Thursday, October 19, 2006
Upper Tohickon rocks rock...
Arlene Curley is a great paddling partner. She doesn't talk much. The incessant gabbing of paddling gadflies is what keeps me away from many club trips. Babbling paddlers miss so much of the spirit of a waterway, and they scare the wildlife away too.
We met at the Ralph Stover SP take-out and put Arlene's kayak on top of my car and headed up to the Nockamixon Lake dam for the put-in. The creek was running at 2.60' at the Tohickon Pipersville gage which is a decent level for the upper Toh. It was a balmy 71 deg. air temp and water was about 60 deg.
Spectacular fall colors of hickory, maple, purple asters with the beautiful red shale and blue jingle cliffs as backdrop. The aroma of falling leaves was intoxicating. The upper creek has many beautiful shale cliffs, not a high as the lower, but unlike the class 2 and 3 lower, one actually has time to savor the scenery.
This is a hidden away stream for the most part and always has lots of wildlife. On this trip we saw many wood duck, a great blue heron that we chased all the way to the Stover dam, an osprey, red tails, a few nervous white tail deer (with racks), and a chubby beaver. The beaver never saw us coming. We watched in silent amazement as it crawled up a 50% sloped muddy bank. It finally heard my paddle as I clumsily tried to get upstream to the beaver's eddy. It saw Arlene sitting just a few feet away and FAINTED! No lie! Well, maybe lie. It literally fell back into the river, totally shocked I am sure, as beaver are very alert and wary animals. I don't think either of us have been that close to a beaver that was on the shore.
Strainers are a serious problem on the Upper Toh. In particular, there is a Paul Bunyan Ash laying across the main center channel of the creek about a mile or more below the second bridge. This is a dangerous strainer as the current is swift and channel narrow. One can pull out on river right at a braided fork (too low to enter at this level) about 20 yards upstream from the strainer and drag the boats around. At 3.00' or more the right braided channel can be run around the island. One can also pull over on river left and take another braided channel or drag around on that island, but by the time you see the big strainer you probably have missed the river left option.
Further down below Rt. 611 the river splits again with the main current heading right at the top of an island. Both of us approached this a bit too casually for our own good resulting in an unscheduled swim session for Arlene. No harm done, just a nice invigorating baptism. I was almost jealous. Last time I was "baptized" was a trip down the Tohickon in January '06 with Harold Deal. I tried to wiggle around a bridge strainer and the eddy sucked me into the abutment and the violent collision tossed me out of the Howler. Made for a chilly trip.
One more potentially dangerous strainer area that has worsened since my last visits (January and March) can be found at the broken mille dam just above a small bridge. River right, which we chose was 98% obstructed, but we were able to do an upstream ferry and get over to the main channel. However, we saw that the river-left channel that goes over the broken dam also has some strainer build-up. It is passable, but it needs to be approached carefully.
The big Stover dam portage was easy and the last few miles feature a delightfully bouncy stretch of water.
This is not a good stream for novice paddlers due to the many blind bends and strainers.