Autumn on the Saco River

I took the weekend to paddle on the Saco river in New Hampshire and Maine in my Cape Falcon 66 SoF canoe. Two nights and 22 miles from the outfitter’s to the take-out at Lovewell pond. I left work early Friday and arrived around 4:00. The outfitter helped me stage the car, and by 5:00 I was on the water.

The nice thing about this river is that apart from a few fee spots, and a stretch where everything is private and posted, you can camp on any accessible flat of land along the bank. So the first night I got just past the River St. bridge and around a bend when I found a perfect spot for the night. It was a long, broad stretch of sand with a view to local hills in the distance.

The next day I continued to Swan’s Falls, past Walker’s Bridge, past a bit of fast water, and on to my final camping spot within a few minutes’ paddle of Lovewell pond. The “fast water” was pointed out to me by the outfitter on his map. It really was just a brief spot of turbulence, barely a class one. I say this so that anybody reading this who knows the stretch and wants to take issue with my characterization of it can have the proper context and excuse me from ridicule for calling it “fast water”.

I’ll also briefly document some of my gear successes and failures:

  • I didn’t bring enough socks, or the proper footwear. For the future, I want a pair of shoes that I can wade out in and easily slip off while getting into the boat in order to avoid having to sit in mud. Tevas aren’t it.
  • I didn’t take care to waterproof my feet in the boat, which didn’t work out well in the cold rain. Until I can afford a proper dry suit, I’d like to try some knee high waterproof socks. That won’t take me into serious conditions, but I expect it’ll do for a lazy weekend paddle like this was.
  • The hammock really is a three season affair. The night got uncomfortable, even with my down bag and lots of layers. To make the hammock four season I’d need to invest in an underquilt, which is half the price of bottom dollar four season tent, and half as satisfactory. Best not to try to push the hammock into duty it isn’t meant for.
  • Next time I’ll bring heat pads for the feet. I don’t know what it is about me and cold feet. Circulation?
  • My new 750ml Toaks pot is amazeballs. It’s just right for a Knorr meal and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. And I’m really digging the penny alcohol stove I made this spring, though I have yet to dial in exactly how much fuel I need to use at a time.
  • I’ve been toying with putting together cheesecloth bags to slip over the open top of my pot so I can catch food bits when flinging my dirty water out. They’d be reusable, and easy to slip away into a plastic baggy to pack out. My pot is a little less than 12.5” in circumference, so I’d need about a 6.2” – 6.5” bag to fit snugly around the lip. I figure I’ll make these since what I make specifically for my pot, maybe with a shock chord sewn in, will work tons better than what I could buy.

Oh, and I should mention how much I still love this canoe. I made a new yoke, which I still have mixed feelings about since it isn’t super comfy, either on my back when in the backrest configuration, or on my shoulders in the yoke configuration. I can add padding to address both issues, but before I do that I think I’m going to try making a new one, which I think I need to do anyway for the following reason.

Brian Schulz suggests a single pin at either end to lock the yoke in place when using as a back rest. In this configuration the pin sits outboard, locking the yoke against the butt end of the rest (I know, a diagram would help here). When placing the rest amidships as a yoke, the pins sit inside the gun’ls, pushing them slightly outward. What I’m finding is that where I need a positive lock is in the yoke configuration, not the backrest one. What’s happening now is that as my boat spreads out over time, the yoke has a tendency to slip inside, especially when I’m pushing and pulling on the boat to flip it, lift it, or adjust it on the car. So clearly I have some work to do to get the yoke and backrest to work as I’d like them to.

Another thing I’m finding is that I despise getting dripped on while using a double bladed paddle. I’m considering putting a skirt over the forward portion of the boat, using leftover nylon from the skinning, and perhaps this also would help protect my cold-prone feet from the weather. Not sure how this would work, but it’s rattling around in my brain.

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