Sunday, August 28, 2011

#15 Report: Spring Brook, April 8th,2011

Saturday April 8th: It rained hard last night.Left home at 5:00AM. Got breakfast at Tamaqua Diner. Going north out of town I noticed M-H water in the degree III section of Little Schuylkill River. Saw one fisherman by the river. Reach Moosic, PA. and continue east on Rt.502 to view it on the way up to Nesbitt Reservoir. Stopped and checked it from three road bridges. Water is running at a passable M level. No fishermen. Must not be a fishing stream. Heavy rain last night might have something to do with their absence. At Nesbitt Reservoir there is a serious "no trespassing" sign which tells readers to report any suspicious activity to the police. Their phone number is on the sign. Wow! I never saw a sign like this before. Men were working near the dam so I did not drive into the dam breast. Could not see if water was running over the breast works. Sometimes all water is held back to fill the impoundment pool. Experienced this on Springton Reservoir on Crumb Creek and the reservoir on Evitts Creek. On both of those places after heavy rain, there was none to float on below the dam. This happens after a long dry spell.
Do a U-turn and continue downstream. Stop at the Intake Reservoir. There is another of those specially made signs there. Took pictures of both signs. Water is running over the breast works here, so the lower reservoir is full. Made several stops below here. Everything has special posted signs on it. At the first stop I had driven in on what turned out to be a private driveway which looked at first like a road. Not a good place to enter. Backed out after checking the creek.
Next stop was by a private bridge which again was heavily posted. Both banks through here are laid stone and appear to have been straightened. I had seen a "federal improvement" sign along this road when I first came here. From here down it looks like a channeled creek. Continue down and stop at a piece of grass between the road and the creek. No house on this side at this point. Walked in to look at it. Again a special "no trespassing" sign. I dwelled here a long time to see if anyone would come out and question me on my being here. There are residents on the other side of the road. It would be tough getting down these laid stone banks which are about a 45 degree slope.
Continue downstream and stop a the fifth bridge from the Lacawanna River. It looks like one could enter the creek here, but I noticed that the water is spread very thin over a wide cobble bed. It has dropped some since I got here an hour ago. This bridge is 2.7 miles from the mouth of the creek. Three miles is normally considered a minumum length for a run. Anything less than that had better be very nice to make the logistics of shuttle, preparation, and entry worth the effort.It would take longer to set up than it would to do the run. This looks like degree II-III whitewater here.
Further down, at the fourth bridge from the mouth,looking upstream about a quarter mile, I can see a rapids of greater difficulty by a railroad bridge. The water here is just passable. Entry at the third bridge from the mouth is a bit more private and some fencing through here restricts entry. This is where the large federal sign states that this is an improvement creek project. Brown painted sign with white lettering.
The view upstream from the second bridge from the river, shows a floodwall which starts as far up as I can see- about a quarter mile. The bed is flat cement and the walls are sloped at a 45 degree angle up to 25 or 30 feet in height. The entire section is fenced in on both sides at the top of the walls. The fence is four feet high chain link type. The view downstream shows that the walls become vertical to the same height. When you see something like this you have to know what you will encounter all the way though as there is no way out except forward.
At the first bridge before the river there is construction going on and it is closed to traffic. I believe this is called Eight Street. The view up and down the creek is vertical walls. The end of the cement works is visible about 200 yards downstream. At that point laid stone banks resume just before entering the Lacawanna River. Two local people were inspecting the bridge work. After getting my pictures, I went over to talk to them. I asked if they ever see canoes or kayaks go through here? Both said boats don't come through here. They said the water was at normal flow right now because of the rain.One said that if the water was a foot higher right now there might not be enough clearance to boat under the construction being done on the underside. I cannot get up or down stream to check on this because everything is very fenced in. I told them I was checking Spring Brook because it was listed as canoeable. Both said the Lacawanna was a better place to go.
Finally I pulled into a parking lot to analyze my findings and look at the topo map. Nearest point one could attempt to run the creek is at the 2.7 mile mark. Cities with floodwalls are putting in ordinances to prevent boating or tubing the floodways. I don't know if Moosic has such a law yet, but they will at some point. They seem to be fencing in big time as a preventive measure. The water has dropped in the one and a half hours that I have been here. This may be optical illusion as the bed has been made wider causing the water to be spread thin. I am sure if both reservoirs were full there would be sufficient flow 24 hours after rain. How does one determine that without trespassing. It would be a hit or miss to assume a wet season would provide good water. There is too much channeling and cement floodwalls. All distances considered, there is two miles of half natural water travel here. It is easier to write this place off than to look over your shoulder at the possibility of trespassing problems.
This ends my last pursuit of possible little creeks that others placed claims on. Since only 17 more claims of "canoeable waters" have been filed in the last eleven years-since 2000,when I last reported creeks to guide books, I am reasonably sure that there are no others out there unclaimed. I sold the H2Pro when I got home and I am now retiring my paddle. I hope those of you in canoesport gained something from all of the scribbling in my log book. I will let this blog run for six more months before terminating it. After all, history is history! Clean waters and clear skies to all of you. - William V. McNaull

