Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mansonville Quebec to Enosburg Falls

After a night in a motel we spent Friday morning driving up Rte 105 and scouting the Missisquoi River and some of the rapids and portages we would be doing in the next few days. We eventually found the take- out at Lawyers Landing in Enosburg Falls, left a car for the shuttle, and stuffed the four of us and all our gear into our little car for the ride north into Canada and eventually the put in. The border crossing was uneventful. The kids were a bit intimidated by the immigration officers, they were very friendly but you can tell they're observing your body language and they always look directly into your eyes. Since we were going to do this crossing four times I figured we might as well get used to it.

We stopped at Canoe and Co. in Glen Sutton to make sure we could camp there for the night. Francois is a great guy and he has a nice little business going. Since I forgot to bring a paddle for Brad so we rented one and headed up to Mansonville and the put-in. There were several other people putting in in kayaks so we chose to eat lunch and let them have a head start. I guess the trip from Mansonville to Glen Sutton is a popular half day paddle.

At the put-in we got our first experience with the incredibly slippery clay banks of the Missisquoi. The river runs through a layer of clay that makes even a small three or four foot sloped bank very difficult to go up and down. We slipped up and down while loading the canoes, an exercise that would be repeated many times over the next three days.

This section of river is very pleasant flowing through farmland with an occasional riffle or short class one rapid. There was a flood the previous week that left the bushes on the bank marked with grey silt several feet up. The water is muddy looking due to the clay, while the silting is natural the water is not drinkable or filterable due the agricultural runoff. If you paddle this section plan on bringing your own water. We

arrived sooner than expected at the beautiful stone steps leading to Francois's back yard. While we setup our tent the kids picked berries and played with the softball they found in the river. Patty and I cooked dinner. After dinner I cleaned up while Patty and the kids went into Mansonville for ice cream. When they got back they still had time to head up stream to the little rapids formed where Brock River inters the Missisquoi. The kids had a lesson in eddys and got to paddle the rapids several times. After a really nice sunset we went to sleep. usual we didn't get started until about nine the next morning. It was a beautiful day with a cerulean sky, gentle breeze, and puffy white clouds. The humidity was low and the air had a very autumn like feel to it. It was warm, in general a perfect day to paddle. After 5 or 6 miles of peaceful meandering paddling we passed under the international bridge, landed our boats and headed up the path to the border station. Once again the agents were very friendly and told us that they were not going to go down to the river to look at our gear. I was more relieved that we didn't have to bring it up to them for inspection. We went out on the bridge and took the standard pictures of the kids on each side of the border and spent some time scouting the rapids just downstream.

Once you enter theUS the river speeds up a bit and there are more sections of white water.
The first set of rapids was really fun, only Class I but there was some maneuvering required. We are not accomplished white water paddlers so even easy rapid like this provide us and the kids with some excitement and gratification. Quick water and riffles lead to Stevens Mills where there is a short class II rapid . We chose to scout and run these before we stopped on the stone bank for lunch. Patty got a bit sideways and I got a bit farther into the bigger waves than I wanted but we both made it through without tipping or taking on water. This rapid is about our limit with the kids. We chose to run it because it was short with a nice pool at the bottom, the water was warm, and we had one of us on the bank if anything went wrong. The kids thought it was great and wanted more. We had a great lunch and the kids got to play in the cold clear Stanhope Brook.

We had a lot more paddling ahead so we headed off towards Richford as soon as we cleaned up. More pleasant paddling with the occasional easy set of rapids, meandering through islands, and route finding trying to determine the channel with the most water. One of us occasionally chose wrong and we had to drag for a few feet to get to deeper water. If the water was any lower we would have had a lot more problems but fortunately it has been a wet summer.

