Thursday: It was a bright, sunshiny day with a forecast of 85 / 62 and little chance of rain - perfect weather for a paddle on Pennsylvania's Allegheny River!
Jilinda and Ron had planned to arrive a day early so that they could checkout the river and take-out sites. Ruth offered to help, and so did Mary and Eric, and then Laura wanted to have an extra day, too... Soon, almost everyone (we had a total of twelve) was starting this trip on Thursday. Most of us were able to nestle together on 4 well-shaded adjoining sites, with Mary & Eric on a slightly removed spot with electricity. The facilities were clean and modern, with warm water and showers. The sites were roomy enough to have 2 tents per site without being cramped. Coleen and Steve didn't arrive until dusk (due to equipment problems) and had to setup in the dark, but otherwise, it was a glorious start.
Friday morning we shuttled up to Kinzua Dam with Steve's trailer and Liz's car - Thanks for coming on Thursday, Steve! - and launched at about 10:45. This section of the river is designated as Wild and Scenic, and it was quite beautiful. We saw numerous herons, ducks, and a water snake swimming across the river - and Eric reported seeing "hundreds of suckers". Although the river current seemed sluggish (it was only about 1900CFM) we managed to get to Glade Bridge on schedule. This was the end of the "scenic" part of the river and we took a short break to get ourselves ready for the United Refinery section of the river, and the "Caution, Rapids!"
Paddling past a refinery was noisy, smelly, and slightly interesting - as the guide-book said, "at least it will be over soon" - and it was. Then we were into "the Rapids" - well, we were into a little chop. I guess if you were sideways when you got to this spot you might have gotten into trouble, but our Seasoned Paddlers got through without incident.
Shortly after this, we landed at the Hickory Street Bridge for our planned lunch break. Jilinda and Ron were in the lead, and as Ron hit the beach, he dashed up the stairs, and ran for some gastric relief. (There are books written on How to Shit in the Woods, but they don't cover what to do when you are on the river in down-town Warren!) When he rejoined the group, he found them lounging in the shade on a grassy bank. Some were eating lunch, some were taking naps, and some went SHOPPING at Allegheny Outfitters (It is so hard to resist the Siren's call.)
After an hour, we were on our way again. We saw many Victorian mansions and even watched a train cross over the river. We arrived at Betts Park Landing at about 4:00 to find John and Susan (friends' of Ron and Jil's) waiting for us. After loading our boats on the trailer, John and Susan took Liz back to Kinzua Dam to retrieve her car while everyone else went to have a beer. (Tony, you are always in our hearts!) We reconvened at Mama Jane's restaurant, where we Old Ducks enjoyed a delicious dinner in the party room at discounted prices.
Back at camp, we had a terrific campfire where we were able to catch-up with friends and get to know our guests, Kathy, Susan and John. We also talked (endlessly, it seemed...) about our plans for Saturday's trip. The original plan was to paddle from Buckaloons to Tidioute, a distance of about 15 miles. With a lunch stop it would take us about 6.5 hrs. Many people thought that this would be too long, and we struggled to devise a shorter excursion. Our only options seemed to be 1) Wildwood, a private launch controlled by Allegheny Outfitters, and 2) a strip of land near the Tanbark Trailhead. As darkness fell and weariness overcame us, we ultimately gave up and decided to revisit our plans in the morning. Shambling along to bed, John, Susan, Eric and Mary were able to take advantage of the clear night and low light pollution to admire the constellations and marvel at the Milky Way - a perfect end to our day.
Saturday dawned with the promise of being just as beautiful as Friday had been. Liz, Coleen, and Steve decided to scout for old and forgotten take-outs that could shorten our day's voyage, while the rest of us waited for Allegheny Outfitters to open so that we could negotiate using their takeout at Wildwood. Eventually, our scouts returned with the sad news that they were unable to find suitable take-outs before Tidioute. Mary then suggested that we could drive to a site just above yesterday's launch and paddle on the Allegheny Reservoir in New York. The group agreed that this was our best alternative and we prepared to depart - but Oh No! Ruth discovered that our planned route was closed.
Resourceful Ruth plotted another location, and we dashed off with a caravan of four vehicles and a trailer- at nearly 11:00. But then, Oh No! - When we reached Friends Boat Launch, it was closed due to low water levels. Ruth to the rescue: off to Quaker Lake. The small boat launch was packed, but we finally got on the water. A great place to picnic near the end of the lake was waiting for us, and everyone enjoyed lunch. As clouds built, we decided that it was time to get back to the launch. Another long wait, and then we headed back to camp - but first, we had to stop at Ono, NY (how appropriately named for today's adventures!) for ice cream and Affogatos.
Once again back at camp, we got ready for our Community Meal or "Green Corn Festival" - a Seneca Thanksgiving ritual. We had so much great food and so many friends to be thankful for! After stuffing ourselves, it was time to celebrate with a concert - a kazoo concert! Jilinda had collected a dozen kazoos from Allegheny Outfitters to share, Professor Mary directed us, and Liz recorded the program. (She claims to have uploaded it to Facebook) Following that, Eric entertained us with Corny Jokes, and Mary gave us a History Quiz about the region. Prizes were awarded to everyone who answered a question, or at least made a valiant attempt.
The weather forecast for Sunday was for a high probability of rain through the night, and more rain in the late morning, so many of us prepared for an early escape from camp rather than enjoying a late-night campfire chat.
Sunday surprised us all by starting out with sunshine and patches of blue sky. But, since we were mostly packed-up, there wasn't much interest in cooking leisurely breakfasts, and we drifted away toward home - all the while keeping an eye open for elusive launch sites for the next Allegheny trip.