Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Rivers’ category

Tahquamenon Falls

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We explored the lower and upper falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and they are beautiful – like a little Niagara with colors like Pictured Rocks. It rained hard again last night, so the river was rocking. This is a beautiful area you could explore for a long time. There are lots of trails and lots of clear streams to float, but we don’t have a lot of time, and it is supposed to rain hard for the next three days.

Our treat of the day was to go to Brown’s Fish House, famous for freshly caught whitefish. Looking at the small menu, I was torn between yellow perch, walleye or whitefish. The nice waitress said whitefish is fresh and what people come from miles away to get. Whitefish and chips it was, and it was good. With three good-size pieces of fish, it was all I could eat. 

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We drove out to Whitefish Point to see the beach, the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Walking out on the beach, we came up on a young man with a scope and a computer, drinking his coffee next to a tiny hut. It was a chilly, windy day, but he was there to count birds for the Michigan Audubon Society. Martha walked right up and asked what he was doing. His name was Gary, and for 30 minutes he told us about all the birds that come through here. Birds are his passion, and he knows his stuff. The puddle ducks are all gone now, flying south for the winter. That’s why we didn’t see anything at Seney Wildlife Area. Now the diving ducks were just starting to come in. The plovers have all migrated, and so have the hawks. He said thousands of hawks migrate through here. It is such an important spot because birds will stop here after crossing Lake Superior or resting before crossing when coming back north. It’s a relatively narrow part of the lake, so it’s a good place to cross. Unlike so many places, this point has gained about 150 yards of beach, including a good-sized pond. We thanked Gary for his tremendous enthusiasm and sharing his knowledge with us.

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Walking up the beach, several people were collecting smooth, round rocks that line the shore. I took a couple of pictures of the lighthouse that protects shoals that have wrecked many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot describes it well in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

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Lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

And a wave broke over the railing

And every man knew, as the captain did too,

T’was the witch of November come stealin’

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashin’

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya

At seven pm a main hatchway caved in, he said

Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

And the good ship and crew was in peril

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water

And all that remains is the faces and the names

Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, superior sings

In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams

The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

With the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the maritime sailors’ cathedral

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early

Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Hike Brown Bridge Quiet Area

Monday, October 1, 2018

After being on the road for 7 days, it was time to do laundry, so we went to Eastfield Laundry on 8th Street. With good machines, a nice attendant and WIFI, it made our job easy. We had a Reese hitch bolt come out and needed to get that fixed as well. Having replaced it twice myself, I was ready to drill through the box frame and put a bolt in one side, a lock washer and nut on the other, but Martha wanted to take to an Airstream place we saw driving in. I called Airstream of Northern Michigan. A salesman named Greg put me through to Joe, the service manager. Thinking I just needed the right bolt or slightly bigger bolt, he said to come at 2:00. 

We finished up with the laundry, put it away, had some lunch, hooked up and checked out. The Airstream place is called Nature & Me R.V. Greg directed me to service where I met Joe Hooch. We went out to check out the problem, and he called Alan to take a look. These are tapped screws that go in one side of the boxed frame, and Alan said it didn’t work too well. Now they put a brass rivet nut into the hole, acting like a rivet when you tighten the bolt. He noted that the second bolt on that bracket was also stripping, which I knew. Really you should remove both brackets and put in rivet nuts and new bolts. They were busy with winterizing, other jobs and a couple of other travelers like us, so we agreed to come back tomorrow. Joe was very apologetic, but I fully understood. I could see they were very busy. 

