I sat in denial as a text message came in: "Paddling the Lester". The anticipation had been growing amongst the paddling community for almost a month. Anxious trips to the rivers found only ice clogged disappointment. And while I packed up my gear, I couldn't help but sense there wasn't something quite right about this. The earliest I had ever paddled yet was March 28th and we were embarking on an unprecedented date. What would it mean for the upcoming season.
I literally ran out the door with a tremor of excitement, kayak slung over my shoulder. Only days before the water had been ominiously running over top the river ice but the season had been like none other. The we had been thawing since February and the newspaper reports read, "the warmest spring in 132 years".
I pulled into the Lester river and checked the level and smiled... it was medium high, with little ice to be seen. Myself and rallied finding ourselves driving to the put in. I was secretly dealing with the early season doubt... I asked myself, "do you still have it after 6 months away from your kayak", "Will you remember how to paddle?", "When shit hits the fan... will you roll up?". We sat with our boats poised on shore, ready to seal launch in. I looked up and noticed a large amount of ice slabs come down the river and the water level visibly rose before us. An ice dam had broken. We sat impatiently waiting for it to pass. In the meantime we were joined by two more of our paddling companions. Finally after an hour of waiting the ice let up and the four of us slid into the water.
It came back to me as if I had never left it and a smiled as paddling was all that I had been anticipating. The entire run went flawlessly and the water was high enough I would guess I never touched rock. Emerging from every explosion of water I felt a little more alive. We found ourselves perched above the twenty foot falls, Almost Always. I walked around it feeling I still had more confidence to build before giving it a go myself. We finished out the run and were in search for more.
We carried our boats to the nearby Gazebo Falls on the Amity Creek. The low rumble of the falls made it clear that it was running high. Upon scouting I was less concerned with the falls as I was the lead in (which is usually the case for me). I decided to watch on safety as other other made light of their line. All three of my companions ran it with varying degrees of success and pain. I opted out. Being the first day of the season, I found easy justifications. We put in below the falls and ran the remainder of Amity with little incident.
I got off the river and peeled the layers of soaked neoprene and started the car. It was the day I had been waiting for for months and it failed to disappoint. And so came the early beginning as I drove disheveled and smiling.