Big Branch Fest 2010

The colors are beautiful, aren’t they? I’m glad I drove up from New Jersey to watch the leaves change. Oh, and what are those idiots doing in those silly plastic bathtubs?

Well, I unfortunately missed Moosefest this year, but I’ve learned the hard way that in New England, it’s always best to operate according to the Gottlieb Principle of Kayaking: Never run anything other than the Big Branch or the Middlebury. The Gottlieb Corollary: If the Big Branch and the Middlebury are both too high or too low, just get drunk. Normally, Moosefest is in accordance with the corollary, but this year it rained and snowed in VT right before the weekend, a combination that sounds miserable, but is actually as good as it gets in VT. Friday, the Big Branch was way too high, and I violated the Principle and went for a schwackspedition instead. Saturday, we went to the Big Branch only to find it at 5′. A little on the high side. So, not wanting to violate the Principle, we decided to put on as high as possible on a tributary called Lake Brook that the Forest Service guys had told me about.

Ben unfortunately broke his boat about a mile into Lake Brook and had to hike back out…I found him in his car at the put-in with the seat-heaters on. Once I handed him that beer he became much happier.

We drove up, plowing through about 4 inches of snow on the road, and put on where Forest Service Road 10 ended. It looks like there’s some gradient upstream of here on Lake Brook, but we didn’t check it out. Next time I go to the Big Branch and it’s over the gauge, though, I’ll check it out. After some complicated shuttle antics, we put on four miles upstream of the normal put in with a group of ten or so. Lake Brook was mostly class III boogie, but it was interesting nonetheless and had a couple fun drops. We all spread out over the course of the Upper Upper Big Branch, eventually meeting up again at the regular putin, where it was apparent the river was quite high. Half of us walked out, planning to come back the next day for a more reasonable level. The other half carried on down with stories of backenders, hole rides, and one swim, but all in all a good run.

Me stomping it on the best boof on the Upper Big Branch. Photo Owen Cadwalader.

Sunday, we — shockingly — went back to the Big Branch. It was just over 3′ all day, rising to 3.5′ by the end of the day. I love October snowmelt. Another excellent day on the Big Branch. We rolled into the takeout around noon to see ten or fifteen cars. There must’ve been 50 people on the river that day. Weirdly enough, we didn’t actually see anyone on the river other than our group, but they must’ve been out there somewhere.

Me about to boof left not once but twice. Photo Owen Cadwalader.
Jeff Sharpe about to boof left. For the second time. On Boof Left Twice.

Monday, I decided it would just be plain irresponsible to go to school. So I went back to the Big Branch again. To find it at 3′, still. Yup. Justin, Adam, and I ran a lap in about 15 minutes, then my elbows started hurting, so I sat the next two laps out. Ben Peters showed up, having attended one class and skipped his second, so I rallied and we ran another two laps. It was just Justin and I for the last one and we crashed into each other about five times. I boofed into an eddy in the Mank Below Cave only to turn back and see the bottom of his boat over my head right before he landed on my stern. Might be the most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me on the Big Branch.

G. Owen Cadwalader on Boof Left Twice. I’ve been working on trying to get some panning shots, they haven’t been turning out great, but they’re getting better.
Magdalena Dale on the Danby Slides.
Alan “I Just Soloed the Big Branch at 3′” Panebaker.

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