Wednesday, March 09, 2011

From Ed: Sometimes it requires a kick in the pants

Contributed by Ed McGuinness

Sometimes it requires a kick in the pants, a punch in your throat, or a 10 AM phone call that a rarely run creek is filled to the brim to increase motivation. Mountain Biking, Climbing, and Tiger Woods idealization has kept some of the Got-Boof Crew from getting on the gnar. Post-winter complacency quickly increased the nerves of the crew settling into the Northwest creek hunting. We have been lame with extracurricular pursuits and had not felt the vertical descent of kayaking in several months.

It had been raining Creek-Juice for the past 36 hours as I was peering at the rain accumulations on Matt Pascals infamous map Friday night. Excitement was beginning to build as the rain continued to show the deepest colors in a rarely run section of Northwest, PA. The Emlenton area provides unique topography that empties numerous plateaus into the mighty Allegheny.

In 2006 Little Scrubgrass, Squaw Valley, Ritchey Run, and Mill Creek were all investigated by this kayaking youth. Intentions were strong to run these watersheds with ferver. However strong idealizations may be, water can not be directed to this acreage by chance.

Finally in 2011, the stars aligned, gods smiled, and we had a unique warming trend with rain for 36 hours on Thursday and Friday. This formula included perfect ingredients for a weekend of kayaking with good friends.
Setting out from Evans City at 8:00 I started making phone calls with doubt of what might or might not be running. Jason Hilton, Bill Schwab, Matt Zeleznik, Matt Pascal; Everyone had prior commitments withs Jason’s being the most flexible, Golfing (LAME excuse)… Following a 45 minute drive north to pick up Beau Smith from his Slippery Rock Retreat, Alden Elliot met up with us in his Jeep hoping for a mild Class III Scrubgrass run or a Mild run on the Slippery Rock Creek if there was not enough water in the watersheds. Rain continued to pour and Speed limits could not contain the anticipation of seeing the local drainage ditches looking like Mini-Class VI death runs. I had to contain my hopes and not pretend to be a foam mini at the top of these numerous little creeks. FOCUS….

I don’t recall slowing down for Barkeyville, PA despite my 4 point ticket there 3 or 4 years ago. All I remember from the drive is talking about philosophy until the I80 exit for Emlenton registered in my brain. I had seen this sign numerous other times coming to the area hoping for a magical burst of rain that never had enough juice for these runs.

Needless to say I bypassed going straight to our intended creek of the Little Scrubgrass to check out the Squaw Valley watershed. GURU Rich Yester had provided limited beta on American Whitewater but we had investigated the creek for ourselves over the past 4 years and cut strainers out of the creek numerous times in the past. Now was the moment of truth… Would it be running this day??

(This picture is the brown water at the Squaw Valley Bridge. It is barely Visible, but a running level is between 2.50 and 3 feet of the spraypaint on the bridge.) It had dropped three inches with consistent rainfall the full day in 6 hours.

This is the rapid immediately before the 20 footer Double clapper Waterfall that I am unsure of names, only that the GURU RICH YESTER has an awesome video of running that fall back when dinosaurs were still chasing him (2004 or 2005)

(This is a picture of Squaw’s Sluice before the big double clapper.)

Immediately the group realized this was not going to be a placid Slippery Rock Creek Run. Phone Calls were made immediately to the Tiger Woods of the Got-Boof crew and encouraged with promises of Class V exploratory creeking. Plans were made to quickly run the Little Scrubgrass then venture to the Squaw Valley Creek immediately after the run. (Post-Winter idealizations and beliefs we had more technique than we did).

Complications with communication, Icy Roads to the take out, and Intentional Stalling allowed the speeding bandit from Creighton the opportunity to make the distance before most of us had put on the filled Little Scrubgrass. Anticipation from years of waiting was suddenly realized. The first Drop is the biggest but was not the climax of the trip. A hidden boof in the first drop was validation that this was going to be a fun trip.

On American Whitewater there is very little beta on this Northwest Gem. The creek has the complexity of a strong Class III+ with the consistency of a solid Class IV creek. There was rapid after rapid after rapid, building without fail to be an ENJOYABLE and FUN kayaking excursion.

