West River Release
by Janet Burnett Cowie
Hey everyone, it’s Katelyn again!
This past weekend was my first time attending the annual West River release. My mom and left early in the morning and drove up to Jamaica, Vermont, a two hour ride from CT. It was a cold, crisp fall morning and many boaters were walking around clutching warm cups of coffee or tea when we arrived. I saw wetsuits and drysuits being pulled out of the backs of cars, and as I left the heat of our own car, I was glad that I grabbed the extra layers for the day.
I walked around for a while and talked with all the people that were there. The West is definitely a great opportunity to meet up with old and new friends. At the take/putin (takeout for Upper and putin for Lower) there were a few vendors and a food trailer with some good soups and stews plus the usual hotdogs and hamburgers. Past the vendors a bit more were the four sets of pickup trucks that shuttled the boaters. When we arrived at around 8:15, the first shuttle was already leaving. I paid for my all day pass on the shuttle and then got changed and suited up. My group for part of the day of David and Sean were also there and we all got ready. We handed our boats over to the awesome volunteers and then found our spots on the pickup truck.
The ride to the put-in was about 2.5 miles. I loved riding in the back of the pick-up, it was really fun, for lack of a better word, because only when kayaking would I be able to ride in the back of an open truck! We met another friend, Keith, at the main put-in, and then walked another half mile on a path through the woods with our boats to run the slightly more challenging Initiation rapid.
We hopped into our boats and ran the 3 mile section. The rapids on the Upper West are super fun class III’s with big waves and good play holes. I took a pretty slow first run and caught a lot of eddies along the way. I was paddling a borrowed boat and wasn’t feeling too comfortable in it. We all stopped at a fun play-spot after Dumplings, the main rapid, and I landed a few loops, and David, Sean, and Keith got to show off for a bit. We finished up the first run, and bought our first round of hot dogs for the day.
After lunch, David and Sean decided to head back up to the play spot for the majority of the day while I hooked up with my friend Jahn, another paddler my age. He was with three friends of his. We waited in the giant line in the parking lot to catch the shuttle again. After about an hour of slow moving, we were finally at the front of the line. I was excited to run the section again, as I was finally feeling warmed up. We reached the top for the second time, and we made the hike up to Initiation. At the put in, I adjusted my outfitting and jacked the seat up a few inches.Feeling really top heavy, we headed down through Initiation.
On the West, the rapids sort of blend together, with very little time inbetween, making rescues and rest tricky. Half way through, the five of us got pretty spread out, and we pulled into an eddy to catch out breath. We all were out of breath, the majority of our run had consisted of nearly continuous wave wheels on every ripple and practicing kick-flips anywhere it was deep enough. We peeled out and continued our run. When we got to the Boof Rock rapid, Jahn was in front of me, and Zach right behind me. Jahn boofed, but got hung up in the squirrely water in the eddy. I landed practically on top of Jahn and Zach on me. It resulted in all of us flipping on the same eddy-line, which was not pretty. When we got to Dumplings, I took the right line and boofed into some more boiley water. With my seat up so high, I flipped over in the aerated water. Okay, maybe that wasn’t my best run.
After the second run, we were still energized, and we went for a third run. It followed similar to the second. The fourth run and final run, it was only Jahn and I. We caught the second to last shuttle of the day to the top and we did a bomb run. The ride up was awesome and relaxing, just a ride through the woods. We got to the top, and skipped the hike to Initiation. We had an great last run, with lots of wave-wheels all the way down. We reached the take out tired and satisfied. It had been a perfect day all around with beautiful weather.
I got to see all my good friends and paddle a new river. I highly recommend the Lower West and Upper West as rivers to add to your fall repertoire of runs. See you on the river!