Saturday April 2nd, 2011. Up at 5:00AM, breakfast at King's Restaurant 6:00AM,back to motel, get into wetsuit, check out, and drive to Tidioute. Allegheny River is backed up into the mouth of the Tidioute Creek at the PFC access area.Chain MC to sign post near entrance to here. Very few places to secure a MC. Hope I don't get a ticket. Leave a note on bike to settle any concerns.
On drive to headwater point, I noticed that the water is at a nice level, MH, at Youngsville Road. At area named Hemlock, I make a left turn onto a gravel-clay road which has been graded recently. Go a quarter mile to the creek bridge. Make a u-turn at a wider area and return to park the truck. Was afraid to get too far off of the elevated road because the truck could sink in. Parked on the road surface. This is a rural place and very little traffic can be expected here, so this should not be a problem.
Launch the Mohawk Challenger on creek right-downstream side of bridge. This spot is down a brush bank. Across the creek, there is a fence with a horse in the pasture. The ride downstream through the valley was a nice one. Had to portage a few fallen trees. Ran over one small lowhead type dam, about one and a half feet high. This is vertical on upstream side and a 60 degree slope on the down side. Saw a small wall of some kind completely under water below here. Not a hazzard. This 4.0 miles of degree II water went by fast and I am on the backwaters of the river before I knew it. The river is backed up about 300 feet into creek.
Pull the canoe out and decided to chain it to big tree on the lower elevation by the water so that it would be out of sight from the basketball court which the kids may be playing on shortly. Hide my PFD knife under the float bag. I never ride the MC with it hanging on my chest. The PFD should offer me some protection if I have an accident, so I wear it on the ride back for the truck.
Complete the shuttle and load canoe by 11:00AM. Head south to West Hickory on Rt.62. Cross the river bridge and turn left to find the mouth of West Hickory Creek. Come to a guard rail along the road and park at the end of it. Walk back to check for water. It is at M level. A small creek. About 20 feet wide here. Chain the MC to the end of the guard rail on Dawson Road. This is at intersection of Williams Plan Road on the atlas. Put a tag note on the bike, secure helmet on MC lock pin, then head north to turn left on Preacher Hill Road which leads to Butchers Knife Hill Road. Wonder where they came up with that name?
The bridge on that road is said to be the put-in point. Water here is still at M level. On the downstream side of bridge there is an ice fence on the creek left suspended from a tree branch. To start here one would have to portage around that as there is no surf room to the right side of it. The creek here is 10 feet wide. There is no telling how many more of these things will be on such a narrow creek. Ponder my next move. See a lot of "no trespassing" signs on poles and trees. One seems to be directed at snow mobilers. It is five miles from here to the river. Hmm...Hemlocks, now that I am looking I see mixed Hemlocks with hardwoods. There could be a lot more walking here now that I see the whole picture. Go back to the truck and consult the atlas.
If I go down and turn right on McArthur Run Road, I can get two miles of the creek from its junction with the run of that same name. ( I can't believe they spelled the generals name wrong. It is Mac Arthur.) Went down to the point where the road turns up McArthur Run. Make a u-turn and drive the passenger side wheels up on the high road side bank to avoid blocking the through way. Narrow gravel roads, but this one shows signs of more use. Drag the canoe over a low land marsh area and launch. Water is M but scrachy going in places. Numerous fallen hemlock trees force portage. I am glad I did not attempt it from the five mile point. That is simply too far up the mountain. Finally see the Dawson Road bridge.
Drag the canoe over the flats and then shoulder it over better ground to the MC. I went to un-hook the MC. My helmet is gone! Damn it! I always suspected it would be easy to steal these things. One only needs a sharp knife to cut the chin web straps near the buckles which are on the lock pin, and they have a helmet.This was an especially good one. My son used it for racing cars at Maple Grove. He has another one that he likes better. I un-lock the seat and flip it up. No metal buckles on the lock pin! How did they do that? Discover that if one twist the seat on its hinge and uses a knife or screw driver under the buckles they would lift off of the pin securing them. Damn it! At least they did not trash the MC. Rode back and retrieved the truck. Had to pull it onto road surface to load the MC. Nobody came by in the time it took to do that.