At the bottom of this unexpected joy, it was discussed about the possibility of WHAM Waterfall that would likely be running. Instead of going with the flow we turned into the strong Allegheny flow and paddled 200 yards to a looming valley that could be seen in the distance. 200 Yard Carry of a creekboat in rapidly chilling temperatures could have diminished the spirit of lesser mortals. However, the sight of a sketchy 20 footer with a big kicker on top pumped warm adrenaline into blood of all present.

Alden Elliot who recently kicked off the season with repeats of “BIG RUN” Falls in New Castle quickly evaluated the fall to be runnable and skirted up for a plunge. Cleaning the fall with a perfect Boof his excitement helped fire up Jason Hilton to put down the Wii remotes and fire up a solid line as well.

Safety was set and the Cameras rolled for a repeat of Aldens.

Paddling out of the Allegheny the excitement of the day was relived. Comparisons of Little SCrubgrass to Meadow and Fikes without the Cascades or Death Rooms were also made.

Squaw Valley had held at a running level from 10:00 Am through the 4:00P.M. takeout time we returned after paddling Little Scrubgrass. Maybe Alden felt like putting on this creek however the rest of us had enough with the excitement from the Scrub, and Wham waterfall. We retired to our normal lives waiting for the next day we would dismiss the mountain bikes, put down the Wii Remotes, or leave the climbing harness at home. It was an easily boat scoutable creek, with minimal fear of dangerous rapids… However it was a subtle reminder to those of us who have forgotten how to have fun kayaking with friends on a raining, cold, and miserable day. The reminder is that we can enjoy ourselves and take the time to talk between the rapids instead of always fearing and focused only on the next horizon line.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

From Beau: Pringle Run and “the dog”

This Sunday (6/6/10) began uneventfully when I woke up expecting to drive down and paddle the Upper Blackwater. A check of the gauges revealed that the Blackwater was low, but rising slowly. I began driving down to meet Jeff Blood, Dave Carey, and Dave Haines down in Friendsville.

And then it started raining…

I met Jeff in Washington, PA and we began driving down to meet the other guys. It continued to rain steadily. It looked like the rain was headed to the canaan valley. By the time we reached the Bruceton Mills exit on I-68, we could barely see 100 feet ahead of us because of the rain. We stopped by the Little Sandy to see if the Little Sandy was coming up, but it still looked too low to boat. When we arrived in Friendsville, the water at the takeout of the upper yough was already up to the stairs. We met Dave and Dave and tried to decide what to do next. We were about to continue to the Blackwater, and then Jeff checked the rain gauges again.

Preston County, West Virginia had received an inch of rain in one hour.

So we decided to stay in the area, and see if we could find something to scrape down.

Our first stop was the take out of Roaring Run. When we arrived, the water was high and rising fast with water the color and consistency of chocolate milk. None of us had ever ran Roaring run, but we had all heard reports that Roaring run was full of wood. We decided Daughtery Run might be a safer choice, so we went and looked at that instead. When we arrived at Daugherty, it was already high. As we were suiting up, we watched the creek rise another 6 inches or so in about 15 minutes.

If you haven’t been on Daugherty when it’s high, I highly recommend it. We cruised through the boogie water and smaller rapids, and rocketed down several long slides that Daugherty is so well known for. There was some wood, but it wasn’t bad (most of the time). The one rapid I remembered from the last time I ran Daugherty is known as the “cave rapid.” As we passed under an old bridge, we knew we were getting close. Suddenly, we heard a voice from the left. There was a guy on shore that called us over and told us that the right-hand channel that we were about to take had wood in it. The group ahead of us had run it blind. Two other guys were able to boof over it on the far left, but the guy on shore had gotten caught up in it. He told us he had almost drowned, and had also broken his paddle in the process. We walked around and continued warily. After several more fun slides we reached the take out.

We tried to decide what to do next. It was almost six o’clock, but there was still plenty of water in the creeks. Elsey Run was right down the road, but due to the lack of beta and daylight beta about one of the steepest runs around, we decided to play it safe and head to Pringle Run instead (only 500 feet per mile). You know it’s a good day of boating when Pringle Run is your backup plan.

