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The Vermont Paddlers Club: Trip Reports

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Trip Reports

Find trips reports from 2001 and prior in the Bow & Stern Archive
All: by date By Title: A-Z By Author: A-Z Last 12 Months 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Past 12 Months...

Dog River Saturday Apr 18, 2020
Huntington River Saturday Apr 4, 2020
Lower Mad (open for business)! Tuesday Mar 10, 2020
Chase Brook scouting (solo) Saturday Oct 26, 2019

Past 12 Months...

Dog River
Saturday Apr 18, 2020
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

I realize this was in no way an official VPC trip, but I wanted to record this information on a lesser-run river in case it proves helpful for future boaters.  What a treat last night -- as I scoured the Internet to find any information about paddling the Dog River -- to stumble onto Eric Bishop's trip report from Saturday, April 17th, 2004 -- almost 16 years ago to the day.  And what a treat to realize, by looking at other trip reports on the VPC site, that Eric and I had run Joe's Brook a day later -- my first trip down Joe's and a wonderful memory from my senior year in college. Eric's write-up was helpful today, and in that spirit, I wanted to provide an update.

I put in just upstream of the town of Northfield.  The dam just downstream of the Route 12 bridge was the best rapid of the day, a 5-6 foot sloping ledge.  Light rapids to a portage around the big dam behind the Nantanna Mill on river left. Easy water to the shallow rapid just above the next Route 12 bridge, by the town offices.  A decent ledge just below the first covered bridge. Then the huge, impressive 25’ Northfield Falls alongside the abandoned mill just downstream of the Cox Brook Road covered bridge.  Is it runnable? Back in 2004, with safety set, maybe . . . But in 2020, solo, definitely not!

More easy water to the “Jacuzzi” drop at the head of the last gorge.  Easy water to the Riverton take out.

Partway through the run, I paddled past a man running his chainsaw in his backyard.  This man was, interestingly enough, a dead-ringer for Eric Bishop, circa 2004.  He put his chainsaw down for a moment to talk. This is Week 5 of the Coronavirus social distancing period, and both of us were eager for conversation, even a few brief words  When I arrived at the take out, I saw he’d driven down to talk some more.  We chatted for a few more minutes at the bridge, six feet apart. I biked the shuttle and drove home.

Huntington River
Saturday Apr 4, 2020
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: novice WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Tony Shaw

I didn't invent the internet, but I sure could have used the internet back in the day, when I was new to Vermont with no paddling pals. I would drive all over kingdom come after it rained a bit toting my bike and my canoe, looking for a boatable stretch of river. When finally I found something I could (perhaps) make it down, the bike would go inside the canoe (yep, the 17' Grumman could hold me as well as my bike) and I would paddle until I'd had enough paddling before biking back to the get the car. I logged hundreds of river miles (and many more road miles) through the early years before I discovered the VPC - then called the NVCC. Paddling alone is frowned upon for safety reasons, but necessity is the mother of invention. Plus I have to admit, paddling solo still holds for me a certain quiet, nostalgic, and earth-child appeal.

Where the Huntington is concerned, there is no USGS gauge, so the internet wouldn't have been much help Saturday morning when I couldn't resist the urge to go paddle it. I waited until the temperature topped 50 degrees, figuring it's a rare 50 degree day in early April when the Huntington is too low to paddle. My plan - to start all the way up in Hanksville and run all the way to Huntington Gorge - was thwarted by a lower-than-usual-for-early-April water level and by my late start, so I put in at Horseshoe Bend above the Audubon Center. It was lovely to be out!

Those early days in the 1980's - road scouting until I found water - were bad for my carbon footprint but great for my low water river-reading skills, and negotiating thinly covered boulder fields is like riding a bike - you never forget. It helps that the river when it's running low is also running clear, making the gravel bars and pillow rocks easier to identify, and avoid.

There were only a handful of decent surfing waves at Saturday's level, and I made the most of them. Novices should be forewarned that the Halloween storm of 2019 - a conveyor belt of Canada-bound moisture propelled by a mid/upper level trough that dumped 3-4 inches of rain here over a 6 hour period - took a toll on the banks of the Huntington, leaving scars that will last for decades and dropping at least 3 large trees across the river in foreboding places. Knowing how to spot deadly strainers and how to avoid them is definitely necessary on the lower Huntington - until further notice. The Linda Weiss memorial venue at the Audobon was mercifully unaffected - as pretty as ever.

