Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We've only just paddle

The Delaware River at the Riegelsville gage is down to about 4.70 and slowly falling. Tributary streams are going down as well.

I am contemplating a trip on the Mullica River this weekend, let me know if you want to go. The Pine Barrens streams are lovely this time of year when there is enough water.

The cold weather paddling season is about to begin. It's the time of year that the small streams are high enough to paddle and the big rivers are ofter too windy. More importantly one can paddle in relative peace and tranquility, which is the way it's supposed to be. That is because all the fossil-fuel addicted jetskiers are absent and there are few power boats. These jerks can make paddling the river a lousy experience, and that is pretty hard to do.

The rivers and creeks all take on such a different look with the dormant and dead vegetation, frost, ice formations, and snow. The winter light is so beautiful on the water.

My favorite late fall through early spring paddling stream is the Musconetcong River, which cuts deeply into the limestone valley. I have paddled on the Musky in extremely windy weather (30 mph) and the tree tops are blowing like crazy, but there is only a wisp of a breeze on the water. A downside is that the Musky flows west, and with the sun lower in the sky this time of year, forgetting sunglasses can be a major mistake when paddling in the afternoon.

The Tohickon Creek (shown in the above pic) is another sweet local stream to paddle in cold weather, although it doesn't hold water nearly as well as the Musky and that is totally a function of geology.

The cold weather paddling requires a lot more effort in terms of preparation, especially having adequate clothing. I use a fleece-lined wetsuit that is quite comfortable, wind and rain resistant and padded in the knees for the obligatory kneeling. Under that I wear silk underwear and over the wetsuit a fleece jacket, and if cold enough a supplex nylon anorak. The biggest challenge for me is keeping the hands and feet warm.

After all the problems we have experienced with high flows I can now say: Here's to a wet fall!

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