We checked back into Traverse City State Park where the staff was really into decorating for Halloween. Arms, hands and legs hung on signs and tried to come out of the ground. Ghosts hung from a fence, and a huge spider scared me in the bathroom. Martha found a hike called Brown Bridge Quiet Area along the Boardman River. It was good to get out and get some exercise. We parked at area #1 and read the sign. Must be getting old, but we couldn’t read the tiny symbols on the little signs. Oh well, you couldn’t get lost in a place like this. Following a ridge line, we headed east toward #2 through the woods. We could barely see the river winding below us. It is an old lakebed that has been drained. Our plan was to walk to a loop to the river at the far end of the lake, turn around and come back for 4.2mi, getting back for cocktail hour

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Those little blue triangles have numbers in them

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When we finally reached the river, I was so happy to see this beautiful river and take some pictures, we took a wrong turn and crossed the river over a bridge. There were side trails in a lot of places, especially along the river where people fish or just walk along it. Then that little sign was so small and hard to read. We didn’t realize what we had done until we got to marker #6. Finally I took a picture of the map with my phone and expanded it so we could see the tiny numbers. Well it wouldn’t be that much further, and it was much prettier following the river. It would be a great float through here although a bit chilly today. I wondered at the map whether there was another bridge at the other end of the old lake. By the time we had walked 8 miles and crossed the dam, we arrived at the bridgeless Boardman. I certainly wasn’t walking back, but Martha was hesitant to walk across. It was supposed to start raining any time and the sky looked like it. The river is shallow at that point, 2-3ft, and not running too hard, but it was a cool, cloudy 50 degrees, and I had on blue jeans, cotton socks and hiking shoes. We held hands and walked across, up the hill to the road and back to the truck. We shed the wet shoes and socks. Martha’s hiking pants dried quickly, but jeans won’t dry for a very long time. Fortunately it was only a 20-minute drive back to the campground. A hot shower felt good.

Scouting Betsie and Platte Rivers

Thursday, September 27, 2018

It was a chilly, blustery morning with dark, fast-moving clouds. The Platte River is a perfect river for us to kayak, so we went to check it out. It is a beautiful, free-flowing, clear stream that travels 26 miles into Lake Michigan in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. The trouble is the salmon are running and the river is lined with fishermen. We met a nice young couple locking their bicycles to a tree so they could ride back to their truck after kayaking. He said he grew up here and the fishermen are used to kayakers, and you just try to stay out of their way. We talked with two fishermen who had been roommates in college. Now in their late 50’s maybe, they had been here three days and were heading home. Seeing my camera, they suggested going to the weir where we would see Coho salmon jumping up the rapids and weir. 

I love to watch the salmon run, so we drove to Benzonia, took a left at the McDonalds and followed signs for the Betsie River Dam. Above and below the dam, fishermen lined the stream. Somehow hundreds of salmon ran the gauntlet, rested holes and then jumped the steps up the dam. Not always successful, they would just miss the top and get washed back down. Some jumped sideways and some backwards.

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At check-in, the ranger said it might be better to float the Betsie River, so we drove some crazy roads to check it out. It is a much longer river, and also beautiful. Put-ins and take-outs are a little more remote. Since we don’t have two cars, we were hesitant to float it. I’m sure there are people who will take you and pick you up, or even guide you. This is a beautiful river winding through varied terrains flowing with a pretty good pace (3-4mph).

Middle Fork Salmon River, Sunday

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sipping coffee, I watched these amazing kids carry their heavy bags, sleeping bags, day bags and water bottles to the boats. By now everyone had the routine down. Too bad it’s the last day with two of the biggest rapids. Ron got into the boat with Ty. It was the only day he didn’t fish. Hmmm, how big were these rapids? Apparently they are below the junction of the Main Salmon with the Middle Fork, or what they call the Main and the Middle. Why would it surprise me that Sarah, Llydia and all the girls were in the paddle boat with Bob and Dog. As we came to a gorgeous spot that reminded me of Half Dome in Yosemite, I asked Ty for my Nikon, which I had kept in a Pelican case when we were on the water, only taking it out mornings, evenings and some lunches. I found if I strapped the cast to the bed pad I was sitting on, I could get to it quickly, then put it back in rapids. Geez, it took 6 days to figure that out! By the time I got it sorted out, we were passing the photo opportunity. Next time I will know better. 2020, God willing.

