Pemmigewasset River, 1999
by Matt Hopkinson
Hal swore off paddling for the summer, in order to get his house
painted. It was an easy pact to keep, since there was nary a river to
paddle in this long summer drought. Perhaps he was overcome by paint
fumes, but he agreed to revisit the Pemmigewasset, four years after his
and Scooter's fateful first trip.
Ready to go
Hal's wife determined she might be strong enough to endure
Scooter and Hal, and all the reminiscing that was likely to occur. She
took her long-empty place in the boat and they pushed off the
boulder-strewn shore in North Woodstock. Besides Scooter, two other
guys were along, Bob and Wayne.
Loaded with coolers, camping gear and other luxuries, they headed down
the river for a fun overnight. Perhaps it was the El-Nino cycle, but
somehow the summer's drought had been reversed by a ferocious
rainstorm, and there was plenty of water in the river. This section of
the river is rated Class II, though water levels weren't quite high
enough for a smooth ride. Not surprising, since the guide also says it
should be paddled in May, not September.
Hal and Nancy
The morning was filled with rock gardens, crunchy shallows, and neat
little chutes. Another foot of water would have been quite useful, but
hey, that's why they make Royalex. One particularly memorable rapid
consisted of a chute, straight and narrow for a couple hundred feet,
then turning right out of sight. It was a wonderful set of haystacks,
followed by a small, strong eddy on the left. In a fit of bravado,
Wayne went for the eddy, which was not quite as long as a boat. Speed,
beam, and angle were all against him and in he went.
After a great day of errant waves and a sudden shower, the
group spied the water level mark, left by Scooter and Hal marking the
level reached by the flood of record October 21, 1995. They had nailed
it to the tree that they stood in that long night. "Wanna camp here?"
"NO!" was the resounding reply from the whole group. So they shoved off
and paddled into new territory, a part of the river Hal had never
experienced before. Within sight of the spot, they chanced across a
nice campsite, river left, and fell to the task of setting up camp.
Before long, the tents were up, the campfire started, and many strange
cooking contraptions sprouted up around the flames.
Day 2 was one of those perfect Fall days, clear blue sky, warm
sun, crisp air. The leaves were just beginning to turn colors along the
river, now running lazily along with the group's spirits. This stretch
of the river meanders with good current through the wooded countryside.
All too soon, the Blair Road covered bridge came into sight.
Nineteen miles all told, and a terrific camping spot at Mile 10 to
boot. This river is not considered wilderness, a few other people were
out paddling, they were holding a motocross race that filled the valley
with the unbridled roar of performance engines, and there is a highway
either side. For all that, there is a surprising amount of peace.
Weather, season and great folks all conspired to make this a memorable
The 1995 Trip
Blair Road Bridge