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New Haven and Middlebury

Monday Oct 4, 2010
Kayak: Ed Clark, Morgan, Christian Woodard
C1: Alden Bird
Organizer: Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: low boatable
Gauge (cfs): 400
Author: Alden Bird

With almost five inches of rain having fallen late last week, and with the New Haven gauge having soared above 10,000 cfs, today's runs down the New Haven Ledges and the Middlebury Gorge -- both notoriously malleable riverbeds -- were an opportunity both for nostalgia and for exploration. It was my first time back in five years.

The most significant change to the New Haven seemed to be a large, inconvenient rock now balanced on the lip of Secret Compartment, necessitating a precise set of moves: first a worried expression, then a panicked sprint away, followed lastly by an awkward brace or possibly, capsize, finished off with a look of cool indifference at the bottom.

The other significant change to the river was that the infamous Playpen sieve's time has apparently come and gone in the short space of my five years away: the sieve is now much easier to avoid, if not completely defanged.

And so we took one fast, sweet run down the New Haven, and ten minutes later, we were at the bottom.

From there it was off to the Middlebury Gorge, where inside, the gorge was as beautiful as ever. The upper gorge seemed relatively unchanged, but the inner gorge, the Birth Canal, was quite altered from my last run in 2005. And in my opinion -- for the better. The lip of the waterfall, in particular, seemed to afford an easier launch than previous incarnations.

At the end of the run, I relished being able to run the now-clear second-to-last rapid (once the site of a horrible sieve), which I had never before gotten to paddle.

A no-portage descent of the Middlebury! Finally!

(I must admit that I was most happy about this not out of pride, but instead because it means that I no longer have to wake up my feet [which have always fallen asleep by this point in the run] to make the portage -- or to endure the ensuing taunts from kayakers about my choice of craft as I hobble out of my boat on the portage trail.

All in all, a great day of boating!

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