by Ben Natusch
After spending my winter skiing and snowboarding in Big Sky, Montana, I finally got back to Zoar Outdoor for a summer of boating and climbing. I didn’t bring any of my boating gear to Montana so when I arrived back at Zoar it had been about five months since I’d been in a kayak, the longest I’d gone without kayaking since high school. The first few weeks I was at Zoar were pretty dry so I didn’t get to do any creeking. I spend most days teaching or boating on the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield River. The Dryway did release one or two days since I got back so I was able to get out and get a little warmed up for some harder creeking in some harder water.
Then May 12-13 was the annual Spring Moosefest. Traditionally Moosefest has always been in October and it always snows and is much colder than most of us would prefer. Since there are recreational releases on the Moose River in the spring anyways a few boaters got together and thought it would be fun to have another festival on this great river when the temperatures are a little warmer and the water levels are often a little lower making the river a little more forgiving. So now in addition to the traditional Moosefest in the fall, we also have a Spring Moosefest. Moosefest is always a fun event. There are three sections of the river with varying difficulty but the true attraction of Moosefest is the Bottom Moose, a pool drop class V run with lots of big rapids that make for some really great pictures and video.
I was a little nervous heading to Moosefest this spring. At Moosefest last fall I had a little run in with a pretty big and dangerous hole in the first rapid. Although I was able to paddle out of the hole, it left me pretty shaken up and I boated fairly conservative for the rest of the weekend. Shortly after Moosefest last fall, my attention turned to skiing and snowboarding and I left for Montana. Since there wasn’t much rain between when I got back to Zoar and leaving for Spring Moosefest, I hadn’t done much boating this spring. It had pretty much been teaching on Fifey and a few laps on the Dryway. I was excited to get back to the Moose and to run some harder water but also a little nervous from last fall. On the way out to the Moose, we checked the level and found that it was going to be around 4.6 feet about a foot lower than it was at fall Moosefest but still a little higher than I would have liked for my first day of creeking this year.
On Saturday, our first day on the Moose, I boated fairly conservatively, focusing on having a good time, hitting my lines and building confidence. I walked Fowlersville Falls because I didn’t want to start my creek season off with another experience in the hole that shook me up last fall. The next few rapids went really smoothly with lots of fun moves. It was a great warm up for the second half of the river where the rapids get a little bigger and the consequences get a little higher. About halfway down the run is one of the most fun drops on the river. Agers is an 18 foot waterfall that has a bunch of different lines. In some place the lip really kicks your bow up and makes huge boofs effortless. We hiked back up and ran it several times. At Sureform, I was planning on running the left line. There is a diagonal hole that you punch at the top of the rapid and then you drive left to set up for a shallow slide that takes you around the junk in the middle of the rapid. When I ran it on Saturday, I didn’t get my boat quite perpendicular to the hole at the top and rather than punching through, I got rejected and pushed off to the right. After taking a stroke or two to try to get back onto the left line, I realized I wasn’t going to make it, spun my boat around and committed to the right line. The right line went well and actually felt smoother but less interesting than the left line. The rest of the run was a lot of fun. At Crystal, I snuck the top part of the drop but ran the big center line at the bottom. It is a pretty fun line and is always exciting.
After taking off the Bottom Moose, no one was quite ready to be done boating for the day so we went exploring and found the Woodhall River, another local creek. This one was pretty low but had just enough water that we could still kayak it. I expect that this river becomes a class IV or V creek at higher levels but when we ran it most of the rapids were probably class II+/III. It splits into lots of different little channels and we spend a lot of time hiking back up to make sure that we had run each of the various channels. There was one decent sized hole at the bottom of the run that provided some entertainment for the day. This run was a lot of fun and was all about goofing off, running all kinds of variations and having a good time.
On Sunday, I was feeling a lot more confident and decided to push it a little harder. I started the day off by getting back on Fowlersville falls. The run went smoothly and I got by the big hole without any problems. Since everyone had run the river the day before and was feeling pretty good, we moved a little faster and scouted a little less than we had the day before. At Sureform, I decided to try the left line again. This time I was able to square up my boat to the hole at the top and had no trouble punching through the hole and getting left around the junk in the middle. When Sureform goes well it is one of my favorite rapids on the river. Everything happens really fast and you just bounce down a big slide. After running all the other drops we finally arrived at Crystal. After scouting the rapid again, I decided that I wanted to run the whole rapid instead of sneaking the top again. At the top of the rapid, you set up just left of center and come down to a 3 or 4 foot boof onto a little ledge above the horseshoe hole. The horseshoe hole is one that I wanted to avoid because it is fairly trashy and can be pretty sticky. This hole is also above some pretty big stuff that I really didn’t want to risk swimming through. So after landing on the ledge, I adjusted my angle and boofed off the left side of the horseshoe which takes you out around the hole if done properly. Then you drive left and boof off a big ledge to finish the rapid. After everyone had finished running Crystal we all paddled down to the takeout, ran shuttle and headed home. This was another great weekend of paddling with friends and was a great start to the 2012 boating season for me.