Returned and was in the process of loading the canoe and gear when a white late model Chevy Suburban drove by slowly. I looked up but did not give the customary nod or small wave which people in the out back usually do. I am still mad. Funny, the three of them did not nod or wave either. Must be city people. Somebody with that much money does not steal helmets. I am almost done loading the truck when I hear a vehicle coming. I looked up and it is that same Chevy. Again-no acknowledgment when strange parties meet in rural areas. The Chevy turns right at the intersection onto Williams Plan Road. I remember being told by detectives at my shop that the crook sometimes returns to the scene of the crime. I think it was strange that they drove a half mile down and made a u-turn to come back to then go up that side road. Have nothing to write down the license plate number with, but I did see an "owl" on the plate. If you live in West Hickory and see a white late model Suburban with an owl on the plate, make sure your goods are secured.
It is still early, but too late to start another creek as the next two are long ones. Decide to scout Hemlock Creek and Coon Creek for tomorrow. Drove south on Rt.62 to President. Hemlock Creek looks very good at the Rt.62 bridge. About 35 to 40 feet wide with M level water. This is where it enters the Allegheny River. Drove up Red Brush Road to first intersection. No signs here. Must assume that this is Taylor Refuge Road. The elevation seems right according to the atlas. A long flat basically one lane ride though the wilderness. There is one and a half inches of snow on it. There is one lone tire track on it, so I rode on it as the sides are soft mud-snow mix. I did not see two right side trails indicated on the atlas, or a rill crossing the road. At a point I see an approaching truck about a half mile away. I pull onto a pull-off spot and wait. I flag him down and ask if this is Taylor Refuge Road? He says this is President Road. I ask about Red Brush Road or Allio Road on the left? He says "two more miles". We part and I consult the atlas. The road name changes to President Road further down the map. I am on the right path. It seems like I have been on this road a long time. Have had to drive slow because of conditions. Pass the two left side roads and turn right onto Hemlock Creek Road. It looks like two miles from this intersection to the creek.
In a wooded section the road is snow covered. I see a down hill part ahead of me. Stop the truck, put on the flashers and walk about 500 feet to see if icy gravel is going to be a problem. I can see straight through to the bottom of the hill. There is one tire track on the road. Drove down the hill in first gear and am prepared to rapidly shift to neutral if the braked wheels continue to spin. Got down OK.
When I crossed over the North Branch, I knew I had found it. Stopped at three places in the one and a half mile section mentioned on the claimants report. All bad news. First, I see a large sand bank on the far side of the creek. I have only seen one other like this in Pennsylvania. That one was on the West Branch of Susquehanna. Thoughts of Myrtle Beach South Carolina come to mind. (my favorite place) I descend about thirty feet in elevation to the creek bank. Hemlock Trees dominate the area. From the first spot I can see three fallen tree portages down from here, and two upstream. Water level is "L". It is too far up the mountain at 7.6 miles to the river. Notice that the soil has a high percentage of sand in it. Notice that each bend shows sign of undercutting or caving in. Thats how those Hemlocks get into the creek. At one place checked I was about to walk further downstream when I observed a parallel fisure in the bank. To step on that part would mean an instant wet bath. Noticed that on the straight parts which are few, that undercutting was occuring also. Checked it from the bridge which is the end point of potential launch according to the filed report. The writer fairly stated that there were numerous fallen trees to deal with. Even if the water was at "M" or "M-H" up here, there would still be a fallen tree problem to boating it. Consulted the atlas, and there is no other place to get to this creek between here and the river. It is the kind of place one may do once but they will never go there twice. This is too close to where the water comes out of the earth. Took pictures be back up my assessment. I'm out of here. -Bill