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

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