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Last Tuesday on a cold grey day, I went for an afternoon paddle on the Housatonic. Scott B and Emilia were leading the charge to get out which was awesome because the water levels were ideal and temperatures were above freezing. The hybernation mood permeated the day making the paddle feel even more like an adventure – something I really need in the winter time when the temptation to stay warm and comfortable can be a strong force to keep me in my comfort zone. The level was awesome at just under 2 feet. After a longer than usual warm up for me – I really need to be hot and sweating when I paddle in the winter or else I am cold and miserable – we started down river.

As soon as we hit the first surfable wave above the Flume, I knew it was going to be a great day on the river. There were two back to back beautiful surf waves with eddy service on either side. After some great dynamic surfs there, we headed to the first drop of note, the flume. This rapid is always a wakeup call – at every level slightly different but always fun and challenging in the best ways. And in the winter, one guaranteed thing is flipping over in the flume is going to be cold, so though there is no issue with flipping over there, its preferable of course not do it – especially at the beginning of the run down! Scott took the line he loves and made it look easy as he always does. Emilia and I went for the traditional line. What I realized paddling down to the Fume was that I had missed running the Hous in 2020! How could that be? I have been coming to paddle this river every year and multiple times a year since I was in medical school in the late 90’s. My first run down was with Dave Saaf in 1997. We had a sighting of the infamous fugitive Alex Kelly who had been on the run from the law in Europe for a couple years and been caught. Turns out he was a paddler too. This was his last paddle before going to jail. Luckily that was our first and last sighting if him. The result of that first trip to the Hous was a long standing love of the river and luckily some of the people who were paddling then are still paddling now – like Scott!

Emilia had a clean line through the flume and as I peered over the edge about to drop in, I saw a perfect tongue of green water to grab and pulled hard. Though I felt my stern get a little squirreled, I knew I was through and upright. Victory! Celebration followed with trying to catch every wave I could possibly surf on the way to the next rapid, pencil sharpener. Scott had mentioned that there were many little surf waves at this level but honestly, I had not paddled that level in several years so I could not recall them. Sure enough there was a great spin, surf hole/wave with eddy service below a whole bunch of catch on the fly spots. It was wonderful as was seeing the gorge in its winter dress, quiet and peaceful bathed in grey light.
Scott was paddling his red Dancer which brought me back to my earliest kayaking days – my first boat was a purple dancer! Emilia was in her 9-er, a speedy machine indeed. As Scott and Emilia traced the variety of routes through S-turn, I watched from the eddy mid rapid. The water was so alive, playful, and inviting, made more intense by the contrasting quiet dormancy of our surroundings. The unique rock in the Housatonic makes for interesting shapes of rapids and options of runs through – pencil sharpener is a perfect example! At this level, there was so much surfing in pencil sharpener. Again Scott had mentioned this but I was not really sure what that meant before we started. There were what seemed to be endless waves to surf with the added fun and challenge of catching the micro eddies nearby to have repeated access. Even the catch on the fly waves were outstanding. What pure fun and joy!

By the time we rounded the corner to George’s the light was starting to fade. George’s was the best level I have surfed it at in a long long time. What crazy fun! By that time, I realized I had not thought about the temperature at all, but I knew with the light going, the temps would plummet. So after a few more “just one more” s, we paddled speedily to the take out, warm all the way! What a fabulous day and great way to start 2021! Thank you Scott and Emilia!