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Paul Stream

Sunday Oct 26, 2008
Kayak: Travis Keller, Scott Gilbert, Mike Baseler, A.J. Seibel
Organizer: Mike Baseler
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium high
Author: A.J. Seibel

All week long we had been eyeing the forecast for some good rainfall potential, somewhere in the 0.5" to 1" range. It started raining steadily around 6:00pm in East Burke, and picked up as the night went on. At 6am I checked the rain gauge, and was shocked to see 1.8" smiling back at me. We loaded up and headed on over to Paul Stream, accessing from the Maidstone side, and arrived just shy of 10am. Upon arrival we realized that the lower section (normally III-IV, one at V) was running far too high for our tastes and decided to check out the upper section which we were informed was normally a III-III+ run. On the way up we road scouted, and saw no signs of strainers or any other significant hazards, so decided that we would head to the footbridge at the end of the bog to put in.

The smell of the bog filled the air, as well as anticipation of what lay in wait downstream. We set off and had just under a half mile of warmup, dropping over a beaver dam and through some class II before the first horizon line showed itself. Scott was in the lead and dropped in, the rest of us following the probe. Well, it turned out that horizon line was the only one. The entire run from there out descended at a steady rate of (my guess) around 150 feet per mile. The run was fast and relentless. I was most often in the back, following the leaders, dodging this way and that to navigate my way through a non-stop course of waves and holes - some strong, some not. I think in the first mile there were 2 eddies, which we all caught to catch a quick breath. After that, eddies were scarce unless you beached your boat. The gradient remained fairly consistent, sometimes becoming steeper for short stretches where the river constricted. All was going well, and we even had the opportunity to have some children cheer us on from a hunting camp perched just above the river. Cruising along at breakneck speeds we suddenly see and hear what we don't want to see or hear. SWIMMER! Bobbing along about 25 yards upstream is Travis, ten toes and his nose well exposed, clutching his boat and crashing down the steep, shallow river bed. He gets to shore a short distance later and his boat continues without him with Scott and Mike in pursuit. I pull to shore near Travis and get out, not wanting to run solo to catch the boat-chasers and ditch my boat in the woods to walk down to the take out with him, which is just under half a mile at this point. From what I'm told, Travis and I missed the best section (it got better!?) through a constricted area with some nice horizons and a few beefy holes with some fun moves to boot, and judging by the topo, the steepest section of this very continuous river. In Travis's defense, he didn't pull the trigger for his swim, his Skirt imploded after getting window-shaded in a hole and rolling up — suddenly realizing that his boat had become a bathtub he had no choice but to dive in and get a face level perspective of the river. Fortunately, other than some bruises and scrapes on his hand he pulled through all right.

Mike and Scott continued chase and finally the boat to shore at the takeout, where Granby Stream enters the Paul Stream - probably at least a half mile chase, more likely it was longer than that. By far the longest chase I've seen. At this level, it was agreed that this was a class IV run due to its continuous nature, and was likened to Ball Mountain Brook, but more continuous. And, by that I mean that you've got a solid 2 miles of rapids, no pools, few eddies, and plenty of action. Certainly a river that I would love to have the chance to run again, maybe at a lower level to enjoy the scenery a little more... If you do paddle it, expect fast action with split second decisions and a super fun run.

The day was capped off with a short scout and photo shoot at the last gorge drop on the Upper Moose in Victory, a nice III/IV section for about 100 yards with 2 1-2' drops in a tight riverbed finishing with a 4' slide with an auto-boof at the bottom into a bubbly amber pool. So far as we know, first descents by Scott and Mike. Maybe a good name will come soon...

All in all, Highly recommended. A great day on rivers that see little or no boater traffic. And, thanks to Ryan Moore for the beta on Paul Stream — hopefully he'll be able to join us next time.

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