Monday, March 23, 2015

Branch River Icebreaker - March 22, 2015

Whipple Drop
It was windy and cold at the put-in for the start of our annual Branch River Icebreaker trip - cold enough to discourage some of the old-timers, and that is not easy to do.  Still we had 6 die-hards willing to make the trip – 3 canoes (me, Jon and Jeff) and 3 kayaks (Scott, Phil and Mike).

The river was low (2.5 feet, 150 cfs) as we put-in below the old Stillwater Mill.  We tried paddling upstream to the Harrisville Dam, but in the shallow water a gravel bar blocked our way.  At higher water levels the Branch is a quickwater stream with a couple of tricky class II rapids.  At this water level finding a channel with enough water to float the boat was the main challenge.

We bounced our way down Whipple Drop, and maneuvered around a couple of blow-downs on our way to the first portage at the Glendale Dam. This is the traditional lunch stop, but we skipped it and went to Gators Pub after the trip for a beer and a burger instead. I wouldn't mind that becoming a new tradition. 

I had my first swim of the year doing a seal launch at Oakland. It was a small icy hill and my boat took off before I could pick up my paddle. Fortunately I was only in about 8 inches of water.

At the take-out
A couple of the crew bounced down the rocks in what is usually a fun rapid at Gendale.  I spared my boat and carried around.  We picked our way through the shallows down to Atlas Pallet where everyone was able to run the rapid.  From there there is an easy carry at Nasonville, and then an easy paddle to the take-out.  Fun day.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Crystal - March 15, 2015

Below Crystal Rapid
It’s finally starting to warm up here in southern New England.  It rained most of the day on Saturday, which got the local crew thinking that we’d have some paddling options on Sunday.  Unfortunately, even with the warm temperatures and rain, most of the rivers are still iced over or have dangerous ice shelves along the banks.  One of the few exceptions was the Crystal section of the Farmington River in CT. 

I’ve run this section of the Farmington many times before.  It’s an easy class I/II run with some rock gardens and a ledge at the end.  There were some huge sheets of ice on the banks, but the river itself was clear and ice free.  The put-in also has one of the best seal launching hills around.  It was definitely nice to be out on the water.