Monday, August 22, 2011

#14 Monday April 4th,2011, Smeltport

Monday April 4th: Up at 5:00AM. Catch the news and weather. Temperature is expected to go to the fifties today and thunderstorms expected at some point. Must get a move on early as possible on Marvin Creek. Breakfast at 6:00AM. The diner starts to fill up with workers. Mostly gas company people. Gas industry is good for the economy out here.
On the way back to motel I traced the route I would be taking with the MC. This takes me by the dam I will have to portage. It is still dark but it is clear enough to see details. Got into wetsuit and check out of motel. Drop the MC at the Rt.6 bridge over Potato Creek. Marvin Creek enters this creek just upstream of here.Downstream side-creek left, I chained the MC to a sign post by bridge guard rail. Again, I trace the route I will take back to avoid town center. Got a better view of the lake that I will enter before reaching the dam. A beautiful park setting.
It is over cast gray sky, no wind, and no rain yet. Very warm. Drive west on Rt.6. The creek looks good from places where I can see it. Turn right on Kasson Road. The claim says to "pick the best of two road bridges" Both branches come together half mile below here. First bridge is too small of a creek. Second bridge looks very good.Cross bridge and make a U-turn. Consider where to launch. Too steep on creek-left. The best put-in would be on a farmers field on creek right. Cross bridge and drive 400 feet to farmers house. Ask permission to enter creek. He says "that is alright" I say it looks like he is cutting wood there. Should I park further up from there? He says he is not going to cut today. To show concern for the land owners plans is important in order to keep the good will going for future paddlers. Think about that if you are a paddler.
     This place is 7.0 miles by road using the shortest route, so it has to be more than the stated 5.0 miles by creek. It is 42 degrees. Warmest it has been in my travels this year. Sweating in my wetsuit. Used caution going through the farmers fence. This is an easy put-in. Water level is M-H into the average grass line. Wow! this creek is nice. Bend after bend after bend unobstructed. It is a brushy bank creek. No big trees or very few near the water. Had launched at 7:45AM. Only four or five fallen trees to portage in the entire run. It is constant right and left bends all the way. Saw deer and a turkey at the creek bank. A canoe moves silently and I try to not touch the gunnel with the paddle.
Arrive at a more open area just upstream of Rt.6 bridge. Enter the park-like setting around the lake. Strike a straight line to reach the dam. It starts to pour rain in buckets! A police car goes by. Probably wondering what that nut is doing out there. Pull out on a nice grass bank on the right side of the dam. Found a place with safe footing to lower the canoe down with the 12 foot stern painter. Climb down and lower it the remainder of the way again using the painter. The water is swift flowing leading away from the dam so I got a good start launching under the road bridge. Marvin Creek is channeled from here to its junction with Potato Creek, a distance of three quarters of a mile.
Go ashore at the take-out on creek left. It is 10:30AM. Two hours and fourty five minutes. I was really moving down this creek. It is definitely longer than five miles. Must calculate on the topo to get a better figure. It stopped raining. Chain canoe to guard rail and get moving on the MC to get my truck. It was a very cold ride to Kasson Road even at 42 degrees without that helmet. I will be lucky if I don't wind up with a bad head cold after all of this. It did not rain while riding back for the truck. Load MC and return for the canoe.
It starts to rain very hard with thunder and lightning. I parked on the side of Rt.6 and sat out the worst of it. Lightning is popping all around me. In about half an hour it lets up a bit. I got out and quickly loaded everything. Turn the truck around and head east on Rt.6, then south on Rt.46. Found a wide pull-off area to get out of this wetsuit. Competed this on the passenger side seat. This Dodge has good leg room at the seats. It is raining hard again. Head for home. South of Emporium on Rt.120, I remembered an area where the speed limit is down graded to 45 mph.I got a speeding ticket here years ago. Sure enough, a cop is sitting in this zone today. It is the only place in a very long wilderness distance where the speed limit is lowered for no obvious reason.
At home doing review work on the topo, I calculate the bends on Marvin Creek make it 12 miles long, with seven miles of road distance. This is the end of my western Pennsylvania water search. One more creek in the northeast near Moosic,PA. has to be checked on a future week. Next weekend fish season starts, so it won't be that weekend. I can follow the weather radar map easier in the eastern part of the state, so I can  pick a good time to run Spring Brook. I am sure I can get this one even as late as May, if it takes that long. I put the Mohawk Challenger up for sale in my front yard as I had told Izzie I would when I completed my goal. It sold in two days. Spring Brook is a degree IV whitewater run, so I will use the Old Town H2Pro model for that.
Got to thinking about Spring Brook. I usually scout degree IV as much as possible before running. I have been studying the "Avoca" topo map. There are numerous houses along Rt.502 by the creek. Getting access could be a problem. This creek is listed in the AWA list as 7.2 miles canoeable. That claim must have been filed before the incident of 911, because reserviors are now off limits for boating. Nesbitt and Spring Brook Intake reserviors are upstream of the 4.3 mile point, so half of the claim is now void. At home I am itchy to get moving, so why not run up there and find out where the fishermen access the creek. No canoeing, just scouting. If the fishermen can get in a canoe should be able to. -Bill

