Archive for April, 2009

dcc_3759It’s been a great weekend. We kayaked the Passaic yesterday, went to the The Dead show at the Garden on Saturday night and we planned to attempt taking to dogs with us today, Sunday, back at the same peaceful segment of the Passaic we departed from yesterday.  This was going to be a challenge and a mystery, how will the dogs like and handle the boats and the water?  How will we enter the water?  There were lots of questions to be answered but water fun with the dogs was the reason we got the kayaks so it was time to try.


We had the boats mounted on Kathy’s Matrix from yesterday’s paddle so getting to this excursion with the dogs should be easy.  We were taking one car so that also made it easier.  We stopped at Walmart on the way out and I picked up two bath mats and one spongy kitchen floor mat that we cut in half and put under the elastic on the front of each of the two kayaks.  This gave the dogs something they could grip on.  I also found a 3 pack of dry-sacks for $10.  I used these for the the cameras and the phones in lieu of the zip-locks I had previously been using.  I still put these into the blue soft ice-cooler.  I was leery about bring the cameras with the dogs not knowing what to expect.  On the other hand, I didn’t wan to to miss the first trip.  I decided to take the chance.  In any case, I was psyched to have these additional dry-sacks.


We got to the Essex County Environemental Center probably at 1:15pm and Kathy finally got pushed in with Scraps at 1:45.  It was like 90 outside and sunny so it was getting hot doing all this kayak prep.  Having the dogs with us didn’t make things easier.  What did make things easier was the fact that no one was at the place.  We had the who center to ourselves.

With Rags on the 30 foot red lead I pushed Kathy and Scraps off into the Passaic.  Our plan was to paddle up stream, take it easy and see what it is like.  I snapped a few pictures of Kathy and Scraps in the river and dry-sacked all the cameras and prepared my boat for launch.  

Rags had already been playing around in the water and mud.  As I moved my kayak up to the water she jumped into it.  I then got in and she jumped on my lap and I was immediately wet and muddy.  I was nervous about the safety of the cameras but with a wet Rags in my lap I easily scooted out into the river.  

Check out the short video I took during this trip for the few seconds I was confident rnought to grab something electronics

Rags was immediately apprehensive as she wanted to be with scraps and Kathy.  She got to the bow of the boat and slipped in pretty quickly.  Fortunately I was easily able to fish her out with the lean and pick her out of the water lie a six pack.  Nevertheless, when I did fish her out she was accompanied by a lot of water.

She fell in once or twice more, took a little swim and I was getting better at fishing her out and placing her on the bow instead of inside the boat.  This saved me a bit more water being stuck in my boat.  At one point early on Kathy and I got close and Rags jumped into Kathy’s boat and Scraps tried to come into mine.  At that point I tried to separate the two boats but it was a bad time.  It was while Scraps was straddling the two boats, so he took the lunge into the Passaic.  After that he seemed to cool down and relax a bit.

Rags never relaxed and always seemed like she wanted to be somewhere else. She went around me and would hang out on the stern, inside outside, I got her to sit for a few seconds on the bow, she would balance herself on the tip of the bow, fall in often and alway being a wet mess.  Some how I got the nerve to break out the video camera a few times to capture some moments.  


We went up the river up to the old railroad trestle and turned around and came back. We were out for about and hour and I have to say for the most part it was a success.  More so for Scraps than Rags.  If we had only one Dog things would be much, much easier.  Live and learn.  We have a whole summer ahead of us.


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This was our first group ride and it’s funny how it was along the Passaic in a stretch we haven’t done yet.  This one left from the Essex County Environmental Center on Eagle Rock Avenue and headed north to the Horsneck Road intersection with the river in Fairfield. The Environmental Center is a great place to disembark from with great parking and a nice launch area.  The is so little current paddling up stream from here will be no problem so using one car will be a nice option.  A nice part about today’s trip was there was no portaging.


Interstate 280

Interstate 280

Se we met up there and Amy DeBartollo did a real nice job organizing it with the help of John Madden, Bio teacher at Morristown High, and his wife.  In addition, Douglas from the Park Commission was nice enough to lend the group 8 canoes to use.  In total there were 39 of us on the river that gets few paddlers.  It weather was picture perfect in the 80s, downright sunny and hot, but being in April, no one is going to complain about that.


