We had a great day poling on the upper Saco river yesterday. We were joined by writer/photographer Christopher Percy Collier, who was working on a magazine story about canoe poling. From the put-in we poled upstream for several mies. It was slow going as the river was running at 175 cubic feet per second, which is very low. We had to drag over a few gravel bars on our way upstream, but most of the river was the perfect water level for poling. This section of the Saco is crystal clear, with 12-foot deep pools looking like they’re a foot or two deep at the most. As people got used to the moving water and got their river legs, they became more comfortable and more adept at efficiently moving the canoes upstream. We stopped to pour casts of some mink tracks, then continued upstream to cobblestone beach next to a deep pool where we had lunch. After lunch we did a bit of fishing (not catching) before moving on upstream. Late in the day we headed back downstream, snubbing around rocks and downed trees. Everyone improved their poling skills by at least 100%, and their confidence as well. There’s never a substitute to getting out and doing something as part of the learning process.
On our way home we had an unexpected occurrence. After stopping to admire the view of Mt. Chocorua over the lake of the same name, The brakes in the van began to feel a little soft. After checking them and seeing some dripping brake fluid, we stopped the van at a garage sixteen miles from home. The brakes were just about gone. My wife came and picked up two of us, who then returned with working vehicles and got everyone else and all the gear. It was unexpected and got us all home around nine, but my wife had made a big pot of vegetable stew and several batches of sourdough biscuits which made the late return worth the wait.
Physically it’s been the most difficult week yet of this semester. Scraping hides, building shelters, and poling upstream all have a strenuous physical component to them. So today we’ll be taking it a bit easier, focusing on a review of some past topics, building bucksaws and making a few other items such as grass mats to make bush beds, and camp life in general, more comfortable.