Bottom Moose

This post about my first Moose run is out of sequence from my last couple and jumps forward about 5 years from when I ran the Moodna.
I peel out gingerly from behind a large rock and work my way cautiously to the right around a shallow rock ledge. The current isn’t very strong here but I am worried about straying too far to the right as I’ve heard that the hole at the bottom of the drop is terminal over there.  I clear the ledge and paddle quickly back to my left to line up for the drop.
The current begins to pick up as I enter a little slot and start towards a small trashy hole. I lean forward hard to punch the hole and it kicks my boat a little bit left. I’m moving faster now and headed towards a rock perched at the lip of the drop, jutting out from the left bank. The rock looms nearer as I frantically paddle right. My mind conjures up an ugly scene with me hitting the rock and being spun around backwards over the lip.
Closer now, and I’m OK missing the rock by at least 6″ or so, but there’s no time to celebrate as the boat clears the lip of the drop and starts down.
Below me is a boiling mass of chaotic, churning white. The water races down the steep slide, slams hard into the pool and violently folds back  on itself. A huge wave rises like a wall from the middle of the confusion below. I’m flying down the slide now, scraping  my paddle left and right in the shallow water, struggling to keep the bow pointed straight down the throat of the beast below. Halfway down  and I tuck my paddle hard against the left side of my boat, lean forward, duck my head, close my eyes, and brace for impact.
I had arrived alone to scout the drop. To my disappointment, the group I had paddled with yesterday elected to run the middle Moose. I had hoped that one or two of them would accompany me on the bottom, But it wasn’t happening.
I had driven to the county park as it was spring Moosefest and I hoped that maybe someone I knew was there. Not finding anyone I recognized I headed out towards the put in thinking I might  have better luck there.
I stopped at Agers Falls to scout the drop, but the water wasn’t running yet so I decided to head back to my truck. Halfway up the path I ran into a young woman shivering in the cold,grey drizzle. She explained that she was recovering from surgery and could not paddle but had volunteered to photograph her group as they dropped over Agers. I handed her my coat,told her to leave it for me back at the campground and headed towards the put in.
I didn’t know anyone there either so I decided to walk downstream and scout Fowlersville Falls. Its pretty impressive, maybe 40 or 50′ high and sloping down at maybe 45 degrees or so. The river is pretty wide here and I’ve heard all kinds of stories about people having to get roped out of the hydraulic if they stray too far right.
A group of paddlers runs the drop as I watch. One by one the hurl themselves down the slope and slam into the wave below, each one punching through with varying levels of success. One or two even manage to stay upright. I’m really disappointed that I’ve driven 5 hrs to run this thing and can’t find anybody but I figure at least I can huck Fowlersville a few times as long as I’m here.
I head back to my truck, grab my boat and gear and put in above the bridge. I pull into an eddy near the top of the drop. I had hoped that there would still be a paddler or two but everyone has moved  on and there is no one in sight. Telling myself that this is what I came to do, I pull out from behind the rock.
The river swallows me and my boat as I hit the surging mass of water at the bottom of the slide hard. I am completely engulfed and knocked back despite my best efforts to remain locked forward over my bow. The water coming down the slide continues to drive my stern down and my bow shoots skyward as the river spits me out. My boat dances briefly, straight up on it’s stern at the top of the swirling foam then crashes down into the chaos and flips.
I roll up, paddle to the big eddy on my left and get out of my boat for another run. It’s not an easy climb back to the top, especially dragging a boat and I’m a bit winded so I sit down to catch my breath.
As I get back into my boat I see another group coming towards the falls. Most of them pull into the eddy to scout but one guy stays in his boat. I guess he’s the probe and the others will watch as he shows them the line. I decide to follow him, they can watch me too.
I usually don’t remember much when running a waterfall. You are at the top and then you land. Not too much time to think about what is happening as you fall. There’s plenty of time to think at Fowlersville. The slide is big, steep and long so it gives you lots of time to contemplate hitting the bottom. Not that you can do much about it anyway, you’re going to take a hit.
