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Mach 7 With Your Hair On Fire - Hancock Brook (NBW)

Friday Oct 15, 2010
Kayak: Dave P, Russ K, Ben G & Ryan M
Organizer: Team effort
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: high
Gauge (cfs): 200
Author: Ryan

Ever been shot out of a cannon or at least felt like it? From the moment my bow hit the water to the premature end of the run, I am pretty sure I had a Concorde jet engine attached to the stern of my kayak. That should set the stage for this TR....

It was noon on Friday, almost a mirror of the Friday 2 weeks prior. Stuff took it's time to pop but when it did, everything was too damn big. Believe it or not the NBW was too friggin' big again!!!!! Having a good hook on the local beta (living 10 minutes from the NBW and its tribs) I had a couple of options up my sleeve. When Dave rolled in from scouting the upper part of the NBW he said he wasn't comfortable with the level and I definitely wasn't just looking at the last drop and knowing what the flow there translated to on the bigger, more convoluted ones upstream. The decision was easy; let's check out a rarely run tributary to the NBW. Fortunately Dave and I had done some woodworking on said drainage at one point with Chris Weed a few years prior and the wood situation was much better than you would expect. Ben and Russ were all for checking out the roadside romp and had heard of the infamous teacup gorge at the bottom.

Off we headed to Hancock Brook.... We parked and scouted the meaty sections with the majority of the vertical drops near the bottom. I knew from first look I was out for any of these. The undercut slide looked like death and the usually calm pool above the teacups had a concave hole in it of about 3 feet and was actually looking more like the inside of a toilet bowl than a pool with a whirlpool forming....forget about it! So we headed upriver to scout along as we went. Above the vertical drops the river looked much more manageable but still balls to the wall!. I was really impressed with how fast the water looked to be moving. Everything looked clean up to what was thought would be a decent put-in except for a small log just downstream. We dislodged it and the current swept it away downstream to who knows where; man that floated away really fast!!! When we got back up to the vehicles we decided to drive up further. The run looked too good not to keep checking up to the last major culvert before it becomes a true mountain brook coming off of Mt. Worcester. Right below this culvert there was a pretty good sized log jam that we all thought putting in below would be the best move. IF we were to run from this spot to just above the waterfall section it would be close to a 2 mile run. Not bad and at the speed the river was moving it may take 30 minutes if all went well.

Speaking for myself, as I was gearing up my stomach was in my throat. Ben, Dave, and Russ were pretty calm compared to how I was feeling. Dave was first in the water and ferried to the other side of the river into one of only about 3 eddies on the entire river that was big enough for 4 boats. Did I mention there were barely any eddies and most were 1 boat in size? Instantly we had to make a decision of which way to go at an island. I led the right side and we all bopped down a-ways to where we knew there was a limbo log and a right hand turn in the river that was the start of the first real rapid. It was a long class 4 and relatively steep with holes and waves all over. The ironic thing is it really wasn't much different than what we had just boated through. Dave led, and Russ followed with Ben and me in sweep. As I rounded the corner and ducked the birch tree I saw Russ stopped river right — stopped in a hole and surfing like mad to get out. Ben eddied out river left and I met Dave below in a slightly larger eddy. As soon as I peeled in I heard Ben's whistle and saw the boat. Russ was out of his boat and it was on its way to us. Dave and I quickly jumped out of our boats and grabbed the Jefe and pulled it ashore. Russ was out of the river and his paddle was pinned on river left. Russ was okay but a bit winded and eyes like saucers. We reacquainted him with his gear and we scouted the next drop that had a decent eddy behind it and then the flush on under Hancock Brook Road.

From this point things eased up a bit and I caught the eddy behind abandoned bridge abutments, where we initially thought we would put in. It was a good place to regroup and get the team on the same page. Just below here is where we had dislodged the river-wide strainer and let it take off. I knew we had one significant rapid and then a 5 foot high sloping ledge that quite possibly had a retentive hole at the bottom. As Ben and I peeled out and headed downriver Dave and Russ followed. We passed the place where we let the log go and then you could see the horizon line for the rapid. Definitely a class 4/4+ with a center to left move over two distinct drops both forming broken holes. Ben did a good job of navigating them so I followed his line to some success on the first part and basically just throwing two huge back-to-back boof strokes on the second part to bridge the two holes. Little did I know Dave was more or less under my stern on the first drop and was off line to the right in the first part of this rapid. He stopped in the first hole and never made it out of the second hole so he was getting recirculated in the top part of this drop with two substantial holes below him. He came out of his boat to be pulled back into the hole now having an "out of boat experience"....his first ever. I caught an eddy and saw the boat go by me, then the paddle. Russ got the paddle out of the river but the boat was headed to the ledge drop below. Dave was out of the river and safe on shore — road side. I had been sitting in the eddy assessing what was next and if I should chase the boat down. As I peeled out Ben and Russ were screaming that I need to eddy out. Just as I was headed into the eddy where they were Russ pulled out and I missed my move. I was just going to run the drop and deal with it when Ben bellowed that I needed to eddy out above the drop...Not much of an eddy but I jetted my bow up on a shallow bench, launched my paddle on shore and jumped out of my boat about a foot from the lip. At that moment something red caught my eye; Dave's boat was vertically pinned below the drop in the main channel on the exact log that we had dislodged earlier. At this point Dave, Russ, and Ben were on river left and I was on river right — good thing because I could wade the river right channel and get a line on the boat from the island. The boat didn't have any water in it and was light. Stupid me; I got the line on the boat and to the guys on shore. No big deal — I can just lift it up and out. Sure enough the log cut loose and I almost was caught up in it, the boat, and the rope. It had snagged my leg on its release; I got lucky and the log took off. They reeled Dave's boat in and realized it had split on the stern again. Dave's day was over, leaving him with all of his gear and another weld job. Ben and I decided to pull the plug on the run and I headed downriver to a small bridge to join up with the guys.

We gathered up the vehicles, Dave headed home, and Ben, Russ and I met up with some UVM Kayak Club members to run Martin's. In hindsight we could have paddled downriver a good bit in more or less class III/IV boogie but we had made a decision and called it a day on Hancock with our parts intact in spite of a couple of severe beat-downs on a full-on steep creek. We'll be back for more of what Hancock dishes out!

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