Then Ty said, “There’s the road.” Damn! Civilization! I looked back at the paddle boat behind us as we entered the second worst rapid on the river. Was that Llydia riding on the front of the paddle boat???? “The Bronco Seat”, Ron said. They were too far back to get a good look, but then we came to the second rapid. With the camera strapped down, I got on the floor and grabbed the rope. Ty handled it expertly as all the guides had done the entire week. We eddied out the watch the paddle boat in case something happened. There was a dark-haired girl in the Bronco Seat now, with a GpPro on her head. Sarah! The story goes she asked her parents if she could sit in the Bronco Seat for this rapid. Her father, Chris, said, “We all make decisions Sarah.” Her mother said, “Good luck” as they kept fishing. These girls are my heroes, and they were from the first day! As the boat floats past, Sarah just flashes that beautiful smile.

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There was a great lunch at the landing. Jess was there. I had a great talk with Carla, who helps with driving, loading and whatever else is needed. She told the story of riding a bike across the country from the Oregon coast to Virginia in the 70’s. She talked about the roads, the difficulties, but mostly the people she met, and the generosity of them. As I have seen time and time again, the adventure is one thing, but the people we meet make it special. That is certainly the case on this trip.

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We loaded on a very nice bus for a one-hour drive to where Ron had his car shuttled. I could easily have fallen asleep, but the entire drive followed the Main Salmon River. It was too pretty to sleep, and I shot a few pictures out the window.

Group photoOur group

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Here’s to you, all my new friends. That FireBall is darned good! Thanks for sharing!

Middle Fork Salmon River, Saturday

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Trying to define the way Cartwheel Bob came down the mountain last night, Steve asked Sarah and Llydia to demonstrate handstands and cartwheels. The crowd voted it was more cartwheel.

I got in the boat with Steven with Brian in the front fishing. Many had said their favorite day was the 5th, and now I see why. Early on we stopped at an incredible, ancient cave overlooking the river. A perfect, grassy area was in the front for a perfect camp. Pictographs were all over the cave. Probably used for thousands of years as a major camp, I can only imagine the stories that went around those campfires. Back down the rocky climb, Tristan, Tanner, AJ and Steven were jumping onto a big rock and then doing flips into the river.

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The next stop was a hike up to a brilliant little waterfall tumbling over the wall of a blind canyon. This was the home of a man who died in the 1930’s. He was one of many who enjoyed the beauty and solitary lifestyle. He had a tiny cabin beside the river and a ladder up the cliff wall, which led to an grassy, open area where he built a larger cabin. He had a garden and grazed his animals. Steve had climbed the cliffs to explore in years past. I gazed at the cliffs and imagined climbing it.

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We stopped for lunch next to Big Creek at 11:00. Steve said we could jump off the bridge, which of course the guides and the girls did, and that’s a high bridge. We could hang out, swim or walk up Big Creek. I opted for a walk up Big Creek. I hadn’t gone far before I turned back to get the Nikon camera. What a gorgeous, classic western, clear blue trout stream! Maureen, Cathy and Sharron walked ahead. Steve warned to be careful fishing it, as it is hard to get to sometimes. I found John casting from a rock above the stream. Flowers and berries were everywhere. I kept looking among big rock slides for a rattlesnake, but never saw one. I did find several grouse, and John caught me to point out some sheep. I walked up to a bridge, passing the ladies as they walked back. I later learned that Steve has a 6-day trip to Big Creek. You fly in, then take a horseback ride to a cabin. He said the stream rarely gets fished. Now there’s a trip I would like to take!

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We heard stories about “The Wall”, where Maureen had turned over her kayak last year. That’s why I wasn’t in a kayak and was in the boat with Steven. As we rounded a bend into a long stretch of calm water, I could hear the rapid in the distance. I have learned through the years if there is a big calm area, there is often a big rapid at the other end. As the first boat neared the rapid, Steve yelled, “STAY AWAYYYY FROM THE WALLLL”. Each guide echoed the cry up the river until the paddle boat made some defiant cry I couldn’t understand. The river makes a right-hand turn where the whole force of the river powers its way up against a giant wall. We barely touched it – the only rock we touched the whole trip, with the exception of some shallow rocks we floated over. All the boats eddied out below and beside the rapid. A group was camped across from the rapid, and had obviously been practicing the run through it. Our paddle boat came through like professionals with everyone cheering.

