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Posts Tagged ‘Upper Ammonoosuc River’

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As predicted, the morning started off awesomely and promised to remain that way. Mike had stocked up on McDonald’s coffee the night before and put the room’s microwave through its paces. I accepted his offer of one of his four cups, which held me over nicely until the office opened and I could get at their Keurig brewer.

Once we were all coffee’d up and had consolidated both boats and all paddling gear into Mike’s Subaru, we headed out, stopping first at the Weston Dam to scout out portage/take-out options. We decided to leave my Subaru at the covered bridge near the old paper mill and headed up towards Stark. The river seemed to be running pretty high, and this was confirmed when we stopped at the Red Dam and found water flowing over the entire length of the spillway. It was tough to see from across the river, but the chute on river right seemed a little too adventurous to run. Portaging on river left (as my original NFCT map suggests) is clearly a foolish choice. The river-right take out was obvious, and we agreed that is where we would land to scout or portage.

IMGP1792Onward to Stark, where we found the covered bridge there in the middle of a major facelift. It was closed to traffic, but fortunately it was a Sunday, and no one bothered us as we unloaded the car and launched from the riverbank on that side. This was our first chance to come back to do this stretch of the NFCT since 2009, when we had to cut our trip short by a day when I found out my father-in-law had been taken to the hospital. I was looking forward to it.

Those graves are not long for this world.

Those graves are not long for this world.

The river quickly swept us downstream as we pulled away from the bank. We passed by under the sun-lit Devil’s Slide Cliffs, and at the first sharp bend we passed by an impressive sand bank which was slowly eroding into an old graveyard, with gravestones peeking over the edge of inevitability.

Right around the next sharp bend, past the railroad bridge, we found Frizzell Campsite, identified by a nicely hand-carved sign. It was a nice site, although a bear, or (more likely) pranksters, had tipped the thunder box on its side. We left a note at the sign-in box, and moved on, paddling past geese, ducks, beaver, and abandoned cars shoring up the riverbank.

The pace quickens

The pace quickens

The pace picked up just after Nash Stream above the Emerson Road bridge, and we read and ran a series of Class I and II rapids for some time, down to a nice cobble beach above the dewatered impound of the red Dam, to have a snack break. Traffic on North Road on the other side of the river was pretty light.

 

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Lunch Stop!

Nooo thank you, I'll portage.

Nooo thank you, I’ll portage.

We pretty quickly ran out of things to do at the side of the river, and again moved on, paddling up to the gravel pull-out right where Potter Brook flows into the Upper Ammonoosuc. A quick scout revealed what we had suspected…neither of us wanted any part of running the sluice on river-right of the dam. It was warm, but it sure wasn’t 90 degrees, so swimming would not be pleasant, even if one managed not to bash a few rocks on the way down.

Steve Hodge and his wonderful trailer.

Steve Hodge and his wonderful trailer.

The portage was a short one, and we quickly got back on the river. The next portage was longer, and not one we were looking forward to you since, in a fit of misplaced ambition, we had made the decision to leave the portage carts behind. But, just to prove that when things are going your way they sometimes continue to, as we were dragging up the second canoe to the gravel lot at the head of the portage a bright yellow jeep with a utility trailer pulled up, and a local hopped out to see what we were up to. His name was Steve Hodge, and he evidently has been a help to other through paddlers in the past, offering them rides to Stark or to Milan when the water is high.

Semper fi!

Semper fi!

I knew Mike would not ask for a lift, but I also knew he wouldn’t turn one down either, so using humor as pretext, I kidded Steve that we thought he had pulled over here to offer to haul our canoes over the portage. Turned out, that is exactly what he had in mind, so Mike and I loaded our canoes, and hopped in the Jeep and, after first thinking he was driving us all the way down to the covered bridge, he shuttled us the 0.1 miles down the road to a path leading down to the river below the Wassau Dam. We spent some time in pleasant conversation with him. He was a proud Marine Veteran (Vietnam) and had the customized Jeep to prove it. We thanked him and parted ways.

The demolition of the old Wassau Paper Mill

The demolition of the old Wassau Paper Mill

A few minutes later, we were paddling past the remains of the Wassau Paper Mill, which was in the process if being demolished. The dam is being retrofitted on river-left to provide hydropower. According to Steve, a guy is planning on developing a large truck stop plaza on the location of the old paper mill.

In no time, we were at the take-out, loading up my Subaru with the canoes and gear. We did another shuttle to retrieve Mike’s car, and headed into town for an early dinner to talk

Approaching the Groveton Covered Bridge

Approaching the Groveton Covered Bridge

over options. Mike was still not committed to camping that night, and I tried to talk him into it. We decided to leave his car in town at the police station (after checking with a passing officer as to overnight parking options) and headed up to Bloomfield, VT, where I had read on several other paddlers’ blogs that a campsite existed near the NFCT kiosk where the Nulhegan flowed into the Connecticut River, and where a General Store existed up the road where I might be able to park my car overnight.

The campsite was there, but the general store was closed. The campsite itself was of average quality, and the put-in to the river was steep, with very little in the way of an eddy in which to pack gear. We hemmed and hawed, and finally decided to set up and stay. It was a pleasant night, with a full moon, and traffic was not a problem, even though the road was so close to the campsite.

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Total Mileage for the day: 9.15 miles.

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