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Big Branch breakfast run

Wednesday May 19, 2004
Kayak: Jim Zamecnik
C1: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium high
Author: Jim Z

I had been thinking maybe I was ready for my first run on the legendary Big Branch. Alden had run it a few times, and seemed to think so too. So after a couple days of storms sweeping through south of Rutland, we decided play hooky for the morning and see if it was up. Up it was, to 3.5, a pretty solid level I'm told.

We put in at 8AM. The run started out well, boofing over an endless staircase of 2 - 4' drops. This is cool! The drops are so close together there's hardly time to think. The scenery is amazing, if you can find the time to look. Blue sky, warm sunshine, lush spring foliage, and a riverbed full of glacial boulders.

Soon we were at the first of the named drops, "Cave rapid". A 6' drop, cave on the right, rock wall on the left, piton rocks in the middle. Tough choices. Alden runs first, taking the middle line. With a thump he pitons into the rocks, breaking both thigh straps. Not easy to roll a C-1 like that, but he tries twice, then he's out and swimming. We recover the boat but his paddle has gotten away. Thankfully he has a spare in his boat, so we jury-rig his straps and continue (I took the sneak route, on foot, boat on shoulder, river right)

Another stretch of steep stair-step drops and we're at "Mushroom", a maze of small boulder drops ending in a couple bigger ones. It's my turn for carnage. All goes well until I somehow find myself running the last 2 drops upside down, lose my paddle, and swim. The boat stays with me but the paddle tries to escape. After a short search we find it and we're off again, dropping and boofing.

At about the halfway point I'm flipped again, banging along through the boulders. Too confused to roll, I pull the ripcord and gather up the pieces. This time I have a firm grip on the boat and paddle, but I watch as some of my outfitting floats away. With a hip pad and my confidence washed away it's time for me to admit defeat. I shoulder the boat and hike the last 3/4 mile to the take-out bridge. Alden finished the run solo, without further incident. Afterwards, on the drive to work, I find my shirt sleeve wet with blood. A quick stop at the doctor's office for a few stitches in my elbow and I'm ready for the next adventure.

What an amazing creek. Far steeper than anything I've been on. Absolutely relentless and unforgiving rapids. Gorgeous green wilderness. Beats the heck out of working! Not sure how soon, but I'll be back again to redeem myself. At a lower level. It's too cool a run not to try again.

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