Sunday, August 29, 2004

DC Visit

MD side Little Falls

After our trip to the LY and New I invited Mark to come visit me in DC. We spent the weekend playing on the Potomac. We watched as Josh and Ian ran the Spout for the first time, played at Little Falls, paddled up to the Fingers, and hung out on the gorge. It was a hot August weekend and we spent every hour we could outside. I think it was a record for hours spent on the Potomac in one day. We took off in the moonlight.

Mark running VA side Little Falls

Mark at Little Falls

Me running VA side Little Falls

Josh running the Spout

Mark at the Fingers

Me at the Fingers

Me at the Fingers

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

New River Nap

Two weeks after my first run of the Upper Yough, we planned another trip to the Lower Yough. I invited Mark once again but was sure he wouldn't be intrested in a third weekend on the LY. To my surprise he was more than willing....

Josh was planning on taking Sylvia on another rafting trip (she had thoroughly enjoyed our run down the Upper Yough in July and was ready to get out again). Ian also brought his then girlfriend; Minh. Additionally the newbies that we were supposed to take the week before came along. They chose to hire a guide instead which was relief as Josh was going to be rafting and the rest of us didn't really have a desire to play tour guide (turns out this group was not at all prepared for the LY, one person broke her paddle after the first few rapids and ended up walking out at the loop takeout, the rest of them invited themselves onto the raft).

I decided it was a good time for my friend Anthony to do his first LY run and drove up with him to Ohiopyle. Josh rafted with Sylvia, Minh and the other girls while Mark and I led Anthony down. Ian kayaked but hung out with the rafters as much as possible. Meadow run was pumping in some extra water above Entrance so the level was a bit higher than normal summer flow. Anthony did well and everyone had a good time.

Me and Mark


Mark at Swimmers



Raft eating kayaker


Oh and... Suzi had found this ridiculous monkey tie for Josh and asked me to give it to him that weekend. We all decided he needed to raft with it on. He thought it was only appropriate to wear a button down shirt as well....

That night Ian, Minh, and Anthony headed home (we also parted ways with the other newbies) while the rest of us headed down to Fayetteville to run the New. Josh had borrowed some river boards for him and Sylvia and had invited me to join them. I asked Mark to come along as well but doubted that he'd want to do the long 4 hour drive up to Ohiopyle and then drive another 3 hours all the way back down to the New (which was only 2.5 hours from his place in the first place). But once again to my surprise he was up for it...

I rode with Mark on the way to the New and we talked the whole way. We'd been emailing a bit over the past two weeks and i was starting to realize just how much liked him. We camped at the Canyon Rim Ranch once again and stayed up most of the night talking (yes really just talking!!!). The next morning Josh had pancakes cooking when we woke up.

The New was very low, zero feet. A good level for Josh and Sylvia to river board but fairly slow for us. We were so exhausted that we didn't mind the leisurely pace. I actually took a short nap when we stopped along the way. It was fun watching the two of them bobbing around at the surface in front of us. It was a great day. I rode home with Josh and Sylvia looking forward to the next trip with our new team member...

Sylvia river boarding Middle Keeney

Nap time

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Great Falls Fun

Me at the Fingers

We had planned on taking some newbies to the Lower Yough this weekend but they bailed at the last minute. I had also planned to meet Mark there on Sunday but after some misscommunication he ended up there Saturday instead and called to say he'd had enough and was heading home (he'd already gone to the LY the day after the UY trip the week before too).

With no one to join up with we found ourselves sitting on my doorstep wondering what to do. The idea of driving 3 hours for nothing more than the LY was not appealing. We'd been okay with the idea as long as there were new people involved. We could have just as much fun by ourselves without having to drive far. So we headed for the Potomac. The level was good for the Fingers and the boys were ready to run it so we drove the 20 minutes to Great Falls.

We paddled up to the base of the Fingers and climbed up to the top. I was terrified of the climb but at least i was only going up to watch and take video/pictures so my boat remained at the bottom. After some scouting the guys completed successful runs.