Dugway Rd. below Huntington Gorge is closed to through traffic because a section of it - in the same storm - collapsed into the river. I can only imagine what the toll on the river was from that calamity. And that final stretch of the Huntington had always been - for me - so gorge-eous, so alluring.

I can no longer fit a bike in my canoe, but I had the road almost entirely to myself on the bike shuttle back to Horseshoe Bend (thanks to covid-19).

Lower Mad (open for business)!
Tuesday Mar 10, 2020
Organizer: Tony Shaw
Difficulty: nov-int WW
Level: medium
Author: Tony Shaw

As the day began, the Mad R. USGS real-time online gauge was showing "ice", but the New Haven gauge was barely over 500 cfs, so we were surprised to find the Mad with, as Jamie put it: "a lot more water than I was expecting". The put-in trail was still snow-covered, but the river was open from top to bottom, and fun! We had sunshine and rain showers - sometimes simultaneously - during our run, and temps close to 50 degrees. Quite pleasant for March 10th. Chris had to pull his skirt and swim below the horseshoe (river left), after capsizing above the lip, but he was unfazed. The water where he is going later this month (Costa Rica) will be warmer, if he happens to have another swim!

Chase Brook scouting (solo)
Saturday Oct 26, 2019
Organizer: Chris Weed
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: too low
Author: Chris Weed

Saturday, October 26 offered a beautiful, crisp afternoon, and I needed to get out of Burlington, so I headed east and south to German Flats Road in Fayston. My original plan was to check and see if a couple of river-wide logs on Mill Brook were still present, but when arrived I recalled my interest in exploring the tributary along German Flats Road.

I arrived about 2:20 pm, and I spent the next 2.5 hours exploring the brook on foot. My hope was that it offered an interesting extension of the usual run on Mill Brook along Route 17 (Mill Brook Road). My main concern was that it might be too wood-choked to be worthwhile.

My initial hike upstream from near Route 17 revealed a continuous Class 2/3 stretch with a number of logs to avoid, but with easy ways to walk around them. The brook flows through some lovely woods, much of which turn out to be part of Fayston's Chase Brook Town Forest, which connects to extensive network of mountain biking trails.

At a certain point I was blocked by private land, which could have been circumvented by fording the brook and continuing on the river-right bank. I didn't want to drench my hiking shoes, so I headed back to my car, and drove up further up German Flats Road to look for additional access points.

Fortunately, I came upon the trailhead and parking area for the Chase Brook Town Forest trail, which is almost directly across from the Fayston Elementary School. A recently constructed foot bridge connects the parking area to the trail on the river-right bank. I parked, crossed the bridge, and headed downstream along the brook. The Town Forest trail quickly heads uphill into the forest, but there is an older trail (no longer in use) that follows the brook. That allowed me to scout the section that I had previously missed. I found more wood, but the river gradient remained steady, with interesting features in the riverbed, including an apparently natural log dam that impounds a shelf of gravel and cobblestones, forming a 3.5 or 4 foot drop. (There is a narrow bypass on river-left.)

A check later on Google Maps showed that the total length from the trailhead down to Mill Brook is about 0.71 miles or maybe a bit more (accounting for bends not shown on the map). This is a substantial addition to the run from the culvert at the Mill Brook Road intersection, making a total of 2.35 miles down to the takeout just above the final bridge before Route 100. I think this is well worth some effort to clean up some or all of the obstructions, several of which are small diameter logs. I hope to recruit a small crew to do the work this fall.

VPC trip reports can provide an important historical basis for 'current use', a legal doctrine that can affect the regulatory process - dam relicensing, new dam construction projects, etc. But only (obviously) if we (WE) write them! So, be sure to share and preserve the memories of your latest paddling adventures by submitting a trip report.
If you are a VPC member and you want attribution for a trip report, please login to the website (above) before you begin filling out your trip report. Reports with attribution will appear on the 'My Trip Reports' tab on your 'My Profile' page.
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