Monday, August 15, 2011

#13 Report: Sunday, April 3rd, Sheffield,PA.

From Sheffield, I headed east on Rt.6 and turned left at Ludlow to reach the take-out point of the South Branch of Kinzua Creek. Turned left onto Rt.321 and drove over the Kinzua Lake bridge to check on a best place to exit the creek. North side of the bridge is too high up and a steep climb, so the road into the south side must be the best place. Turn right and go down to a turn around spot. Stop and walk in a ways to view the area. This is it. I'll need the plywood to exit onto the mud here. The lake has been drained down from its winter high. Chained the MC to a sign post which is the only thing around to hook it to. Left a "return" note on it and proceed out of here.
This time I have my odometer set to locate the five mile point the claimant says it is canoeable from. I found a larger parking area and a gated road access. This must be it. The water level looks good from up here, so I did not waste any time unloading and dragging the Mohawk down the grass to the creek.It is mid afternoon and I figure that I still have one and a half hours to complete this before three o'clock. Water is M-H level. Launch on creek left- downstream side of bridge.
Some large tree piles to portage, but am making good time on the water. Snow on the banks make it slippery, but the canoe slides easily. Numerous fallen trees of all kinds, but mostly Hemlocks. At one point I was going to skim by on the left by a fallen maple. The branch was one inch in diameter and I figured that it would break off, or I'll grab it if it comes over the bow. I stuck it and it held! This is called loading the sling shot! It stopped my forward movement and at the same moment the swift current wipped the stern around, dumping me into two feet of cold water. I quickly reacted to prevent the boat from being sucked under the branch. The stern went under it, but fortunately for me the water was shallow enough for me to stand and stop its movement. Damn it! A bad decision on my part. I checked my plastic wrapped hearing aid and keys in my dry top. All are OK. Must be more careful on approach to these trees. Cuss my bad decision. Luckily, I did not lose my spare paddle which was not tied in.
At one area the creek splits in three directions. I stopped and tried to get a better look from a higher point to find the lowest side in the distance. The view is hampered by Hemlocks, so this is a tough decision. Proceed in on the middle section hoping the way will become known to me. Usually all water eventually feeds to the lower side. I remembered seeing this braided section on the topo map. This is the larger of two that I will have to find my way through. Wow! to get through, I have to shove the canoe up and over a tree five feet above the water. The under side of it is completely blocked. It is a good thing I got a surprise bath back there. It makes me more cautious. This is a dangerous under current situation. I pondered another way around but there is no option, so get on with it.I am glad this water is not any deeper. This maneuver would be imposible to make. I would have to back out and try another route. Got the canoe up onto the first tree, then climbed up myself. Slid the canoe forward onto a second lower tree then got over to it and from that point I am safe to enter the water again. After a quarter mile of this, I can see the creek becoming mainstream again.
