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North Branch Lamoille

Saturday Apr 3, 2010
Participants:
Kayak: Dave P, Jay.
Open Canoe: Tony Shaw
Raft: Gerard
Organizer: Geurilla
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium
Gauge (ft): 444
Gauge (cfs): 4000
Author: Dave Packie

When the Mill Brook proved too low, Tony and Gerard joined Jay and I on the NBL on a sunny 80-degree April afternoon. We put in above the slide on back road...the left channel was clean for the first time since I've been boating and looks nice. We all ran right with no consequence, and paddled on down thru the next few ledges. Into the gorge past the school we found the level to be really nice. Padded yet technical. Sunny. Warm and friendly. Just above the crux of the Gorge section there is a nasty tree that extends from the right bank essentially across the entire main flow. At higher flows, some folks snuck over on the right, and you could sneak a slot of far left. The far left move required catching an eddy about a boat length above the wood in the heart of the rapid, so we lifted over on the right and were on our way. Beware sneaking over this on the right. There is a lot of room for water to go under this tree and if for some reason you ground out trying to go over, it could be a nasty situation.

We all ran Smash-your-face cleanly and I have to comment on how capable Gerard's pack raft is. At 7 pounds, it is a very capable class 3+ white water tool that could easily be packed long distances. Judging by Gerry's delight as things steepened down in Waterville, he really needs to be in a real creek boat. The Waterville ledges were at a real nice level too. Makes me feel like 2.5-3 on the painted gauge is really ideal for this run. The gorge is fun and fluid, and the ledges are on the verge of getting meaty w/o becoming one big rapid, making the whole stretch manageable and fun for a class 3+, 4 boater. Much above 3 the ledges start to look like one big class 5. Much lower and the gorge starts to lose some of its continuousity.

We scouted the ledges extensively and had a good safety plan. Jay and I ran down thru the first two ledges to the eddy with only a little trouble getting spun making the sneak move at the second ledge, avoiding the ugly hole. Gerry also managed to steer clear of the hazard and was stoked on this section of the river. Tony capsized at the first ledge and snapped a very nice looking roll. From there on river left near the old mill foundation he missed a ferry and was out of shape for the sneak move. The result was him being committed to run the meat w/o much headway. The Hole consumed him and his boat. I had moved from the first ledge down to the second ledge when I saw he was not going to make the ferry and got there just in time to see the action. The hole kicks hard right, and took him into a side surf. His canoe was being chewed on hard. He was upright and I was looking for some eye contact...but quickly realized he needed a rope quick. I threw out in front of him at the far side of the pour-over, making sure the line would find him in the pile. No sooner did I make the toss than his boat window shaded and he was under. He resurfaced and recirculated once very quickly...I wasn't sure he had the rope yet and started to take in line for a re-throw when the line got tight...I backed quickly up the ledge and Tony floated out into the eddy. The hole kept his boat just long enough for us to get him on land then released it to the same eddy. All persons and gear accounted for. For such a nasty hole ride, carnage was minimal.

The rest of the run went down with no worries. There is a tree out in the main channel in the rapid below the big slide. The eddy out move on river left is still there, but the ferry out is in front of some wood that will get worse at 3. Jay and Gerard's personal first descents on the NBL. Cheers. Good to get on the water with those two, and always a pleasure to boat with a legend like Tone!

Here's to a rainy summer with lots of complaining by the land-lubbers! Now how bout some pics Tony!

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