Monday, June 6, 2011

#3 Report: Rain Comes

        On second thought, throw in six pieces of cord wood 3 to 4 feet long incase I encounter a washed out road through the forest. Kick around the idea of the chain saw, come-a-long, and cables, but maybe not. It will depend on WHERE it rains.
         Based on what has shown on the weather radar, the area along I-80 near Emlenton might be the best place to try for. Left home 3:30AM Saturday for the drive out there. Someone has claimed that the part of Bear Creek above Bruin and the South Branch are both passable.
         I had previously made two trys for this creek from Bruin to the Allegheny River, which is Degree III water. On first try I had launched below a strainer pile and got to the first bend which had more tree debris blocking it. I took out on creek-right. A portage on creek-left would be murder- up a steep bank. The trees were bare, so climbing over and through the rocks looked better. Checking down stream, the next rapid had a tree in it too. I could  see my truck from where I took out, so the easy portage was away from the creek to boulder free land. Decided to put this place on the back burner. Sometimes trees clear out after heavy flooding. I will be through this area again.
          The second time, it looked much clearer. I paddled into the first constricted zone. It was too tight to pass a canoe. At this portage point it is a much steeper climb up a railroad bank on creek-left. I took out on the right and scouted down stream. There is not enough elbow room to get by some tight spots, so more portage would be neccessary. Funny that I didn't notice that the first time that I was here. This was attempted in the first place because it shows two lines wide on the topo map, and it looked like it had enough running water source above Bruin on the stream map. This time there were some leaves on the sapplings, and I had a heck of a time finding the canoe which was on the ground among the boulders. This never happened to me before. This is conglomerate sandstone boulders along this creek. Not exactly a boulder city in geology terms but similar in smaller size. I portaged out of here, and wrote it off as a place too small for sensible passage.
        Now eleven years later someone claimed to have run it on the AWA listings. I can't believe I am going back there for a third time. Arrived at Parker and stopped to study the topos again. All possible take-outs had been checked out in past history, but I saw a dotted path line down creek right to the river. Drove down and over the last bridge on the creek before the river. It is one mile from this bridge to the river. Continued up the other side to a wider area to park.There is a pickup truck here. I surprised a man and his son in the process of moving bushes. I ask him about the path? He said it was a steep walk to the Allegheny River. I told him that I have moved good bushes myself, and that I didn't see him doing it. He laughed but was now at ease. ( I lied, but I am not looking for trouble here.) Yankee ingenuity has to make money any way they can out here. I walked about a quarter mile down the path and decided that it was no place to portage out of.
      Went back down to the creek bridge and parked on the turn-around spot. Hiked up to check the first good rapids. This is an undercut boulder on creek left, but there is surf room to get by it on the right.This creek runs four miles down from Bruin. This last 1.5 miles to the river is runnable. I then drove over the bridge and parked by the abandoned railroad bed. Took the bike for a ride upstream on the worn motorcycle path in the railbed. I had ask the fellow about the railbed, and he said that I could not get through because kids destroyed the bridge over a side creek. The creek is free of fallen trees for the most part, but passage on the channels is so-so. Bike back and drove up to Bruin. The previously abandoned little used tote road is more open now, so I drove in on it.The land is used for various purposes, one of which is more active oil wells, also some illegal dumping. Come to the part of game land closure, and backed up to turn around. It looks like industry is keeping the creek clear of trees to keep the high water away from their public works and the well heads. The water level is too low to consider it today, but having given this place the third degree, I can say it is too small to be considered good whitewater. It is a place where a team of steep creekers in short kayaks might challenge themselves to a lot of physical portaging before getting enough elbow room half way into the run. I'm out of here.
        Checked the main branch above Bruin and it is minimum passable, so I returned to the town park and chained the bicycle to a tree. Put a note on it, that it was a canoeist shuttle vehicle and I would return shortly. Drove up to Snake Road. This is too far. Went back to the first road bridge over the creek. Prepared the Mohawk Challenger and got into wetsuit. Water is still cold in the mountains this time of year. Launched and had a reasonable run to Bruin. Rock type is different up here. I don't usually look at rock in flat water, but I have been looking at conglomerate all morning. Noticed that this is where all the trees come from in the lower creek. There will always be a chance of strainers among the boulders. Arrive at the take-out point and chain the canoe to a tree. This is a steep road out of the town park so I had to walk the bike up the hill to start riding.Out to the main road and through town to a long low grade up along the creek to my truck.Made it back to the truck without too much exertion. The last time that I used a bicycle for shuttle was before 1985, when I switched to a motorcycle.
        Retrieved the canoe and walked through the woods here to see the mouth of the South Branch entering this branch. Noticed that the South Branch has a sliding board where it drops into this main branch. The brush almost meets in mid-creek here. This is too low to consider today. Left the park and drove south on Rt.268 to Petrolia. The South Branch is ten feet wide and walled in on both sides through the industry here. I wonder how they like canoeist going through their zone? Decided to look for a put-in point below here. A lot of the area is fenced-in industry. Beyond the fenced part one would have to walk a ways across private property to reach the creek. Further north and still upstream of the minimum three mile run point, the creek comes closer to Rt.268, but there is a guard rail and not enough shoulder to park on either side to leave a perfectly good truck, so this is out of the question. If it was my old Chevy I would leave it here, but not my good Dodge.
       It is too late in the day to consider another creek, so I headed to Emlenton to get a motel. This puts me close to where I think I am going tomorrow. Report home, on a public phone in the truck stop restaurant near motel, that I am off the water and OK. Get dinner, review topo maps for tomorrow. It was a good day.
                       Bear Creek: written off as too tight, too small for sensible passage.
                       Bear Creek above Bruin: In the future with MH water this can be had from a good ways
                       up on Snake Road.
                       South Branch Bear Creek: Will look at it when I come back to this area, but am doubtful
                       of it. Too intimate with private property and brush probably meets in the middle at the
                       four mile point below the industry since it almost meets mid-stream at the mouth. This
                       means ice fences in the cold winter months when the water level would be up enough
                       to do it. Ice is heavy and can stop a canoe it its tracks.
     It has been a long day since 3:30AM this morning, so it was easy to hit the sack.

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