4.26.19 – 4.28.19
This past weekend Thomas, Peter, and I got in a quick trip up to the superb whitewater up in northern New York in the Tug Hill plateau and Adirondacks. Originally the plan was to head out to Ohio for the Cuyahoga Falls race. I had been interested in the Sheraton Section and Tinker’s Creek for some time and the race seemed like a good excuse to go on a mission I’d otherwise not take. Thus I sent out feelers and started to rally a crew for the trip. As the date drew closer the forecast stared looking like rain might bump things too high. So I started working on a backup and checked what the conditions up north would be. I had been watching Alex’s videos of the spring runs they were getting and was itching to get up for some of the fun. The ground was primed from a storm a week ago and things were looking good for the incoming one. So I checked to see if people were interested in a New York trip if I drove. A core crew was, thus a backup born.
On Thursday evening conditions were looking very up in the air. The rain had started but gauges had yet to rise. I reached out to Alex to see how he thought the weekend in New York would be. He had a good feeling for the prospects of the weekend’s paddling. Thus the dithering began. By Friday morning the rain in both locations was in full swing. The gauge for Cuyahoga had started to rise. I wasn’t quite feeling the six hour drive out there to get skunked. Being Ohio, there’s no other whitewater. If it was a no go, it would be a no boating weekend. But I still wasn’t quite ready to make the call. The yes/no margin had narrowed and there wasn’t as much rain as initially predicted. Thomas reached out to the organizers and they were still optimistic as the gauge was downstream of a big tributary.
Afternoon came and levels had gone above running and Tinker’s was starting its spike. I decided New York was the better choice, with the infinitely larger run selection, and started the attempt to redirect. We decided to discuss things when we met up to carpool. Then around the time Thomas should be leaving to meet us, I get a hurried call. He was having trouble getting his car started. While it wouldn’t endanger the trip, I did want Thomas along. After a little, a text came through. He was running late, but on his way. In the parking lot the real dithering began. Loading up provided some time, but not enough. We started our drive up I-270 with about 20-30 minutes to Frederic, where we had to have a decision made as the routes diverged. The discussion went on and no real choices were being made. The race organizer had put up a video about the levels. It was looking beefy, but the race was still on. Squirreling continued up to the fork in the road at Frederic. I made an executive decision and took the road north, starting our seven hour drive to Old Forge. Eventually I choose that I’d power through and make it all the way and a hotel room was acquired.
Woke up to snow flurries and a message from Alex that there might be a rowdy first D to be had. We drove down the road to grab some breakfast and discuss. Unfortunately my usual stop, Keyes’ Pancake House, was closed. We ended up eating at Walt’s Diner. The food was good and the pancakes were huge. There was still some remorse for Cuyahoga and a little nervousness for the day’s runs. Once satisfied we headed off to meet up with Alex and see what he had in mind. We were greeted with a stout waterfall coming off the side of a hill as we drove in. Found Alex, made introductions, and hiked in to scout things while waiting for others to get there. The location we saw was a tight committed gorge with a series of complex drops, ending with a ~15ft waterfall. The main event was a drop with a shelf and wall 45 degrees to the flow. You had to ride the down the shelf as far as you could and do a sideways boof to place yourself in the flow without hitting into the impending wall. Some nervousness was brewing in my crew, and people weren’t sure they were interested in that particular section.
With that scouting out of the way it was downstream to say hello to the landowners of the downstream section and get permission to run it. Permission granted, we walked over to look at the next section. It was also a tight gorge, mostly committed, with a series of 5 drops. Starting off you had a slot leading to a small spoutish drop that looked a little retentive. Next up was another slot with a zig-zag move in it. Under some trees and you were at the first of the big drops, a 8-10 foot sideways spout that lands in a cauldron at the bottom of a gorge. After this was a slide that ended in another 10 footer followed shortly by the final 5 foot flake drop.
We suited up carried our boats in for the run. Some nervousness was present. Alex took the first run and showed us what the first drop would look like. The line was clean and we started getting ready for our runs. Thomas decided to go first and I headed down to the cauldron to grab photos.
When he got to the cauldron, it looked like he had made it, but went over quickly after landing in the eddy. Two roll attempts and he was sucked into the curtain for a beating. After a couple more, Thomas pulled and collected himself in the eddy. Unfortunately, his paddle washed downstream. I ran down to grab another paddle for Thomas, and when I got to the bridge where the creek went under the road I saw it floating into the distance. When I got up I found I had missed Peter’s run. Got the paddle down to Thomas, and after some looking around at the canyon walls, he started down. Thomas finished up with some nice lines on the lower drops and it was now my turn.
I walked up and got ready, a bit nervous about the cauldron. Paddled down to the first drop, entered the notch, and got through clean. I paused for a second here before continuing down to the zig-zag move in the next part of the canyon. I entered, taking my time and lined up for the rock that made the move. The pillow pushed started pushing me left and I got a nice sliding boof off the rock placing me right where I wanted to be to exit the squeeze. Caught the eddy after it and took a breather before starting on the cauldron. I peeled out and lined up for the drop, cut through the hole at the top of the drop and put in a lefty right as I was going off the lip. Landed clean in the eddy lined up perfectly to go under the trees. Kept up my momentum and headed to the slide that leads into the next drop. I liked the center/left line Thomas had taken, so I dodged some holes and worked in that direction. Took a boof at the drop and landed clean. All that was left was the final shelf and it went off without a problem.
We collected ourselves and headed for the town drop on Mill Creek. In town we stopped at a parking lot on river right that looked down on the last part of the drop to scout. It was running but levels were towards the lower side. A friendly local came and chatted with us while we stood in the flurries staring down the drop. Finally people bowed to the cold, and it was off to run the drop. We put in on a small tributary by Stewart’s, paddled down a tunnel under town, and set up for the bridge drop. Looking downstream to set up for it was really cool having a gorge lined with buildings, then a horizon line. Took the river right line off the flake and then regrouped before the main event. You set up to punch a curler in the center, and try to keep to the center the whole way down. There’s a ramp to a nice auto boof. Afterwards, there’s some lead out with some sieved out rocks to keep you on your toes.
Having finished up in town it was off to the final run for the day. We headed over to the take out for the Independence. It was apparently too cold and too low, so we were just going to run the last couple drops at the end. The final set are Fat Lady, Bridge Boof, and The Wall, an impressive stretch of class IV-V rapids. This run is an area classic, and many run it for these drops. We walked up to the top and scouted all the drops on our way up. Thomas wasn’t feeling it so he was going to take photos and set safety. Alex ran it first so we could see the line. He hit the hole river left when dropping in and got spun around before the divider. He made it to the left and continued down without issue. Now it was my turn to run the drop, so I got in my boat and started towards the entrance.
When I got to the hole that spun Alex, I got flipped and very quickly was getting beat. I knew I had flushed to the right by the multitude of rocks I was banging against. I tried a roll and got nothing but a second hit to the head. At this point I decided it was best to bail as I was taking the brunt of the abuse. I came up as I was entering the second slide and it took a bit for me to get spun around. Thomas threw a rope and had a spot on throw, but as I got it, it started going near my head and I abandoned it. Finally I came to a stop at the drop above the Bridge Boof eddy. I watched my boat flush downstream and slowly made my way to shore. When I got there I found one of my dry suit’s legs full of water. I made my way downstream and saw Alex with my boat at the take out bridge so I walked over to the bridge. My boat had got a beating too, just not as much as myself.
After that I was done for the day and proceeded to change. I discovered that I had torn a hole in the knee of my dry suit. This explained all the water I had inside it. We then made our way back to Old Forge to clean up and get dinner. Along the way we stopped off at the different rapids of the Bottom Moose to check them out. While American Whitewater may say it’s running at 6ft, it isn’t for most mortal paddlers. Note that according to NY Exposed and LiquidLore the max is 6ft and the Inland Surfing Association places it at 5ft. There were numerous huge holes and places one just never would want to go. Along the way to take a look at Fowlerville Falls, we came across a porcupine. Not interested in making the day worse, we gave it space and tentatively made our way down.
Dinner ended up being at Tony Harpers. Overall the mood was good and jovial. My head wasn’t feeling great from the beat down and I was hoping some food would help. I tried some pizza but that just made me feel worse. There was pain radiating down my jaw from my ear and now the food made me feel a little nauseous. I switched to just water, but was definitely wearing my discomfort on my face. After some time we came up with the meeting time for tomorrow and parted ways. Back at the hotel room I took some Advil, and after a short time started feeling much better.
When I woke up I felt much better than the night before, though still sore. We packed everything up and headed to Walt’s again for some breakfast, then afterwards to Mountain Man for some quick browsing. Then it was off to Woodhull Creek to meet the Local Boater crew for the days run. The night before Pat had described the run as a “kayaker skate park”. This description had gone over well and the crew was looking forward to the run, with significantly less nervousness. When we got to the putin, it was a good deal higher than I had done it in the past. The whole run divides around islands in multiple places, giving you options. I wasn’t feeling the left line at the putin because it looked stout. I quickly went down the right to try to get photos. Unfortunately, my camera died just as I got set up. Alex made it look awesome and Peter sealed the deal. I had to go back up and do the left line. The curlers ended up being much easier to punch and the line went well.
We moved on to the next drop and Alex went down the center left and worked left. Some got out to scout. I was still feeling a little off from the previous day and bounced between both sides trying to boat scout. Eventually I went down without issue, followed by Peter. When Thomas came down I took both of them to the next rapid to scout it. The river left gorge had plenty of water, though it did look like one hole may be retentive. We watched a few people run it then when up and ran it ourselves. Peter caught the eddy and got held up. I bumped into him leaving when I got there. Thomas also got spun around in the eddy. While more came down I again took Thomas and Peter to scout Brick in the Wall, the center channel rapid. This is an impressive slide with a couple river right rock bumps that form holes or waves. It ends in a beefy hole that can easily work a boater (or swimmer).
A few went and ran it while we watched. I had grabbed my rope in case someone needed a hand, and Thomas went up for his run. He got far left, much further than you’d want and skittered down the rock to the hole. He managed to skip out without any issue. Peter went up and ran it, also punching through without problem. This meant it was my turn, I was feeling a bit iffy about how it would treat the RPM. I entered and had no problem up top, but when I got to the diagonal I did not punch it high enough. Thus I was pushed left and ended up with exactly the line I didn’t want, sliding down the rock into the hole. As soon as I hit, I stopped and got eaten by the hole. I setup and waited, but the expected chundering didn’t come. Feeling the calm, I pulled my roll and came up already flushed past the hole.
Peter and I then went up to do the river right channel. I had never even seen the run with enough water for this to be an option. I was still a bit nervous about it, but ended up taking the lead. The drops ended up being cleaner than I expected and provided some good fun. We waited a bit and them a few of us moved on the the final drop. This one is a nasty river wide hole that is more or less inescapable without a rope. The line is to boof into an eddy on far river left. The group of us ran it and were hanging out when we saw a boat drifting to the river left lip upside down. Luckily it flushed through and we saw it was empty. No swimmer followed which was good. Gear and people were collected and we made our way to the takeout. After chatting for a while, we determined that it was best that we head back to the DC area. We said our goodbyes and started on our long drive home. I made sure to stop at a Stewarts before we left New York so Peter and Thomas could have the full Northeast experience. The seed for more trips to the quality New York whitewater had been planted.