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Dave Wants an Adventure

Sunday May 31, 2009
Kayak: Dave P, Russ K, Marshall P, Ryan M
Organizer: Dave P
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (cfs): 300
Author: Ryan

I bet that title caught your attention...

The prior three days yielded some good flows on the usual suspects. It was Sunday and a handful of us were still itching to get in the water even though most other rivers had dropped off. Dave stated it best, wanting an Adventure. An adventure is what we got.

With Russ being the seasoned vet in the Middlebury Gorge we had a guide that not only knew the river but if you have ever paddled with Russ as your guide, you know all too well that his mind is like a vault and no detail is too small. We even got hi tech drawings in the dirt of what rapids looked like. AWESOME! Marshall had been down it at a lower flow a long time ago when the Birth Canal drops were slightly different and Dave had only boated below the Birth Canal. I was the newbie on the run (no pun intended).

So after a mandatory look see at the Birth Canal from above Rebirth we were back up to the road and put in up towards Ripton. The first mile or so down to the confluence with the North Branch of the Middlebury River was really fun class III/III+ continuous boogie. Speaking for myself, it was nice to get some of that in before the action started. My heart was so far in my throat before the run, I was actually feeling sick. Lots of anticipation and anxiety for me from hearing about and seeing some pretty stout drops from a distance and the committing and unportageable nature of parts of the gorge. So like I said the upper part of the run was a nice way to loosen up and get focused or decide that you were just not feeling it which on this river you have to be feeling it before dropping in or you are SOL.

The 4 of us arrive at the confluence with the North Branch and the anticipation starts back up as Russ starts to give exacting details of what to expect. Marshall and I jump out of our boats, one with a camera the other with a rope and watch both Russ and Dave run the entry drop of the Fallopian Tube and both get splatted on a rock that Russ said has pinned him in the past and looked like he and Dave missed the same fate by a very small margin. At this point it was get'er done or hike it out. Marshall had only 3 days in his boat this season prior to this one so he made a judgment call and hiked it out. I had been having a solid season up to now and felt pretty confident that I would be OK pushing into the Birth Canal. I ran the entry drop a little further right than Dave and Russ and never got near the said pin rock. However, I was completely locked into a brace when I needed to dig into an eddy so this was the first missed move of the day for me. That missed move meant I was going to get the first shot at the 15 ft waterfall at the end of the Fallopian Tube. So now more details from Russ were blinking bright red in my cortex about a wicked crack in the wall directly above the falls that can swallow the front end of a boat and stick you in there. So even though the current was pushing you in the direction of the crack, you needed to drive across the current and try to get a late boof off the falls. As everything felt like it slowed down to a weird movie slo-mo shot I came up on the crack...I could see the edge of the falls and where the nose of my boat could be swallowed so I dug and stroked and then felt like I was hanging in space for a whole lot longer than any other 15 footer I have ever run. It all went white and then dark and then white again and then.......I was bobbing in the inner gorge, the birth canal.

It felt like eternity before Russ banked around the top and threw a HU-JASS boof and landed about as perfectly as I have ever seen off of a trashy lip! Lots of whoops and hollers and smiles and we sat bobbing in our respective eddys for Dave. Dave threw a pretty cool melt-down/boof thingy that sent him out but not far enough from the spout of the falls to keep him from an AWESOME ender. This resulted in a swim in the preferable river right eddy where Russ was able to scramble up the ledge and get Dave a rope to climb up the wall on and then tow his boat out of the surging eddy. Absorbing some sunlight and taking in the whole beauty of the gorge for a few minutes was pretty cool!

All regrouped we paddled down to look at the next drop where you boof a 3 foot ledge and then get left to set up for the drop called Cunnilingus. It was a squirrely flume that had changed from the last time Russ had been on it (a 6 foot boof before). Russ styled it and was in the eddy above the next drop. Dave ran up to his boat and came down through the ledge and Cunni with style as well. Next up was me...As finished the 3 foot boof I was in the slack water above Cunnilingus and could see Dave out of his boat and headed down the river left shore. I though wow he boogied on down through Rebirth and was already scouting the stuff below. Later I found that Rebirth munched on him as it was about to destroy me. So I hit Cunni in the right location but didn't anticipate it to snag my bow and flip me so quickly. Next thing I know I am getting hammered along the bottom of the river and taking shots to the head and hands..then it all stops and I am broached against a boulder upside down above Rebirth - one of the ugliest rapids I have ever seen or boated and the end result of a mess up is equally miserable. So I say forget this and wet exit my boat and Russ is in the eddy telling me to stand up and grab my boat. Huh - easy enough I am safe and didn't run rebirth upside down...I think to myself. I do a quick sort of mental regroup and go to pick up my boat to drain it out and the right shoulder is feeling a wee bit loose. Russ is pretty anxious to get down river to see if Dave is OK so I tell him to hit it and watch his line as I all the sudden realize I am in the Birth Canal alone and have no choice but to run the next drop with a loose shoulder because I couldn't have been is a more committing place w/o a way out but down the river.

OK all systems check ferry into the eddy throw a few paddle strokes and peel out and drop off the same line Russ did. I don't even know what happened next other than I was up side down again and hanging on for a good opportunity to roll. Then it hit me - O S!#t roll NOW! The entire current of the river pushes into an undercut portion of the wall on river right called the Catcher's Mitt. I hit my roll to hear Russ screaming PADDLE! I paddle just enough to get away from the mitt but my stern is sucked under and I flip again and end up in a shallow but rapid spot that yanks at my paddle and I feel the shoulder go again. I let go of the paddle and manage a hand roll (what the hell is the purpose of having a hand roll - you can't paddle anywhere after you are up anyways). Now I am headed down a class V river w/o a paddle backwards. It doesn't take long for me to get flipped and being completely shot I swim up on a beach river left just above the next rapid. My boat is stuck in an eddy up river a bit and Dave is laughing because he did the same thing.

At this point I see that I can hike out and I am fairly confident that there is no way I am boating out of the gorge with the way my shoulder is behaving. Russ and Dave decided that they are going to put my spray skirt on my boat and bump it down the river through several other legit class IV and V rapids. I am happy that I don't have to try to carry it up the gorge wall and bid farewell to my trusty cork and paddling partners as I can hear the familiar BONK sound of a boat bouncing off of rocks.

While out of the gorge I hooked up with Marshall and we got the vehicles all down to the take out and chilled while we waited.

It took the guys probably an additional 90 minutes to boat the remainder of the river to the take out where I saw them send my boat down through the last rapid running it cleaner than I probably would have in it. The rest of their run was uneventful and enjoyable with out the stress of the Birth Canal but still had them on their toes.

Upon their arrival at the take out vehicles brewskis were popped all around. At the very least I needed to have beer on hand for the two guys that got my boat safely out of the gorge w/o me having to haul it up the wall.

Dave got his least what I saw of his run. You'll have to ask him about the rest of it...

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