August 3, 2008.
When we woke up Sunday morning, we were all just a bit stiff and tired in the legs from the tough hike the day before, so we decided to rest our legs a bit and use our upper body instead. A kayak trip down the Contoocook River seemed like the ideal thing to do. Because the forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms, we left mid morning to go rent a kayak for me. Nur and Martha each have their own.
After dropping off a shuttle vehicle, picking up the boat and scouting around a bit, we found a semi-decent place to put in. It was a little below the dam that is below Peterboro, NH, but the river is constricted at the put-in point and flowing very rapidly. Later, we found a better place just upstream of where we put the boats in but it was way too late.
We were going to put in at the bank and then paddle across to the left hand side of the stream, since the right hand side was shooting down its own channel in a different direction. We quickly learned that the current was much too swift to do this, and so each waded to the middle of the river to get in at a small island that divided the river into two channels. With the skill and agility of ballet dancer, I slipped into my kayak. Whoops, let me rephrase that. With the skill and agility of a bull moose walking along a tightrope, I slipped getting into my kayak, spilling the contents and myself into the river, and putting about 5 gallons of water in the boat. In the confusion, my canteen was swept away in the current. Fortunately I had bagged my camera into a zip-lock baggie and strapped it down. But it meant paddling all day with soaked shorts, which later turned out to be no big deal.
The river was beautiful, with a slow current most of the way of 2-3 knots, and some occasional fast sections and Class 1 rapids that were fun and got the adrenalin rushing a bit, since none of the three of us are expert paddlers. Most of the time, the Contoocook flowed through forests, with a few areas near fields or even a bit closer to civilization.
We found a little muddy beach to take a lunch break, and right about the time we finished eating the rains came. The first two were brief little squalls that we heard before they got to us, passing by quickly. The third and final one came to stay, and was a downpour at times. At this point the wet shorts didn’t matter a bit, because we were all soaked. During this time, Martha saw a mother mink and three babies along the bank. It was raining too hard to try a photo. Other than this, the only wildlife we saw was a painted turtle on a log; a couple of kingfishers, flying along making their cool rattling call; and a couple of GBH – great blue herons.
We did see some pretty flowers, like this cardinal flower:
And this patch of pickerel weed:
After an hour or so, the rain slackened and finally quit for good. We were continuing to hear thunder ominously close by, and kept paddling downstream keeping a nervous lookout. The sun came out, and was very welcome as all of us felt chilled by the cold rain. The sun was strong enough to dry my shirt after an hour, as we finished our beautiful paddle down the Contoocook River. We took out at a little park near the covered bridge just before Powder Mill Pond, where we had left the shuttle car. I would guess that we paddled about 10 miles on the river, but it may have been somewhat less. We had not thought to track the trip with a GPS so that we would know the mileage, but it really doesn’t matter. It was just great fun in a pretty spot in the outdoors, however long it was.
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