Monday, December 17, 2007

A Christmas Miracle

For the first time in forever, the stars aligned & I was able to mix a little paddleboating into my annual east coast holiday pilgrimage. Each year, my fam converges on the DC area to visit with Grandma & the rest of our huge clan. Most years we content ourselves with tons of eating, sleeping & football watching. We did all that normal Festivus stuff, but this time my visit would also include taking advantage of some super wet Allegheny weather. Forecasting this, I packed accordingly for my 5-day trip: one change of clothes & a pile of kayaking gear. Captain Panic Smith, Fat Andy, JBC & I made plans for a Sunday quickie in Northern WV. I was really hoping to catch the Upper B, but as is usually the case with winter rain-event boating, we'd have to make the call early Sunday a.m. after checking flows. The forecast was for increased precip but falling temps .. snow.

C.P. came through Frederick to pick me up on Saturday evening, with an extra Gus on the roof for me, but no Fat Andy in the car. Apparently he had bailed. So westward we rallied in the fading light & increasing storminess, toward my old stompin' grounds of Morgantown. After speaking with Roger, we detoured north to the Ohiopyle zone .. eventually stopping at the top of Seven Springs mountain in the midst of a hellacious blizzard. We hung slopeside with Roger & Jess in the lap of luxury while playing Wii & swillin' beers (Thanks dudes!). My plan was to drink just enough beer to induce sufficient drowsiness to fall asleep "early", but not wreck me for a super early rise 'n shine time .. keep in mind, I'm on a 3-hour Pacific-to-Eastern time difference. That hurts. Particularly when the wake-up call comes at 5:30, or more accurately, 2:30 "my time" .. an hour I'm normally accustomed to hearing "Last call! Drink up!"

Salting the wound was the incessant gale force winds buffeting the house with the noise of a billion tiny chunks of airborne ice. Sweet, let's go get wet! But then JB called confirming that the NF Blackwater would be at an ideal flow, & that's all it took to get me motivated.

We descended out of the blizzard into a steady rain in the early morning darkness, en route to Davis where we'd meet up with Canaan regular, Don Smith. JB & I scouted the super thin line on Douglas Falls before getting suited up. I'd been at this spot before, having run the Upper B numerous times, but for one reason or another, I was never able to catch the NF when it was running. I was stoked.

I dunno what the gradient on this bit is, but it's pretty steep. You're droppin' right outta the gate & for the length of the run .. lots of slides, couple waterfalls, & tons of great boof opportunities. We had some squirley weather during the trip, everything from brief periods of sun to driving rain to sleet & snow, but it was pleasantly comfy on the water. All tolled it was a great little breakaway from the flatlands.

I really wish I had more/better photos, but my camera was protesting the work conditions that day .. either too wet or too cold. Sorry, I'll try harder next time.

Nothing sez "Let's go kayaking!" like a little Ice Coast winter weather..

The only shots I got on the river before my camera stopped working was the standard "big drop" shot .. Don on Gluteal

JB could be a stunt double for actor John C. Reilly ..

Thanks to Topher for the gear, JB & Don for the leadership, & Rog/Jess for the accomodations! Merry Christmas y'all.

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