It's interesting paddling this section of river. The banks are high enough to hide many of the signs of civilization from view. Occasionally you get a view of a road or farmhouse but in general you are protected from seeing much other than the edges of cornfields and large stands of silver maple and cottonwood. All this ends when you take out for the portage through Richford. This is a classic NFCT carry though small village. We stopped and got a treat at a convenience store and became the town oddity for about a half a mile as we portaged down the main street. The normal portage trail crosses a bridge but it is being repaired so we had to follow a detour which added only a small distance to the carry. You would think that the locals would be used to seeing a family of four, covered with clay, with two canoes, one on a cart loaded with gear, all walking through town eating chocolate.After the put-in at Davis Park the nice paddling continues with really nice views of the northern Green Mountains. Magoon Ledges was a bit of a letdown, according to the map a class II rapid can form here but at this water level it wasn't much more than a riffle with a strong current. We passed under twin bridges which confused the kids because the bridges are different; we ended up having a long discussion about this.

Both Brad and Sally spent some time in the water hanging onto the back of the canoes as we drifted downstream. This is an activity that they both really enjoy, it makes for slow going but it keeps the kids spirits up.

Soon we arrived at the Doe Campground, it's obvious when you get there because it sits up on a bank about 75 feet above the water. The take-out is just downstream and once you negotiate the four foot high slippery clay bank the walk up the hill is not as bad as you would expect. It was nice to use our leg muscles for a change ferrying loads up the site. This is one of the best sites that I’ve stayed at on the trail. It has great views, a big picnic table, it catches a breeze to keep the bugs away, and there were lot and lots of blackberries. I wouldn't want to watch a big thunderstorm approach from Lake Champlain but we didn't have to worry about that.

The kids had a great time playing while Patty and I set up camp and made dinner. After supper I cleaned up the dishes and got the tent and my hammock ready for the night. Patty headed down to the river to wash off some of the mud and go for a swim to cool off. It was a beautiful cool late summer evening, it doesn't get much better than this. You could do a great overnight trip starting at the border, spending the night at Doe Campsite and then taking out at
Enosburg Falls.I really overslept on Sunday morning, my alarm went on at 6:00 but I went back to sleep until 8:00. Sally woke me up with a cup of hot coffee. I had really wanted to get an early start so that we would get home at a reasonable hour, oh well. It was a cool foggy morning so everything was damp. Breakfast was instant oatmeal and we soon were packed up and headed down to the boats with our gear. Sally wrote in the register book during breakfast and cleanup. Brad usually sleeps until the last possible minute so he was a bit groggy until we got going.

It’s only a short paddle to East Berkshire and we chose not to stop because the weather was looking threatening and I wanted to leave plenty of time for any carries we might have to do. You do get some nice views along this section but the mountains to our east were cloud covered. Sally was getting cold so we stopped to get her something warm to wear. Soon we were approaching the broached dam at Samsonville. The map says that this is easily line-able but we couldn’t figure out how. Maybe in the spring when there is no vegetation but in late August there was no way we could line this easily or safely so we portaged/dragged out boats about 100 ft to a nice put-in below the breached dam. I think we all really wanted to give this first section a try but it was just a bit too dangerous and there was a good possibility one of us (probably me) would have tipped. The next quarter of a mile is great fun with just enough excitement and white water. The big S-turn around the island leads to a short class II-III drop that we easily avoided by a lift and carry on the left.

After this the river begins its impoundment behind the dam in Enosburg Falls. I promised Sally we would stop at the next available spot for lunch. The river follows a large meander away from the road and there is only a step clay bank for maybe two miles. At two different times some animal dove into the water from the thick undergrowth on the bank as soon as I had passed. I am suspecting they were muskrats but the kids were thinking otters or bank beavers. We eventually ended up having lunch on a flat rock only about 6”X10” near the shore. We tied one boat on each side an all climbed up on top to eat carefully avoiding the bird droppings. After lunch we proceeded down stream to the takeout into a steadily increasing headwind. We moved from shore to shore to try and stay in the protected water below the banks. This was mostly a waste of energy because the wind was headed pretty much directly up stream no matter which direction we were headed.

The river begins to be more of a pond and soon we were at the take-out at Lawyers Landing. After packing up all our wet and muddy gear we headed north to the border to get our car back from Canoe and Co. in Glen Sutton. On our final border crossing into the US they decided to look at our stuff but as soon as border agent opened the back of my car and saw and smelled the wet socks, shoes, clothes, and muddy pack he decided to let us go. We stopped for ice cream and coffee and headed south.

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