Two miles down, the second braided section was a lot easier. As I am coming out the mouth onto a widening body of the lake, I see an suv wagon up on the cliff road on the far side of the lake just sitting there. I figure it could be a fish warden looking for poachers. Probably checking me out. When the south branch meets the main branch of the same creek, I noticed that the suv has turned around and now the drivers side is facing me. It is too far away to see the driver. Figure that I'll meet this guy at the take-out.
Paddle under Rt.321 bridge and into a small narrowing bay on the left. Soft mud! Go figure; I left the plywood behind in my rush to get started. I drove the canoe in hard and fast. Mud here is thicker and deeper than Coon Creek. My spare paddle is a whitewater type with a "T grip" handle. I walk forward in the center of the canoe then place the single blade paddle down on the mud with the bade end so that I can step out onto it. When I stepped out  it sank two inches. the T grip kept it from sliding back as I walked forward on the shaft. Then I leaped to firmer mud and dragged the canoe in. Pryed the paddle out of the mud with the double blade paddle.
The suv is still sitting up there. He must have good binoculars. Snap the canoe day bag to my PFD waist band and tuck the two paddles into the boat. Shoulder the canoe for the quarter mile portage to the MC at the turn-around area. It has been getting a lot colder these last two hours. Riding back for the truck I near froze my head off. Had a knit hat on too. Tried to drive slow, but that does not help either. Damn that helmet thief! Got a cold eyeball for the second time. Needed the face shield. Loaded the MC on the truck and head back for canoe. Got some relief by placing my palm over my eye as I drove. Truck heater feels good. Reach the take-out area and get out of wetsuit with the truck heater going full blast.Outside temperature is 36 degrees.Load up and head out of here.
My plan was to find a motel in Kane, but on second thought I can make it to Smeltport in order to be closer to Marvin Creek tomorrow. Good planning. Check into Smeltport Motel which is the only one in town. I was here 15 years ago. Nothing has changed except the manager. Ask about a public phone? There are none left. Ask about Walmart of Kmart? None of those either.Explain that I have a need to report home that I am off the creek without any problems. Manager says to use her cell phone.She punches in the number. I report home that I am ok. I gave the manager $5 for her help. She refuses , but I insist. Then I get the same story about buying a cell phone at Walmart for $40. I explain that I have trouble hearing on them. She recomends the Court House Restaurant in the center of town as a good place to eat dinner. It was very good. They do not open for breakfast, so a diner at the east end of town is recomended. Went back to the motel. The place is filled up! They are doing a booming business with gas company workers. I was lucky to get here early enough. I would not want to sleep in my truck. Reviewed the topo map of Marvin Creek. Studied the dam portage and the put-in location. I am ready for tomorrow. -Bill