I do a little better this time down and manage to stay upright as my boat kind of squirts left out of the hole. I didn’t really do anything different, it just kind of worked out that way.
I meet the probe in the eddy and we both share a smile, bonding over the run down the big drop. He introduces himself as Steve and we talk for a while as we wait for the rest of his group to screw up their courage and get into their boats. I ask him if he would mind me tagging along with them. He says OK but that they will be doing a lot of scouting so it could be a long run. Perfect, just what I’m looking for.
The rest of the group comes down the slide one by one. Two more guys named Steve and a couple of others. They are all older, like me, and have paddled the Moose a bunch of times before. It seems like I have gotten really lucky to hook up with this group.
Next up is Funnel. We pull out river right on a wide pebbly beach and walk downstream to scout. The river turns to the left and narrows down, racing through a small slot. At the top of the slot is a diagonal wave that threatens to throw you to the left if you don’t hit it square. The river then pours over and through a narrow drop where the main current is split by a sharp rock rising up right in the middle. There is also a boof move on the left side but the backwash looks a little sketchy to me.
I follow one of the Steve’s down towards the drop. I line up on the diagonal hole and paddle hard into it. It kicks me a little to the left but I make it through without falling too far off-line. I run down the tongue a little bit left and catch a bit more of the center rock than I had planned. I ride up high on the pillow but a quick low brace on my right keeps the bottom of my boat in the water and I eddy out with Steve to watch everyone else.
One of the guys, maybe its a Steve, typewriters left down the hole and goes straight over the top of the rock at the bottom. We all kind of hold our breath and I’m already paddling out of the eddy to pick up the pieces when he rolls up, none the worse for wear. It wasn’t a line I would have chosen but it worked out.
Across a couple of pools and through a small rapid we come to the next big one, Knife’s Edge, and pull out on river right to scout. The eddy’s are smaller here and the rock slopes steeply down to the water so we have to pick our way cautiously to a good vantage point.
The river is divided by an island and we are looking at the river right channel. The channel is further divided by a large rock and we need to stay away from the left side of the rock as there is a huge hydraulic over there. On the extreme river right is the ledge boof from whence the rapid is named. You have to paddle hard right and ride along a narrow ledge before dropping off into a slot. Steve #1 explains that the traditional line is to make a sharp left off the beginning of the ledge, paddle across the current past a rock in the middle then make a sharp right through a narrow slot between the rock and the island. It looks a little intimidating. I kind of like the boof line better.
Steve, (I’m not sure which one) elects to take a sneak line in the river left channel of the island but the rest of us are going to run the drop. I’m the last one in line and watch as all of the other guys make a left and disappear over the ledge. I’m still tempted by the boof line as I paddle toward the drop but decide to follow the rest of the group as I get nearer to the ledge. Concentrating hard, I drop my left edge to carve a sharp left turn.
It’s a mistake. The current catches my edge and pushes me high up on a submerged rock. I drop off the ledge sideways to the current on my upstream edge and immediately flip. Thoughts of pinning on the center rock or getting stuck in the pothole I was warned about are racing through my head as I’m getting swirled about. There’s not much I can do in the middle of the violent water so I stay in my tuck and wait for the boat to settle.
The boat knows which way to go and makes the right hand turn without any assistance from its occupant. I bump my way upside down through the narrow slot and roll up in the calmer water when it widens out. Everyone asks if I’m OK and says they were sure that I’d be swimming. Everything is fine’ nothing bruised except my ego. I’m the only one who had a problem with the drop.
We pull out on river right again to scout Double Drop. Steve says the traditional line is to punch a big hole at the top then make a sharp left down a short tongue into some gnarly looking water below. You have to paddle back to the right in the manky stuff to boof the second ledge center right. There doesn’t look to be anywhere to roll up if you flip.
I watch as one of the guys punches the hole at the top and runs the tongue without a problem so I guess its OK. I paddle hard, pick up a lot of speed and punch the hole without a problem. Then I make a hard right and paddle down the tongue. Maybe a little unsteady at the bottom but a couple of quick braces and I’m headed towards the last ledge. I get a great boof off the second ledge and land softly below, surprising myself with a textbook run. I’m starting to feel better about my Knife’s Edge incident.
