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Big Branch

Friday Apr 15, 2005
Kayak: Steve Graybill
C1: Joe Stumpfel, Alden Bird
Organizer: Alden bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Alden Bird

Was lucky enough to show my Washington DC friends down several Vermont creeks on this day. In the morning we ran the Middlebury Gorge. I had forgotten . . . Soon after we departed for Rutland, bound for the Big Branch.

Suffice to say that it was a "zone experience." Nobody missed a move the whole way down. We didn't get out of our boats once. It was intense. I just remember constant boofing, bashing, dropping through chutes and around boulders amid all those steep-as-hell fields of rocks. Long stretches of not eddying out, heaving the bow of my C-1 out into the air off vertical drop after vertical drop.

The one highlight that sticks in my head is from the hardest rapid, Mushroom. In the eddy above, I sketched out the dangers to avoid on the left side of the rapid. I descended the tight staircase first, out of sight of the others. As I hit the famous "sky-boof" on the right, it occured to me that I had not mentioned this. I pulled into an eddy and waited for Joe and Steve. Seconds later I saw it! Joe came flying around the corner in perfect position to make the move. Did he see the big boof? Yes, he did! Would he try to jump off it? Would he be comfortable enough with my directions and with this creek to try something I had not mentioned? Yes, he would! He hit the boof and his bow flung up into the air and his stern followed. He hung in the air, totally out of the water, for a full second, and then landed about two feet away from me, touching down on his stern and sizzling into the eddy. On his face was a look of wonder, surprise -- and silly laughter.

When we got to the bottom (the final rapid is impressive to anyone) Steve claimed that this was his new favorite creek and Joe proclaimed it "harder than the Upper Blackwater or the Green Narrows." It was a pleasure to show them down my favorite river. Now I understand the look in the eye of all those locals, eager to please me with their rivers, whom I followed while exploring rivers for my guidebook last year.

I really wish I had a picture of Joe in that rapid. I remember conferring with him briefly, right afterwards, then peeling out into the next rapid and letting my own bow take to the air off another 5-footer. The Big Branch is the river that makes the bows want to fly.

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