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Cast of characters:
Paul Conklin (Conk) ¬ Wilderness Systems sea kayak
Norbert Thompson (NT) ¬ Mad River Independence
Wes Dias (Wesd) & Hobie Rakers (Firestarter) ¬ Hemlock Eagle
Rick Tenbusch (Coronaboy) ¬ Sawyer Autumn Mist
Christopher Reynolds (Topher)¬ Wenonah Voyager
Richard Gams (rgams/Doc) ¬ Mad River Freedom Solo
Jim Saulters ¬(Jsaults) ¬ QCC 500X
C2g (SeeTwoGee) ¬ Cirrus
Phil Sheridan (Triplehexxx) ¬ QCC 400X
Ed Konwinski (Nightswimmer) ¬ Dagger Specter
Tony Fig - Hemlock SRT
Mike McCrea (thewindalwaysdiesdownatsunset) ¬ MR Malecite
Friday, November 11, 2005
Again, the power of paddling.net. A post by NT calling for one more trip elicits 143 responses and draws a dozen paddlers out for a mid-November paddle in camper on Allegheny Reservoir, including several folks committed to a seven hour drive just to get there.
My drive was less than six hours, although it did involve a scenic miscue into New York State at the end when I missed a turn off. From my turn around spot I could see a half dozen canoes and kayaks being loaded at the put in and knew I was close to the right spot.
At the right spot and with the right crowd; I was early, and eight boats were already loaded and ready to go. No doubt NT made a good call on the one-more-trip suggestion, this group was psyched.
The paddle in to the Handsome Lake boat-in site was further proof of the right crowd phenomenon ¬ six double blades, three single blades and no polers. It felt good not to be the shortest person on the water for a change.
Add to that the rarity of a manageable tailwind assisting from the stern, a partly sunny day and mid-November temperatures in NW Pennsylvania warm enough that some mid-trip disrobement was necessary. Phil assured me that it is typical on Kinzua. And Bradford too, especially the assisting from the stern and disrobement parts.
I think he was kidding, at least about the Kinzua weather part.
With the reservoir levels down for the winter the load in to Handsome Lake was a short steep shale slope (say that fast three times) and Handsome Lake soon sported a handsome collect of tarps. I’ve often thought about the impressive collection of boats that appears on these trips, but seldom have as many high end tarps appeared as on Pennsylvania P.net gatherings. All those Cooke Tundra Tarps must be what kept any rain away for 3 days.
With shelters erected our paddling cohort dispersed in various directions. Topher, Paul and I headed down to play welcome wagon to the Hopewell site to the south and continued on to muckle up in a sheltered cove. Dawdling and exploring we stretched this trip into a night paddle. Night paddling with Topher again. It’s been a great bunch of nights to be alive Topher Reynolds!
But if Conk lived closer I think he might offer some competition in the nocturnal paddling companion area (isn’t nocturnal paddling another attraction of Bradford Phil?).
It was a pleasure Paul ¬ when I was thinking of who I paddled with where this weekend you were right there every time.
Meeting Phil and Rick for the first time reminded me of Talons’s great quote from Raystown: “These aren’t people I don’t know! I just haven’t met them yet”
Camp nightlife was warmed by Hobie. In every group there is a firebug with a saw, a Bunyan-esque vision and the indefatigable energy to carry it out. Every group has to have one, just like every group has to have a couple of guys who like to watch people work. I think of it as playing to my natural supervisory instincts.
When the temps drop into the twenties at night a Bunyan-esque bonfire is the place to be. I hope someone got a shot of the tree stump and roots finale.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Cornplanter Bay, Whiskey Run and other explorations
The predicted warming trend was a sustaining thought on awakening Saturday, as hoar frost covered tents and boats like the stubble on a Marine recruit’s head. I had to scrape the frost off my paddle before beginning the day’s exploration.
