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Mike McCrea, Diane Hollingsworth, Tyler McCrea, Cooper McCrea, Ben Palmer, Kathy Palmer, Sam Palmer, Quinn Palmer, Brian Sill, Joel Beckwith, Kathy Carpenter, Dave Warner
The second round of test paddling solo/tandem (3 seater) canoes took place on the Susquehanna River over the upper stretches of Conowingo pool. Putting in at Cold Cabin we headed upstream to the confluence of Muddy Creek and up Muddy Creek to the sandy beach at the base of the last rapids.
En route up the creek we espied a bald eagle soaring overhead. Just before disappearing beyond the steep hillside he dropped a primary feather, which glided down into the river and floated precisely to my feet. Karma.
The sandy beach on river right makes for a delightful lunch stop; kids swimming and rock scrambling while the adults completed scoring and commentary on their assessment sheets for the solo/tandem canoes being reviewed. Heading back down Muddy Creek we invoked the reviewer's rule that no one should be paddling the same boat in which they departed the put in. We're here on business, test-paddling canoes. N'yuck, n'yuck, n'yuck.
Up the York County side of the Susy -Q and into the narrows between Peavine Island and Upper Bear Island. This has always been one of my favorite places on the Susquehanna. The exposed rock faces and immense potholes are reminiscent of Canada or northern Maine. Cutting up against the quickwater between Upper Bear and Crow Islands I noticed some new and different paddling behavior. Tyler and Cooper were now paddling tandem, a seldom seen sight. And Tyler, emulating Joel, was standing in the stern and paddling upright with a nine-foot long doubleblade. Even more unusual, Brian was paddling solo and heeled over...not just seldom seen but never seen.
Foregoing an exploration of the archipelago of maze-like rock and tiny channels between Crow Island and the Holtwood dam we eased back downstream on the Lancaster County side, pausing on the east side of Upper Bear for another snack and swim and boat swapping break. Two kayakers paddled close by, heading upstream, and one suddenly called out "Mike, Mike McCrea?". Deletta Scopel and friend Barbara, out themselves for a sunny day paddle on the Susquehanna.
Boats and paddlers were shuffled once again, and I found one of my all-time favorites - Joel's kevlar Rendezvous. Very, very different from a Royalex Rendezvous, and much more to my liking. Back past Lower Bear we coasted, into the "hidden" grotto between the cliffs at the northeastern tip of Big Chestnut Island, back out, circumnavigating Big Chestnut between Wolf Island and out into the building chop and confusing boat wakes.
This uni-directional chop provided an excellent proving ground for canoe testing and illustrated some heretofore-unnoticed design deficiencies. Back at the launch the last batches of score sheets were completed, boats were racked and another grueling day test paddling canoes drew to a close. We need to get out at least once more to complete these solo/tandem evaluations. A reviewer's work is never done.
Take Exit 27 north (Dulaney Valley Rd/Rte 146) off the Baltimore Beltway. Take Dulaney Valley Rd/Rte 146 north across Loch Raven reservoir and bear left onto Rte 146. Continue north on Rte 146 through Jacksonville to Madonna. In Madonna turn right onto Norrisville Rd/Rte 23. Follow Rte 23 to Jarrettsville and turn left onto Rte 165. Follow Rte 165 north into Pennsylvania, Rte 165 becomes Rte 74 in Pennsylvania. Stay on Rte 74 north, cross Muddy Creek and continue to top of steep hill where Rte 74 bears hard left - turn hard right onto Paper Mill Rd. Take Paper Mill Rd to Cold Cabin Rd and turn left. Follow Cold Cabin Rd. to boat ramp/take out at small park at the bottom of the hill.
Or, an alternative route via I-83:
I-83 north to Old York Rd (exit #36) west. Old York Rd (Rte 439) west into Harford County to T-intersection with Norrisville Rd and right. Norrisville Rd (Rte 23) to Jarrettsville and right onto Rte 165. Follow Rte 165 north into Pennsylvania, Rte 165 becomes Rte 74 in Pennsylvania. Stay on Rte 74 north, cross Muddy Creek and continue to top of steep hill where Rte 74 bears hard left - turn hard right onto Paper Mill Rd. Take Paper Mill Rd to Cold Cabin Rd and turn left. Follow Cold Cabin Rd. to boat ramp/take out at small park at the bottom of the hill.