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Upper CT River-Memorial WE, 2024


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Skip report; go to SLIDESHOW and/or VIDEO

That I had already completed three- and four-day paddling trips on weekends 1 and 3, respectively, and now, another four-day Memorial WE trip on the upper Connecticut, galvanized my long-held notion that May is the busiest month of the year! The majority of our trip planning process is gastro-centric; Son N and I met daughter M at 7:30 promptly at the incredible Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster, New Hampshire, for a buffet breakfast. Having no luck securing a shuttle, M would leave her car at the takeout, while N and I drove our canoe-topped cars to the put-in in Canaan, Vermont, just below the dam.

putin.thumb.jpeg.2b3c1926302c39edd41d257a987fef6b.jpegWe enjoyed pleasant skies, abundant headwind, and class one/swiftwater from the get-go. Despite the late start (1045), we would have a long day reaching our first night campsite at Lyman Falls, 21 miles downriver. N labeled this section of the trip a poler’s paradise, and he handled the large Tripper like an expert, as he guided us from the standing position, through the swirling waters with utmost precision.
















We enjoyed lunch (Amatos, of course) and a swim at a swift bend in the river.  Postprandial, I would rescue my drifter daughter, a bit downstream. By degrees, we reached our destination, having paddled the wrong (right) side of the river (map left at home), but we quickly recovered in the class II run, and paddled river left to a welcoming sandy/pebbly beach.  A designated campsite on the southern part of the island was accessible through the eastern channel around the island, but an accident waiting to happen, so we opted for the open beach. This would be the best decision for future sites, as ticks and early mosquitoes were coming to life here.



N was excited to play with his new reflector oven, and once the fire was built, we started preparing the dessert (apple/rhubarb crisp), and commenced fryIng up the onions and thinly-sliced potatoes, to which a fresh (frozen; cooler) piece of fish rounded out the culinary delight. Multiple images in the slideshow and video will support my confession of a colossal success (reflector) with our multiple trials. 



M was excited for our 17-mile, day 2 destination, a site that she had visited before. We had fantastic weather, long stretches of quickwater for the first part, and expansive views of the mountain ranges beyond the farming countryside.  Fewer sandy beaches to be found the further downstream we paddled, but we found a nice shady, pebbly beach for lunch.

Minutes before landing at the gorgeous Samuel Benton campsite, a party of six with three canoes claimed the second of two campsites amongst the trees and grass up the riverbank. We were only momentarily disappointed, remembering the marauding critters that lived in the tall grass, and happily lined our canoes and gear upstream, to the quiet side of the extensive stretch of beach, and set up our home for the night.


Maine yellow-eyed beans had been soaking all day in once-boiling water, carried in a steel cannister, and wrapped in a reflective bivy. We continued boiling the beans over the fire, with all the classic ingredients (dried mustard, molasses, onions, and maple syrup). As if already fully seasoned, the reflector hatched the most incredible drop biscuits EVER (think of the comical Dysart’s clip found HERE).




Like the Dave Mallett song (…and there’s biscuits and beans at the late-supper meal….and there’s nothin’ like beans, when your workin’, you know…), we were in our element, watching the bank swallows across the river fly in and out of their perfect circle holes in the steep bank. After a short game of Cosmic Wimpout around the fire, N and I retired to our tents, while M laid out her bedroll, cowgirl style, beside the alluring fire. 







An intermediate, 16-mile paddle lay ahead of us on day #3, our destination S. Guildhall campsite. We broke camp spit-spot, and looked to repeat the favorable conditions in front of us. Following a short portage of the dismantled Wyoming dam, we lunched on peanut butter and jam/freshly sliced pineapple, chips, cherries, and chocolate. 


We were in the habit of collecting short lengths of dried hardwood along the riverbanks, and collected a few more at this site, adding to our precious and bountiful supply.


At length, we arrived mid-afternoon at the grassy, cozy (2 parties, side-by-side) riverbank site, later dubbed “tickville.”














Another crisp (apple/cherry) was on the docket, but nachos (appetizer) were first in line, followed by egg skillet scramble with mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, and cheese.

       nachos.thumb.jpeg.2b2faecb8d093331dfecfdcc55b45bff.jpeg      omelet.thumb.jpeg.b1974a5adcab081c1c8df8d51120af5b.jpeg


We welcomed another 3 paddlers to the adjacent section ‘round suppertime, and offered hot coals and firewood as party favors. Mossies were tolerable, but ticks were abundant. I picked off 3 inside my tent, and shed 3 more the next day @ Flatbread in Conway, several hours after getting off the water!


Our last day was an easy 3-mile trip to the takeout in Lancaster, where we locked canoes, then drove in M’s car, with all paddlers and gear, back to the 2 cars in Canaan, backtracked to the boats, and bid M farewell.


REFLECTIONS (pun intended): 

 -A frozen, water-filled 6 L dromedary in our small, 23L cooler still had a fist-sized ice chunk on day 4.

 -A folding Silky saw in the campbox can quickly procure scads of leaning, dead, dry hardwood for the fire.

 -Many of New England’s major rivers have navigable headwaters in pristine countrysides-take a gander!

 -Although there is usually plenty of room at designated campsites in the off-season, Miss Manners recommends welcoming fellow paddlers to your site,  especially if you can make room. We befriended a stranger who is now on our “call” list if we need a fourth.

 -While dehydrated meals are the norm for many campers, canoeists generally have enough extra room to bring fresh food and cooler(s); campfire cooking offers a special, unmeasurable charm to this special Nature Therapy! 



Edited by gyork
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A timely trip report, as I've just been invited to paddle the lower section of your trip later this month. I'm very impressed with N's reflector oven skills - those nachos and the crisp look amazing!

For anyone else considering a trip on the CT river, there's a shared calendar where paddlers can state their intentions to occupy a campsite for a specific night: Connecticut River Paddlers Trail


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