With the sun promising warmth afield on the west bank Topher, Paul, Rick and I noodled across the lake in a light southerly breeze and floated up into Cornplanter Bay. This place calls out for a full moon night exploration. The low water levels presented a long, gently sloped open expanse of sand, shale and slatted silo-like fish structures (which were strangely devoid of lures ¬ some must have beat us there), with Cornplanter Run providing acoustical backdrop along the southern edge.
Cornplanter under a full moon ¬ I’m coming back for that.
A lingering shoreline exploration was followed by a more challenging re-crossing of the lake. The wind had come up a touch, something that would become a recurring theme for the next two days.
Keeping a watchful eye out for Phil and Ed, who were paddling in on Saturday, we took what ferry angles we could manage and slapped across the lake towards Whiskey Run. In another recurring theme I was reminded that the ultra-light Kevlar Malecite really needs some bow weight when paddled into the wind as a solo, as my forward stem spanked into the wind and wave. Getting my forward stem spanked…Phil said it’s another Bradford custom.
During the wind-ferried ride over to Whiskey Run we thought we caught a paddle blade glimmer of Phil and Ed heading in and another bank exploration muckle up was deemed in order.
The Whiskey Run cove illustrated the trailer-trash version of a fish attractor. No cunningly built slatted silos here, but instead three old metal chairs wired to an anchor.
And what an anchor. A stainless steel box. I want that thing; I want to make it into a Stainless Steel wanigan. So what if it started out life as a tampon dispenser in a women’s restroom somewhere. Think of the history. Think of how you started life. I want that thing.
Despite a long bankside muckle up and explore the glimmer of paddle blades had disappeared from view we deduced that Phil and Ed were either an illusion or had muckled up in some wind protected bay themselves. Having now met Phil and Ed I would bet on the latter.
Departing Whiskey Run the paddle glimmers reappeared and Topher elected to paddle down to meet them while Paul, Rick and I slap-bottomed (OK, me mostly) our way against the wind back to camp.
Back to camp in time to enjoy another Bunyan bonfire courtesy of Firestarter. We weren’t there long before the allure of a dusk into dark paddle presented, and Topher (who I expect to be there every time), Paul (who I now hope and expect to be there every time) and Ed (same goes Ed) and I set out for an explore of Hopewell and Sugar Bay.
Suffice it to say that the Welcome Wagon that invaded Hopewell was well hoped, despite announcing our assault by declaring that we were there for their firewood and women. I think those boys will remember meeting Sailor Jerry. And Topher.
Think about it Topher; you are likely legendary in the stories of groups of people throughout the mid-Atlantic “Like yaknow, this bald dude with a giant beard, ya know, like outanowhere, got outa this boat and like handed me this bottle of rum in the middle of the night…”
Topher, having satisfied his instructor instincts, reboarded and we continued up into Sugar Bay. A lengthy shore muckle up, using the sloped shale banks as Lazyboy recliners followed as per custom, and we slowly floated with the breeze back towards Handsome Lake.
Floated back not wanting the night to end.
Ed, no doubt with this very thing in mind, took the drastic action of wet exiting his Specter, providing a much needed re-entry and pump out timeout. Thanks Nightswimmer ¬ I didn’t want the evening’s good company to end either. Have you ever considered poling? Poling provides numerous opportunities to entertain your friends.
Back acamp, fire ablazing, top shelf liquor coming out and making the rounds. What was that double barreled Scotch again Doc? And why can I only remember the taste and not the name?
At least I kept it down, which is more than I can say for some bald headed ACA rejects. Another highlight of 2005; I spanked Topher. A claim that, oddly enough, I share with several divorced soccer moms in Bradford.
Another highlight of Saturday night ¬ I can lay claim to being the last man standing. All I needed to make this a true gentlemen’s trip reprise was Dave Maneval asleep in a lawn chair, tenaciously grasping a beer as I abused his somnambulant form.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
More exploration, more wind and departure
Last man standing Saturday night, last man out of the sack Sunday. By the time I crawled bleary eyed from the tent the first batch of early departures were packing their boats, and it was soon time to bid adieu to friends old and new.