We paddle across a large pool and take out to portage around a dam. The portage itself is worth mentioning. You have to carry your boat across a strip of concrete maybe 18″ wide and 10′ above a jumbled rock pile. There is a step that you have to negotiate in the middle of the wall. It’s higher than a normal step and you have to decide if you want to jump down and land on two feet or step down and land on one all while carrying your boat. There’s no place to set it down. I elect the one foot method and do fine but my mind still has pictures of me wobbling over the edge and falling to certain injury on the rocks below.
We paddle across another large pool, there are lots of them, and get out to take a look at Ager’s Falls. Its a pretty straight forward 15′ drop with an interesting little runout on the bottom. The guys in my group wave across to Angela who is there to photograph them. She’s wearing my jacket. Maybe it wasn’t just the luck of the draw that I ended up paddling with the Steves.
Agers is pretty easy. Paddle over the edge, drop and land. Not a lot of skill required there. Theres a little bit of wood stuck in the runout so we have to paddle around it but nothing of consequence. We continue downstream towards Shurform.
The river splits around an island and again we take the right channel. Its really nasty over on the left side and most people stay away from it. The right channel features hole at the top and a rock jutting out from river left. Once past the rock you have to drive hard left across the face of a blocky slide to avoid an enormous roostertail shooting up maybe 6′ in the center. You finish up the drop in a little slot left center. As we watch a couple of guys try to skirt the hole on the left and end up hitting the rock. It throws them off-line, stalls their momentum and sends them toward the rooster tail. I watch uneasily as they enter a seething slot on the left side of the rooster tail and emerge upright on the other side.
I get in my boat and head downstream. My plan is to catch the right side of the hole and then drive hard left past the rock. It works perfectly as I pass the rock, right on-line and relax to enjoy my ride down the slide. The water pulls me to the right as soon as I stop paddling and now my line isn’t looking so good. I’m headed down the center and its too late to recover. I end up high and dry, stuck on a little ledge to the left of the roostertail. I have to drop into the same slot the other guys ran. It doesn’t look to inviting in there but they were fine so off I go and run it cleanly. I tell the guys that was the line I planned on all along.
Downstream, the river narrows to the right and races between a couple of rocks. We fly right along with it, crashing through 5′ wave trains to the huge eddy on river right. This is Powerline, named for the electric line that passes overhead.
From the eddy, I work toward river left to avoid a pourover on the right. I’m thinking about catching another eddy on river left before punching through the hole below but change my mind halfway through the move. In my experience, indecision is rarely a good thing when running a rapid. I miss the eddy, hit a rock and drop into the hole backwards with no momentum. It occurs to me that I might be staying in there for a while as I flip and get worked for a while,  but it lets me go fairly quickly and I roll up at the bottom of the drop.  To my chagrin, everyone else runs it cleanly.
We pick our way through some rocks and small ledges then take out to scout the big one, Crystal. As a novice paddler I was awed by the pictures of this rapid on the AW site. There doesn’t appear to be a discernible tongue anywhere and the water pours over a series of 4′ ledges as it snakes its way downward to the final 10′ drop. Over to river left is the alpine line, which cascades straight down the tiered ledges, joining the main current from the right as it pours over the last and biggest drop. Steve points out the classic line dropping over a ledge to the left of the U-shaped, raft-munching, mega hole known as Nemo. He tells me it would be prudent to stay away from that. He points out a small wave near the top of the final drop and tells me to make sure I line up on that. To the left of the wave is a swirling eddy that will catch your bow and throw you off-line. We can’t see the landing of the 10′ drop from our vantage point but Steve tells me that its pretty narrow and I want to stay to the right.
We watch as a bunch of paddlers run the drop. Some work from right to left and some run the alpine line. Everyone we see flips at the bottom and rolls up once they pass the big rock that is blocking our view of the landing zone. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence but they all seem to be fine.
