Bend, Oregon: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We’re in Bend! Our plans meandered to the west as we came to grips with the fact that the wide-spread drought conditions in most of the US have left the rivers unhappily low. Our hopes to paddle in the southern states in the fall/early winter followed by the south western states evaporated, but we flowed into Bend where Peter and I have been considering moving after our Kayak 50 quest.

We rented a wonderful apartment in Tumalo, an area north of Bend. This is our incredible view:dscn4582-2

Two of the Sisters, extinct volcanoes, as seen from our balcony
Two of the Sisters, extinct volcanoes, as seen from our balcony (zoomed in)

Bend has a huge ski resort, Mt. Bachelor (9,068 feet),  that is filling up nicely with snow at 94 inches – 7.8 feet! Peter will soon check it out. A big snow storm last week left about a foot of snow where we are in the high desert – very unusual for this area where most of the moisture falls on the mountains. They effectively help contain and define the moisture laden coastal area of Oregon, known locally as “the valley.” This high desert has the advantage of sunny/partly sunny (300) days, with out all the rain and dampness of the coastal areas. Compared to New York, there are much milder winter temperatures that dance around freezing for a month or so and then warm up into the higher 30’s and 40’s starting around mid-January.

We recently spent a few days with Claire for our early Christmas with her in Portland. It was great to watch Scrooged, exchange gifts, and feast on great food. What a heart-warming delight! img_2057The drive (about 4 hours) was a real treat too, filled with snowy desert and the mists of the Columbia River Gorge.

Mount Hood seen from 197 about 40 miles as the crow flies
Mount Hood seen from  route 197 about 40 miles as the crow flies
Misty morning driving east on the Columbia River Gorge
Misty morning driving east on the Columbia River Gorge

We’ve also spent quite a bit of time looking at homes and land in the area, especially Sisters, a small community a bit further north of sisters_origwhere we’re staying. It’s lovely and quaint. While the quest for a new home can be quite wearying, it’s also exciting to imagine a new life. We’ve already had  a fun preview while attending a Christmas party given by the local kayaking group. It’s great to know we have a place to share our passion! Looking forward to checking out a Sister’s church for Christmas Eve.

Our hearts reach out for our loved ones at Christmas, those with us and those who have crossed over into another life, united in love. Sending you love and thanks for reading our blog and coming along on our Kayak 50 adventure! Wishing you a…..merry-christmas

 

State 18 of 50: PA (second paddle): Clarion River

Mild, western PA river with small ledge drops and quickwater
Date Paddled: 11/8/16
Nearest City: Clarion
Put-In:  River Road
Take-Out:  River Road
Duration:  3 hours
River Miles: 7
Shuttle:  bike
Weather:  mostly cloudy, 50’s
Difficulty:  quickwater, class I
Cfs:  600

With no need to rush home from western Pennsylvania. we decided to seek out another river to paddle.  The Clarion, flowing generally north from the hills NE of Pittsburgh toward the Allegheny River, came up in our search as a class I/II river that actually had enough water flowing!dscn4433We made our way several hours north from the Yock, meandering through the rustic hills on windy back-country roads, for a peaceful, if unspectacular, paddle on the Clarion.  The section we selected provided an easy bike shuttle on adjacent River Road; the section immediately upstream looked more enticing (better rapids and scenery) but presented a far longer and more difficult shuttle.dscn5383We shoved off early in the afternoon careful to dress warmly for the shallow but quickly-flowing waters of the Clarion, under cloudy skies, and brisk air and water.  The paddle was relaxing, looping back and forth between nice forested hills.  We saw a few kingfishers, mergansers, an eagle, but no signs of people, though River Road was almost always close by on the right bank.This is the kind of paddle that makes you think that it’s way better than being at work! Next time we visit the Clarion, we’ll be sure to paddle the section upstream where it’s designated a Wild and Scenic River.