Monday, August 8, 2011

#12 Report: Coon Creek on Sunday

After a good breakfast at Jet Sky Restaurant, I decided to back the truck over by a grove of pine trees to have some privacy changing into my wetsuit.This is as good a place as any. Head east on Rt.36 and turn left on S.R.2006. There is an inch and a half of snow on this road. I see one down grade ahead of me, so I stopped the truck and walked down to check out the hill. I reached the point where I could see to the bottom of the slope. It is OK. One truck has been through here before me this morning and left a wide tire track. I have never forgotten that uncontrolled slide down an icy hill entering Sandy Creek years ago. Back to the truck and drove slowly in first gear incase things get out of hand. Made it to the bottom and a ways further I turned left around the barricade to descend to Nebraska Bridge. I hope this snow melts before I have to ride the MC on it.
Chain the MC to the sign post and continue back up out of there to turn left on Golinza Road. Arrive at the previously mentioned put-in at Golinza Bridge. Park the truck facing up-slope on the state game lands road. Unload the Mohawk and slide it through a gap in the guard rails and line it down a steep bank through briars to the waters edge. This is the upstream-creek left side of the bridge, which seemed to be the best launch point. Take a moment to reflect in the beauty of nature and to compose myself. Shove off and the creek carries the boat forward. This is remote wilderness. No trees to climb over this morning. Water level is M-H, into average grass line. Again, I did not see any wildlife. That is strange in a place like this. No difficulties to mention. Paddle out of the forest onto an open lake. Round a bend to the left and take out on a mud bank 100 yards before the bridge. This was 6.0 miles of good canoe water. Drag the canoe up to the brush area, then shoulder it another 200 yards to chain it to a guard rail along a rill which drains water to the lake. From here I walk up another 150 yards to the MC. I have a knit hat to wear and gloves. It looks like the snow has melted off of the road.
It was a cold ride back for the truck. I miss that helmet. Got back OK and loaded the MC on the rack. Head back for the canoe. Compete that, then head back over Golinza Road. Cross over the bridge where I started this morning and continue to check out the claimed headwater point of Coon Creek. Claimant says to launch from S.R.2007 bridge, which is Muzette Road, and launch onto a private pond . Paddle down the pond, portage the dam, launch again onto Elsworth Run which leads to Coon Creek. Obviously this is too far into the headwaters, with a trespassing risk as well.The public cannot be directed to cross private property in any reports to be published about canoeing.
Watching each bend on the atlas as I am driving, I near Muzette Road. Pass a road that should be it, but it is called Wards Ranch Road. Continue on and notice elevation changes among other things which are differernt from the atlas. Stop, turn around and head back. Wards Ranch Road must be it. Turn left and topagraphy looks OK. After a ways I see Elsworth Run down the slope on my right through the forest. Arrive at S.R.2007 bridge. The pond had been drained probably three or four years ago. Brush is growing in the bed of it. The rill flowing under this bridge is 5 or 6 feet wide and lacks sufficent water to attempt a float out of here. I can see the land owners beautiful house on a bluff over looking this area from about a quarter of a mile away. It is pure speculation as to why the pond had been drained. Maybe the state said the dam was old, or maybe the owner had no further use for it. This is no place to launch a canoe, so I get my pictures to back up my accessment. Drive back out of here. This is a two lane wide clay road. Gas company work for sure. Could see areas where possible development was in process. Clay roads are very smooth and can be very slick if you attempt to stop in a hurry. Turn right on Oak Woods Road and continue east to Marienville on Rt.66.
Drive out to Shefield to East Branch of Tionesta Creek. Turn off of Rt.666 onto Rt.948 and drive about one mile to Donaldson where East Branch joins the larger South Branch of Tionesta Creek. The East Branch is small, but passable at its mouth. It is 25 feet wide here. The road I was hoping to use along it is private and heavily posted. Someone has attempted to destroy the main posted sign and other signs have been added around it. This is not good. I checked the topo map of this area. There are 21 oil wells showing on this piece of road which loops around through the forest. There must be more of them on the "Ludlow" topo map which I do not have. I had hoped to drive up to the three mile point and paddle down. The next public road access is nine miles by creek from here on Forest Hwy#133. Nine miles further up this branch would be too small. Hemlocks are a fifty fifty mix among the hardwoods here. I don't like that either. Took pictures of the damaged signs. I'm out of here.
Head north on Rt.948 to Shefield. Two Mile Creek enters South Branch of Tionesta Creek on the south side of town. Stopped to look at the mouth. It is small and splits into two channels five feet wide at this bridge. Continued checking it at a few places east of town. It flows in a corrected channel through town.Basically straight forward to accomodate industry. Brushy, but not meeting in the middle of its fifteen foot width.Checked it a few more times before I got to the three mile minimum length point. It has numerous fallen trees down. From the three mile vantage point, I can see three fallen trees and debris piles that would have to be portaged in the 200 feet of stream visible. The channeled area extends up one mile from the mouth at which point the creek becomes a natural flowing brook. If I can't justify three miles, I certainly would not attempt it from a long ways further up. Got more pictures of all areas and I am on the road for Kinzua Lake. These two creeks have been run from a point too close to the source. If you would ask those paddlers if they would do it again, the answer would be "no". I am sure that three miles could be done on East Branch of Tionesta Creek if one could obtain permission to use that private road. It would take half a day to locate that person, so it is best not to trespass against that many signs. -Bill

