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OC2 Mike McCrea, Frank Weichold, Topher, c2g, Ruthie, Mollie
OC1 Dave Hone
K1 Alex Hone
Since the Duckhead year runs from Award ceremony to Award ceremony this constituted the first official Duckhead trip of the year. And the first official review trip of the year, as we put a couple of the tripper canoes through their paces on a downriver run.
It also constituted the first dirty trick of the year, as I allowed Topher and c2g to relish the thought of paddling one of the beautiful composite Prospectors down a crystal clear trout stream. A misconception that was cleared up only when they arrived and saw two Royalex trippers atop the van.
It was also my first trip with Molly as a canine companion. My first trip with Frank as bowman. My first trip in quite a while sans Canoeswithduckheads, who was unable to secure the requisite kitchenpass from Mrs. Canoeswithduckheads. That’s a lot for firsts for an afternoon’s paddle on my home river.
Molly insisted on adding a degree of difficulty to my sternman duties by playing fetch in the canoe. Fetch with a twist. She would carefully balance a tennis ball on the gunwale, and then snatch it back a split second before it toppled over the side. Set, snatch. Set, snatch. She rarely missed. But when she did miss - set, snap, splash my responsibility was to grab the tennis ball before it floated beyond the stern and toss it back so the game could continue.
This sounds easier than it actually was; the ball often seemed to go overboard just as we entered a fastwater stretch, right when I kinda sorta wanted to have a paddle in the water instead of my hand. I was successful in the early stages of this game, (although we did run a few peculiar lines) and so had little idea of the consequences of failure.
A leg stretching beverage break on a cobble bar saw a switch of canine companions, as Ruthie elected join Frank and I. The plus side of this switch was that Ruthie’s weight when standing on the gunwales had significantly less impact on our trim than the muscular mass of Mollie.
The downside was that Ruthie’s was determined to find the warmest and most comfortable perch for a bow wow and quickly deduced that this was on Frank’s lap, a position that did nothing to enhance Frank’s paddling proficiency at the unfamiliar bow station. More peculiar lines through fastwater sections soon followed.
My own realization that the 17’ barge we were paddling was not as nimble or responsive as my usual solo selection was brought about swiftly and nearly damply as an ill-advised last minute course correction broached our sluggish behemoth on a rock and one gunwale dipped perilously close. Fortunately even Ruthie has been trained not to lean upstream. After an adrenaline filled moment of oh-shit bracing our pliable paddlecraft slid free with the flexibility of a SOF. Who knows what might have happen if we had been paddling in a more rigid hull…Frank might have completed the day dressed as a bridesmaid.
Another shore break saw us again swapping canine companions, and tripper hulls as well, as Topher could no longer contain his enthusiasm to experience a truly flexible paddlecraft. His later review noted, amongst other things, that this canoe had a certain rare Hepburn-esque quality.
With Molly back aboard we resumed our tennis ball game. Fetch, Mike, fetch. Good boy.
At least I was a good boy for several miles. And then I mistimed my grab and lost the ball. Disaster. “Go back” implored Molly (really, the look in her eyes said it all). We tried, but couldn’t find the ball. “How about your other ball Molly, it’s just the same”
“It’s not the same”, said Molly. “It’s not, it’s not, it’s not” (Again, those soulful, imploring Molly eyes). “If you won’t go back and save my ball I’ll do it myself” And over the side she goes.
We eventually coax her back into the boat, but by now we’ve lost visual contact with Topher. Disaster II. Molly has abandonment issues. She wants her ball. She wants her Topher. Inconsolable, Molly positions herself standing with all four feet on the gunwale, leans her wet quivering mass into Frank and begins moaning piteously.
Poor Frank. He gets stuck in the bow seat. Half his river trip involved a lapful of shivering wiener dog. Half his trip involved a wet pit bull leaning on him for physical and moral support. All of his trip involved a sternman laughing at his plight.
Our take out bridge provided the surprise of the day. Hanging from the bridge was an enormous banner bearing the message “Float a Merry Mikey Duckhead Mess”. The seven empty Budweiser cans dangling from strings were a nice, if tasteless, touch.
I am currently soliciting suggestions for exactly what this sign should proclaim when it is returned to its creator. Lesse, he’s going away for the holidays…wouldn’t the missus be pleased to return from Christmas vacation to find a banner stretched across the front porch reading “Congratulations Tom on making parole”
Repairing to the Pioneer Pub for post-paddling libations c2g was the belle of the ball in his form fitting fuzzy rubber suit, drawing questionable commentary from the waitresses and arch-browed appraisal from various snaggled-toothed farmers.
Another fun day on the water amongst a good crew. And I learned an important lesson my test paddling crew is more dependably forthcoming with boat notes and review commentary if plied with pitcher of Yuengling and platters of hot wings and fries.
From I-83 in Maryland take Exit # 27 (Mt. Carmel Rd) east. At stop light at the end of Mt. Carmel turn right/south onto York Rd (Rte 45). Take York Rd south for 100 yards and turn left/east onto Monkton Rd. Take Monkton Rd east for @ 2 miles to Blue Mount Rd and turn right. Take Monkton Rd to the bridge over the Gunpowder.
To the take out:
Take I-83 to Maryland Exit 24 (Belfast Rd). Take Belfast Rd east to York Rd and turn right/south. Take York Rd south for 200 yards to Sparks Rd and turn left. Take Sparks Rd to the bridge over the Gunpowder.
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