State 18 of 50: PA: Youghiogheny River

 

Classic white water river through a deep and scenic gorge
Date Paddled: 11/7/16
Nearest City: Uniontown
Put-In: Ramcat Road boat launch (Confluence, PA)
Take-Out:  Ohiopyle S.P.
Duration: 3.5 hours
River Miles: 9
Shuttle: rail-trail – 8.5 miles
Weather: 60, clear and sunny
Difficulty: quickwater, class I, II, II+
Cfs: 830


(Peter)  The Youghioghenny, or “Yock,” as it’s referred to locally, has held a special allure for me over the past two decades.  Regular trips across the country have  frequently led me across its path on I-70.  I had even cycled a section of the rail trail that accompanies the Yock dscn5333on much of its convoluted 134-mile course roughly northward from its headwaters in West Virginia and the western panhandle of Maryland, and on through the rugged hills of southwestern Pennsylvania to its confluence with the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.  Set in a deep and lovely gorge (one of the deepest in the state), the Yock had cried out as the perfect way to earn our Pennsylvania state sticker.dscn5341Fed by a reservoir and several significant tributaries, including Casselmans River that joins right near our put in, the Yock generally holds its water well into even a dry fall.  This year, however, it was touch-and-go: the week prior we had passed through, hoping to paddle, only to find the water a bit below recommended levels.  The blessing of a little rain in the intervening period boosted the water level just enough that we directed ourselves back to SW Pennsylvania to give it a try.  From our previous attempt, we knew we’d have a peaceful, wooded campsite, fully furnished with warm bathrooms and showers pretty much all to ourselves, which made the decision much easier.dscn5329And we were rewarded by about as nice a paddle as anyone could expect in the Northeast in November.  With a beautiful day ahead of us we decided to leave my bicycle at the take out in Ohiopyle State Park and go directly to the put in just north of the village of Confluence.  A friendly couple from Ohio was putting in at the same time, but we saw no one else on the river.  After exchanging pleasantries and getting some reassuring information about the river and its rapids, we set out into the fast current and faced a nice class II rip just around the first bend.dscn5322And there were many bends, as the Yock weaves its way through a maze of hills that rise as much as a thousand feet on either side of the river.  On the left bank we were accompanied by the rail trail, part of a trail network stretching from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh and beyond.  On the right bank is an active CSX/AMTRAK rail line, so our reverie was occasionally interrupted by the rumbling, clanking and shrieking of mile-long freight trains working their way up or down the valley.dscn5331The water was clear and crisp, and afforded reasonable warning of the many rocks that lurked at or just beneath the surface of the fairly shallow river.  And there were many rocks in the numerous easy rips and rapids that were interspersed by calmer stretches that never really stopped moving us right along.20161102_152134-3The rapids were fairly easy to navigate at this low water level, save for bouncing over or off a rock or two – at higher spring levels I would imagine that most of the rocks disappear and large waves become the source of entertainment on this stretch.  The next section of the Yock, from Ohiopyle to Bruner Run (featuring class III rapids), is the busiest whitewater river section east of the Mississippi.  The upper Yock, runnable in spring only, is a famous class IV/V run.  And right in Ohiopyle, with official permission on certain days, expert kayakers are permitted to shoot the 18-foot falls (pictured below).

20161102_144922The shorter days of fall brought the shadows of evening upon us early as we paddled the final miles beneath the steep hills.  The rapids picked up a bit in frequency and intensity as we approached the end – we knew that if we missed the take out there was a waterfall just around the bend!  But with a few hours of shadowy daylight left we found ourselves at our destination. I set out on my 40-minute rail trail ride while Diana explored the little touristy village of Ohiopyle and awaited my return with Vincent.dscn5350

State 17 of 50: OH: Little Miami River

Pleasant paddle on designated Scenic River
Date Paddled:11/4/16
Nearest City: Xenia
Put-In: Oregonia
Take-Out: Morrow at Miami Canoe
Duration: 2.5 hours
River Miles: 7
Shuttle: Bike path (rail trail on east bank)
Weather: 50’s with water temperatures colder, calm, cloudy with some sun toward the end
Difficulty: quickwater, flatwater, class I
Cfs: gauge height 5.0 feet – has water all year

(Diana) The Little Miami is one of those rivers that after you’ve paddled it you totally get that it’s better to be on just about any river than it is to be working.  A pleasant paddle under misty conditions, the Little Miami’s main feature for us was that it had water in a drought-filled year! dscn4264This is because much of it’s water is from a deep lake which has a deep aquifer. This is another one of those hard-working rivers that sees hundreds of people
during the summer months and come Labor Day… suffice it to say, we, the deer, and assorted birds were the only ones enjoying the water.

