Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pemigewasset River Trip

We took a trip back in June with some friends on the Pemigewasset River in New Hampshire.  The Pemi, as it is known up there, is a fairly gentle river that is known for it's sandy bottom and clear water.  Trusting in the scouting reports of friends that we were paddling with, we brought two wooden canoes - the lapstrake Charlotte and a cedar strip Wabnaki and DW's new Tupperyak.  We drove there on a Friday and stayed at a private campground right on the water in Thornton, NH.

The campsites were small, but clean and there were great amenities and services for campers.  The sites that our group had were literally right on the water.  Our plan was to get a shuttle upstream that was provided by the campground and paddle back downstream to the campground on Saturday, returning home on Sunday.  That's one of the wonderful things about the Northeast US.  There are many accessible mini-wilderness experiences that you can enjoy on a weekend.  At any rate we spent Friday evening setting up camp, having dinner and enjoying a campfire with old friends and some new ones as well.  Here's a view of the campsite:

Just beyond the canopy and the trees was the river.  This was the view from the campsite - an old railroad bridge:

I noted that the Pemi was a sandy bottomed river. Well, it was, until Irene came through last year.  Most of the river bottom was a bit "bony" in that most of the sand had been washed up onto the banks of the river and new channels carved out by the rushing flood-waters from Hurricane Irene.   While I understood that there was a rockier section of the river up near Woodstock, I'm not sure that I was fully ready for what I found.  When we finally put in on Saturday we'd gone a few hundred yards downstream and had to get out and walk the boats.  The river was shallow and fast with barely enough water to float the boats in some spots.  Some bits included some pretty fast Class I and Class II water with obstacles to paddle around.

I was particularly impressed with DW and DD's abilities to read the river and find safe routes through the whitewater stretches of the river.  What was even more impressive was the amount of water toys on the river.  Our group had brought squirt guns of various forms and some Stream Machine water blasters.  We ran into a group of Boy Scouts who were of a similar mind and were "well armed".  When the first overtook us, they pulled out squirt guns and began to ply streams of water in our direction.  They definitely regretted that shortly after.  Two of our group had the Stream Machines out and soaked the Scouts with 1/4" streams of water.  This went on for most of the day.

Timing seemed to be with us as we approached the end of our journey.  A stiff breeze blew up that portended some heavier weather.  Thunder and a bit of lightning appeared upstream from us and we managed to get off the river just as some sprinkles of rain began to fall.  Fortunately for us, the storm went around us and we stayed dry.

Dinner was a pot-luck affair with a campfire to follow.  Another great evening.

The trip was not without casualties, however - the Wabnaki has some new battle scars:

Be prepared for me to use this boat as an object lesson for some Tech Tip Tuesday learning to follow.  People often talk about how fragile that cedar strip and fiberglass canoes are, but I'll be showing you the wonder of how you can restore the canoe to like-new glory!

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