As the second batch of morning departures (Conk, Doc and Jsaults) headed north to Willow Bay c2g and I headed south into the wind towards Hopewell and Sugar Bay.
This proved to be a tough headwind cruise. I had once again neglected to put some weight forward in the empty Malecite hull and, as the bow rose over the whitecapping waves, the wind would get underneath and give it an extra little push skyward.
Wooo-hooo, an e-ticket ride. But an e-ticket ride that required some commitment; once started on an exposed windward leg there was no turning back, just keep on keeping on, sometimes making almost imperceptible progress into the wind, until a sheltering cove appeared. Then rest, debate tackling another leg into the wind, and go for it.
Turning about just before the entrance to Sugar Bay the ride back to camp was fast and effortless. The fast was a harbinger of our coming paddle out. The effortless was not.
Back at camp we dawdled and dallied and, nearing dusk, made the decision to partake one last night paddle and head out at dusk. Boats packed and left-behind items scavenged from various sites we headed out of the shelter of the Handsome Lake cove and into an absolute maelstrom of wind and wave.
This was epic. This one goes in with the best of the year. This was fast, furious, more than a little dangerous and memorable in a don’t-think-I-want-to-do-that-again sort of way. All that was missing was Topher.
I won’t try to estimate the wave height, but they were the biggest waves I’ve ever been in in a canoe. I glanced back twice to look and was sorry I did so both times; the waves were, um, lets just say impressive when viewed as an oncoming menace.
I won’t try to estimate the wind speed, but on more than one occasion I had to fight to simply hold onto my paddle as the wind tried to rip it out of my hands.
Playing the wind sheer off the banks was an absolute ball. I had quickly come to the conclusion that there was no chance in hell of a self or assisted rescue if I purled the boat off a wave in a surfing mishap; if I dumped it I was going for shore and kiss my gear goodbye, whatever washed up in the Seneca nation across the border would be theirs to keep.
With that kind of “Plan B” I was sticking fairly close to the banks except when crossing a cove or embayed area, where I would aim as best I could for the next peninsula tip. Hit the lakeshore just past the tip of a peninsula and the extra boost from the reflected wind off the steep banks would allow me to surf a single wave for hundreds of yards.
Flying, just flying. Watching the banks zip past at driving speed. I wouldn’t try to estimate our speed, but c2g’s GPS clocked us at a max 22.1 mph and I don’t doubt it.
I will admit that I was more than a little glad to see Willow Bay come into view ¬ the sun had set and the moon was obscured by clouds, and the last half mile or so of surfing was done in near darkness.
I’d love to hear c2g reminiscences of that paddle, but understated as he is he’d probably just say “Yeah, it was a little breezy on the paddle out”.
Yup, just a wee bit breezy. And maybe the most fun I’ve had in a boat all year.
Allegheny Reservoir Boat-in campsite information.
1. Are open year-round (sometimes they are hard to get to with snow and ice; there is no winter maintenance.) There are multiple launch sites around the Reservoir, including Willow Bay, Sugar Bay and Ropers Hollow access all within easy striking distance of the Hooks Brook, Hopewell and Handsome Lake boat-in sites.
Boat-in (or hike in) Campgrounds:
1. Are open year round (sometimes hard to get to with ice on reservoir).
2. Have vault toilets with no outside locks (they are always open).
3. Hooks Brook, Hopewell, Handsome Lake and Pine Grove have hand pump water availability year round (if the water is not frozen). Water not tested Oct. - April.
4. Morrison has a pressurized water system, available May through mid-September.
5. There are no boat docks at boat-to areas.
6. Facilities include a table; fire ring, grill, vault toilets and hand pump for water. First Come First Serve/No Reservations.
YakCatcher Rod Holder
Classic Freestanding Rack