It was my first time on Pringle Run, but Jeff Blood and Dave Carey had been on it a few times before. We scouted some of the drops on the way up the road, and then we put on above the Pringle Falls. Everyone had good lines off of probably the coolest waterfall I have ever run. It was a really bony slide into a small pool, and then right off the falls into a deep pool. I found out later that most people portage the slide above the falls. There was a sweet slide after the falls followed immediately by some fun steep boulder drops all the way down to the Cheat.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Creeks

Recent high water had us fishing for some new micros.

Saturday (3/13) sent us north to look at Squaw Valley but it was too low. After running around to check some things out, we ended up putting in on a low Richey Run in order to at least get some boat time in.

On Sunday, a much larger group went South. We ended up running a small micro creek called Asher Glade on the way to Friendsville, and later ended up on a severely swollen Bear Creek in Friendsville. The best part of Asher was the waterfall shown before.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Upper Blackwater

This past weekend, due to a nice mid-winter, I was able to set out with three friends to run the Upper Blackwater. Normally during this time of year, for me, it is a choice to really think about heading into this majestic location as the added threat of spending an evening in such a deep gorge adds a certain sense of trepidation when that night could be spent at freezing temperatures. But, with the warm temperatures, and the chance to lead some boaters who were not totally familiar with the run, Saturday January 24th was a go.

For the occasion a wrote a little speech for the team. As I remember it went something like this.


How about that ride in? I guess that’s why they call Davis, West Virginia - Sin City (hahaha)

You guys may not know this, but I consider myself…a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one man wolf pack. But when someone brought Blood home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack, it grew by one. So we’re two…so there was two of us in the pack. I…I was alone first in the pack, and then Blood joined in later.

And 6 months ago, when Blood introduced me to you guys. I thought…wait a second, could it be. And now I know for sure, I just added 2 more guys to my wolf pack. 4 of us wolves running around the Upper Blackwater together, in Davis looking for strippers and cocaine. So tonight, we make a toast!

Well, I think that is how it went.

For one of our group, Beau Smith, it was his first run. Here are some excerpts f comments he had after successfully finishing his first lap on the Upper B.

This Saturday started off with an early morning text from Jason Hilton, reading simply, “Blackwater?” I drove down to meet Jason and Jeff Blood, and we headed down to the Canaan Valley to meet up with Dave Carey.

Apparently the Canaan Valley received quite a bit of snow in the past few weeks, and our walk to the put in was made more treacherous by several inches of snow on the steep downhill trail. The view from the put-in of Blackwater falls and rapid known as 100 Yard Dash is worth the drive itself. I knew that the first rapid is the most important indicator of whether or not someone should be on the Upper B. Quite a few people have gotten pummeled in the first rapid and decided to walk out from there. I slid into the first small eddy, and instantly I was paddling down through the first big rapid. There’s no warm up on the Upper B. It’s either sink or swim.

After the first rapid, my memory fades a little. There is an untold number of boofs to hit in a few short miles. I remember a few of the larger rapids, but many of the smaller rapids and boogie water blend together. First came Z falls, Tomko Falls, and Shock to the System. All three rapids would fall into the category of the best rapids that I have ever run. Then, we walked to infamous Sticky Fingers rapid. The one big rapid that made me nervous from the beginning was My Nerves are Shot and I Can’t Take it Anymore. I was pleasantly surprised when we were able to break the long, multi-tiered slide rapid into smaller, manageable parts. Before I knew it, our journey down the Upper Blackwater was over.

While I won’t go into detail about the walk out, anyone who has ran the Upper B, or the North Fork of the Blackwater can tell you how unpleasant the walk out is.

Overall, I had big expectations of the Blackwater, and it did not fail to deliver. It may not have been the most intimidating river that I’ve done, but it was by far the most technically difficult. I had to use every trick in my bag of kayaking tricks to paddle down the river. I was surprised how clean the big rapids were, and at the same time I was surprised how manky, and potentially dangerous, the smaller drops were. When we got to the take out, I was just happy to be alive after coming through such a treacherous stretch of river. Lately, all I’ve been able to think about is the next trip down the Blackwater.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top Yough Season

This past weekend, some water returned to our region. It came in the form of snow, but snow melts eventually!

The roads were not in the best of conditions, but most of us made it to the river.

Carl catching some air

Years ago Carl Schneider and I dubbed this time of year Top Yough season because this run seems to run very often over the winter. As you can see, the season is officially here.