Early morning on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River near camp
Sadie enjoying the river
I arrived at "John's Place" on June 7 and the time has been flying by. John is parked behind his brother-in-laws office and apartment building and they have graciously made a spot for me to park. Immediately upon arrival I was hustled to John's nephew's birthday party. I'd been driving since early morning and hadn't even combed my hair! Oh well, I figured his family would chalk me up to another crazy "westerner". Actually, they were very nice and I sat down and ate a delicious piece of homemade chocolate cake that was made by John's sister, Peggy.
Clearfield is a small old town with numerous old buildings and establishments. Many of the residents have resided here for generations and their business have been passed down from generation to generation. It seems to be a typical small town where every one knows every one. The country side is beautiful this time of year. Everything is lush and green due to the numerous showers that occur almost daily.
Sadie has decided she really like John's rig, probably due to the air conditioning being on all of the time.(see picture below)
I also discovered there is a really nice rails to trails path that starts in Clearfield and continues along the river for miles. Sadie, John and I walked part of it and I hope to bike part of it time permitting. Sadie enjoyed swimming and frolicking in the river along side of the trail.
John met some of the folks from the local kayaking club and had arranged to meet up with them on the Western Branch of Susquehanna River for an overnight camping trip. I'm always up for meeting the local folks and exploring some of the secrets of the local area. Wow, was I in for a treat1 The WINs ought to explore Central Pennsylvania. There are lots of rivers, camping, hiking, and the weather isn't as hot and muggy as it was down in Missouri and Arkansas. I discovered that the kayaking and canoeing folks are fun loving, friendly, and polite on the river.
What started out as an overnight camping trip ended up being a two night trip. John was very excited to get away from the business of being sick and we headed out on Friday instead of Saturday. We loaded up the kayaks on Thursday to make sure everything fit before we headed out to the put-in on Friday. We were able to get all our food, sleeping bags, tent, clothes, and even a box of wine in the two kayaks with no problem. I was amazed! We had planned for simple meals with minimal preparation due to storage constraints in our kayaks. I was very fortunate to find a great kennel to board Sadie so we headed over to the kennel on Friday morning and then headed to the put-in at Deer Creek for a leisurely float down the river to the campsite. Sadie didn't even baulk at the new kennel.
Our trip down the river to the camping spot was a little dicey at first. The river was very low and the first mile or so challenged our paddling skills and will. Neither one of us wanted to get out and walk! Once we got past the tricky spots it was smooth sailing although the river was lower than anything I've paddled in the past. There were lots of little riffles and boulders to slalom through to make the trip interesting. Actually, I used more of my paddling skills that I had on the Buffalo or Jacks Fork rivers.
The Happy Kayaker looks a little worried about the shallow conditions.
Put-in at Deer Creek
The Alder Creek camp site was beautiful . There were lots of established fire rings, log benches, and even a makeshift table. Along side the camp site was a babbling stream running into the river. There was a perfect canopy of trees to make shade and add some protection in the event of a light shower. The site was very clean for such a popular camp. Much to our surprise two members (Matt and Paul) of the kayaking club showed up late Friday afternoon. We hadn't expected them until Saturday, so their appearance made for a pleasant surprise.
With Matt and Paul's arrival I learned the difference between kayaking camping and canoe camping. In my mind it's the difference between backpacking and car camping. When you have a canoe you have STORAGE, ie probably 1000 lb weight limit. Kayaks have about 250 lb weight limit. These guys brought grills, chairs, steaks,potatoes, cast iron skillets, tarps, wood, and beer and more beer...you'd thought they were going to stay for a week. These guys know how to relax and enjoy themselves. John is now convinced he should get a canoe. Hmm.. cushy lounge chairs, tables to cook on, and thick sleeping mats..could be interesting.
Matt, John, & Paul sitting around the campfire.
Look at all of the stuff that came out of two kayaks!
We had a great time telling stories and learning about the area. Matt and Paul cooked all of their meals over an open campfire, something I haven't done since my childhood mainly because open camp fires are not allowed virtually everywhere in the California back country. They cooked home fried potatoes, sausage and eggs, steaks...all the things I used to associate camp eating with years ago. The best part was they graciously shared some of their food with us. They were probably snickering quietly at our one pot pasta meal for dinner and bagels and cream cheese for breakfast...thinking "those city folks".
Sleeping out under the stars was another treat. No bugs here. Matt had put up a tarp in case of rain and it made the perfect shelter for sleeping, at least for the first night. The second night is started to rain around bed time so the tent promised a dryer nights sleep. The air was cool and the stream lulled us to sleep.
The trip continued down the river to Karthaus on Sunday. Matt and Paul were concerned about the Moshannon Falls. Apparently it can be pretty challenging. The water in the river had risen about 5 inches which was a relief for me because my poor kayaks got some good scratches from the put-in area. Matt and Paul insisted that we get an early start as the take-out at Karthaus was about 12 miles down river and would take about 5 hours. We took their advise and headed out early as we needed to pick up Sadie by 6:00 that evening. I guess Matt and Paul were thinking canoe hours because we were at the take out spot in time to have lunch at the local hangout. Moshannon Falls was really not a falls but some very mild rapids or very large riffles. It was great fun going down the falls and we actually thought about turning around and paddling back up so we could go back down.
M0shannon Falls..should I paddle back up?
New companions: Matt and Paul
Well, I picked up Sadie by 6:00 and she fared well. It turns out the kennel owner is a very good friend of Matt's. It also turns out that Matt is an old acquaintance of John's sister and brother-in-law. We later went to the beer store to buy some local beer and it turns out Matt's wife owns the store. Yep, this is a small town with wonderful people. A great place to visit. Stayed tuned for Clearfield, part II...more to come.