Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Loyalhanna Lake - October 21

This post about Loyalhanna Lake is in memory of my uncle, Rich Lowes. He was much more than my uncle, he was also my mentor and my friend. He taught me a lot about enjoying your family and about enjoying life's simple pleasures. He gave me good advice that I still use today. We spent a lot of time together at Loyalhanna Lake, so this place is very special to me. When I was a teen, Rich and I would paddle a canoe up Loyalhanna Creek then slowly drift back downstream, fishing and talking. He also owned a boat and our families would spend a lot of weekends together at Loyalhanna watersking and tubing. He once told me something that I remembered when we were thinking of buying our kayaks. He said,"Some people think that I'm crazy for buying this boat. They don't think twice about spending more than I paid for this boat on a vacation at the beach, though. They'll drive for hours, stay for a week or two, and when that time is up their vacation is over for the year. I'm on vacation every time I put my boat in the water. I drive 15 minutes and all it costs me is a little money for gas. Who's the crazy one?" Paddling around a place like Loyalhanna is like being on vacation for me. You can put the rest of the world on a shelf for a little while and just relax and soak up the sights and sounds of nature.

My Uncle Rich tried to teach my then 6 year old son, Jeremy, how to water ski. Jeremy wasn't quite strong enough to hold on to the handle as the boat pulled him up. Loyalhanna-1986.

Jeremy and I tubing behind my Uncle Rich's boat at Loyalhanna in 1986

My son Jeremy fishing at Loyalhanna in 1987. "What do I do now Dad?"

Loyalhanna Lake in the fall is a beautiful place. The colors in the leaves and rocks are amazing. This was the last paddle of the year for Robbin and I as a team. We both slipped out of work a little early (I probably shouldn't have included that) so we could enjoy an "Indian Summer" evening before the time change. We paddled upsteam on the inflow area of Loyalhanna Creek and lost track of time. It was a high speed trip back to the boat launch area to beat the darkness (I think Robbin was worried we wouldn't be able to find our way back in the dark). Loyalhanna will probably be the first trip we take in the spring. I'm looking forward to paddling further up Loyalhanna Creek to see what's there.

Loyalhanna Lake - October 21 - The Beauty Of Autumn

These images speak for themselves. They were taken at various places around Loyalhanna Lake. Some are from Loyalhanna Creek below the dam, some are from the fishing beach near the dam, some are from a small ravine near the recreational area, and some are from the campground area. There are a lot of beautiful spots all around the lake, if you look for them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time......

My brother-in-law Bob probably isn't going to like this but........we were taking a trip down the Allegheny River from Emlenton to Parker and decided to paddle up the Clarion River. We wanted to stop on one of the large rocks in the river to take a break and have a snack. Bob jumped down from the rock we stopped on, to another large rock. Once he got over to the other rock he realized that he couldn't jump up and across to get back. He didn't want to get wet, so he asked his wife, Donna, to push his kayak over to him. What happened next needs no explanation!

Allegheny River - Emlenton to Parker - August 15 & September 6

We've gone down the Allegheny River from Emlenton to Parker twice now. It's an easy 6 or 7 mile paddle (or float). The first time we went, Robbin and I rented kayaks at Parker's Landing Outfitters and made the journey with Robbin's brother Bob and his wife Donna. The second trip was with the same company, but Robbin and I had our own kayaks by then. The Allegheny is wide but shallow enough that there isn't too much boat traffic. We were able to paddle abreast of one another and talk. Although it's a beautiful area, there isn't too much to explore, just the occasional fallen tree, rock formation, or small island to paddle around. About 4 or 5 miles downstream, the Clarion River empties into the Allegheny. This is where the trip gets interesting. The Allegheny flows pretty fast and when the river level is higher it's really fast. To get into the Clarion you have to make a 90 degree turn, paddle across the strong current, and go under a bridge. As you'll see from the picture below, you have 3 shots to get under the bridge while current is trying to take you down stream (paddle faster Robbin!!). Once we got into the Clarion River, there was hardly any current at all and there are a lot of large rocks where you can stop and take a break. It became tricky again leaving the Clarion. I paddled straight out into the Allegheny and the current hit me so hard that I thought I was going to roll over. Another great part of this trip was finding the little town of Foxburg. It's a mixture of old and new with a great little pizza shop, a winery, an Inn, a nice restaurant, and some interesting little shops. It's worth a visit even if you're not kayaking.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crooked Creek - September 27 & October 4

September 27 was a drizzly day, but all the weather forecasters said that eventually the skies would clear. I really wanted to get the kayaks out, so I spent most of the day looking out the windows, and telling Robbin that I thought the rain was stopping and it was getting brighter out (she thought I was nuts). I got the break that I was looking for at around 4:00, but couldn't convince Robbin that it wasn't going to start pouring rain as soon as we got 100 yards from the boat launch. I was willing to chance it ,and after assuring my wife that I would be careful and I would wear my life jacket, I was off to Crooked Creek. It didn't start raining as soon as I got 100 yards from the boat launch, it waited until I was about a mile away. Fortunately it only rained for a few minutes and I was able to get a good 2 hour paddle in. I turned around to head back just after passing the tree in the third picture below. The combination of the height of the sun shining through the branches, the light conditions, and the mist coming off the water created one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed. The picture doesn't do it justice.

Robbin went with me on the second trip to Crooked Creek. We went in the afternoon, so we decided to paddle back the creek I had been on the week before, to see where it went. The creek narrowed to about 20 feet pretty quickly, and with a sheer rock face on on side and woods on the other, it seemed very remote. We felt like explorers. The only noises we heard were our paddles in the water, the wind, and a very vocal Kingfisher the led us most our journey, but stayed just out of my camera range. We never did figure out where we were and turned around when we thought we might run out of daylight on the way back. We found out where that creek led later in the evening when I looked at a satellite map of the area, online. It parallels the main creek branch but is deeper in the woods. I don't know if it's accessible when the water is low, but it is sure worth the trip when the water level is higher.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Season Ends For Me.....It's Going To Be A Long Winter.

Last Thursday (October 29) was a beautiful, sunny, "Indian Summer" evening. The temperature was in the low 60's, so I decided to get the kayak out for a couple of hours after work. With the upcoming time change making it dark by 5:30 and an imposing home improvement project looming (along with an even more imposing time limit on the project), I figured it may be the last chance to get on the water until spring. When I found out I'd be going solo (the low 60's might as well be the low 30's to Robbin), I loaded up and headed to Crooked Creek. Usually we head upstream to the inflow area, but this trip I decided to go the other direction and check out a small cove where Horney Camp Run empties into the lake (near the beach area). The leaves were past their peak but it was still beautiful. With a lot of the leaves off the trees it enables you to see features that are normally hidden. It also makes it easier to spot wildlife. Every where I looked there were rock formations, deer, herons, woodpeckers, ducks, geese, and some of the ugliest spiders that I've ever seen that spun some of the most perfect webs that I've ever seen. I would have really liked to have shared these sights with you but......I didn't check my camera battery life before I left home! I only took about a half a dozen pictures before the battery died. Oh well, lesson learned. At least I have my memories to hold me until spring :-(

This was the last photo I took before the battery went dead in the camera. I'm still trying to learn all the settings, so I'm always looking for a "photo-op" to practice on. I spied this lure dangling from the branch of a submerged tree and decided to try out the macro setting.