Rt. 46 Bridge

Rt. 46 leading to Bloomfield Ave. Bridge

Route 46 Bridge after the Home Depot leading into Fairfield

Route 46 Bridge after the Home Depot leading into Fairfield

Interstate Route 80

Interstate Route 80

The shuttling back and forth went well but unfortunately, there really isn’t a good parking place close to the Horseneck Road Bridge for future use.  The walk to the parked cat is substantial and you have to hoiste the kayaks up and hill and over a guard rail, then load the car in the shoulder.  Actually the shoulder is wide enough at this location.  With all this stated, this location may be a bit of an issue for future use. The next exit off the river after Horseneck Road is 6 miles down the river at Two Bridges Road.  We got shuttled back to the Environmental Center and had a nice lunch of sandwiches and cookies.  A really nice event and paddle.  Once again very peaceful.  One bad thing about the group ride expereience is that the group scares off all the wildlife, if there was any.



Take out point at Horseneck Road

Take out point at Horseneck Road

No it’s time to go see The Dead at the Garden.  What a wonderful day!

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dcc_2323Kathy and I were too lazy to take the kayaks off the car from Saturday’s trip up the Passaic River’s headwaters into the great swamp.  This meant we had to take another kayak trip today to take advantage of the Kayaks already being on the roof.  While Kathy was at her Aunt Ann’s and Uncle Joe’s 60th wedding anniversary, I was challenged to find a new trip to take .  I wanted to take advantage of Kathy being in Verona so I was focusing in on the Bloomfield Avenue intersection with the Passaic River.  Since I couldn’t confirm the logical put-out at Horseneck Road to be practical I kept looking for better choices.


I stumbled upon West Essex Park with its canoe launches on the Passaic at South Orange Avenue (Rt-510/Columbia Turnpike) in the south and Bloomfield Avenue in the north. Worried this trip may be too far to do in an afternoon I kept looking for alternative.  Thank G-d for maps.google.com.  The launch area along South Orange Avenue looked good and had parking.  It was just west of the Livingston Mall.  I then discovered a great launch area in Shepard Kolack Park in Chatham Borough, just south of Route 78 and the Mall at Short Hills. This set us up for a 4-mile or so journey down unchartered portions of the Passaic, at least unchartered for the two of us.


We unbuckled the boats and got them close to the river for launching.  Kathy found a port-a-potty at the park and then we were off.  First thing we noticed is that the river at this point is moving faster than we had previously experienced.  From a far it looks impressive, but when you get closer to it you realize it is just a babbling brook that has been constricted a bit to fit between all the Route 78/24  infrastructure that is going on around there.  At least there is a great concrete boat launch area leading right into the water.

We put-in around 2:50 pm and north we went upstream at a nice pace for a very little while.  As soon as we crossed the nearby bridges holding up Route 124 as well as Interstate 78 the river mellowed from a very gentle roll to virtually no current at all.

Kathy and a goose going under Route 78 just west of the Short Hills Mall

Kathy and a goose going under Route 78 just west of the Short Hills Mall






Ironically, from second one we saw more wildlife along the highways than we did in the Wildlife Refuge, 10 miles away.  Someone should tell the wildlife about the existence of the refuge. We saw a variety of birds including small song birds, blue birds, hawks, buzzards, ducks and then a black water fowl that I captured taking off on camera.  Kathy and I also saw deer and groundhogs.  We also hear a lot of shooting on the Morris County side of the river.  There must be a shooting range somewhere around there.  It gave new meaning to the word “duck.”

51 JFK Parkway from the rear, next to the Short Hills Hilton

51 JFK Parkway from the rear, next to the Short Hills Hilton



So we paddled behind the Short Hills Hilton, and then spent lots of time meandering behind the Commonwealth Water Company Canoe Brook reservoirs.  Short of that there wasn’t much to see as far as man made objects but the occasional pump house and $hitloads of garbage consisting primarily of plastic beverage containers that join to make dams along fallen trees.  There were also a large number of sporting balls such as soccer, volley and basket balls and some plastic wrap.  If it wasn’t for these three types of pollution the water would look pretty clean but with all the bottles one can be disgusted at the impacts of mankind on the scenic beauty of the river.