Monday, August 1, 2011

#11 Report: Afternoon researdh for tomorrow

Drive back out from Hemlock Creek headwaters and turn right to go to Coon Creek. Take the shortest route to Golinza Bridge, which is through state game lands on a gravel road.Coon Creek is running a good M level.It is about 40 feet wide here and looks good upstream of here also. This is the last public access for seven miles up into the valley. It will turn out to be too small and too private at Muzzette Road. When you do enough of these little places you get a feel for what you see, so I am not concerned about checking that today. The stream map shows two rills and one run coming together to form the claimed headwater point.
Drove down to Nebraska Bridge to check the take-out point on the lake. Tionesta Lake level has been lowered of all water held back for flood control purposes. A mud layer is all that remains to show the high water mark over the winter. I did not venture too far onto the mud on the paved road leading to the bridge. I do want to get out of here. Walk down 200 yards to look at the banks where I plan to take-out tomorrow. Notice that the mud has stones sticking out of it. Thats good! No quick sand- like exit. The bridge has cement barricades blocking passage of it. Piecse of tree and debris have collected in its structure over the winter. No ice on the lake or the shoreline either. I won't need that sheet of plywood to exit on the mud. I'll plan on leaving the MC chained to the entry sign post about a quarter mile up from here.
Left the area and went to the town of Tionesta for a motel. Eagle Rock Motel, who was my area contact, is still closed for the season. I drove out of there and enroute to another one I stopped at two places to phone home. No public phones! Got bannas at a convenience store. Need potassium. Again, no public phones. I ask at the hardware store. There are none in this town. Wow! times have changed. Figure I will use the motel phone. Check in at the Mid Town Motel. No phone in the room. Went back to the manager and told her about a serious need to report home that I am off of the creks and OK. Ask her to use my calling card and pin number to make the call. She puts the numbers through and the operator says that they do not recognize the unkown card vendor. Jesus! Manager lends me her phone to try again. Same damn message! Where is this town? Lower Slobodia? Got an idea. Drove to convience store and ask young girl clerk if she would put a call through on her cell phone for $10.00? She processed the call, and I report all is OK out here. It is 6:00PM. Two hours beyond earliest report time. I tell wife to avoid the panic button. I will attempt to get calls through earlier.
Now to get a shower and clean up of mud. Found Jet Sky Diner on top of the mountain. Had a good dinner. Waitress says they open at 8:00AM on Sundays.That is late for me. No other restaurants in town are open for season yet. Tommorow will be a late start. Sunday I am at the Jet Sky at 7:45AM. Got another inch of snow last night. Roads wet, but clear. While waiting, I see one lone deer feding its way across the field next to the restaurant. The only wildlife that I have seen so far out here.