Monday, March 19, 2007


Warming temps during the week, a bit of rain and a good bit of snowmelt had once again sent gauges high. Looked like some good creeks would be running. Thursday morning i arrive at work to find an email from Scott. "Maggie, call me when you get this". The time stamp reads 5:30am... Uh oh, i wondered, what is he up to. So i call and as i expected he was on his way to West Virginia, in hopes of catching Upper Seneca Creek, a rare catch. After hearing his plan (to either find people to run it with or else try to solo it) i made it quite clear that i did not approve of the idea (Soloing a 13 mile class V run that you'd never been on just did not seem like a wise idea). Nonetheless he went off on his little adventure and later reported having hiked up from the takeout and only run a bit of class III at the end.

So Thursday night, after already having heard Scott's story, i get a call from Matt. He hade Friday off and he and Jay wanted to try for Seneca. He warned that there would be a very good chance of rejection. Apparently Jay had tried 9 times and only actually got to paddle it twice. Matt had lucked out and gotten one run for one attempt. I called Scott back to check if he'd gotten to the put in at all. He had not gone the whole way but it sounded like it would be possible at least.

I got out to Western MD at about 11pm and we planned on getting up early. All night i could hear the freezing rain and rather dreaded the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn and driving the still 2 more hours to Seneca. Jay calls at about 7, it is on. So we pack up and head to the takeout. It had been sleeting a fair bit all morning and the trees along the way were covered in ice. We beat Jay there by a few minutes and looked around. Standing there in the middle of an ice storm neither of us were really feeling it. 13 miles in this weather? really? Conditions were going to be brutal. It was not going to get above freezing that day. It really didn't look like it was running anyway, but Matt didn't really remember (had been there 3 yrs ago) and what did i know...

Anyway Jay shows up and confirms that it is indeed not running. Shut out again. But probably a good thing as it is nasty out. 20ish degrees, freezing rain. According to Jay it pretty much needs to look like Dry Fork sized play waves at the takeout for Upper Seneca to have enough water. Entirely possible that it was running Thursday, bummer it was a day early or we would have gotten on it. We pretty much figured that that nights freeze is what did it. The headwaters of Seneca are at pretty high elevation (highest in WV) and with the cold it basically shut off.

Well it was pretty early. about 10am so we had plenty of time to seek out other alternatives. So we started looking at the map to see what the closest options were. Jay wanted to check out a creek called Flatrock, so we headed over there. After some looking around it did not appear to be running. Again, no dice. Okay so the next obvious choice was to head back to Canaan and see what was running there. We drove down the Dry Fork stopping at each creek. Red Creek might have been runnable but we'd already gotten beta that there was no way to get to the put in with the current snowpack. So that was out. Red Run looked low (not like i would have wanted to run it anyway). So we checked out Otter. It was funny to be back there, in daylight this time. lol. Upon initial inspection it appeared to be running. So we debated whether to try to run the whole thing (another long run, 14 miles or so), or just hike up and run the last few miles of Lower Otter. But as we headed a bit up the trail for a better look it turned out that there really wasn't as much water as it had first appeared. Plus i remembered walking DOWN that trail, there was now way i was going to hike UP it. That and after Jay and i both slipped and fell on our asses on the slick, wet rocks, the Otter Creek idea was quickly abandoned. The Dry Fork actually looked pretty good, lots of play. But we did not have playboats, and way too cold for it anyway.

Canaan options were quickly dropping out, but there was one more thing to check. The North Fork. With the Blackwater itself at round 1400 cfs, it was sure to be running. Question was, how high? So we headed up to Davis to find out. To be honest after all that driving around i really wasn't too pumped up to bite into the NF for the first time. Did not matter as it appeared to be rather on the high side for a first time run (1.8- 2 feet from the looks of it, we did not drive all the way down to the gauge. Matt did not want me to get on it above 1.6 or 1.7 for the first time, fine by me). I assured him that if they wanted to run it they were free to do so and that i would gladly wait. It is a short run after all. But he wouldn't really even entertain the idea so we continued on to find something all of us could do.

So the next option was to head a back towards Oakland and try Crabtree Creek (which btw is about 10 minutes from his house!!). So after about 8 hours of driving around to just about every creek in northern wv we were back in Maryland!!. At the takeout though it seemed that the level was a bit low and Jay and i were both somewhat skeptical. So the obvious choice... head BACK to west virginia!!!. The one sure thing that was running and at a good level at that! The Lower Big Sandy.

The LBS was at 7 feet. We set shuttle, and put on around 4:30. So yes, that is right we literally spent 9 hours (not to mention the 2 i'd already driven from home) to end up on the LBS (45 minutes away). But that is how things often turn out when trying to catch creeks like Seneca. It was still snowing a bit but the temp turned out not to be too bad. Yup that's three weeks in a row that i've gotten on the LBS, no complaints here though. :) The gauge read 7.1, highest i'd ever run it. I've always loved the LBS but not sure that i even want to run it below 6.5 again (well maybe so that i can run Big Splat at some point). Way more fun at higher water. at 7 feet the main line at Wonder is pretty ugly. Matt and i ran left while Jay went right. Big Splat looks thoroughly heinous and all the holes just keep getting bigger. I definitely plopped into a few that felt a little like hitting a wall! Really truly a tremendous run at that flow! I love Zume Floom, like a magic carpet ride!!

Since none of the smaller creeks seemed to be going (and no one else seemed to want to paddle, including Jay) we did a high water run on the Top Yough Saturday (about 1200 cfs, man there are some big holes!! Suck Hole looks more like Pillow Rock! Swallow Falls is just gigantic, and you'd better be going far left at Swallowtail or you WILL drown). Sunday Jay was off to the LBS again (and as much as i love the LBS too much of a good thing... well you know) so we debated between the NF, TY and UY. After checking the gauges at Friendsville and then Sang Run we decided the UY would be the best choice.It was running about 2.5, again higher than i'd gotten on it before (Little Niagara gets a little angry at that level, lol) . The weather was gorgeous as well. Very cold, about 25 degrees probably, but sunny. The trees were covered in snow, almost giving it an alpine feel. So at least i got to see some familiar runs with higher flow. All in all another fantastic boating weekend. :)

Swallow Falls 1100 cfs

We also did a quick trip to Ohiopyle and took a look at Meadow Run. See some more photos from the weekend here.

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