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When we got to camp, we settled into the routine, which entailed finding our tents, rolling out the sleeping bag, finding a headlamp, shaving kit and other essentials. Then to the chairs for cocktail hour…s and so many stories, great stories and lots of laughter. Then Steve began asking “Who was born on the first? The second?” Of course the question came, “What month?” “Doesn’t matter. Who was born on the third?” Then he starts digging a hole in the sand and buries a white bucket and fills it with water. Then the same about 40 feet down the beach. He filled beer and soft drink cans with sand and water and explains the game. It’s like horseshoes, or Cornhole. Nearest to the bucket gets a point, a leaner two points, in the bucket gets three. Two practice throws and off you go. I was paired with Tristan, but let him down. Cathy, it turns out, is a senior horseshoe champion, and they crushed us. Who knew? Before going back, I will have to practice. With everyone playing, including guides, it takes a while, but drinking is not prohibited. Steve forbids electronics of any flavor, and makes you sign a form in agreement. At one point during the game, Sarah was showing the ladies the GoPro movies of going through “The Wall”. “Put that away!”, he said with authority. “You can watch that next week.” With no TV, no cell phones and no computers, there is so much more interaction, so much entertainment and so many great stories! The game resumes, and it was lots of fun. The evening was topped off with Smores brought out by Maureen.

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Middle Fork Salmon River, Friday

Friday, July 20, 2018

What fun it was to paddle kayaks in the morning with Llydia and Sarah. Although most of the rapids weren’t bad, we had a couple of challenging ones. They both hit a rock in one and I think came out of the boats. By the time I got past and looked back, they were in the boats laughing and having fun. We kept hearing about “The Wall”, so none of us paddled after this, although Ron said it was all fine. He has paddled the entire 102 miles in a kayak.

We visited a huge Native American cave with pictographs. Steve quipped, “The Smiths have an overhang honey. Why can’t we?”

That evening there was a cake-eating contest, which Bob won. I didn’t see much cake under the whipped cream, but he did have extra strawberries.

Mountain Challenge #2:

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After we setup camp, I was into my second glass of wine when Steven ran down the side of a raft, dove in the river, swam across the river like an Olympian and ran up the mountain, finally standing on top of a granite rock, arms in the air. I am guessing there was some record-keeping for fastest times because soon enough Steve jumped in and hustled up the mountain and climbed on the rock, arms in the air. I wasn’t keeping time, but I think Steven won. Then Tristan dove in the water and hustled up the mountain, and there were three standing on the rock. When no one else followed, they came back down. I stopped drinking and toyed with the idea. I could swim across the river, though the current is fast. The first part is very steep, but after that it looked like it leveled off for the second third. The last part was steep again. By then everyone was back down, and Steve asked the girls if anyone wanted to go. There were no takers, and the regular conversations went on. Then those two darned girls, Llydia and Sarah, raised their hands and said they would go. “Put on a life jacket and some good shoes”, Steve said, and they ran off. Couldn’t believe it. I picked up the camera and followed them to the river when Bob and Maureen walked past me. “Hell, if they’re going, I’m going” I said, scurrying back to put my camera down. It was a harder swim than I thought. Bob reached out a hand, but I declined. The “trail” up was loose gravel and sand with little to hold onto but grass. Gasping hard, I tried to keep up with Maureen when we got to the top of the first third. It didn’t level off. Steve yelled down from somewhere above to take our time. By now he was ⅔ the way up with the girls right behind him. The last third was very steep and slippery. I was pretty sure we didn’t have a shot at the record! We made it though, still gasping for air as we climbed the rock. Steve was talking and telling stories, knowing we needed time to recuperate. Meanwhile Llydia was climbing around on a ledge on the other side of the rock. I didn’t know if I was going to have a heart attack from breathing so hard or watching Llydia so carelessly climbing around. Finally I couldn’t contain myself. “Llydia, get back over here!”

