|jcass, Chuck Mathieu, Josh Geib, and Chris Hull. photo by Baxter State Park Rangers|
|Each one of us fell with our kayaks strapped at some point in the hike, except for Chris.|
|South Branch of the Wassatquoik, our Tributary in, probably a First Descent.|
|Chris, Josh, and Chuck at Grand Falls portage, photo by: jcass|
Planning and Communications
The first major challenge of the project was not to determine that navigability of the river or it’s mileage and rapids, but it’s access. Our agreed upon put-in had to be accessed via a hike and our tributary run through Baxter State Park. Years ago when I first ran Nesowadnehunk Stream, which begins within Park Boundaries, a ranger approached us to make sure we understood the nature of the run, had a safety plan, and were prepared, which we were and thus had no problem accessing the river. However, the Wassataquoik is an overnight run, that requires leaving Park Boundaries, and then traveling through the Wassataquoik Sanctuary owned by Eliottsville Plantation, Inc.(EPI www.keepmebeautiful.org). I felt in order for the expedition to be successful it would be both prudent and ethical to be transparent about our intentions to run the river with both entities. My thoughts were that if well-skilled parties could access Katahdin for winter mountaineering ascents, so should a team of whitewater kayakers be able to de-send it.
Luckily, my previous supervisor Betsy, an avid outdoorswoman and champion dogsled runner connected me with her partner Ben, the head ranger at Baxter State Park. I wrote him an e-mail stating our intentions, and that our aim was to uphold all Park Regulations and safety statutes. Ben replied with recommendations to follow the Park’s Travel Safe program (www.baxterstateparkauthority.com) and gain permission from EPI before committing to the run, and that if we understood it’s nature, had appropriate emergency action plans in place, the Park would not prevent such travel.
However, I noted that Baxter State Park, “…Does not recommend this run…” due to exposure, extreme and unpredictable rises in flow, and house sized boulders (for which I replied that this is what we are looking for). Also, “The park does not wish to advertise.” This means that the Park authority does not affiliate itself with special interest groups or favor any one party or form of travel over another in its rules and regulations. Please keep this in mind when planning this trip, and using the provided information. Send It, ME went through great lengths to portray the whitewater kayaking community as safe and professional. We reserved our campsite according to regulations, had an emergency evacuation plan with phone numbers of hospitals and the Warden Service for rescues outside of the park (Park Rangers handle rescues inside the Park) and we gained permission to camp on EPI’s Wassataqwuiok Sanctuary land prior to departure. Send It, ME highly recommends that attempting parties follow this ethic of transparency to ensure access for other kayakers for years to come.
This run is in a pure, rugged wilderness and at it’s deepest point is miles from any regularly traveled road. Though there are logging roads nearby and alongside the Lower section of the river, and after the Grand Falls Portage on river left there are no trails connecting the most remote river section of the committing Upper section.
|Runout of Grand Falls, We seal -launched just above where this was taken.|
|Hikers Beach Crossing low water|
|Grand Falls Entrance, Note the sieve.|
|Another shot of the Team at Grand Falls|
|jcass runs Ledge falls, first big rapid.|
Next installment of the Wasendaquoik: Part 2, The Experience of the Run
Hello from Send It, ME!
I wanted to post the video for all of those who have been patiently waiting for Part II of the expedition.
Hope you enjoy! :)
Footage from day 2 of the Wassataqouik Stream Expedition. Fully Loaded creekboats, 25 miles of river, of which between 6-9mi. were previously unrun and is the bulk of the movie. Featured Josh Geib, Chris Hull, Chuck Mathieu and myself. Awesome river. Part II of the report on senditme.blogspot.com up soon with pictures!
Group completes previously un-run 9 miles of upper Wassataqouiok Stream and first descent of the S. Branch of the Wassatquiok Stream in expedition style.
Chris’ photo of Josh really captures not only the ferocity and pure wilderness of the river, but the sending that occurred over the 2 day exploration.
Josh Geib leads the class V run out of the class VI Grand Falls, Wassataqouik Stream. Photo by: Chris Hull
Distinctly, I remember a whisper echoing silver in the sharpness of my mind:
“This is everything you wanted, what they have done, and what you are going to have commit to, to get out. Anyway, you’re 25 miles away from help; it is the only way down.”
We were several miles into the run and been sending on the class IV and V offered up right out of camp. At Grand Falls, after one look, we knew it was time to portage via a trail that followed the river right cliff wall and briefly took an obligatory photograph of each other, not really knowing what lay ahead.
The trail ended at a cliff with at least 30ft of near vertical drop before solid ground on either side, making continued portaging nearly impossible. Below was a 3 boat shelf at river level, with an added table rock for seal launching back into the river. However, the corner was nearly blind only revealing another eddy just above a large horizonline. We decided to get on and catch the eddy below, if only to get us below a trail that literally disappeared off the cliff.
At the table rock, the eddy was surging and the water a pushy brown. This is when the rest of the world came to an end, and I entered a state of “Send Buddhism”, ready to run the river with full commitment.
The rapids were incredibly good, presenting ledge drops into long complicated rapids ending in large chutes, or creating mini-canyons and large skate-ramp style holes. At the end of every large drop we looked back from the eddy grinning amazement, wondering when it would end.
It didn’t. When we reached the 9 mile Lower section, which went from class four, to fun continuous class three, winding it’s way down the scale as it entered flat at its confluence with the E. Branch of the Penobscot. There the adrenaline eventually became stagnant and was absorbed in the body by a deep sense of accomplishment.
There are other stories: How I missed the take-out rd., or fell on my back with my kayak strapped to it, or hitting a hand roll on the S. Branch because a sieve tried to eat my paddle. Also there is the camaraderie we shared.
I want to thank:
Chuck Mathieu: He followed up on all logistics and planning, shared the vision, filmed, and took care of everything I forgot to.
Josh Geib: For committing to the dream, overseeing gear organization, taking pictures offering support and feedback, and generally straight charging.
Chris Hull: Chris’ ability to interpret topographical maps, read water, and assess running the river is uncanny. His humor unmatched by any desert. His photographs not only document our adventures for Send It, ME but inspire its content and readers too.
Please enjoy Pictures from the trip, by Mr. Hull unless otherwise stated:
Josh Geib and Chuck Mathie “Blue Angel” deeper into the abyss
Josh Geib, locked and loaded.
Josh Geib enters the "Mini Canyon"
jcass, sending the “Mini-Canyon”
Chris Hull, below Grand Falls, jcass following. Picture by Josh Geib
Josh Leaving the “surging eddy” described above.
Chuck Mathieu laces a boulder a class V boulder garden below Grand Falls.
One of the many reasons we portaged Grand Falls.
Chuck sending it on Ledge Falls
Coordinated sending by Chuck Mathieu and jcass
Chuck Mathieu is “The Biggest Sender”
Thanks everyone for your interest in this project. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Send It, ME in the comments box.
For This weekend Please join us in sending at the Grand Falls Huckfest 2011