The Galway family prepares to launch on the Ossipee River. Contributed photo

I’m old but I have young whitewater friends. Some are very young. I’ve been paddling with the Galway family for over a decade. Ryan and Shweta are about the same age as my sons. Consequently, their paddling children, Mason and Krea, are young enough to be my grandchildren.

One of the many benefits of Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society membership is exposure to a large cross section of outdoor enthusiasts from very young to real old. I’m in the latter category. It’s not unusual to have an age spread of forty to fifty years on club trips. I don’t recall the specific adventure, but that’s how I met the Galway family.

Ryan and I have shared exciting whitewater escapades in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and Quebec. Normally, we spend a long weekend paddling rivers in New Hampshire during the spring with our mutual friend, Eggman. Unfortunately, the pandemic precluded that immensely entertaining tradition this year. On several occasions, I’ve joined the entire family to paddle the Deerfield River in Massachusetts and West River in Vermont.

When we first started paddling together, Krea was a toddler and Mason a little boy. Ryan and Shweta found creative ways to get them safely involved in paddling utilizing a small raft on easy rivers and various other arrangements. As time passed, Ryan and Mason progressed to become an excellent tandem canoe team that effectively navigated challenging Class III rapids. Now, Mason is as tall as his Dad and paddling a solo canoe. Krea has replaced her brother in the bow of Dad’s canoe. In a household of canoeists, Shweta inexplicably gravitated to two blades, electing to kayak instead.

For many years, a Class I/II section of the Ossipee River in South Hiram and Cornish has been a very popular club trip in the spring. Due to the pandemic, the club has cancelled all scheduled trips for the present over concerns about limiting group size and ensuring adequate social distancing. When Ryan announced that he and Shweta were planning a family outing on the Ossipee, I negotiated an invitation to join them. My role as a pseudo outdoor photographer provides me with at least dubious bargaining leverage. The Eggman was also able to broker an invite. A lousy photographer, he’s more entertaining than I.

My wife Nancy no longer partakes of cold water spring paddling but occasionally accompanies me to run shuttle and socialize, at a physically suitable distance, of course. The Galway family and Eggman were able to arrange a shuttle that met social distancing guidelines. Since we had an acceptably small group and a plan to remain sufficiently separated on and off the river, we were good to go.

A rare occurrence this spring, the weather was beautiful when the gang met next to the fire station in South Hiram. Watching the family organize for the trip was pleasantly reminiscent of similar adventures with our sons several decades ago. Alas, those halcyon days are relegated to very fond distant memories.

Completing a long carry down a significant decline to the river, the excursion began with a test of skills. A river wide ferry at the end of a Class II rapid was the first challenge. The Galway clan finessed the maneuver out-performing Eggman and me who were typically unremarkable. A feisty rapid was encountered around the first bend. Mason and Eggman were on their surfing game while the tandem team and Shweta successfully negotiated between potentially boat flipping holes and breaking waves.

Anticipating numerous surfing opportunities, I brought my RPM kayak instead of the more comfortable Mamba. The decision was a poor one. The RPM caused serious discomfit in my aging arthritic hips throughout. The Mamba is a slug and an abysmal surfing boat, but comfortable. The RPM is going back on the rack, maybe forever. Or, at least until memory of my geriatric limitation fades.

Progressing through a continuum of exhilarating rapids and fast currents, high water propelled us downriver. About midway, uninvited clouds blocked the sun and cooled the air eliminating any desire to stop for a break or snacks. The last rapid provided the largest waves and most stimulating paddling of the day. Our intrepid band of seasoned whitewater paddlers aced it.

Shortly after joining the Saco River in Cornish, we arrived at the takeout completing another pleasurable day on the river with great friends, young and not so young.

“You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely” – Ogden Nash.

Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be contacted at [email protected]

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