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OK, going down should be easy. Maybe if you are Steven, who ran the 90-some miles up this canyon, or Steve who has spent a lifetime guiding hunting and fishing in these mountains. Totally unaffected, he climbed this mountain twice today. As we trudged down, Steve and the girls walked over to a vertical cliff overlooking camp. Making our way almost to the bottom, Bob’s knee buckled on him and he went head-over-heels down the trail! He was behind a tree, so Maureen and I couldn’t see it, but those in camp thought he was going to die. Thinking I was safely down, I took a slide on the loose gravel with my arm catching a sharp rock. I hit it hard enough, I thought it might have broken, but it was fine – just some good cuts that Steve would later say looked like a bear bite. We walked along a ledge on the river bottom to get upstream before swimming across. Bob and Maureen are expert swimmers, so I followed Maureen. Unfortunately we were swimming downstream. By the time I looked up, I was at the end of the boats, but got safely to shore still panting hard.

After some rest and water, Steve, who looked like he hadn’t done anything all day, said “Get yourself a drink. It’s margarita night.” Then we heard the others talking about Bob’s fall and how scared they were. Steve asked the girls if they could demonstrate a cartwheel to see if that’s what it looked like, but no, that wasn’t it. Then he asked Bob to do one, and everyone agreed that was it. From then on, he was known as “Cartwheel Bob”. I was hoping for “Bearbite Greg”, but it didn’t happen.

As I got ready for bed, I handed out dental floss. We had been discussing the need to floss and that you only have to floss the ones you want to keep.

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Middle Fork Salmon River, Thursday

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How can you go wrong starting your day with eggs Benedict? It was another perfect day to be on the river. It was Ty’s first day taking the “Sweep Boat” down. This is a huge job. All the gear is in that boat, and it must weigh thousands of pounds. It’s called a sweep boat because of the two paddles front and aft that sweep back and forth. AJ said in some ways it is easier to control, but here’s a man with years of experience on the Salmon, Colorado and recently the Red Nile in Africa. A book could be written on the stories he told me on this day. AJ is the one guy I would trust to take me down the Colorado. I think he has made 22 trips down it and may be on it after this week.

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The sweep boat goes down first and sets up camp. How Steven got that boat down the small river we started with on the first day, I’ll never know. It would be fun to ride it that day. It is bound to get stuck on rocks, but how would you get it off?

Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Steve Zettel

Monday, July 16, 2018

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Visiting Ron Lowry last summer in Boise, he said, “You MUST float the Middle Fork with us next summer.” I had seen his pictures from previous years, and he has been going for 14 years, so it must be good. He goes with Steve Zettel and Idaho Wilderness Co. (www.floatidaho.com). He has been hunting with Steve since Steve was in his 20’s, and he is now 56. Ron has the highest respect for him, along with many stories of their adventures. The trip is down “The River of no Return” through the Frank Church Wilderness Area where there are no roads. You can walk through it, ride a horse, or float through it. Hmmm, how bad would these rapids be? “The River of no Return”! Am I crazy? Well, he has been doing this for 14 years, and he is a year older than me. OK, I’m in. 

Ron picked me up at the airport after a long day of flying. A glass of wine at “The Ram” helped, along with nice conversation with his friends Dennis and Theresa. When we got to his house, he gave me a book, “Anything Worth Doing” by Jo Deurbrouck recounting the incredible stories of Idaho river guides Jon Barker and Clancy Reece. I read a few pages before falling asleep, but quickly picked it back up in the morning. What a story!

I repacked my stuff into two waterproof bags Ron gave me to use. Then we set out for Stanley, Idaho. Along the way, we met Bob and Maureen Marks, Mike (Mad Dog) and Sharron Tennent and Brian Auge. They took us through Sun Valley since I had never seen it. Along the 2.5 hour drive, Ron told hunting and fishing stories. Most of the hunting stories were with Steve Zettel, while most of the fishing stories were with his great friend, Mad Dog. We stopped for lunch in the busy town of Sun Valley where a rain storm came through while we were eating. 

Back on the road, we headed for Stanley, about an hour away. As we came over a big mountain, Ron pulled over to an overlook of the Sawtooth Valley. It is the origin of the great Salmon River at 9,200 ft. elevation. It is one of the only free-flowing rivers in the Continental United States, traveling 425 miles to meet the Snake River, then joining the Columbia. This is one of the prettiest overlooks I have seen, right up there with the Peace River Valley in British Columbia, which is soon to be lost to a new dam. 