Ian scouting the rapid above the Fingers

Ian running the Fingers

Afterwards we headed for the Fishladder. They had run it a few weeks before. This time I was ready. We put on and Josh explained the line. It was very straitforward though you definitely didn't want ot flip here. My first line was slightly off as I was a bit too close to the center at the bottom but still managed to punch the hole just fine. We climbed up and ran it again. This time my line improved. No carnage to report. Fun fun fun!

Me running the last slide of the Fishladder

Me after my Fishladder run

Ian running the Fishladder boof

Ian on bottom of the Backchannel

Ian running the Fishladder boof

Ian running the last slide of the Fishladder

Josh running the last slide of the Fishladder

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Saturday, August 07, 2004

New Beginnings

After the Upper Yough rafting trip I decided I needed to actually dust off my creek boat. We did another Lower Yough trip and I took the Java. The LY isn’t exactly good creeking practice but at least I was paddling the boat. With the exception of one weekend at Holtwood, things were pretty dry. The rest of July was mostly spent on the Potomac. Spending more time locally meant we were getting a chance to actually meet some new people. Pete introduced us to his friend Martha one day.

Hanging out at MD chute one night near the end of the week, we were pretty much resigned to another weekend of park-n-play on the Po. “Aren’t you going to the UY release Saturday?” Martha asked. None of us had remembered about it. This of course brightened Josh’s day immediatly. He was ready to go again. I was bummed as I didn’t want to be left behind. “You’re going too!!” he said.

I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking. I knew I wasn’t ready for the Upper Yough but I’d had a crappy week and I wanted nothing more than to just get away. I had just gone to a good friend’s funeral a few days before and definitely needed something to keep my mind off things. I secretly prayed that I wouldn’t be attending my own after this trip…

That night Josh helped me pick out a pile of foam to better outfit my creekboat with. I’d never done much to it, having barely paddled it at all.

Saturday morning Josh, Ian, and now Pete arrived at my house. We were planning on meeting Martha in Friendsville so we all piled in the van and were off. I remember spending most of the 2.5 hour drive being quite nervous. I tried not to think about it too much but ultimately didn’t feel at all prepared for this.

We arrived in Friendsville to find an even larger crowd than the month before. There were boaters everywhere. That weekend also happened to be Friendsville Day or whatever it is. Every summer the town has their pride parade or whatnot oh so conveniently scheduled on the busiest Upper Yough release day. Why they insist on doing this is not clear. On this day you cannot park on the main road. So the hundreds of boaters are forced to park wherever they can find space around town. We were lucky to find room right by the river under the bridge.

We met up with Martha and some of the people she had been meeting and began piling boats on the truck. The pile grew as we stacked them three high. We crammed in and headed to the put in. There was quite a crowd when we arrived. Josh had brought Turnup so we parked the van in the shade so she’d be comfortable. As we took boats down more people began to arrive.

Martha had met Mark on Boatertalk and they’d decided to meet at the UY. He came over and introduced himself. We chatted briefly and began gearing up. It was a beautiful summer day. Someone had brought a big ripe watermelon and was passing out chunks to the crowd. It helped me forget how nervous I was…well a little anyway. Between Martha’s group and ours we had at least ten people. I don’t generally like boating with large groups but seeing as how there were a few hundred others there as well it really didn’t matter. Ian let me borrow his elbow pads since it was my first trip and he figured I’d need them more than he did. We joined the flotilla and began paddling the 2 miles of flatwater. Along the way I chatted with various people and felt rather out of place. Josh and Ian gave words of encouragement. I talked with Mark some more and was quite impressed that he’d only been paddling for eight months and he’d already been on the UY several times and was planning to lead a friend down that day.

