Peter Macfarlane's 2018 Solo East-West Through-Paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft

NFCT's Map of Overall Route Peter & Sylva completing the NFCT

Day 15

27.0 miles

Monday 28th May

Groveton - Nulhegan Hut


Day 15 route on Google Earth imagery

OK, I admit it. I under-estimated the Connecticut River. I was expecting deep water and slow flow – wrong on both counts. But let's start at the beginning. I woke early, but had a lie-in as today would be quite easy. I couldn't make the microwave work, so I used my gas stove to boil water for tea. Then it was out to unlock and retrieve the canoe, launching around 7:15 am. It took very little time to descend the remainder of the Upper Ammonoosuc to its confluence with the Connecticut. There would now be two upstream rivers – the Connecticut and the Nulhegan – before the next downstream.

It immediately became obvious that there was substantial flow in the Connecticut River, about 2 mph in the fastest channel. This was not the sluggish river that I had experienced elsewhere. Furthermore, especially on the lower part, the insides of the bends where the current was slowest, were heavily silted, and therefore very shallow, with no depth in which to plant a paddle blade and nothing solid to push against for poling. Ray had sifted through an assortment of old ski poles and found one of about the right length, so double-poling was once more a tool in my tool-chest.

Connecticut River …

… with silted bends

I was forced to the outside of every bend, where slack water was minimal. Progress was correspondingly slow as I worked my way along muddy banks, the hull of the canoe sometimes scraping the bank. I began to regret the luxury of the lie-in this morning. It was clear that I would have to work hard to reach my destination on the Nulhegan River this evening. Paddling at what would be 4 mph pace in calm, still water, I gradually nosed upstream. Occasionally there was some deep, slack water, but that was all too scarce.

At the Samuel Benton camp-site I took a break for a snack, and then continued. Farther up the bed was more stony, so I once more took to double-poling, not used since day 3 on the Allagash, 12 days previously. Above the railroad trestle camp-site the riffles were steeper and shallower, forcing me to wade on slippery cobbles, dragging the canoe. The combination of paddling, poling and wading continued seemingly forever until the Nulhegan confluence finally appeared. The Nulhegan was even bonier than the Connecticut, making the next decision easy. Rather than continuing to wade, bruising my feet, risking falling over and consequent injury, I would carry along Route 105 from Bloomfield, VT, to my destination, maybe a couple of miles upstream.

Connecticut riffle


First, however, I waded a little way up into the Nulhegan and thoroughly washed out my canoe, paddles and boots, anything which might transfer invasive species. This was in water that would flow directly back into the Connecticut. During the carry to my camp for the evening, the canoe would drain and dry. After a snack I set off, carrying up a steep hill. Soon after crossing the East Branch of the Nulhegan I scouted the meadow to my left and eventually located the hut, recently built, a beautiful timber-frame building with deck, gallery sleeping area, wood-stove and gas burner. Having found the building, I also found the more obvious approach to it, so retrieved my canoe and pack and carried in along the approved path.

Nulhegan Hut

Nulhegan River – bony

The hut proved to be a gem of a place, a haven from the mosquitoes, which were in full swing, and with easy access to the water which was gently audible. I had earlier removed a couple of dog ticks crawling up me, so did a thorough tick check just to be sure, then cooked dinner and ate in a relaxed manner. There was no rush to set up camp, no urgency to get into the hammock to avoid being eaten alive. I could relax, write my journal, add an entry to the log-book, brew some more tea, and finally bed down for the night, my 5th night in a row indoors. I was getting soft!

Even though tomorrow's mileage would be short up the Nulhegan, I planned to start early in order to avoid repeating today's mistake.


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