Bill (crew chief), Connor, Seth, Fritz, Matt, Davey, Bryce, Josh, Ethan, Owen|
Tim Smith, Sean Gorman, John Wallace, Pete Licciardi
June 27th - 29th, 2009
Day 1 - Saturday, June 27th, 2009
Orford Boat Launch - Roaring Brook, Thetford|
I am up early, as I always am before a trip, excited to be stepping
out on a new adventure.
But they is not much for me to do this morning. The canoe is on the car
and I am already almost completely packed. So this morning I have
a leisurely cup of coffee and breakfast. At 9:30 I head over to the Community
Center to our rendezvous. Most of the crew arrive almost exactly at 10:00.
We sort through gear, shift canoes to different cars and by 10:20 we
are heading north.
On the way to Orford we stop and pick up two canoes from Ted Simpson. We also fetch Davey as well as Bill. Picking up Bill in Lyme is particularly important since he has all of the food for the trip. While loading Bill and food into the car it starts to rain.
When we reassembled at the Orford boat launch I feel like we have overwhelmed the place. There are three other boats going out to fish for the day, and then there is our flotilla. We have seven canoe, a kayak, ten scouts and four adults going down the river. We arrived in four cars and two trucks. Ted Simpson was so pleased to hear about the trip that he delivered one of the canoes himself and told us he would like to join us in a future trip. The fisherman look a bit stunned by our numbers, but I talked with one of them. When he head that we were scouts and going to camp our way down the river he laughed and wished us good luck. He too had been a scout.
We arrived at the boat launch at 11:20 and were on the water by 11:45. I had expected to have the stern of one of the canoes, but the only empty seat by the time I left the dock was in the bow of Sean's boat. It is a nice change to be in the bow, but I do need to work hard to not do the J-stroke all the time.
The sun was out and smiling upon us as we headed south. Our first stop was Reeds Marsh on the New Hampshire side of the river. This was just a little over a mile from our launch, but we have plenty of time to explore today. So we paddled into a basin and let ourselves drift. It is also lunch time. Peanut butter and jelly on pita Bread. Pita bread is pretty durable, and so popular upon our treks.
After lunch and back on the main channel of the river I switch with Ethan, so Davey and I share a canoe. The day is turning sunny, a problem we had not thought much about at the launch, and so the bottle of sun screen is circulating around the crew.
We made a side trip up Clay Brook, under the Edgell covered bridge and into some back waters. It is a peaceful place in the afternoon. But then again back to the main river and down another mile to our camping site, where Roaring Brook flows into the Connecticut.
This campsite is operated by the Upper Valley Land Trust. It is not a large site. UVLT list it with a capacity of a dozen. So we set our tents up close together and occupy only about two-thirds of the site in case anyone joins us later.
The day is turning hot and we wade out into the river. At the mouth of Roaring Brook is a well developed gravel bar where spring floods rushing down from the Vermont hills have flushed cobbled, pebbles and sand. It is lovely to stand knee deep in the cool water. I'm expecting the scouts to set up a swim area, but while inspecting the potential swim site we discovered a well decayed porcupine carcass. Just the bones, skin and a few quills are left. The crew find it curious, but also it seems to make the river, even upstream, a bit less attractive.
For supper we have pasta sides and canned chicken. More then we can eat. After that I give a short talk about care of canoes. Then the scouts went off to explore a stone tunnel under the railroad tracks.
Four of the scouts (Bill, Fritz, Seth and Connor) have rigged hammocks for the night. The rest are in tents. In the evening we have a fire and watch a amazing display of fireflies.
After everyone has gone to bed I went for a walk. There is a beautifully maintained trail running between the river and the railroad tracks. It is pitch dark, except the fireflies. But tomorrow will be a long day, so at about 10:00 I climb into my sleeping bag. No sooner am I horizontal when I hear at first a little patter of rain, then a torrential downpour, followed by the sounds of a mass exodus from the hammocks as scouts sought alternate accommodation.
Day 2 - Sunday, June 28th, 2009
Roaring Brook, Thetford - Patchen Point, Norwich|
The morning broke darkly, the sky the color of slate, and I couldn't
think of a good reason to get up too early. Still, at 6:00 I crawled
out into the gray - but dry morning. It had rained all night and the
grass was soaked - but the storm had passed. The morning was very still
and the river as flat and smooth as glass.
Oatmeal, hot chocolate and bagels for breakfast. Again, experience has taught us that bagels are durable bread and so popular with this troop.
The river rose overnight with the rain. All our boats are moored in the mouth of Roaring Brook and so we need to dump rainwater, pack canoes and disembark in an orderly fashion. We planned to leave at 9:00 but were all on the water by 9:20.
We make our way past some meadows and we hear the church chime out ten o'clock as we slip by North Thetford. There use to be a bridge across the river here. All that remains are stone embankments and a pillar mid-stream. Just below this is a boat ramp where we land. I tell the scouts to take twenty minutes to go find something interesting in North Thetford. They bring back slips from a bulletin board where people are trying to sell there services for odd jobs, or puppies. We walk the length of the town in five minutes. Past the post office, the Federated Church and Foam-Tech, the only business. Past a day-care/library. But soon we are back to out canoes and on the water.
