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Home field advantage....NBW

Saturday Oct 21, 2006
Kayak: Ben, Ty and Ryan
Organizer: Ryan M
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (cfs): 785
Author: Ryan

Home-field advantage (Huh?)....

So the fall rain gods decided to bless us with some quality flow. Very nice of them to time it for a weekend. Anyways, as I was out and about Friday running errands it was pretty obvious flows were going to shape up to be big for Saturday AM. The post board and phones started that evening to set plans for Saturday. With everything going off on the Large-Marge side of things a safe bet was that the NBW was going to be at a really nice level. An early am visual in Putnamville told true that it was on the highside of runable. A few other folks were headed to Joe's looking to avoid overly high flows on the usual suspects (NH, Gihon, NBL and the NBW). I almost joined them...Lucky for me and a couple of other folks we didn't because we got to run the NBW at a fun level (well maybe a little low).

Calls came in from Ben and Ty around 8am or so to start setting up plans. I told them that the NBW was pretty high if it was going to be their first time on it, but there was the options of Martin's, Minister, and Hancock to paddle as the NBW dropped out. We all met at my house in Monty-P (the Home-field advantage) around 10:00 am and headed up to the North Branch Winooski watershed. We took a quick look at Martin's and it had dropped out like a rock to almost unrunable. This was a good sign that the NBW was probably dropping to a moderate level for the guys to bang down it on their virgin run.

A quick scout of the last falls showed that it had dropped off since 530am in the morning but was still at a good level. Off we went for Ben and Ty to have a look at the other roadside drops. Everyone was game to set shuttle and give it a go!!!!

As we put in we were all feeling a little rusty as it has been a couple of months for me and close to that for the other guys since they have been in their boats. Long enough for Ben that an angry spider has taken up residence in his boat. A quick exit and extrication of the bity bugger and we are off around the bend to the first couple of cursory drops before the first major double drop. Fun easy boofs and slides to warm up and eddy hop. As we come up on the first drop we take a quick scout and we all bounce down and boof cleanly. The scenery and closed in gorge in the early section really lights up the guys.

There are a handful of more smallish drops and rapids leading up to the next substantial drop. This one is pretty straight forward down the right side. It sounds ugly as you slide down the tongue and totally slambang off a ledge (autoboof) to go airborne into the pool at the bottom. Actually a very easy drop though. At this point I notice that the water is pretty low and that we are lucky to have gotten on the river when we did. There are some convoluted drops between this drop and the next major one, "the big juicy slide". These little jumbled drops really wreak havoc and present pinning potential at the low level the river is at.

"Here's Johnny"...the big juicy slide. At the level it was on Saturday the run-in is a good III+/IV with one last-chance eddy to bang into to get some composure before dropping in. Saturday provided only one quasi-clean line and Ben was hell-bent to do it. Both Ty and I walked...A little more water makes for a much softer ride. Ben made it to the eddy at the top and then dug deep and went over the top slightly to the left, but far enough to the left that he pitoned pretty hard 1/2 way down into a flake off the left wall. He stayed upright and finished the drop with a grimace on his face. A quick self inspection and he was ready to head on down stream to the next series of drops.

Under the culvert and around a couple of bends and we come to an 8ft drop. At this level the landing area is pretty shallow and smallish to say the least. Not helping matters is that where you would normally take off from the drop is an obstruction so you have to slow down considerably and sneak in behind it to hit the desired line. Ty went first and banged his way down....I have not mentioned this but he was paddling in an oldschool playboat - a big one at that (Wavesport X), but a playboat on a very steep creek. The guy is pretty solid to say the least....So he banged down the drop and paddled on out from it. I was next and got hung up at the edge of the drop and penciled in to the bottom pitoning in for a good jar to the lumbar region. UGH. Ben tried a different approach and banged down it too. The next drop is a slideish left to right spout thingy...the trick is to stay as far to the left as you can and ride it out. Too far right with the wrong angle and you end up back under the curtain and in the recirc. Ben must have felt like he was in a washing machine because he went around 5 times in his boat then another 2 times out of his boat and his boat rode around 6-7 more times on its own. Directly below this is the Double Drop. Ty was down with it, I again felt that there wasn't enough water to run it smoothly and my back was still tender from the above mentioned drop. Ben was regaining his composure to give it a go. Ty hit it with a full head of steam and boofed the top drop onto the pillow 1/2 way down and then slid it out and went deep at the bottom....very clean. Ben - not so clean. He didn't boof and pitoned off the first drop and flipped completing the remainder of the drop (15 feet) inverted (upside down) into the pool at the bottom, thus rolling up very shook up. Ouch. No worries though we have it on film!!!!!

The next little bit is boogy water ranging from lazy to class III. Beautiful none the less. We come to the second to the last drop. This is beautiful drop into a gorged out section with a 5 foot slide at the bottom. The initial drop is close to 12 feet and the bottom has a pretty strong backwash. We all opted to run it in from the right side and boof the last 7 feet. All cleanly done. The slide is a little sticky at the bottom, but easy enough.

More easy water and then the last falls. There were two clean lines running - one along the left wall and the other down the slide in the middle and off into space - make sure to boof!!!! We all decided to bag it. Ben had been worked enough for the day, Ty was cold and me being the old man decided not to push my luck and risk another bad landing on my back......To be honest we were all pretty damn cold at the time too. So we carried up and out and called it a day.

As with every time I'm up in that watershed on the NBW its self or one of its tributaries, boating on my "home-field" is always the best for me. We had the river to ourselves and really got to take it in. What a great day had by all.

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