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Its July 31st and I am looking back on the last 25 days of paddling right here in Connecticut – where I have been since July 6th. In a word, it has been Awesome, but that doesn’t describe the state of the rivers. The Housatonic, the closest local run to my mom’s house, where I stay when I am here in the US, has been running high all month, and it was flooding two out of the last 4 weekends! Definitely crazy for July. In fact, I ran the river at the highest level I have ever run it at on July 10th! Andy Kuhlberg and I paddled the river under bright sunny skies and with warm temperatures – what a wonderful treat because it sure made the enormous river seem a little more friendly. We could scout the flume from the lookout above the put in, and it looked straight forward – just lots of water, but what I realized when we put on the river was that the water was moving so fast that it was definitely not possible to help anyone if they got in trouble or vice versa. We blasted through the Flume and it was big and in some ways easier than lower levels but still huge!

As we got towards S-Turn, we wondered whether the eddy would even be there half way down and we decided not to risk trying to catch it with the speed of the water, so blasted right through the rapid. Usually there is plenty of time to get from River left to River right for the start of the next rapid, Pencil Sharpener. Not so on this day! In fact, as soon as I ran S-turn, I turned around to see how Andy was doing, and I was immediately heading into the left side of pencil sharpener – territory I had not been down before!

Once I saw Andy was good and I turned around and realized we were in pencil sharpener heading into a sizeable drop with a large wave hole! I had a flash to the Cuban on Itanda and weirdly, it made me relax as I dropped into the feature. Andy smartly paddled left of the wave hole, and I surfed out the side. Thank goodness for many years of paddling in big waves and holes for fun! After that we found two micro eddies on river left that were now next to the rocky gorge wall but with trees interspersed so we could wedge our boats between the trees and the rocks. This allowed us to hike up the gorge wall and scout what Pencil Sharpener looked like from this side!
Scouting from a ledge perched above the river on the left side was eye opening! There were some huge pour overs in the middle that were formerly exposed rock ledge at lower water. There was no way to get over to the familiar right side from here. Instead we had to make a big water class IV move to get from the left back to the middle (after the big pour over) while missing some other large holes and paddling through some exploding boily water. It looked very doable, but the trick would be not to get lost out there with all the excitement going on around us.

From our perch, I looked upstream and down, and really took in how much gradient the river has – made all the more impressive by how much water was flying through this section of the river. While getting myself comfortably fitted back into by boat, I had a few moments of “What was I think bringing Andy out here? He has kids and a family!” Then, I thought about my own mother who was home recovering from her latest eye surgery, and I thought, “Actually I have some big responsibilities too!” Luckily, the river grabbed my attention right back as Andy and I reviewed our plan. I went first and Andy followed. As soon as I got into the whitewater, I was flying downstream. I made the moves I needed to and ended up exactly where I wanted to be.

As I turned and looked back upstream, I saw Andy go over what looked like a pour over ledge on the river left. He flipped over and then I did not see him for a couple seconds. As I was saying “Roll!” He did just that and was good to go for the rest of the run down pencil Sharpener. By then I was so far down stream – despite being able to catch a big wave on the fly to surf on the way down – that I would not have been able to help Andy in any way had he needed it. Luckily, he did not!

We got to the bottom of the rapid and caught our breath – what an awesome rapid and wow, the Housatonic as I had never seen it before! Everything else was big, bouncy and under water for the rest of the run down. But what a special way to see the Housatonic – in July!!! I certainly don’t need to do that again anytime soon!