When we arrived at Gap Falls it was still unclear who was going to be leading me down. It was only Ian’s second trip and he wasn’t ready to lead. Josh was hand paddling his playboat and wanted to be able to run the fun lines. I was starting to feel somewhat in the way. Luckily, Mark’s friend had decided he wanted to run the hard lines and chose a different guide. So that left him with no one to lead so he stepped up to take me down. I really felt like he was getting stuck with me but seeing as how I had no one else at this point I couldn’t exactly turn down the offer.

After some nervous waiting we were off. I was still pretty tense as we ran Gap and the boogie water that followed. But I was doing pretty well and followed Mark as best as I could. I had very little recollection of the river from our rafting trip the month before so his descriptions of what was coming was all I had to go on.

When we arrived at Bastard Mark explained the line: We were going to catch a big eddy and look on from there. “How big was this eddy, what If I miss it..?” I had a lot of questions. “It’s plenty big” he assured me. So we continued on, both caught the eddy just fine and he explained the line further. Slide down this tongue, start left then go right then do this then that, the explanation was complex (well at the time it sure seemed to be. I wasn’t used to having that much instruction thrown at me at once). I nodded comprehension, though I probably didn’t understand a word. My nervousness was clouding my thinking. After waiting for a few people to go by he pealed out and I followed.

Mark continued down and skillfully boofed into the eddy. Well that’s what I was told he did as I don’t remember any of it. Instead I blew right past him and right into the hole below. I immediately flipped and tried to roll up. As I pushed my paddle out I slammed my hands into a rock. I tried another roll, same thing. I didn’t really feel like I was moving at all, I was momentarily caught on the rock. A few seconds later my boat slid around it and I continued to try to roll. I was getting very tired but was not ready to give up. After a few more attempts and more encounters with rocks I finally made it up. Everyone watching was sure I would swim! I was pretty beat up but I think that this had knocked a good bit of the nervousness out of me. I don’t remember how but I was able to get to the bottom of the rapid without further problems. At the bottom we stopped to rest and I looked at my hands. Several were well scrapped up and there was a dime-sized piece of skin ripped off of one. Someone offered me some duct tape which I took graciously and wrapped my damaged fingers. After a short rest we continued on.

I actually did feel a good bit less tense now. But I was tired from the beating at bastard. I followed Mark through Charlie’s with greater confidence but still rather awkwardly. At some point I flipped again and rolled up to see Martha in front of me screaming for me to go right (or maybe it was left) as she disappeared over the next drop. In any case I followed where she’d gone. The stretch from Charlie’s to National is a blur. Martha led me down the standard line at National (successfully) while Mark went for the boof. I was beaten up pretty good but not entirely discouraged. I knew I still had to make it to the takeout. At National we took the usual break and everyone scattered onto the rocks or to the opposite end of the pool. I got out of my boat to rest. I felt a little alone but Ian came over with more words of encouragement.

Me at National Falls

I don’t recall too much detail about the rest of the run. I did my best to follow Mark’s every move and at one point someone actually commented that we were paddling in unison (I wasn’t about to miss another important move!). I had a few more flips but nothing too serious for the remainder of the run. I got a lot of support and encouragement from everyone and was quite glad to have them all there to help. In the flatwater at the end I chatted more with Mark. I assumed he had to be pretty annoyed with having had to put up with me all day. I didn’t expect to ever see him again.

I was most certainly unprepared for that run. I missed some key moves and had a good bit of carnage, but I made it down feeling encouraged overall (no swims, my clean streak wouldn’t be broken for a few more months). After this trip I felt like I definitely needed more practice and continued to go on more technical runs when possible. It was something of a turning point I suppose and I’m really glad I went that day…for so many reasons.

The Gang

I survived the trip with few overall injuries. My hands took the brunt of it. A good number of knuckles were completely bare of skin. It took well over two months for them to heal completely and the scars remain to this day. After that trip I immediately ordered a pair of creeking gloves!! Even after a dozen runs now, Bastard still makes me nervous!!

Once I got home I got Mark’s email from Martha and thanked him for leading me down. I didn’t expect much of a response. What I got instead was a very thoughtful message full of kindness and encouragement. He told me not to worry about the carnage and was impressed that I stuck it out despite the beating at Bastard. He said he’d be glad to paddle with me again. The rest is history…..

