by Ben Natusch
Labor Day weekend means one thing to paddlers in the northeast… Beaverfest! On Friday, I met up Robby West, one of my main kayaking partners during college. After loading our gear into my truck, we headed out to Lowville, NY. We arrived at the campsite around 3am, tired but excited for the weekend. After an excellent bacon and egg burrito breakfast, we loaded up our gear and headed to the Taylorville section of the Beaver. We met up with Katelyn Green at the putin. Katelyn and I had both been out to the Beaver before but this was Robby’s first time. The three of us put on along with the rest of the Beaverfest crowd. We ran several laps on the slide and then continued on down the river. Like all river festivals, the river was pretty crowded. It was fun to see former students, friends, and other paddlers out having a great time on the river. We did two laps and hiked back up to run some of the more interesting rapids several times. After the water shut off, Robby and I headed back to the campsite to make dinner and hang out. We were both pretty tired since we had arrived around 3am the night before and hadn’t gotten much sleep so after a fantastic dinner and a few beers we headed to bed.
Sunday is my favorite part of Beaverfest with a release on the Moshier section followed up with a release on the Eagle. Again Robby and I met up with Katelyn at the putin. We were also joined by Elaine Campbell and Sam Gaughan. Sam had come out to Beaverfest last year but got a nasty beatdown in a hole on Taylorville that prevented him from paddling the rest of the weekend. We headed down the river stopping to run several laps on the 10 footer. We played around in the various rapids on the Moshier, trying new lines and having fun. After scouting Moshier Falls, Robby and I put on and ran a few laps down. This is one of my favorite rapids. It is pretty long with good moves the whole way down and a really fun wall boof towards the end. Carrying a boat back up to get another lap isn’t super fun because it is such a long rapid and the portage trail is crowded with people scouting and carrying boats in both directions. Getting another lap is totally worth the effort though. After having our fun on Moshier Falls, we headed down to the takeout to eat some lunch and to load up for Eagle. When we arrived at Eagle, we scouted the drops and spent some time hanging out on the rocks enjoying the scene. There are always a lot of people watching at Beaver and it can be pretty fun to just hang out and watch some of the action. Eventually Robby and I got bored of watching so we put on and did a lap. The Eagle is a really fun but short section of river so I went back up for a second lap. Going into the second drop, my boat got spun out in one of the holes at the entrance and put me off line a bit. I was able to correct the angle and get back on line but wasn’t able to get the boat edged properly and when I bounced off the first pillow I got knocked over. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to roll on the narrow slide but I was able to get up on my elbow pads and keep my body pretty well protected. My helmet bounced off something before I shot into the hole at the bottom of the slide. I had expected to shoot through the hole but quickly found that I was still in the hole when I rolled up. As I struggled to get out of the hole, I was worried that someone else was going to run the slide and hit me in the back since I was pretty much stuck blocking the exit move. Fortunately I was able get out before the next boater came down. The crowd on shore seemed pretty excited about the whole thing. It’s hard not to enjoy a little kayak carnage. I’m really hoping that someone got it on video or at least a picture so I can enjoy it too. I finished the run, having much better lines on the last two drops. We headed into town and had a burger at Jeb’s and then headed back to the campsite for another fun night. We had both gotten some sleep the night before so we were ready to hang out a bit more. There were several campfires so we wandered around catching up with various friends and engaged in some shenanigans. On Monday we did another lap on Taylorville before heading back home. A friend was curious about the Dagger Mamba 8.6 so he used my boat and I paddled a Dagger Green Boat. It was a lot of fun to paddle the river in a long boat. I haven’t paddled the Green Boat in a couple of years so it was great to get back in one. It is a really fast hull and just wants to go. It feels pretty different than the Mamba so it took some getting used to but I really enjoyed it. After getting off of Taylorville we made the long trip back home. It was a great weekend and I’ll definitely be heading back next year!