Some of our guys elect to portage this drop, it might be a smart idea but I came this far and don’t want to go home leaving something undone. I urinate for what seems to be the 3rd time since getting out to scout and head for my boat.
My mouth is dry and my legs feel like rubber as I climb in and snap on my spray skirt. Its kind of scary thinking about this drop. I pull out into the current and pick my way towards the first ledge, lining up on a small rock outcropping towards the left center.
One of our guys, probably a Steve since most of them are, is paddling quite a bit further left than I am. You can’t really tell where you are but I’m fairly certain I wanted to be near the rocks so I stay where I am. Steve bottoms out in the shallow water to the left so I start my run.
I drop over the 1st ledge to the left of Nemo as planned. The backwash tugs breifly at my stern but I have enough speed to push through to the 10′ or so before boofing the next ledge. My boof isn’t great and I pencil in a little, right into the current coming out of Nemo from my right.
My bow jumps to the left and it takes a quick brace to keep upright. I spot the wave that Steve had pointed out earlier and lean forward aggressively, paddling hard in the racing current. I punch it right in the nose and slide easily past the eddy to my left. The water coming down from the alpine line to my left pushes me towards th right but I’m exactly where I wanted to be for the last drop.
I don’t really see the landing zone until I’m at the lip of the drop. It’s wider than I had anticipated but I’m already committed to the right and tuck myself into a little crease in the water as I go over the edge.
I pencil in pretty good, The water coming over the drop driving me still deeper. Its pretty dark down there and I have to wait anxiously for a couple of seconds, although it feels more like 20, before my boat can claw its way upwards taking me towards the light. I roll up and join a Steve in the eddy.
We paddle across another large pool, Up ahead, Magilla lurks behind a low dam. Nobody in my group plans on running it and we take out on river right. I walk around the dam to take a look at Magilla from below. A couple of guys run it as I watch. It doesn’t look too bad, I think I’m going to try it.
I run into Ben and his friend on the way back to my boat. They are novice paddlers and had run the Middle Moose with Ed, Neval and Myles this morning. They ask if I’m going to run Magilla. I tell them yes. Having an audience makes things a little easier.
There isn’t much water running over the dam. Most people are getting out of their boats at the lip of the dam and then lifting them down before running the drop. I decide to adopt the same tactic, so I don’t snap my spray skirt as I paddle and roll out of my boat as I near the dam. I swim the rest of the way, pulling my boat behind me.
The dam drops 4 or 5′ onto the bedrock that forms the top of Magilla. Its mostly dry there today with the water running through narrow slots before pouring over the precipice. I’ve seen pictures where the whole rock surface was covered and the drop was full of water but thats not what I’m dealing with today.
I lift my boat over the dam and carry it down below a U-shaped hole to put in. I don’t see much sense in trying to punch the hole. Only bad things can happen. I paddle down the slot, start over the edge and hit a little boof ledge landing cleanly in the water below. Pretty anticlimactic but I’ve run the drop.
Ben and his friend are waiting for me at the bottom. I feel like a superstar and don’t want to tell them how easy it was at this level. I send them upstream to take a look a Crystal as the Steves and I shuttle back to the put in.
On the way there we stop at a power company building so that I can sign in. I didn’t realize that was a requirement before running the river and had passed right by the sign up this morning.
We are all pretty animated discussing each little aspect of our run. I thank them profusely for taking on a 1st time Moose run and they jokingly tell me it was a HUGE problem. I feel good that they’ve accepted me as one of their own. We’ve all bonded quite well. Running a river together kind of does that.
I stop at the campsite to pick up my jacket and head back to Neval’s house, still high on adrenalin and quite a bit full of myself. The group is all there and they pepper me with questions about running the bottom. I can see that a part of Eddie kind of wishes he had run it too.
Its getting a little bit later and I’m starting to feel tired. Really tired. I stop at a pharmacy to pick up a 5 hr energy drink and a coke before starting the drive home. Its going to be a long one.

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