Sunday, April 27, 2008

Epic Sharpsburg Hairboating

After having spent a fun day on the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry with the gang, I suggested to Jeff that we conserve some time and gas money and allow me to get in my personal first descent on the mighty Antietam. Only about 10 minutes to the put in from Jeff's house in Sharpsburg, it would be a quick easy float in the park.

Since most of Antietam is pretty flat we chose to take long boats. I'd been training with Pinky for the Cheat Race which was just a few days away. Jeff as usual wanted to get a bike ride in so we opted to just take one car. Rain the night before had brought the creek up a good bit so we decided we'd also go ahead and check out Little Antietam which would add a bit more whitewater to the trip.

We drove on to Keedysville to check out the creek. Sure enough it was running well. We pulled up to the normal put in just off the bridge on Main Street. To our disappointment we found "No Trespassing" signs all around the bridge. Not too keen on putting on in someone's backyard we decided to head farther upstream in search of a more public access point.

Unfortunately, it seemed that every bridge we came to was fenced or otherwise posted. Even the headwaters stretch well upstream had a fence around it. We continued driving around town, trying every street and were about to give up hope when we finally came across a nice clear area, free of "keep out" signs. This seemed like a good place to put in and i felt comfortable with having to wait there for a while.

We checked out the creek. It was much narrower than at the normal put in but we didn't think much of it. A low-water bridge was covered in debris and the grass around the banks was bent down. Clearly the creek had gotten quite high the night before. We wondered if we'd encounter many strainers to portage. We got our gear ready and Jeff took off to set shuttle.

As I waited the 45 minutes it took him to drive down to the Potomac and ride back I watched as a guy drove up and started working on pulling logs off the bridge. Clearly this was an access road to people's homes. Getting a bit cold from sit around i got up and offered to help. In just a few minutes we were able to clear the smaller logs off and push the large ones to the side enough that he could drive his truck over the bridge. Though it did not seem like anyone minded that we were putting on there i felt like i'd earned our passage by helping out.

Jeff arrived shortly after and we put in. The stream was very narrow (narrower then the length of my boat, which made taking some sharp turns in the creek a bit challenging). We floated on down, dodging a few trees here and there, but no portages. We passed by a few backyards but no one was around to notice or care. Seemed like a quiet little town. Not long after we put on we were surprised to join up with a larger stream: Little Antietam Creek. We had actually put on one of its smaller tributaries!! First descent perhaps?

We continued on to the Keedysville Crusher and I jumped out for a quick scout. Jeff had noticed that there was a tree down when passed by on the road. Luckily the tree was enough out of the way not to be much of an issue so long as you boofed the left side. I gave Jeff the okay and he quickly fired it up. Launching a sweet boof in the Outburst. We had a great time taking turns hiking back up (very easy walk up a few rocks) and running it again. Would be worthy of a quick park-n-huck for those so inclined.

Maggie dropping the "Keedysville Crusher"

Jeffy launching a Siky

We continued on down, meeting up with the main Antietam Creek which was moving fast as the water rose. As we paddled by Burnside Bridge through historic Antietam Battlefield the gauge read 5.4 feet. A nice level. Jeff assured me that some of the usual rapids were rather washed out but at least the flatwater was moving the whole way.

Maggie at Burnside Bridge

We'd already spent almost 2 hours on the water at this point (after spending over an hour just to get there and put on) and had gotten quite hungry. So as we arrived at the bend where the creek flowed by Jeff's parents house, we hopped out. We pulled the boats up to a safe spot where they wouldn't be touched by the rising water and scrambled up the steep goat path so that we could raid their kitchen!! After filling up and chatting for a bit we scrambled back down to the boats. We were rather surprised to run across some Baltimore boaters we knew!

We hopped in and paddled pretty hard as it was only around 60 degrees out and we were pretty well chilled. We were quite surprised not only to take 15 minutes to get to the takeout at the Potomac (a trip that at normal levels takes at least an hour according to Jeff), but to find a sizeable class III rapid just before the takeout. It actually had some decent sized breaking waves. A nice treat to finish off the run!

Breaking waves on Antietam!

Overall our short little local float had turned into quite the fun little adventure and we arrived home almost 6 hours after we'd headed out!!

Approaching the old grist mill


Jeff checking out an untapped resource

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