Adventure Racing 3:12:00  5.3 km (36:14 / km)
Packraft training on the Squannacook and Nashua Rivers - my own personal Two Rivers AR, complete with giant rootstock.
Another cold, raw, day after two days of Nor'easter-driven snow and spitting rain. But at least the rivers are running now! 3.4 ft on the Squanny gage. Trekked in 1.7 mi from the car through Groton Town Forest to an old ford across the river, where the current was ripping and audible long before I arrived. An intimidating spot to launch into, and probably crux of the trip.
There's a perfect, boat-sized eddy to launch from, and the first paddle stroke takes you out into the main current, under a sweeper (more of a face slapper), and then you immediately need to cross the river to avoid a half-river strainer, and then the river disappears around a tight corner with the promise of more debris in fast-moving water, just out of sight.
It actually wasn't that bad, and I'd scouted it with Jess earlier this winter (it snowed on us that day, too). I spent the first quarter mile hopping from eddy to eddy, making sure I could catch them before proceeding downstream. The water velocity mellowed out, and the game now became how to pick a way through the frequent strainers and river-wide obstructions. I lost count of the portages, although only two of them really took much effort. At this flow, I was able to butt-scoot over a number of submerged logs and some of the marsh grass, and shoot a few of the beaver dams through gaps that barely seemed wide enough.
The wildlife was incredible. Lots of wood ducks. Nesting geese. A chickadee with a perfectly-cylindrical nest hole carved into the end of a rotted-out tree limb. And in the most peaceful, wild backwater, the river backed up to the Shirley Rod and Gun Club, which added a "woodpecker-esque" rat-a-tat to the otherwise enjoyable surroundings.
It took me well over an hour to work my way down 1.7 miles of the fast-flowing Squannacook, mainly due to the frequent obstructions. Once I paddled into the north-flowing Nashua, the river was clear (despite a river-wide disaster area just upstream of the confluence) and my pace quickened considerably. I paddled over to get a closer look at a mink, who darted into a riverbank hole when he caught wind of my approach.
1.5 miles down the Nashua, I passed the fancy boathouse of the Groton School's crew team, and then pulled ashore to deflate the boat, doff the drysuit, and step back into soaked trail runners for a quick hike back to the car. Having stowed all of my gear in my pack for the packrafting portion of the day, I was very happy to have access to my bag of gorp again, and chowed down on the trek and drive back home to a warm shower.