Monday, April 22, 2013

A Blast from the Past – Sugar River – April 21, 2013

At the put-in
I visited my alma mater yesterday.  No, it was not high school, or even college.  It was whitewater school.  I paddled with the OC1 group at the NHAMC Whitewater School on the Sugar River in Newport, NH.

My father was an active NHAMC member, so when I first got into paddling in 2005, I signed up for their whitewater school.  Just like the RICKA program today, it is a two-day class with the fist day spent mostly on flatwater, and the second day spent on the river.  I am fortunate that my teacher from that 2005 class is now a frequent paddling companion – Tommy Taylor.  I was looking for a place to paddle on Sunday, and he was looking for some safety boaters, so it worked out great.

Heading downstream
We would be paddling the section from Corbin Road to Route 103 that I last paddled as a student in 2005.  The river was at a nice level – 3.3 ft, 1200 cfs on the West Claremont gage.  It’s a fun class II river with one class III drop – Sweet Tooth.  We had a nice group – 5 students, 3 safety boats, and Tommy.

As we put in at the covered bridge, the students looked a little tentative.  On flatwater, most of them said that they found their whitewater boats to be difficult to control.  Things seemed to get easier for them as they got into moving water.  With each rapid their eddy turns, peal outs and ferries got more confident.  About two thirds of the way down the river we approached Sweet Tooth – the largest rapid on the river. 

Running Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth is a jumble of large and small rocks.  The rapid takes it’s name from two large boulders just left of center.  Smaller boulders also block the left side, so the route is just to the right of the large Sweet Tooth rocks.  At lower levels, submerged rocks at the bottom of the rapid can be a problem, but at yesterday’s level these rocks were buried.  It was pretty much a straight shot down the right side. 

Tommy went through the rapid first and eddied out to the left behind Sweet Tooth.  The rest of the group followed, most taking the line down the middle.  With the big rapid behind them, everyone’s confidence seemed to surge. 

The crew at the take-out
The last third of the river is pretty much continuous class II, and it was amazing to see the change in the students.  A couple of times I looked back up stream and saw the entire group ferrying across the river looking for waves to surf.  The eddy turns weren’t always crisp and pretty, but that will come with time and practice. 

It’s amazing what good instruction and a little practice can do.  It brought me back…

Running Sweet Tooth as a student in 2005 - photo by Tommy Taylor
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