For the most part the river was brown, dark, and scummy.  It was wide and windy with very little current to push us north.  There was the periodic obstacle to go around or downed limb to go under but most of the time it was clear and easy paddling.  We did a lot more paddling in long stretches in this trip than our previous 2 and actually got some good upper-body exercise.



We did have to portage around downed trees twice along the route which is always a bummer of an experience but part of the life of kayaking as I am discovering.  I would typically hand off the electronics bag to Kathy in the river while I got out my kayak along a shallow muddy bank.  Kathy was lucky because while I sank into the mud while getting in and out of the kayak, I was able to pull Kathy and her boat fully out of the water and push her back in keeping her clean and dry.  My boat and my shoes on the other hand were a muddy mess.  I used branches and other debris found along the river to build a platform to stand on while helping Kathy get in and out of the river.  This was a good technique that kept me cleaner that I otherwise would have been.




Highlights of the trips were the convenient and fully legal put-in and take-out points which I discovered and I’m sure will be used again in the future.  The weather and the peacefulness was also great.  In addition, we saw some good birds along the way.  Some of the downers were the litter and the portages with all their mud and mess. Fortunately, they were very short and easy portages once on land, just having to cross one downed tree.  We ended up getting out around 5:30 and we had the car loaded by around 6:10 and we were home around 6:30 in time to feed the hungry dogs and people.  Unloading everything into the basement seemed to go pretty fast this time.  We are getting better at it.  While the dogs ate their typical fare, Kathy and I had a Carmel Haiffa mixed grill with a very nice $7 bottle of Cotes du Rhone (2007) that I had just purchased at the Wine Library the previous week.  Please read the review on http://lgwine.Wordpres.com.  In summary, it was another great kayaking experience and I can’t wait to do more.



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dcc_2140Following our night at a Dead show in Albany, we were feeling especially crunchy and decided to take advantage of the beautiful water and take our second kayak trip.  Kathy’s parents still were taking care of the dogs  from the Dead show so we were dog free, which was a good thing because we would have been tempted to take the dogs, but I don’t think we are quite ready for that yet.  We portaged for the first tim this trip and with the doggs would have been difficult.

dcc_2086Nevertheless, we decided to do the easy and familiar trpi and head back to the Lord Stirling Road parking lot and take the Passaic upstream into the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge.  The great thing about this trip is it takes one car.  We go up the river and then we head back down.


We were much better at getting everything loaded and the kayak hoisted up onto the roof and strapped down.  Profeciecy helps with the whole experience.  Se we get there, carry both kayaks simultaneously to the river’s edge and I push Kathy in.  I put in and like last week I felt like I was about to tip and lose my camera.  Getting in is tough, and technical skill that I need to get better at.


Though it rained a bit over the last few days, the river was noticeably lower than two weeks ago when we went up this segment just a bit.  We had difficulty getting though one series of trees in the water early on, but it then opened up as a still windy brown river.  Really peaceful and you saw no homes, roads or anything.  An occasional sign stating the land/swamp to the right was part of the Great Swamp Nation Wildlife Refuge.  Ironically, there is virtually no wildlife to be seen.  We saw a couple of Turtles, only like one bird and a lot of dead trees.  Maybe one day we will get there in the fog, that will be spooky.


We got to one tree that blocked the river that we decided to portage across.  We saw a few other kayakers around here and soon realized there wasn’t much more to the river adventure past the portage.  In hind-sight. The portage wasn’t worthwhile but it gave us practice in getting in and out of the kayaks.  Handing off the camera bag to the person already in the water helps.

Going with the gentle current on the way back was very peaceful and made shooting pictures a pleasures with new scenery slowly evolving in the view finder.  That’s right, I also took some videos of the trip so one day I will hopefully have those to post.


The obstacles that were obstacle on the way out were not issues with the current.  After about two hours back and forth it was ready to get out and go and pick up the dogs.  Strapping the ships on the Matrix after the trip was quick and easy.  We had so much fun and putting the kayaks away is so much no-fun that we decided to kayak tomorrow and keep them on the car tonight.  We shall report on tomorrow’s trip as we go a bit further up the Passaic, we hope.


