Saturday, April 14, 2007

Southwest to the Whitewater Class

NH AMC Paddlers

Friday I left the house around lunch and headed Southwest down to North Conway where I went to EMS and LL Bean Outlet looking for the last couple items on my gear list. I was planning to wear a bike helmet and I knew it would be cold so I wanted a hat. I had seen one in the NRS catalog that looked perfect called a Mystery Sea Hood. LL Beans doesn’t carry it but EMS does. EMS in North Conway didn’t have it in stock but they just got one in Concord. I decided I’d stop at EMS in Concord to pick it up.

I headed South on 16 and took a slight detour to 28 to Wolfeboro Falls and stopped in to see Tim Smith of Jack Mountain Bushcraft.

His road had plenty of slippery snow on it and I ended up helping a car out so that I could park. I walked down the hill to see Tim’s place. He has a great setup with a nice large barn where he is currently stretching canvas over a canoe. We discussed reflector oven designs, cooking, trips, etc. over coffee. He gave me some sourdough starter and I headed South to Concord about 4:30. I got to EMS and LL Bean in Concord about 5:30.

I found an aluminum dutch oven made by GSI Outdoors on sale at the LL Bean outlet. This is a great find as I was unaware of anyone making aluminum dutch ovens anymore. The aluminum models are a lot lighter and more practical for canoe tripping than the traditional cast iron.

At EMS they had my hat in stock though it was more money than I wanted to spend. As I was making my purchases, the EMS clerk told me it would take about 45 minutes to get to Henniker from Concord. He advised that I drive South on 93 then north on 84 to get to Henniker. It is a straight shot on 202 but on a Friday night, travel would have been slow.

I made it to the class in Henniker 10 minutes before class started. I couldn’t believe the number of people in the Church meeting hall- there were almost 50 students! We discussed plans for the weekend and the storm that might mess up our plans for Sunday. We then covered basic river safety, how cold the water was, and what to do when you take a swim. We discussed proper cold weather gear. The instructor was Paul who has been whitewater paddling for over 40 years. His neoprene shirt was fringed with red, white, and blue and looked straight out of the 70s! His favorite wool shirt was a yellow plaid with huge holes in the back. It was good to hear that he felt that the traditional and durable materials are still OK. It was also good to see that he had gotten many years of service from his gear.

We then broke into our groups for a gear check. I was a bit skeptical since our intro class had brought be way over prepared with gear. My leader put more than half of my gear in a pile and said I’d be fine. I was left with my coolmax tshirt, techwick boxers, NRS farmer John wetsuit, polypro shirt, wool socks, paddle boots, neoprene gloves, and my nylon jacket and pants. I put the rest of the stuff in a bag and decided to keep it around in case I went for a swim.

Class dismissed and I grabbed a ride to a fellow student’s house. There were 3 other students staying with him (all related to him in some way). They are planning a trip to the St. John in May and this class was their training plan. We stayed up until 11:30 talking all about rivers, canoes, gear, etc. Finally we all just went to sleep on the couches.

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