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Spring Hubbard and Swift!!

By Blair Winans

Well well well, time for me to add to the blogosphere for once instead of using the same old, whiny, “i don’t have a computer!” excuse. But that’s okay, because although it was difficult for me to catch anything this spring due to the over-abundance of snow, lack of paddling buddies and excess of work, a few of us managed some quality paddling.

The west was my first exciting run of the year. The weekend before the normal release we had to cancel one of our more advanced rafting trips due to low water. Lucky for us the west was running “high” and we managed to convince some of our customers that it was just as exciting as Bulls Bridge. Now, I’ve rafted the west nearly every release for the last eight years, it’s a very fun class 3+ and usually runs between 1200 and 1500 cfs on the release weekends. I’ve never actually paddled it in a kayak. So I figured jumping in as a safety boat at 4000 cfs wouldn’t be much different. I was a little wrong. It was moving fast. It was Awesome!

Thank god I wasn’t thinking much that day, cuz they made me paddle out first.

The run was very successful. Brian and Justis did an excellent job reading and guiding on the fly. They managed to narrowly miss truck sized holes with no help from me. It was sweet. The first eddy we caught together was after the dumplings. Just so you know.

The next week, with some time off and people to paddle with, finally, we were able to get on the west branch of the deerfield. It was Scott Johnson, Kristen Allygood and me. It was Scott and Kristen’s first run up there and they decided to put their faith in me to guide them. They are both excellent paddlers and only needed a little info on the drops. It was a beautiful day, too. We all kept an eye out for each other and an eye out for wood. All the lines were clear as well as the tunnel. Scott was stoked! to go through that for the first time and I had forgotten how loud it is in there. Despite a quick swim and boat pin in low chair courtesy of Allygood, everyone paddled like we knew it. Probably my favorite river.

Exactly one week later with another day off and a week’s worth of safety boating on high and fluffy dryway days, it was time for some more creeking. Jim Sullivan, Scott and I set out in the morning to run the swift river up in Cummington. Scott had been telling us about this gem for a long time. He had originally paddled it over ten years ago and occasionally thereafter. Recent rain brought it up so Jim and I were expecting the Swift to be a nice 4ish run to start the day off. The section we did was a little more than a mile and snakes through the woods, sometimes under route 9 for added excitement. There were a couple of fun class 4-ish drops to get things going. It was when Scott told us we had to scout the next one that we realized why he loved this river so much. What was a 4-ish creek turned into a 5maybe+ gorge that Scott calls The Falls. Jim and I later renamed it Big Johnson Falls.

The drop was broken up into four sections, or four areas where it might be possible to eddy out and set up for the next move. Except for one, all the eddies were about half of a boat size at this level. A little tricky.

After discussing safety and how to set up, we felt confident about the drop and Scott volunteered to go first. And if he made it, then me and Jimmy would follow. He paddled down the drop with a little less speed than he wanted. He scared us a little by getting popped up and nearly back looping into the hole, but manage to pull it off with style and eddy out. After the first drop the rest of the run seemed manageable.

Scott was about halfway through at this point. He peeled out, stylishly boofing over the boof rock, and was immediately pushed into a tiny eddy river left.

For the last drop, He had to peel out and get as far river right as possible. You wanted to go right because all the water was pushing left into a wave hole backed by a propped up rock the size of a table. Once through, land in the hole at the bottom without bashing your elbow and hopefully shoot out, avoiding the tree sticking into the water.

cott went where he wanted, punched the hole, disappeared, somehow flipped and rolled avoiding the tree by inches. As perfect as we could have hoped for.

Mine and Jim’s runs went nearly identical, except we both peeled out too high missing the boof and got shoved into this tiny slot line down the left. Not super pretty but still fun. The bottom drop was my favorite because I ended up having to paddle towards the flake as fast as possible and hit the corner like a park jump at mount snow. Super fun! Little bit sketchy.

immy and Mikey approved!

That took up our morning and we were pumped. We paddled out down another 3/4 section and shuttled the cars. Good run before work, said Scott. We agree.

We got some lunch, picked up Kristen Allygood and headed to Hubbard brook. The sun came out and we were happy to be boating once again. Hubbard has some challenging but totally doable class 4-5 drops. It’s also fairly long and you can take your time and spend a whole afternoon on it, as we did. Everything was runnable even though the level was a little low. Mashoud falls (spelling?) was the big drop on it and although shallow, it shot you out fast through a slabby hole.

It was an awesome day and we all went home tired.

Congratulations to Kristen for graduating college despite her friends best efforts!

That was my quick spring, had a lot of fun and got back in shape. I’m now looking forward to the teva mountain games in Vail and paddling with ferg, tino and elaine out there.

Until then!



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