Story by Jeff Feldmann. Paddled by canoe with Scott Larkham, Scott Stenberg, Ron Merriam and a dog name Abe
Paddled by canoe from Canaan, VT to Rocky Hill, CT
I retired in 2004 and on the top of my bucket list was to paddle the remaining sections of the Connecticut River that I had not done. This would include a visit to the 4th lake and to paddle the 3rd, 2nd, 1st and Lake Francis. Also East Inlet and Scotts Bog. Because I live in Connecticut, I have already paddled from Rocky Hill, to the mouth of the river more than 10 times (this was done in a kayak). I had also paddled from Rocky Hill, up to the Mass line at least 3 times. I wanted to see the Locks in Windsor Locks and the Enfield dam. I had never been past Thompson, CT.
I mentioned this to several friends of mine who canoe and kayak and everyone seemed to be on board. After many meetings, we decided to visit the upper lakes. At this time one of the friends decided to drop out, so 3 of us decided that after all the time put into going, that the 3 of us would do a week in Pittsburg, NH and work our way down to Indian Stream. Also, because out of the 3 remaining crew, 2 of them still worked full time. So it was decide that we would do a week at a time for 4 years.
We spent the week in tents at the Mountain View Campground. We went to the 4th Lake, paddled the 3rd, 2nd 1st and Lake Francis. We also paddled Scotts Bog and East Inlet. When we returned home, I asked a friend of mine that I went to high school with, if he would be interested in being the 4th person and when he said yes, we began to make plans. Anyone doing this trip knows that there is so much to think about, from gear to food for 4 people for a week. And then we needed to find someone who would travel with us to the start of the trip and leave the van at the take out. We had no idea what it took to portage a dam like the Moore, Comerford, Wilder, Bellow Falls. And I was amazed at how poor the portages were maintained. Almost as if the companies that used the dams didn’t want people to canoe the river…….We also were never able to get anyone to answer the phone to help with the portage. At the same time, we never had a clue about the difficulty of getting around them. We did have wheels for the canoe, but at the Moore Dam portage, we had to make other plans to get around the 400 yard portage.
We used the Connecticut River Boating Guide and sometimes we could not find the campsite so we just took what we could find. We knew about tides being an issue sometimes, but we never thought about the large dams releasing water in the middle of the night and we were lucky to have tied up the canoes….However at the same time, the book was very helpful. At the end of the 4 years, we decided to do a 5th year, because my friend who was willing to join us, had never been to the upper lakes, especially the 4th, so we returned and stayed in one of the Mountain View cabins instead of tents. I took about 2500 photos along the way. The first two years, I used slide film and the other three, I got myself a digital camera. I had a great dry bag and took photos only when the captain of the canoe, (who was in the stern) told me it was okay to take photos. It took me two years to learn what it like to paddle a 20 foot tripper. And look for rocks. We were very happy to have a dog on the trip. He belonged to Scott Stenberg, who was in the stern of the 20 foot tripper. The other canoe (a 16 footer) was captained by Scott Larkham. Both of these men, were true outfitters…..Ron Merriam, my friend from high school, was in the bow. The Vermont and New Hampshire sections of the river had really great camp sites, but if I had to pick one that was the best, it would be the one in Gill, MA, called Munn’s Ferry……..A bear front cabin, 5 raised tent platforms, solar toilets and wood for a campfire…….It has taken me 7 years to put a program together.