Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter Stinks!..........In my opinion.

Winter is only slightly more than a month old and I'm already sick of it. I don't ski or snowboard and even if I wanted to go snow tubing I couldn't right now. Recovery from a recent knee surgery isn't going as quickly as I would like, probably because I'm not following the doctor's instructions like I should. Going to rehab three times a week for six weeks isn't really an option with my work schedule. I could, however, paddle my kayak with no problem. I know it would do wonders to rehab my mental state right now. I mentioned to Robbin this past Saturday, that it looked like the water level was up on the Kiski River and Buffalo Creek was no longer frozen. Her response to my observations was, "Don't even think about putting that kayak in the water, you'll get wet and die of hypothermia!", then she threatened me with bodily injury if I didn't put the thought out of my head immediately. Although I took her threats seriously, the reason I didn't go was because I haven't got around to buying any waterproof pants yet and I always manage to get my legs wet somehow........Yeah, yeah........ that's the reason.

I'm also dying to try out the new GPS unit that Robbin got me for Christmas. I guess all the hinting I did about how nice it would be to know how far we paddled paid off. It's a Garmin eTrex Venture HC which is plenty of GPS for the type of paddling we do. I can create a track log and upload it on to the MotionBased website. MotionBased will map it and create a trip log. So far though, the only track logs I've created consist of walks around Vandergrift with my dogs, and I don't need to put those on a map to see where I was.

I've added some photos to this post, of a short trip Robbin and I took down the Kiski River from Vandergrift to Leechburg this past summer. Maybe they won't make this post seem so whiny. Here's to an early Spring!

This tree grows straight out of the river bank.

It extends probably 30 to 40 feet out over the river.

This small green heron was very patient while I got into a position to take a picture.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How We Got Hooked - Our First Trip Down The Kiski - June, 2009

I hadn't been a canoe for twenty years. The last time I had paddled anything was when I got the bright idea to rent a canoe at Crooked Creek Lake. I thought it would be a great way to spend some quality family time. As it turned out neither Robbin nor my son, Jeremy, thought it was much fun. Both would have much rather stayed at the swimming beach and they reminded me of that fact every five minutes for the entire hour that we had the canoe rented. Robbin swore that would be the first and last time she would be in a boat that didn't have an engine attached to it. I was understandably shock then, when friends suggested that we rent kayaks and take a trip down the Kiski River and my wife said, "That sounds like fun, we're in."

Our friends Rick and Rose and their daughter Kelly and her boyfriend Scott met us at The River's Edge, just outside of Leechburg. It's a canoe and kayak rental business owned by Neill and Evelyn Andritz. They are a really nice couple and are very knowledgeable about the Kiski River. We were supplied with all the necessary equipment for our day long journey. The kayaks were loaded and we piled into their van for the trip to our starting point in Avonmore. The guy who drove the van was also very knowledgeable and told some great stories.

We had no problem launching the kayaks. They were sit-on-top tandem kayaks and were extremely stable and easy to paddle. We started out on our journey and this is when I learned the first of four valuable lessons. #1. Paddle down stream if you want to get to your destination. The river at the Avonmore boat launch is wide and doesn't have much current. We paddled about a hundred yards upstream before someone yelled to tells us we were going the wrong way.

After we got headed in the right direction the trip was beautiful. The day was bright and clear, the water was warm, and the river level was high enough that there weren't a lot of shallow spots to get stuck on. I was surprised that you couldn't see more signs of civilization along the river bank. When you're on the river it seems very remote. We even saw a bear swim across the river near Roaring Run. Robbin and I paddled as hard as we could to get close enough to take a picture, but we found out that bears are very fast swimmers. It made it to the other side before we could get a shot.

There are a lot of big rocks that jut out of the banks and into the river. We stopped on one of these rocks to take a break and eat some lunch. It was a very warm day so I walked a little ways into the river to cool off. This is where I learned my second lesson. #2. The rocks on the bottom of the river are very slippery. I lost my footing and in I went. It felt really good though.

The rest of the trip went smoothly, at least for Rick and Rose, and Robbin and I (Kelly and Scott had a small equipment malfunction that I'll get into later). We had a great day taking in the scenery, laughing and talking the whole way. We paddled from Avonmore back to The River's Edge. The total distance was twelve miles and the trip took us about seven hours to complete. I wouldn't recommend taking that long of a trip your first time though. We felt really good until we got to about Vandergrift, then we started to get really tired. We didn't think we had far to go to reach The River's Edge from that point, but it ended up being a lot farther than we thought. We lost Kelly and Scott along this leg of the trip.
It was when we got to our take out point that I learned my third lesson. #3. Remove the kayak's drain plug and remove the water before trying to carry the kayak. A tandem kayak is heavy, and when it has water in it, it becomes really heavy. The take out area at The River's Edge wasn't completed yet, so you had to walk up a steep road from the river to their parking area. It was a struggle for us to carry the kayaks up that hill. After the fact we were reminded by the Andritzs' that if we would have called and told them we were approaching the take out area, they would have come and got the kayaks (Remember the instructions they give you before you start your journey).

Kelly and Scott were still no where in sight when we goAdd Imaget the kayaks up to the top. Rick and Rose told us to go ahead a leave and they would wait for them. As it turned, out the kayak Kelly and Scott were in must have had a small crack in it's bottom. It slowly filled with water between the inner and outer layers and by the time they got to the take out area, Kelly was sitting in the air in the front and Scott was sitting in the water in the back. They were almost an hour behind us and couldn't call because their phone got wet and quit working.

It wasn't until a little later in the day that I learned my fourth and most important lesson. #4. Always wear sunscreen when you're on the river, especially if you're paddling a sit-on-top kayak. That was a really stupid mistake. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was June, and we were exposed to the sun all day. I was burnt so badly that I felt like my skin was going to burst. Rick was burnt even worse and ended up at the doctors. Always wear sunscreen!!!
After the pain and itching stopped and we had a chance to reflect on our adventure, we were hooked on kayaking and in love with the Kiski River. I would recommend this trip to anyone, but if it's your first experience, end your trip at Roaring Run. I also recommend renting your equipment from the Andritzs' at The Rivers Edge. They are very friendly and take the time to explain everything and answer any questions you may have. They are very knowledgable about the Kiski because they have made a lot of trips down the river themselves. They have a website. Check it out and give the river a try.