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It was a beautiful drive to Stanley where we checked into the Mountain Village Resort. Still having a few hours before orientation, we drove up to Redfish Lake. Once known to be teeming with sockeye salmon, now teeming with tourists. Some salmon still make it, which is amazing. They have to get around 14 dams on the Columbia River. There are an astounding 60 dams on the Columbia River watershed! That is what makes the Salmon River so special, as it is still free-flowing. 

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At 8:00 we went down for orientation in front of the river. It’s a beautiful, big creek at this point. Steve introduced himself, along with Jessica and his son. He told us how to arrange our gear into a big waterproof bag and a day bag. We would leave at 7:30 by bus in the morning and plan to be on the river by 10:00. We would have another orientation at the put-in. 

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The first rapid

As it turned out, we were on the river at 10:00. 20 seconds later Ron was sitting in the water beside the first rapid. My first thought was, “Man that must be a good fishing spot if Ron got out there!” Turns out he got popped out of the raft. He was tangled up in his fishing line and his rod was 40 yards downstream. It was a struggle to get him back in the boat, but our guide, Tanner, held the raft in position in a strong current. We managed to pull in the fishing line and finally the rod as we went through the rapid. Hmmm, “The River of no Return”! A few drinks into the evening Ron would have a new name: “20 Second Ron.”

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We only had 10 miles to go to the campground, so we stopped for lunch at a nice, big pool. I was surprised to see almost everyone fishing, and most were catching. There are lots of salmon smolts in the river that were hungry. Mostly, people were catching cutthroat trout, although there are rainbow and bull trout. Within 30 minutes a great lunch was produced, after which we headed downriver, making camp by 4:00. Tents were all set up, the “kitchen” was set up and chairs arranged. Finding our drybags, we set up our tents, rolled out sleeping bags and our group of 8 sat around for cocktails, and the stories flowed. By 8:30 I was tired and went to bed.

Bike Greater Allegheny Passage

Thursday, June 21, 2018

After a night of very heavy rain, we waited until 10:00 to start biking. In the meantime I had to go see the slide, a natural shoot on Meadow Run. It is the most popular place in the park where you can slide down the river on the rocks. You are going to get bumped up on the rocks though, and our river guide recommended wearing a helmet. There is one spot where you could really bang your head, and you’re going pretty fast. I wasn’t brave enough the first day, and I sure wouldn’t do it now.

We then biked the rails-to-trails that runs all the way through the park, following the river. We started at the train station, going east, 10 miles out and 10 back. The “Yough” (Youghiogheny River) was raging. There was so much rain that every 50 yards was a waterfall. With puddles and muddy spots, you were going to get dirty, but once we got over it, we just went on. Not far from Confluence we saw two rafts filled with people hanging onto a tree. I was amazed there were people on the river. A half mile further up, there was a raft stuck in a hydraulic. It looked like it was tied up there, but it was just the churning water holding it in place, bobbing up and down.

When we got to the put-in spot, a raft group was getting instructions for their trip. I went up and reported the hydraulic hole. They said they would check it out and call the raft company. Apparently everyone got dumped out of that raft, or got out when they couldn’t exit the hydraulic. That’s why the two rafts we had seen were overfilled. We headed back down the trail and passed them. As far as I know, no one was hurt. I thought is was pretty crazy to risk being on that river that day, and the middle section is much calmer than the lower with Class II-III rapids normally. 50 miles south is the Upper Youghiogheny with Class V rapids, which is world-class kayaking. 

We had a nice lunch at the Ohiopyle Bakery and Sandwich Shoppe. Their breads are great. Then we biked west for an hour before returning tired. This is one of the best state parks I have ever been in. If you like outdoor adventures, you can’t ask for more. It is beautiful, unspoiled despite many visitors. The campground was nice, with plenty of room. 

