The Vermont Paddlers Club

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Ottawa River

Friday-Monday Sep 3-6, 2021
Kayak: JimP, PaulC, SueS, ChrisW, MollyB, MarkM
C1: RyanZ
Doing Own Thing: Dawn, Hannah, Ellison, Everett, Kala the pooch, Duncan the dog
Organizer: Jim Poulin
Difficulty: intermediate WW
Level: medium low
Author: James Poulin

Ottawa River 2021 – COVID 19 Version

September 3 – 6, 2021

This year was made more interesting in that the Canadian border had just opened in early August for fully vaccinated U.S. citizens. The trick, as I saw it, was to find a testing facility that could turn around a COVID test in less than 72 hours. This is important that the Canadian government needed a negative COVID test within 72 hours of entering Canada. The timing seemed to be getting the test on Tuesday afternoon and getting the results so you could enter Canada on Friday afternoon. Even so, we still had three participants drop out because they did not get their test results back in time. Who knows what next year will bring!

Friday, September 3

Level: -3.5

Weather: sunny and in the 70’s

Afternoon Run

A few of the early arrivers opted for a McCoy park and play over a full run down the Middle as it was around 4:30 and we were running out of time. For this run we had Paul, Sue, Mark and Jim.

We observed the McCoy Island damage from the recent tornado that touched down there in late July. The damage was excessive. Trees down all over the place. Even with strategic chain saw work, the normal path had to be altered to walk down for the scout / portage. The Zoom Flume sneak route was choked with wood and was not even an option.

We had an uneventful run of McCoys – doing the usual “thread the needle” line. The group played around below the Horseshoes for about an hour and got our big water legs under us again. At this level Baby Face was much more hole than wave and was giving more poundings than rides. The sun was getting low in the sky and there wasn’t another paddler to be found. A very relaxing start to the weekend! We paddled back to the put in using the exit from below McCoys on river right.

The group relaxed over dinner and adult beverages. Late arrivers started trickling in around 7:00 and later.

Saturday, September 4

Level -3.5

Weather: sunny and in the 70’s

Morning Run

With all 7 paddlers assembled we opted for a Middle run to get everyone on the water. This included a run through McCoys. Sue and Molly used the paddle to the bottom of McCoys rather than walk through the lumber yard that is now McCoys’ Island. They arrived at a good viewing spot to see the hearty five paddlers wind our way down the rapid.

From there we worked our way down to the Middle Channel. All your favorite Middle Channel rapids were fluid, but maybe a touch lower than most had seen. Iron Ring, S-Turn, Butterfly, Garvins, Little No Name, Big No Name and Velvet Falls was the lineup. We did walk Garvins but everyone ran everything else! We did spend a little time scouting Big No Name so everyone got the line down in their mind.

Afternoon Run

For the late day run we headed for the Main. We put in at the Lorne to miss the flatwater after McCoys and to shorten the time. We had 3 paddlers on the run – Paul, Mark and Jim. At these lower levels the water seemed a bit more squirrely on the outflow but otherwise the normal lines were still the preferred route for Lorne, Butcher’s Knife, Normans and Coliseum. Garburator was not in at this level but Pushbutton was superb! We ran everything straight up (no scout) except for Coliseum, we took a quick peak to make sure we knew the line. At this level you can run Coli left or right and there is a large eddy in the middle of the rapid to stop and catch your breath (or surf the left or right V-wave, both of which were in). We finished out with Dog Leg and Blacks and headed back to the car.

Once back at camp we tucked into appetizers and tequila! We moved the normal tequila night up a day because Sunday’s weather was looking very wet. Dawn pulled together a delightful chili feed that included said chili plus kale slaw, fresh bread and oatmeal applesauce cake for dessert.

Then we set about telling tall tales of the day’s adventures all while looking at the beautiful open sky filled with stars.

It was a banner day all around and why we venture north to this wonderful whitewater playland.

Sunday, September 5

Level -3.5

Weather bonus day! Sunny skies! Supposed to rain but it never really did!

Morning Run

The Main was on the docket this morning again putting in at the Lorne to shorten the run a bit. We had 5 paddlers on this run – Paul, Chris, Mark, Ryan and Jim. Sue, Molly and Dawn walked down to the rapid to see the guys run the meat! Or at least what is the Lorne at this level.

We worked our way down though all the rapids scouting Coliseum again since Chris and Ryan had not yet seen it this year.

It was a wonderful run and we were back in camp by around 1:00 for lunch and rest and get back out for another run!

Afternoon Run

For the afternoon we had all 7 paddlers on the water for the Middle. Again, Sue and Molly paddled around from the lower McCoys takeout and the remain 5 (Paul, Chris, Mark, Ryan and Jim) ran down through McCoys. There were a few rafts and not too many paddlers as well. There were a number of boaters at camp but I think our timing was out-of-phase with everyone else and we get to enjoy a more empty river experience.

We ran down all the rapids and since this was the second time there was no scouting at Big No Name. We surfed all the big and small waves we could find and used up every ounce of energy we had. Once at the takeout it was hard to drag our boats up the bank.

Back at camp, a couple of dinner time showers did not dampen the mood and it cleared so we could sit out and enjoy the evening and recount all the day’s events.

Monday, September 6

Level -3.6

Weather: bonus day #2, supposed to be showers but was sun & clouds. Cool in the mid 60’s

Morning Run

A number of folks decided to break camp and nurse sore muscles rather than take another run. But we did have 3 hearty paddlers for a Burner Main run from Lorne – Paul, Mark and Jim.

Ryan and family went with us to the put in and watched our run through Lorne. They also shuttled our vehicle to the take out so we could proceed back to camp as quickly as possible.

The group was not teaming with energy and did not need to scout anything on this run. But we did not hammer down it either. But we shocked all back at camp when we rolled in before noon – a 90 minute run!

We finished packing and had a bite to eat but everyone was on the road by around 1:00. This is the first time in a long time where I made it home before dark!

Additional Notes

Dawn composed and performed a new song, “Over the Border”, to capture the weekend. Here is a link to the song for your enjoyment. 

There was some discussion about next year doing this trip mid-week. There are a few good reasons:

• Many of us are retired so why not?!?

• Less paddlers and rafts at all the key play spots

• We could do a Madawaska run – dam releases only during the week

• Can go to Beaver-Fest on Labor Day weekend

For the worker bees, you will need to start planning the time off now!

Tentative dates: Monday, August 22 through Thursday, August 25, 2022

Let me know your thoughts on this change!


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