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Chasing the flows (Wells-Pemi trip)

Sunday May 7, 2006
Kayak: Norm, Ryan, Dave, John, James, Julie and Paul
Organizer: Norm
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: low boatable
Author: Ryan McCall

While others decided to head to Maine for optimal flows a select few dedicated (or creek running starved) paddlers decided to paint the routes down a couple of rivers with the plastic from their boats.

With not a whole lot of response initially to the trip I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at the Barre double-D to find a much larger than anticipated group of paddlers. Once working out logistics for vehicles, we headed east off to the Wells. We set up in the Fish and Game parking lot a few hundred yards below the first drop. Everyone hiked up and we started the process of running various lines on the first drop. Julie, who didn't have a creek boat decided that she would work the camera for the first river saving it up for when we hit the Pemi later. The first drop was a fun and easy one move drop. The second drop near the fishing access point was an interesting mulit-move rapid down the middle - boof- peal left and paddle out or a bump and grind slide down river right or backwards like Paul ran it -upright too. The next couple of drops were read and run with the low water and probably a little to scratchy for most of our tastes. The next significant drop was the Waterfall (Face Smacker). Lots of scouting and contemplating left all of us to walk it but two. Dave went first on the alpine line to river left off the flake and straight into the ledge/rock formed pile in the seam on river left. Good think those Prijons are tough as nails. That all but sealed the deal for anyone else to run it, but Paul was hell bent that the river right line was cleanable...and that is what he did. He cleaned it smooth as can be off the river right flake into the main current feeding out below the seam. After that we ran another couple hundred yards of boogie water to the final drop - a complex rapid that has two routes. One down river right that hugs a spine that sticks out of the rivers bed and the other that darts left iand drops 2-3 feet into an eddy before a 20-25 (12 ft high) foot slide into a pretty sticky hole and one more curler before the run peters out in the backwater of a dam. John ran river left line and eddied out above the slide to set safety. Dave was next and ran left as well, carrying the momentum from the first drop to the slide and through the hole at the bottom. I ran next and had the same results as Dave. Paul was next and went left as well, but flipped on the first drop and rolled quickly up to be swept into an ill placed root-ball. It was a very fast horizontal pin. John and James were quick into action and Dave was out of his boat fast as well to stabilize the situation. They pulled Paul off the root-ball and he was on his way down the slide. John came down the slide as well and that was the end of the fun on the Wells. A great little short gem with fun drops. Good for multiple laps if you have the time and energy. It is easy to see why the Wells River Rumble is such a success as the short length of the Wells and ease of opportunity to view the drops make it ideal.

Off to NH and the Pemi. Dave had to work so headed back. Now it was Julie's turn to get wet. About a 50 minute drive got us to Lincoln to set shuttle, but a burning desire to get McD's overwhelmed a few of us and so indulged (more on this later). We put in at the Lincoln Woods Center above Loon Mountain Resort. While getting gear on we hooked up with a friendly fellow by the name of Jim (from northern NH). He joined our group and brought the group number back up to the magnificent 7. Running shuttle both John and I were appalled at how low the river was and was pretty sure we'd be wearing a hole through our boats on this run from all of the scraping that I'd be doing. Once on the river it wasn't as bad as it was REALLY low though! At this level the river was more or less a natural slalom course and the significant drops really weren't all that significant. There is really one major drop that is directly below the Loon Mountain access road. It probably drops a total of 25 feet in about a 100 yard run out. John ran both the left and center lines very cleanly and smoothly. The rest of the group that ran it went left and some chose to eddy out and skirt back center and James and I continued down river left through a narrow channel at the bottom...very bumpy! Below this the fun began. One of our group felt the need to count the fish a few times....Understandably so as it was a long day and I can understand how fish are much more interesting when you get to look them in the eye. The group theory is that the McDonalds earlier messed p everything that is pure and good in the world of paddling and said fish counter was feeling the effects of a nasty chicken sandwich and fries thus losing concentration, balance, use of upper extremities (head), and ability to paddle around stationary objects. OUCH - happens to the best of us. Anyways the run wrapped up with out incident on a couple of fun drops right above the take out.

A stop at the "packy"???? for gas and more bad road food and we were on our way back to VT to pick up vehicles at the Barre DD. It was a spectacular spring day on the rivers. The water was a little low, but the company was good and the entertainment was superb.

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