Ohiopyle State Park

Monday, June 18, 2018

Getting an early start, we hiked the Ferncliff Trail around Ferncliff Peninsula. This follows a big loop in the river going through a gorge. There were a few side trails down to the river. On one, we were lucky to be there when a group of rafters came through. This is a big, powerful river with some big rapids. Although this group had guides in kayaks showing them the way through the rapid, there were no guides in the rafts. There were about 10 rafts, and they all got stuck in the middle of the rapid, some crashing into the ones already stuck. Amazingly, no one fell out. We were happy to have a guide in the boat for our trip this afternoon. 

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I was soaking wet from hiking in the hot and very humid forest, so we went back for a shower, lunch and a little rest. Then we went to Laurel Highlands Raft Company for a 3½ hour raft trip down the lower Youghiogheny River. Our team leader, Michelle, gave us instructions as we put on our life jackets and helmets. Then we piled into a van and drove 20 minutes to the put-in. As she drove, Michelle talked about all the adventurous things you can do in the park – biking, mountain biking, rock-climbing and a popular natural water slide. “We have many ways to get you injured” she said. At the landing, she positioned us in three rafts, each with a guide, ours being Toby. “Most drownings are from getting a foot wedged. There are many rocks, tires and redneck refrigerators on the bottom. Do not put your foot on the bottom. If you fall out of the boar, do not try to stand up. Lie on your back with your feet up to push off rocks”. the other biggest injury is getting hit by a paddle handle, so she cautioned to always keep you hand on the handle.  

Off we went, but the guides explained their instructions – all forward, all back, right side forward, all stop. We had a pretty good crew with two teen-age girls, a teen-age boy, Martha and three men, all nice. Toby told us the names of all the rapids, along with rock names, like ‘The Decapitator’. Then in the first rapid he went down side-ways so we would all get wet. The girls screamed. It was hard to tell when Toby was messing with us and when he just hit rocks. We were stronger on the left side of the boat, which made it a bit of a problem. 

We came to Dimple Rock in the middle of the afternoon. There was a large group of rafts getting instruction before going through. They had no guides in their boats, but several in kayaks. A huge sign warned of the dangers of Dimple rock, and there was a portage sign on the right side of the river. Geez! The leader of the large group let our three guided boats go through before them. We headed right at huge Dimple Rock, then Toby turned 40 degrees and yelled “All forward hard”. We did, but we still bumped the end of the rock, which turned us around, but we had passed the danger. I later read about this rapid. Dimple Rock is a V-shaped rock pointing downstream. The entire force of the river plunges into the open part of the V. Of the millions of people who have floated the river in the last 30 years 18 boaters have died. Nine of those were at Dimple Rock. 

There was another big rock where the river makes a hard right, a good place to get swept into the rock that is undercut, but we managed that one without incident. It was a seemingly less difficult rapid with heavy waves that we ran into a big rock on the left as we swept by. We had hit plenty of rocks, but we were going to hit this one pretty hard. Like a bouncing ball, the raft compressed when it hit, then released and threw three of us into the river. Feet up, on my back, I watched for big rocks. They got the other two quickly in the boat, but I was behind it. All I was thinking was not being able to see what was coming, the raft blocking my view. As we got to the bottom of the waves, Toby waved me to come on, so I turned over and swam to the boat where he quickly dragged me in. One of the girls dinged her knee pretty good, but seemed to be OK. Toby then moved people around to make the right side paddlers stronger. That sobered people up a bit, and we were a little more serious about paddling. We still managed to hit more rocks, getting stuck on a few. 

Having turned over plenty of times in canoes on much less powerful rivers, I have tremendous respect for the power of water. What you worry about is getting into a boat with people who don’t know. They think they are in Disneyland, laughing, talking, paddling lackadaisically. They think the guide can control everything. It’s really those hard turns where everyone needs to be a their best. Our crew really did pretty well. Laurel Highlands does a great job, and Michelle is a real pro. This river is absolutely gorgeous. You don’t see anything but trees and river. It’s as pretty a river as I have ever been on. The trout population is quite good here, but I have no idea how you would fish this section. It is way too deep and forceful to walk in. I didn’t see any driftboats, and this would be a challenge for them.