The next section of the river is flanked with farm land broken by steep hills plunging into the river. These hills seems even steeper because they are covered with towering white pines which exaggerated their altitude. We are making good and steady progress. Finally the Lyme-Thetford Bridge comes into view.
I have launched from the Lyme side and knew there was a bit of public land there. So we steer to the left bank. Where I had launched from is now choked with poison ivy. So instead we tied up under the bridge and climb the concert and steel to the road way. It is lunch time and we have carried our pita, peanut butter and jelly with us, and eat along the road way.
After lunch we walked west across the bridge into Vermont. In about a quarter of a mile we reached East Thetford and stopped at a convenient store where I treated everyone to ice cream sandwiches. Bryce told me "Mr. Smith - you rock!" which made my day!
Back in the canoes we continue south. This is probably the longest unbroken stretch of the whole trip, so a good time to record canoe partners.
Seth - Fritz
Owen - Ethan
Josh - Matt
Bryce - Pete
John - Sean
Davey - Tim
The day is turning out to be very nice, but this is a long stretch. Past Grant Brook and Hews Brook on the New Hampshire side. Past a great sweeping turn and a pontoon boat with fishermen. Bill directs us to the Vermont side of the island. Finally we past Slade Brook and then pull into the Ompompanoosuc River where we stop for apples at the boat launch.
The clouds look like we could get an afternoon shower as we head out onto the Connecticut for our last leg, and we issues a few garbage bags with with arm and head holes cut into them as rain gear. But we only encounter a few sprinkles. Past Wilson's Landing. This straight section of the river is where Dartmouth and Hanover High Crew host there races. So along the shore the 1500 meter, 1000 meter and 500 meter to go points are marked. There is a big tent up at the Chieftain, some sort of reception I expect. And across the river for the Chieftain, up on the bluff is Patchen Point Camp site.
The site is great and the whole crew seems to like it. Tall pines and a thick bed of needles. There are three areas and fire rings. A few miles ago some boys had asked if we could just press on to Hanover, but nobody is saying that now.
There is a man in his seventies who is camping in the next site. He is on a motorcycle trip. He ask the boys to find east for him so he can orient his tent to catch the sunrise. He is fascinated by our expedition.
After tents and hammocks are up we cook up a large pot of macaroni shells and cheese for supper. In the evening, around the camp fire I read my journal from Long Trek II. This was the hike in 2006 which we eventually cut short on the fourth day because of rain. Bill and Connor had been on that trip - and enjoyed reliving it.
I think we are all feeling the miles, because shortly after sunset everyone slips off to their tents and bags. I slip off to my shelter, write in my journal and turn in at 10:45.
Cooking at Patchen Point
Day 3 - Monday, June 29th, 2009
Patchen Point, Norwich - Ledyard Canoe Club, Hanover|
It started raining at about 3:00 in the morning. I expect that there
was a scramble among the hammock sleepers, but I didn't hear it. I
finally got up at 6:30 in the drizzle. I had left my big blue tarp
on the ground, and now found it rolled around one of the hammock
scouts. The others are in Fritz's tent.
We rigged a cooking fly out of the tarp, and as soon as the stove had settled down to a friendly hiss, scouts started emerging from tents. Breakfast was in a constant rain, but at least it is a warm rain. So people make their hot chocolate under the fly, get there pop-tarts, but then wander about the camp site eating. Pancakes are on the menu, but we are missing a few major components. Live and learn.
The river rose over night and my canoe was pinned under a tree, and so forced under water. There was no damage, we just had to return a lot of water to the river. We fall into a quick packing routine. The whole process is much easier this second morning and despite getting up later and the rain we launch out onto the river by about 9:00.
The rain is coming down hard, but it is warm. Even if it wasn't, people are paddling hard and our bodies soon warm up. Scouts are singing and everyone seems to be in a good mood. Down the river we roll. Past the back side of Kendall and CRREL. Past the mouth of Girl Brook and Pine Park. Past the outflow of Occum Pond and through the "Narrows".
We can start to see the docks through the rain and so I started to talk with Bill about which dock to use, there is one in front of Ledyard, and a second 30 meters down stream of that. Bill works at Ledyard and so is our local expert. But when we are a hundred meters from the docks parents steps out from the shelter of the land on the first dock, so that is where we touch. By watch we are twenty seconds early! Just moments before 10:00.
Seven canoes all landing on a dock which normally could handle two or three. But people work quickly to get gear ashore and then haul the canoes out of the river. It is a hard rain and I think everybody wants to get on their way. So we are all ashore and packed up within half an hour.
Back home it is going to take a whole day to dry out tents and other gear. But I think the trip was well worth it. For those scout who are going to go to Maine it was a good shake-down. For scouts who are not - it really was a complete adventure in itself. Not every trip needs to be about getting ready for something bigger. Some times a trip can just be a simple float down a peaceful river.