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Lower Mad River

Wednesday May 11, 2011
Kayak: JimP, JohnA, KenE, FrancisM, JamieD, TomR, RichR, PaulC, PeterC, DanB, NoahP, ChrisW
OC2: TonyS, EmilyS
Organizer: JimP
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (ft): 3.40
Gauge (cfs): 340
Author: JimP

Ah, Spring. The weather starts to get warm; the trees start to bud out. Wait a second! That sounds like the end of paddling season!!! This was the refrain of about a dozen boaters aound noon on Wednesday, May 11. And it was motivation to get them all on the Mad River - all at the same time!

And thus started Spring's Last Hurrah 2011.

The VPC posting was set: meet at the takeout at 5:30. Then someone posts a "warm up" run at 3:30. Amazing to me how many paddlers don't work for a living!

Six hearty souls (John, Ken, Francis, Jamie, Rich and Jim) met at the takeout for an early run. It did not take too long to get ready and consolidate boats on a couple of cars. The level was low but boatable. All the rapids had enough juice to get through. We moved down river slowly but steadily. We did have to be at the takeout by 5:30! There was a quick scout at Horseshoe and those that chose to run styled it. (all on the left channel) There was a quick swim at Washing Machine but that did not stop the group for long. We paddled the last couple of rapids, joined up with the Winooski and made it to the takeout with time to spare. (OK, maybe 5 minutes)

Waiting at the takeout were a few more paddlers. Actually, it was A LOT more paddlers. We figured out a way to not have to run an intermediate shuttle to get the two cars from the first run back to the takeout. We just loaded everyone up and headed to the put in! Thanks Dan for the pickup truck that can hold ten or fifteen boats! Or so it seemed...

Once at the put in we meet up with a couple of more paddlers and found it hard to find a parking spot. Were we paddling on the Mad River or skiing a power day at Mad River??? Hard to tell by the number of cars.

So here's the math: 6 paddlers on the first run. Minus 1 for the second run (Francis). Plus 8 paddlers for the second run equals 13! But wait there's more! Another private trip picked the unfortunate time to put on at the same time. Plus 3 more boaters. We were a flotilla of 16 paddlers in 15 boats! Yowza, that's a lot of plastic on a small river like the Mad! As trip leader I needed to keep counting heads. No small feat as the group bobbed down river.

But we managed. We poked our way down the river and spread out so that we didn't get in each other's way. We congregated at the larger eddies so we could count heads and recount stories.

At Horseshoe almost the whole group ran the left channel. Each run was clean! (nice job all!) Paul popped into Tony's open boat as an understudy to Emily (Paul - do you like the theatre reference?!?) and the two went over the drop to everyone's cheers and whistles! Sweet run!

Then the real action began. A number of folks walked back up to give the right side of Horseshoe a go. I would like to say that every run was as clean as the left, but sadly that wasn't the case. First an orange play boat could not escape the froth. Then a certain green Fluid kayak hit the right slot a bit off line and went deep. Both events causing some rope throwing practice. Nice rescues guys!

From there we poked down to the last rapid - including another quick swim at Washing Machine. A few people took multiple runs on the final rapid as the sun set and darkness started to settle in. We arrived at the put in at 8:15 with still a bit of daylight to spare.

Packing all the drivers (and there were plenty) into a couple of rigs for the ride to the put in was challenging but not insurmountable for this adventurous bunch. Once everyone was reunited with their cars and equipment we said our goodbyes and headed home with smiles on our faces.

Now we are all looking to the skies for signs of clouds and rain. It's amazing how quickly we forget one of the wettest springs in recent history and are once again dusting off our best rain dances to get our favorite rivers to pop just once more before the heat of summer really kicks in!



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