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dcc_1009It was a beautiful early Spring Sunday, probably the nicest day of the year to date, and Kathy and I had planned it to be our maiden voyage on our kayaks. We purchased the kayaks a week earlier and being stored in the basement did no one any good. I had been researching where to kayak and I decided to try the nearby Passaic River. It is our local river but there doesn’t seem to be too much information about using it to paddle on. Some one described it as the forgotten river because no one seems to use it for anything else other than a toilet bowl. But that is old history; today’s modern toilet bowls go through state of the art sewerage treatment plants before being flushed into the rivers.


With all this on my mind, my research told me to enter the river near its headwaters. For us that meant parking at and entering the river at the fisherman’s parking lot just down the dirt road from the Lord Stirling Park Environmental Center. The Passaic River is the Morris County boundary from the southern end at Millington (Long Hill Township) and it follows through Chatham and goes to Parsippany and almost reaches Lincoln Park before veering off east into NJ’s less pristine areas. With respect to our beloved Morris County, the Passaic River probably is one of our less appreciated gems.


Now that we have kayaks, it is time to find out what the Passaic River is all about. Not that I’m looking to make the Passaic River my epic journey, but hopefully it is accessible and fun. Maybe no one uses it because from a kayaking perspective, it is boring. We were looking for boring on our first trip anyway
So I had a plan for the first trip. Park my car at the intersection of Valley Road in Millington with the Passaic River and then hop into Kathy’s Matrix with the two Kayaks and take the 10-minute, 3-mile drive back to the Lord Stirling Park parking lot. Unfortunately there was a Cop and a radar check at the spot I wanted to park, so we had to park a bit further than we wanted, but no big deal.


We drove back, went to the bathroom at the Environmental Center and then unloaded the kayaks. Another couple pulled up next us who also began unloading their own kayaks. They were more reserved than we were and little was said between us. It was kind of eerie, much like the swamp we were about to enter.


We beat them to the water and Kathy got in first and I pushed her off. I got to the edge of the river and had a bit of trouble pushing off. Once in I was shocked how close I was to the edge and for a second I though I would go over. All I could think about was my new camera going into the water. I got over that quickly though and in Know time the camera was out and I was comfortable shooting pictures.


We decided to up stream into the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, that’s what the couple recommended that they do. You only need one car that way. We checked it out for a bit and then headed down stream. The water was super calm for the first 2/3 of the trip. You could definitely get back to where you started from if you want. Once we went under the bridge at South Maple, the current picked up at times and it was more fun and probably too swift to turn back. There was a guy with his golden retriever warning us of such but we were going one way any way.


The river itself was lifeless and dull. The trees grew out of the water and we often had to avoid fallen trees. There was no foliage what-so-ever and the trees looked like the dead of winter. Nevertheless it was beautiful, peaceful serene, quiet and just a joy to be one. The weather was perfect and the concept that we got these kayaks and we would be enjoying nature, from that non-terra-forma perspective was paying off big time.


We started the trip at about 2 and finished about 4:30 and it is about a 3 mile trip, but we wasted at least 15 minutes at the start and never went fast. I bet we could do it in an hour if we wanted to. In addition, it may make sense to bike back to the car instead of taking two cars since it would only be about a 3-mile drive. I say, we could do this trip as a fun trip down the river and do so in the summer after work

The unloading zone at Valley Road was great. There was a place to comfortable pull the car in and strap down the kayaks. Up next we have our more local river, the Whippany. We have that scheduled with a group on April 25, 2009. We can almost paddle to that one. Who knows, maybe the Whippany is as much fun as the Passaic, and that is only 5 minutes by car. The Passaic takes us 25 minutes to get there.



After the whole thing we unpacked and got right back into the car and took the pooches to the dog park.  Some highlight are below.




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What ot buy? What to buy?   




What to buy? What to buy?

Kathy and I toyed around with the idea of getting kayaks last fall, 2008.  We walking into Pelican Outdoors on Route 10, to check out their end of season clearance.  Feeling guilty from the table fiasco, we still want to give them a shot to sell us something.  While they were helpful and the sale seemed good we never pulled the trigger.

We heard an ad on the radio for  the Jersey Paddler’s Paddlesport Show coming up and some how, we made time to got to it on the last day of the show, Sunday, March 29, 2009. We really didn’t know what to expect of the show but when we pulled into the parking lot of the  Garden State Exhibit Center, Somerset, NJ I was shocked.  We had to park in the overflow parking lot.  I had been to many shows at this place before, many of them computer shows during their hey-day and I never had to park in the overflow lot before.  

