- 188 days on the water
- 82 sections of river
- 3 countries
- 11 US states
- 61 New Haven laps
- 13 Vermont Weekly Whitewater Beer Series Races
- 5 published pieces (for which I was paid — a couple more pro bono in the Dirtbag’s Guide to Whitewater)
- 1 swim
Any year in which you kayak more days than you don’t is probably a good one, and by that measure 2013 just squeezed by. The year began with the tail end of my trip to Chile and Ecuador, which was followed by a few months of cold attainments on Otter Creek, interrupted only by a quick yearly pilgrimage out to the Grand Canyon in early March. The northeast spring season was largely a bust, but we made do, and what water we didn’t have in April was made up for by the wettest June on record.
Summer was a whirlwind of paddling trips both local and long distance. I made two trips out to Idaho, with one raft trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon and a few days paddling some classics. I went to the Penobscot for the first time, and participated in Send It, Whitewater’s race placing 3rd in the boater cross and 9th in the time trial – there’s a strong local advantage for navigating all the flatwater on that river, it turns out. I also went to the Tville Triple Crown for the first time (surprisingly, since I grew up paddling there) and placed 4th overall, which was a little disappointing at the time, but given that it was my first slalom race, first downriver race, and first freestyle competition, I’m chalking it up as a success.
Somewhere in there, I spent some time at the Ottawa, somewhere I hadn’t gone for more than a weekend in seven years. I got to spend a couple days at Minibus in perfect weather with no lines, which was somewhat baffling, but you can’t really complain. I also got to surf Garb for the first time, though it was only in for a few hours while I was there. Minibus changed playboating for me. Surfing Minibus is what I imagine riding a bull is like…but when you do get that perfect pass and throw a trick (for me, “a trick” means a blunt, since I don’t know how to do much else) it is without fail the biggest of that trick that you have ever thrown. I witnessed some pretty awesome moves there and got a handful of my favorite pictures of the year.
The fall was spent mostly local, excepting a quick trip down to Gauley Fest and back, where strange water levels made for a strange and quiet weekend on the river. A relatively “dry” fall meant a lot of mountain biking, but also meant once weekly Middlebury laps, many, many Otter Creek Falls laps, and the occasional other paddling, including a last minute trip to Bourne Brook with Justin Beckwith and Ryan Mooney, the first descent since Hurricane Irene. The full trip report is here www.nicholasgottlieb.com/2013/11/13/bourne-brook/. Suffice it to say, Bourne is a mission in the true sense of the word, and I will likely not be back more than once every couple of years.
I capped off the year with a few days paddling slalom on the Housatonic for Christmas and a surprise day on the West Branch of the Deerfield, another river I hadn’t done in seven years. Irene treated it well, and so does a healthy amount of water – the section from Tunnel Vision to the takeout is incredibly fun and the closest thing to the North Fork that I’ve paddled on the east coast.
The year was great, and spending so much time in New England this summer gave me the opportunity to attend a lot of local events I’ve been missing the past few years. We’re developing a pretty competitive little race series up here and I’m glad to be a part of it. Next year, I hope to train harder and race more, maybe even racing slalom a bit more. I’d also like to do more exploratory runs. Some folks ran the Opalescent in New York last year and I would like to paddle it, preferably with optimal flow, since I’ve already hiked into and portaged the whole thing. Maybe the Wassataquoik up in Maine, the West Branch Peabody in New Hampshire, and the Plattekill gorge in NY.
On that note, here a couple of my other favorite photos from the year.
And here is my 2013 “Highlights Video” that I put together, apologies that it is all GoPro but I don’t seem to have much else: