In march I had been watching the conditions in the Catskills and Delaware Water Gap to try to figure out when would be good to head up to get on some of the creeks. By chance things aligned so the Shohola Race would be on a weekend with good water and a time when my parents had been partially vaccinated. This meant I could both get some boating in and visit my family for the first time in over a year. As the weekend drew close it was looking good for the options other than Shohola.
For a couple years I had been jealously watching people get on the Shohola in late winter / early spring. I felt this year was the time I’d finally get up there. So I got a couple people from down south (MD) to head up and meet me there for the race. My friend Chris would show us the lines. As I drove over Saturday morning I watched the temperature drop as I went further west on I-84. I found a sub freezing parking lot with some boaters when I got there and snow in the woods.
After cooling off in the lot we got ourselves together and headed over for our first lap. I wanted to get a couple laps in, and at least one or two before the race so I could decide if I’d participate. The putin reminded me a little bit of the Raquette, albeit friendlier. You start off in a pool below a dam above the first drop. From all the media I had seen this is clearly the most impressive drop on the run. You hug the right side of a boulder to catch the eddy above a big slide. The entrance isn’t terrible and the slide is more or less point and shoot. Just keep yourself upright and pointed downstream, as long as you enter in the right spot you’re good.
At the end of the slide you are placed into a big eddy that is the start of the gorge, as long as you catch it and don’t get slammed into the wall at the end of you run down. The first rapid in the gorge isn’t too bad but you definitely can feel that its a good class IV boogie run. Just make sure you stay on your game. It caught Andy by surprise and he got to discover how cold the water actually was. The run out of the rapid places you into another pool, introducing you to the general pool drop style of the run.
Things really pick up at the next rapid when you get to the bridge. You enter river left and when you to the second part all the water is pushing towards the river right wall which is undercut. In my attempt to avoid the wall I went so far right I accidentally caught the eddy on the left. Once I slid out of it backwards and negotiated the next drop I was in the pool below, looking up at a beautiful gorge. For the next rapid Chris mentioned that there’s a nice boof on the left, but you really need to commit. I entered this section a little lazily and decided on the boof last minute and got caught by the hole. Luckily I just got surfed to the left and dug myself out.
This brought us to the pool above the final rapid. This one cools down a little but there’s still a flake nestled in the froth that you want to make sure you hit correctly. You finish up in a lake and hike back up to the top on river right. It takes about the same amount of time to hike up as it does to do the paddle down. Chris and I jumped on a quick lap when we got back to the top before the race started. While I didn’t beater too bad on either of my laps, I wasn’t quite feeling racing. Instead I helped set safety and grabbed some photos of the racers.
The following day I met up with Chris and some other boaters in the southern Catskills to get on an epic run, the Beer Kill. This creek has supplanted all others as my new favorite run. The shuttle is short, whitewater is prime, and you feel as if you are off on an adventure in the woods. When I pulled into the takeout I saw a class III creek with some nice flow, and it got better as we went further up stream (the little bit you could see). Up at the put in you find an awesome drop below a bridge and a nice pool to collect.
As we were getting ready to put on, one of the members of our group commented on how nice a day it was. A few minutes later the sky got grey and it started flurrying. A proper way to start a NY spring creeking trip. The drop under the bridge had a nice slide that ended with a great boof. You then had some mank before the pool. After this you had to get out river right to portage around a slot rapid that was badly undercut on both sides. The entrance back in was a nice little seal launch.
Shortly after you come upon Assmaster, a long and shallow slide, that if you don’t get the entrance correct your ass will feel it. The slide makes for an impressive rapid. If you’re feeling ballsy you can catch the small shallow eddy at the bottom left of it before the final drop. Below Assmaster you shortly have to get out to portage around Hanging Rock Falls. From the put to the portage, Beer Kill drops about 400 ft/mi. The entrance is nasty and has an undercut above the lip. The top drop or two looks like it may be runnable with the right level. But you’d quickly have to catch an eddy to avoid running the unrunnable portion of it.
After the portage you’re in a deep canyon with a real remote feel to it. The run has nice boogie in between the bigger drops. If one pays attention you’ll find some good boofs mixed in. You really find the quality class IV in this section. There are some great drops that offer plenty of fun. Eventually you come to a horizon line with some mist coming up that indicates you’re at Ignorance is Bliss. this is a manky 20 footer with an iffy looking landing. You run it on the left with a bit of right angle when you come off the drop. It slopes into the final drop where water from both sides folds together hiding where you’ll land. After Ignorance is a bit more boogie before one final rapid. Then it’s just class III until the takeout.