I was greeted by a heron who was clearly accustomed to people in his unflinching glace. Most people’s concept of Ohio is one immense cornfield with some silos thrown in.  Yep, that’s pretty much it! That’s why the few areas on either side of the state that break with the monotony are so well used.  The day after this paddle was unseasonably warm and sunny and I hiked the Little Miami Gorge (while Peter attended an insulator show) and it was filled with people! Young and old, college kids, you name it – it was actually quite shocking and frankly not very enjoyable, but hey, I get it – it’s all they’ve got! I digress….

dscn5306

The current is lazy overall, but in a few places there are some class I rapids like under the new highway bridge. The left-over signs warning of construction and danger fill me with a bit of foreboding especially since I can’t see around a right sweep just past the bridge. While scrutinizing it, I catch some movement in the rapids:
Which brings me to some thoughts I often have when I see deer from my kayak.  They are incredibly majestic! I am always excited to see them and even though they can be a nuisance in suburbia and a devastator of habit in the wild, they still have a very special place in my heart.

One a similar note, while I’m also not a fan of highways, I can certainly appreciate the beauty of architecture and line:

Note my kayak on the bottom left
Note my kayak on the bottom left for scale
Only part of the old bridge was taken down
Only part of the old bridge was taken down leaving an interesting anomaly on the left.

As I slide easy through the rapids, more hype than substance now that the construction is complete. I paddle along appreciating the quiet misty river resting on this late fall day.  It’s hundreds of canoes are neatly stacked on the river banks, the heron and deer reclaim their territory. I am again honored to be part of this watery world.

 

 

 

 

State 16 if 50: VA: Shennandoah River (South Fork)

Mountains, cliffs, wildlife, relaxing fall paddle
Date Paddled: 11/1/16
Nearest City: Front Royal
Put-In: Rileyville – Island Ford Road (mile 16)
Take-Out: Bentonville boat launch (mile 28)
Duration: 5.5 hours
River Miles: 12
Shuttle: Downriver Canoe
Weather: 55 warming to 65, sunny, calm to light breeze
Difficulty: very few stretches of flatwater, quickwater/class I and one class II, many minor ledge drops
Cfs: 400

(Peter) There are few things in life that are certain, especially when it comes to being able to count on any given river to have enough water in it to paddle.  So finding the Shenandoah to be paddle-able in this dry year was not only a delight, but it furthered our realization about how little we know about the hydrology (water flows and cycles) of rivers.  Turns out, much like the Niobrara (in Nebraska), the Shenandoah is continually replenished by underground flows.  In fact, we were told that in places a significant part of this river’s flow is actually underground in the Karst formations of Appalachia.  So when other rivers in the region had barely enough water for a game of pooh-sticks, we found the Shenandoah waiting for us with adequate, if not generous, flow for this fine fall day.dscn5274I contemplated a bike shuttle for this outing, and it would have been a tough one, with a serious climb up from the river, followed by ten miles on a windy (both pronunciations) highway with no shoulder.  Fortunately, I found a ride from a local outfitter right at the take out in Bentonville who, though he had officially closed for the season only the day before, happily offered to shuttle me back to Diana at the put-in.dscn4138Once on the water we found the Shenandoah to be a fairly quick-flowing river with easy rapids scattered here and there and one tricky (class II?) drop that provided only a moment of anxiety before we splashed successfully through.dscn5274The river winds through some steep forested hills, but in places the terrain opens up enough for a few centuries-old valley-bottom farms, making for very picturesque scenery.dscn4224