4.29.2009

Had a great weekend of paddling. Headed out with Zach, Jeff, and Joanne to the east coast. We crashed at Joanne's friend's house in Pittsburgh on Thursday night, which was a welcome change from sleeping on the ground. Then we headed to the Upper Yough in Maryland. The level was padded but not crazy, and we had a good run. Joanne was in a Diesel, while the three of us were in creekboats. She got pushed around a little more than we did and had a few rolls, and I think was pretty gripped when we were in the steep stuff. She did well though. We routed everything pretty quickly, since a release was scheduled for later in the afternoon and it would have made things pretty high. We got off before the bubble though, and headed up to the Top Yough.

The Top Yough was steeper and lower-volume than the Upper. Jo decided to run shuttle, and Zach, Jeff, and I put on. After just a hundred yards or so of warm-up rapids, we got to Swallow Falls, which dropped 30 feet or so, starting as a slide that steepened into what approached vertical. We scouted, Jeff decided to walk it, and Zach and I fired it up. Jo took footage; it should be posted sometime soon. We both had pretty clean lines, with hardly any impact in the run-out. Then we scouted Swallow Tail, a 4-5 foot ledge with a stick hole at the bottom. It looked a little intimidating, but it was pretty automatic.

The three of us routed the next couple of rapids with Zach in the lead, though not too far down Jeff got pushed the wrong way above a drop and ended up getting pulled into the backwash of a hole. He rolled a few times, got windowshaded, and swam. Zach picked him up, while I ran after his gear. We eventually got all of the bits reunited, and Jeff decided to walk off the river. Zach and I routed the rest of it on our own, with him in the lead. The rapids were great; plenty of padding, and everything comfortably boat-scoutable. We walked Suck Hole, which has a pillow that feeds a sieve about half-way through a complicated rapid. When we got back to the cars, I had a message from my realtor that my house had sold. Good day.

We camped at Riversport, a local kayaking school and gear shop, grilled out, and had a few drinks. The next morning we headed back to the Top Yough, and Zach and I put in another lap. My lines on Swallow and Swallow Tail weren't quite as clean; I was put up on my edge on Swallow and had a little too much of an angle on Swallow Tail. The rest of the run went smoothly.

We ran the Loop on the Lower Yough, a class III playboat run with some decent play on it. Then it was back to the cars to the site of the Stony Creek Rendezvous, a paddling festival that was quite a bit bigger than I expected it to be. We got a late-afternoon run in on Stony Creek, which felt low, and definitely wasn't worth the long, long flat water paddle out. The festival grounds were fun though, we cooked out again and had a drink or two. They had live music, gear vendors, lights on the play hole at night; it was a pretty fun scene. Zach got housed and booted out the tent door, but was ready to rally in the morning.

We decided to take the hit and do the driving to get to the Middle Fork of the Tygart, which we ran into the Tygart Gorge. I had done the run a couple of years ago, but the water level this past weekend was quite a bit lower. The rapids were fun though, and everything had enough water so that we weren't grinding on anything. I was on the sharp end, eddy hopping downstream and showing lines with hand gestures and whistles. The whole crew worked well together, and lines were generally clean. That changed a bit on the last rapid before the confluence, a tricky boof above a piton rock. Joanne ran the meat of the rapid fine, but relaxed a bit too much in front of an undercut wall. She took a bit of a beating through the rest of the rapid, getting half-rolls in between getting hammered by rocks. She eventually stuck her roll though, and came out of it all right.

The main gorge of the Tygart had 3-4x the volume of the Middle Fork, so the character changed from low-water creeking to big-water hole-dodging. We scouted a couple of rapids, and caught up to a larger group for a little bit. Everything else was pretty read-and-run, just watch out for the horizon lines. We got into a little more trouble at Hook, a rapid that is tough to read from the top, and has a few tricky holes above a big S-Turn that doges two BIG holes. Zach and I ran through it, but Joanne got caught on a hole on the top, surfed and tossed around for a while, and then swam. At one point when she was swimming through the rapid, all we could see was her hand sticking out of the water, and then it disappeared. Kinda scary. After a two-count, she reappeared. Zach and I were there, and she managed to grab Zach's boat while Jeff and I went after her boat. We got the two reunited, but not until after she saw a black bear during the hike. Exciting day.

That was it for the meat of the rapids; after some smaller stuff we were at the take-out railroad tracks, which we had to hike for half a mile or so, only to find out that Jeff and Joanne had parked the take-out vehicle at the wrong bridge. Fortunately, the other group of kayakers caught up to us, and we were able to hitch a ride with them before the long drive back to South Bend.











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