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.