We made the long walk to the entrance purchased our $10 tickets and we amazed at how busy the show was. What recession?  The show is put on by JerseyPaddler.com  and they get all their vendors to prepared booths and they each offer their equipment for purchases through JerseyPaddlers.com at the show for 12% to 20% off store pricing.  That had kayak, canoe, accessory and car rack dealers.  Too bad we got there too late.   Maybe for our wallets it was good we got their late.

The show was billed as

the largest canoe & kayak show on the East Coast. The show features manufacturers of kayaks, canoes, accessories, sportswear, paddling clubs professional instruction and expeditions, as well as lectures and video and slide shows of paddling trips, expeditions and paddling techniques.  Paddlesport hosts over 100 vendors including the top names in paddle sports such as Perception, Dagger, Ocean Kayak, Wilderness Systems, Mad River Canoe, Old Town and much more!

Initially getting our feet wet, so to speak and understanding the concept of the show, we decided to take the plunge and get outfitted for local kayaking with the pooches.  We were zeroing in on a Perception recreational 12″ kayak and decided we had to get the car rack before anything else.  Headed over to the Thule dealer, he hooked us up, went to the Perception kayak dealer, and purchased 2 identical, except for color kayaks.  I got yellow while Kathy got red and yellow.  We paid for the order and rushed home to switch cars because we got the rack to fit Kathy’s Matrix and not my Jetta.

When we got back to the show after swapping cars there was about 1 hour of the show left.  We immediately got the roof-rack installers to get going on the Matrix and finding our Kayaks and Kathy and I were off to find PFDs, I wonder I Adobe makes a free one, and paddles.  We found our way to the MTI Adventure Wear booth and let the guys fit us for vests.  Ironically, I got a red vest while Kathy’s was yellow.  In either case, the Reflex vests have reflective tape built into them for good visibility.


The vest is described as perfect for  light touring or day long paddles, offering a great fit for wide range of body shapes. Open V-Neck, soft foam front and sides for a slim-fit all around. Duel side straps, 2 stretch mesh pockets, 2-way adjustable waist, and reflective trim. 420 D Nylon. 

The guys at the MTI booth recommended seeing Danny with the sandals on at the Werner Paddles booth to get a paddle.  He is apparently the paddle guru.  We got there and he was a cool guy.  Explained why we wanted the $100 paddle and not the $50 version.  Weight and stiffness of plastic paddle.  Floats in your wrists when out of the water and has good power to push through the water.  He also gave Kathy and nice paddling lesson.  Use you waist not your arms, paddles needs to come out of the water as soon as the reach your body or else the motion will be non-linear and push you of course.  

Se we got their cool one button Werner Paddles Skagit model which with one bottom both separated and can twist the angle of attack.  Danny recommended always using 45 degrees feather angle unless you have a reason not to.  Check out this video that Danny Mongno hosts on the Werner website.  I got the 230cm while Kathy’s is 200 cm.

Kayak Forward Stroke from Werner Paddles on Vimeo.

In the end and for the record we spent:

  • 2 x$574.99 – Perception Prodigy Recreational Kayak – (REI Reviews)
  • $127.96 Thule Rack Foot Pack
  • $55.96 Thule Rack Fit Kit
  • $ $55.96 – Thule Rack 50 inch load bar (Kathy’s old 42 inch hacked off one wasn’t long enough)
  • 2 x $125.00 Thule Rack  Hull-a-port pro 
  • 2 x $59.49 MTI Reflex PFD 400 
  • 2 x $104.75 Werner Skagit-SG Paddles
  • $137.68 – 7% sales tax, increased from 6% by Jon Corzine so my decreasing rebate would be increased.  Swine!!!!

The total comes to $2,104.52

We better like Kayaking.  We still believe we got good deals and good equipment.  The Thule stuff was 20% off and the hull-a-port folding J racks were $50 off so that was a great savings and now gives us a good roof bike rack for Kathy’s car. A big bonus and synergistic benefit of our outdoor fun-pack.  They kayaks were 12% off and so were the vests and paddles I think were 20% off.  I think the vests and paddles are higher quality than we probably would have walked out of Pelican with, so that is also good.

Time to find some water, but first let me document how the kayaks were mounted to the Thule rack system when we got home.


Now lets go out find some water and have some fun.



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