyon self support, and one from a lap down the Middlebury in March.