TO FORD OR NOT TO FORD

Kennebec River 
Mile 2,038

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Kennebec River, Maine.

For those who don’t know, when I’m not hiking, I’m often on the river. I love whitewater, especially when the sun shines and the temperature is warm. I paddle a pack-raft these days, but thoroughly enjoy rowing a raft or climbing into the cockpit of a hardshell assuming the water isn’t too unpredictable and pushy. For a while, I was advancing further into paddling harder whitewater, but after a few traumatic swims in particularly challenging river hydrologics, and having found half my leg entrapped in tube of basalt with water pinning my body onto a boulder, I now prefer the pace of class-3 whitewater, instead of a steady stream of nerve-wracking 4’s. Nonetheless, I am comfortable on and in water. I understand how it works, and therefore things like how to gauge and safely ford a river.

Which brings me to the idea of fording the Kennebec River. I truly considered swimming this river, a 75-foot wide river, which has a flat surface at the crossing, but of course is deep and whose current has the power, at high water, to sweep a hiker down river, and fast, which is anytime that there’s been heavy rain or snowmelt or every afternoon when the dam releases water. The river in April, where snow drifts still sat on the shore, would be frigid. Absolutely frigid.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy highly frowns upon hikers swimming the river, and for most hikers, there is a free shuttle service that is considered the official trail: a canoe that provides safe passage, once or twice a day, depending on the time of year. It’s off season, so like many things, the service wasn’t available yet and there would be a charge. But Legend, who actually swam the river and said it was terrifying and terrifyingly cold, had texted me a phone number of a woman who lives across the river. For $30 she paddled across, scooped me up, and shuttled me to the Northern Outdoors Resort who held my packages, but who were in the middle of readying themselves for their opening date, May 5th. No hot tub for me, no tasty IPA from regional breweries, no reminiscing about having stayed at this really rad resort ten years earlier.

Oh well…maybe next time! At least I wasn’t wet and hypothermic.

3 thoughts on “TO FORD OR NOT TO FORD

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