Small, Shallow Thoughts
Nick Callanan attepts to amuse youDog Days
(by Nick Callanan)
Yeaa. Kayaking. So my paddling journal has been getting a lot of entries lately and I’m psyched about that. As someone who is just figuring out whitewater paddling I can definitely say this: anyone can get decent at paddling if they set a goal to get in their boat every day… shit I’ve only been in my boat, lemme check in the journal here…on 31 different days since June began. That’s a 50% failure rating, but I’ve still built enough confidence to at least try and surf most anything on the Kennebec (I tried to get on Magic for the first time the other day at 6000 but, alas, the fast water proved too much for my measly paddle strokes.)
It definitely helps to have guided for three years on this river. There’s one thing you can say about Maine whitewater guides, whether you like the rafting industry or not, and that is this: after the training they have to go through, there’s not one who doesn’t respect the power of moving whitewater.
The other day a group of us (matter of fact, all guides) put on at Harris Station at around 6 p.m. and had ourselves a good ol’ time. I learned a ton watching my more experienced buddies catch surf holes and waves and throw wave wheels. Like always, I try to catch every eddy I can – even that Whitewasher eddy that “worked me like a jukebox on a Saturday night.” (Nick’s journal page 5)
On this particular day the flow was 4800 cfs and I was having a difficult time staying on anything for longer than a couple seconds, Musta woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something.
But what’s cool about this river is that it hasn’t changed too much over the years. On the day of this particular trip, just before I left my place to drive to the dam, in fact, I met a man walking his dog in Caratunk. I’m guessing he was between 43 and 52 years old. We exchanged how-ya-doins, then he asked me about my Wavesport X on my roof rack, “How d’you like that boat?”
I told him (pretty good so far) and before I knew it we were trading stories about cranking out of House Wave eddy below Magic. Me and this 45 year-old guy walking his dog in Caratunk who last paddled the Kennebec in the late 70’s in a 13-foot kayak.
It was 4:50 p.m. The water was scheduled to shut off at 6. I forced myself to abruptly cut out of an interesting conversation. “You better step on it to make it by 6,” said the man, whose dog’s name I learned, but whose own I did not.
On the river that day I caught an eddy river right below Big Kahuna that the man had told me about. Yea it was a pretty cool way to learn about a river spot.
After we got off the river and shuttled all the boats back to the dam parking lot (five kayaks, seven people packed in one small Nissan truck). Nobody else was around and we sat there and talked.
“Ah, the camaraderie of river guides,” I thought to myself in a way not nearly free of sarcasm, yet full of nostalgia just the same. The private trips. The festive evenings that come after the long river days. The river stories. Oh the endless river stories.
Amidst the banter at Harris that day, one of our number admitted to trimming his chest hair, effectively suspending any consideration of new conversation topic.
We sat and laughed. Away from the sound of cars and whiny kids and cash registers opening and talking about work.
Nobody has asked me why I like to guide or why I like to be around the river. But if they had, I would probably tell them just what is above.
You know, Maine whitewater guides don’t become guides because they want to wear sandals, eat steak or chicken, and boat with touristy strangers every day. Nope, that stuff can be nice, but the real truth behind a guide’s happiness, after those fat fat paychecks, lies in the hearts of other guides. Don’t play too hard, y’all.
Email nick [at] noumbrella [dot] com with your questions, comments and concerns.
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