Sunburns, Blisters and Waterproof Bags

Merrimack River Valley Voyagers Expedition, Day Two

On the early morning of August 7, mvm joined a group of community leaders calling themselves the Merrimack River Valley Voyagers set out from the headwaters of the Merrimack River in Franklin, New Hampshire, to kayak its 117-mile length.

This is an ambitious undertaking and demanded multiple scouting expeditions and the support of local leaders. It also required obtaining a lot of gear: UV-protective hats, waterproof bags, solar cellphone chargers and a host of other gadgets. My boat came courtesy of Plum Island Kayak, and owner Ken Taylor was extremely helpful in getting me fitted for the appropriate vessel.

As the chronicler of the expedition, I wasn’t asked to make any phone calls or put together press releases during the planning stages. I did, however, study the river’s history. Theodore Steinberg’s “Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the Waters of New England,” and John Pendergast’s “The Bend in the River,” were particularly helpful. I also started working out for the first time since my daughter was born in January. I didn’t have time for trial water runs, so I relied on barbells and kettlebells with the theory that I should target grip and back strength. Stay tuned to see if the strategy worked.

Left: The Hooksett Dam, just north of Hooksett, NH (that test stop on I-93 where you have probably stopped for a sandwich on your way up to the White Mountains), is a popular spot for fishing, especially for “monster salmon” according to locals. Right: Some of our Voyagers may want to skip the stretch through Manchester, NH, which will involve paddling through an “urban canyon” of Class 1-3 rapids that may end up being one of the more challenging stretches of river. Photos courtesy Lane Glenn.

When the journey is done and I’ve had time to see my family and sleep in a real bed, I’ll shelter myself in a secret location and prepare my chronicle of the expedition. Assuming my fingers aren’t so blistered that I can’t type, you’ll be able to read it in the September/October issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine. Subscribe here.

In the meantime, follow mvm on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for a look into the trip as it happens. You should also follow #mrvvoyagers on Instagram and Twitter to see what the other Voyagers are posting. Today, we are planning a whopping 35-mile trip from Bow, New Hampshire, all the way to the Massachusetts border. This section includes some class II or III rapids depending on water flow — it may be the most dangerous part of the journey.

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