Paddling 2:19:00  5.9 mi (23:34 / mi)
Another "first descent" in the packraft. This time a miserable 1.5 mile trek along busy, shoulderless Rt 117 from Bolton Flats to a tick-infested launch on a grassy bank, 6 ft above the water. This gave access to a 4.5 mile paddle down the North and South branches of the Nashua River, completing the triangle back to the car. Both rivers carve their way through fertile bottomland, surrounded by woods and farms. In reality, this meant the whole trip was looking up at sheer 6ft muddy banks to a floodplain covered in knotweed, poison ivy stems, and No Hunting signs. The scenery wasn't that great, but the rivers were moving along at a healthy clip, with lots of quick water and eddies behind every fallen tree and obstruction. I had a great time hopping from eddy to eddy, ferrying across the current, and doing figure eights in places.
The first river-wide obstruction was surrounded by high, muddy banks, and I crept up, hoping to find a way through. When their wasn't one, I found myself in a bit of a pickle, frantically back-paddling and trying to retreat back upstream to an eddy while water started piling up against the stern. I really wished I had some sort of boat leash or tow line, as I needed to throw the boat and paddle up onto the high bank and then climb up a bunch of tree roots to get up to the flood plain above.
After that, it was smooth sailing for a few miles downstream, joining the South Nashua at a confluence with a huge paper wasp nest on a bridge abutment. When I reached the dead oxbow of the South Nashua, there was a huge pileup of detritus on trees spanning both forward options, and thankfully I chose to pull off on a grassy point just upstream to scout around the corner. It was a scary mess ahead, with the current funneling into a nasty strainer in the small portion of the river that wasn't completely filled with drifted wood.
I don't think I could have portaged around with anything other than a 5 lb packraft. I ended up smashing my way through a forest of dried, head-high Japanese Knotweed stalks, tossing the boat over a fallen oak, and then clamoring down the muddy bank a hundred feet downstream. What a shame that the river is basically blocked to boat traffic here, and will probably remain so for a year or more. I'd managed to paddle upstream to here years ago, and probably got stopped by the same blockage.
After that, it was smooth sailing down to the car, with one notable play spot at a submerged v-shaped log that set up the perfect surfing hole, on a scale that I was comfortable tackling (that is, very, very small). I spent some time with the boat stuck to the wave, hopping in and out of the eddy on either side, and edging the boat against the downstream current.
I finally peeled off and drifted the remainder of the way down to the highway and a muddy takeout, flicking the last remaining (I hope) tick off of my neck and out the window on the short drive home.