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Spring in Northern Vermont has finally arrived!!

Early Spring run on the North Branch of The Winooski.  Photo: Rogan Brown

Early Spring run on the North Branch of The Winooski. Photo: Rogan Brown

Spring in Northern New England brings together a lot of great things.  The obvious benefit of spring for paddlers is the warmer weather melting snow (this winter we had a lot of it!) and transforming the rivers from picturesque ice sculptures back into the whitewater playgrounds we cherish.  It just so happens that this same warming-up process is what makes sap run from the maple trees giving us maple syrup.  Here in Vermont “sugaring” is a very big deal, and living here I’ve learned that the maple syrup is used for a lot more than just drizzling on pancakes.  Intermittently throughout the spring, cold weather will return shuttling off the flow of the rivers for a moment.  Rather than pout about it we simply just head for high ground and go skiing.  “Mud season” as people call it around here, is really great time to explore this part of the United States and enjoy everything it has to offer.

The nectar of the gods

The nectar of the gods

The paddling opportunities over the last few weeks have been seemingly endless.  I’ve managed to log laps on a bunch of classic Northern Vermont runs at absolutely spectacular flows.  The variety of paddling opportunities that exist are tremendous, especially for such a small state.

New Haven Race.  Photo: Eric Adsit

New Haven Race. Photo: Eric Adsit

Highlights for me this Spring were back to back weekends of grassroots creek racing events.  My racing season kicked off with the New Haven Race in Bristol, VT on April 18th.  This event is definitely my favorite race of the year.  The combination of the energy surrounding the beginning of the season and the quality whitewater make it an awesome experience.  I’m not sure if it was jitters or being rusty after a long winter, but my first race run left a little (OK… a lot) to be desired and it was only good enough for 9th place.  Good thing this event is a best of two runs format and in the second run I was able to post a time good enough for 4th amongst some stout competition.

New Haven Race.  Photo: Whitney Phillips

New Haven Race. Photo: Whitney Phillips

The second weekend of racing was a bit further North on the Wells River, which is located right on the border of New Hampshire.  This race, sponsored by Dartmouth College’s Ledyard Canoe Club (established in 1920!!) features a longer course with a bit of flatwater separating the rapids, one of which gave me a little trouble in practice.  I was very excited to have picked up my 9r the day before the race.  The 9r helped me literally paddle past the competition in the mass start format.  The speed of the 9r allowed me to save some of my energy in the beginning of the final heat to make a pass in the last rapid to claim a spot on the podium.


Wells River Rumble in the 9r. Photo: Nick Gottlieb


Aside from the excitement of competition these early Spring events do a lot to fuel the energy for the rest of paddling season.  They are an opportunity to reconnect with other paddlers after the long winter, make plans for a trip later in the season (or the next day), and share in the joy of our sport.  It feels great to be at the beginning of another paddling season (especially with the coolest new tool in whitewater the 9r!!) and I can’t wait to see what adventures in store…