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Sunday, August 01, 2004


After a summer of waiting in line for play at MD chute, a welcome treat presented itself one weekend in late July. Holtwood on the Susquehanna was in. Holtwood is a high water play area with many good playspots that come in at a range of levels. It is rare for the Susquehanna to be running high enough mid summer. Since Josh had non-boating plans on Saturday Ian and I decided to head there ourselves. My only previous experience with high water had been the Lower Yough back in May and I was excited to see more. I was slightly nervous but Ian was confident that we would have no problems. He did caution that a swim would most certainly be long and result in a lost boat. I wasn’t worried.

We arrived at the put in and inspected the warning sign:

We locked up the car as securely as we could and took put our wallets in a drybag and took them with us (the Holtwood put in is notorious for break ins). The put in was just below the base of the monstrous low head dam. The boil line was a good 50 feet from its base. Where we put in the water was high into the trees. The level was about 8.5 feet, just over 100,000 cfs. We paddled up as close as we could to the dam to take a look at its awesome power. We had printed out the Holtwood Surf Guide so we knew approximately where to find the playspots. Powerline and Playspot II seemed to be the best choices as we wanted something relatively tame and didn’t want to go too far downriver since we would have to walk the shuttle.

High Water

First we hit Powerline, a fast bouncy wave with a big eddy beside it. Playspot II came next and we spent a good bit of time there. We had a great time surfing and taking pictures, carefully looking out for each other. The access eddies were big but missing one would surely have required a hike back up. We’d had a great time and had barely seen one or two other people all day. Quite the contrast to the 20 or 30 people waiting around for rides at MD chute.

Ian at Powerline
Maggie at Playspott II

Ian at Playspott II

We took out not too far from the put in and Ian ran back up to get the car. While there he ran into Pete who had arrived after us. Pete urged that we come back the next day. We had made plans with Josh to run the Tygart the next day but he insisted that the Tygart would always be there but a warm weather day at Holtwood was not likely to happen again soon.

So we called Josh and told him of the new plan. He wasn’t too thrilled about giving up a day or river running for more play boating but at least Holtwood was only a 2 hour drive instead of four. Ian had planned for us to meet Pete at the put in the morning. The three of us met at Angler’s Sunday. That night Ian had gotten a message from Pete. Apparently he had lost his car key on the river and wanted us to go to his apartment in Alexandria and get the spare. We had gotten up early and were rather cranky. Pete had left his address in the message but no instruction as to where to find it or if there was going to be anyone there to let us in. We tried calling him but he wasn’t picking up (apparently he had to walk way out to the bridge in order to get cell signal).

We wanted to help but didn’t know what to do. So after some debate we decided that driving out of our way to Alexandria without actually knowing if we could get the key wasn’t a great idea. So we headed north instead. We hoped that we’d be able to help when we got there, call AAA or something. As we drove past Columbia we finally got a call from Pete. He explained that his roommate was home and that we could get the key from him. We weren’t thrilled. But Ian wanted to help his friend and as he was driving it was his choice. So on we went to Virginia. After some searching for Pete’s apartment we were able to get the key and were now finally back on our way to PA, 2 hours after we’d started.

When we arrived at the put in we found a very grateful Pete sitting by his car (with a smashed window, ironically he had had to break into his own car). We set shuttle and finally were ready to put paddle. The level had dropped some and Powerline wasn’t as good anymore so we spent most of the day at Playspot II again. As the level slowly dropped throughout the day different features began go form, giving us plenty of play options. At the end we paddled down to Rock-n-Roll hole. We were all pretty tired at this point and didn’t stay long. Overall it had been a great day despite the extensive detour that morning.
Put In
Natural Beauty at Holtwood Fishladder
Holtwood Dam
Pete at Holtwood Dam
View down river, Playspot II on left
Horizon Line
Holtwood Fishladder
Ian having fun

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