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Archive for June, 2009

DCC_9520It was a beautiful Sunday in late June and we decided to violate our number 1 rule, not to take the dogs on a kayak trip that we have not take ourselves.  We have heard Split Rock Reservoir in Boonton Township was a beautiful place with a dedicated launch area, and the fact that it is a reservoir and not a river meant we could take the risk and break the number one rule.  We did fine and access was all very easy.

According to the sign the parking lot, Splitrock Reservoir is located in the Farny Highlands section of New Jersey.  It’s a 625- acre reservoir and is 1,500 acres of surrounding land owned by Jersey City through Green Acres Program. There is a 13.8-mile hiking trail that loops around the reservoir, so that gives you a perspective on how large the reservoir is.  We probably did about half of the reservoir on the paddle.  Loos like a great place to boat and swim and have fun for a whole day.  There were lots of fishermen but I didn’t get any sense they were catching anything.

Time Line in accordance with the photo log.

  • 11:30 – Arrived and parked at Split Rock Reservoir’s southern shore.
  • 11:50 – Kathy is in the water with Scraps and Rags.
  • 11:55 – I’m in the water taking pictures of Kathy and the dogs.  Kathy soon hands Rags off to me and we are off.
  • 12:15 – We reach the western shore of the reservoir. just north of the dam.
  • 12:32 – We see a cormorant basking in the sunshine.
  • 12:44 – We encounter two snakes basking in the sunshine on some rocks.
  • 1:00 – We reach the island in the middle of the reservoir and start looking for a place to pull out for lunch.
  • 1:28 – we land on the island and enjoy a lunch of honey dew and granola bars.
  • 1:53 – We are back in the boats after lunch.
  • 1:59 – We are heading south on the eastern shore of the reservoir in the narrow channel formed by the island.
  • 2:12 – We see a couple of turtles basking in the sunshine on a log at the southern tip of the island.
  • 3:09 – We tie the two boats together and slowly paddle back to the launch area.  We probably got out of the boats at 3:30
  • 3:56 – We are in the car traveling over the dam that forms the reservoir.
  • 4:30 – We are home and I unload the car, shower, download the photos and begin to
  • 5:15 – Blog of the trip begins.

It was a perfect day, in the low 80’s with low humidity and fluffy clouds int he sky.  Being on an open reservoir a day like this proves to be a bit hot for the dogs.  It’s wasn’t easy finding shade pooped the puppies out during the 3 and one-half hour trip.  Rags, of course, was never too comfortable in my boat when Kathy was close so she eventually fell into the water off of the bow of my kayak early on.  It was cool that she swam for quite a while trying to reach Kathy kayak in front of her.  I let her swim, then she eventually turned back to me and I picker her up and placed her wet body in the boat.  A quick shake and a wet camcorder but we all had fun and I hopefully captured her swimming.  While in Kathy’s boat during the second half of the trip, Rags fell twice into the sink as she and Scraps wrestled for space on Kathy’s boat.  Scraps never fell in and seemed to have a relaxing experience.  Rags would often chill in the cockpit either looking over the edge at the other boat or sleeping on the floor.  I think she was okay with the whole experience.

Getting out of the boat was bedlam as the launch area was packed.  Right as we were getting out the two middle aged mean capsized in their new rowboat.  It happened really quick and the guy in front lost his glasses and looked dazed during the whole thing.  The big fat guy in the back of the boat who caused it to tip responded with the “my bad” as his friend looked as if he ‘d seen a ghost.

We packed up quickly and easily, explored the dam and went home.  There are lots of beautiful homes in this section of Boonton Township.  One house turned all thir rock on their property into cool rock sculpture.  Great stuff.   It was a great paddle and a great day.  Can’t wait till we kayak again.  I’m glad we discovered another great place to kayak with  30 minutes of our house.

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Rest stop on the flooded river.

Rest stop on the flooded river.

Kathy and I decided to take off from work on this Tuesday to celebrate  my birthday and do some kayaking.  It had been raining for what seems like the past week and today provided a break in the weather that gave us a great day to kayak in what were hopefully some high waters.

Based on the extensive rains of the previous few days I thought it would be good opportunity to complete a gap in the Passaic River we had not yet done.  Uncharted waters for the two of us so anything could happen and who knew how fast the water was, if there was a lot of  portaging or how long this trip would take.  To date, the Passaic has been very tame, a winding lazy brown river, so I wasn’t too worried.

The water reminds you of chocolate milk.

The water reminds you of chocolate milk.

It would have been nice to get out earlier, but we had off and Kathy wanted to take full advantage.  I did the packing early and got the car loaded but we didn’t leave the house until probably 11:00am.

After getting some egg sandwiches at Gene’s, dropping my car off at Shepard Kollack Park in Chatham, the take-out point, driving to the put in point at Valley Road, going back into town to take a dump at Burger King, we were ready to put in at 12:30.  Compared to the first time we used Valley Road, our first trip, the area was now way over grown.  Recognisance of the put-in area revealed a large snake in the grass resulting in Kathy and I moving up the path a bit to use a different put in area.  It looked as if it would be a challenge.  Kathy got in her kayak and I pushed her in.  She started to list badly and almost went in.  She didn’t have her paddle in her hands, mistake #1 and almost bought the sink.  Fortunately she didn’t capsize, but she did cut her finger.  We made good use of our first-aid kit before we even got started.

Time-line of the day based on the photographs taken:

  • 9:55 – I made PB&J sandwiches with strawberries we got from the farmer market last week.  That was a nice combo.
  • 12:30 put in a Valley Road.
  • 12:32 – Bridge 1 – Going under the Valley Road.
  • 12:56  -Power Easement 1
  • 1:09 – We see first pile of strange white foam.
  • 1:36 – We see bucolic farm on the right side.
  • 1:50 – Power Easement 2
  • 2:08 – Sewage Treatment Plant 1 – Long Hill Township on the left.
  • 2:18 – Ball Fields – On the left, baseball.
  • 2:21 – Bridge 2 – Normal modern concrete bridge.
  • 2:35 – Sewage Treatment Plant 2 on the right.
  • 2:41 – Bridge 3 – Normal modern concrete bridge with I-Beam structural supports below.
  • 2:48 – Power Easement 3
  • 3:03 – Bridge 4 – Combo railroad trestle low and Valley Road/Springfield Ave bridge that separates Morris and Union Counties.  The road bridge employed aqueduct styled repetitive arches to achieve it height over the railroad bridge.
  • 3:26 – Sewage Treatment Plant 3 on the right, Berkeley Heights.
  • 3:28 – Bridge 5 – Snyder Ave – This was very low and we had to limbo below it.  It is a modern concrete with a faux rock decorative exterior.  It was a bit creepy going so close to the underside concrete of the bridge above you.  We took out immediately after the bridge at Passaaic River Park, Canoe Launch Area
  • 3:30 Take out for lunch at Snyder Avenue.
  • 3:34 – Kathy ventures to the Berkeley Heights Sewer Treatment facility at 29 Snyder Avenue to use their bathroom.
  • 4:03 – Back in the water after lunch.
  • 4:18 – Power Easement 4
  • 4:27 – Bridge 6 – Also a modern concrete with a faux rock decorative exterior, much like the Snyder Avenue Bridge but with much more clearance.
  • 4:31 – Power Easement 5
  • 4:37 – Power Easement 6
  • 4:54 – Power Easement 7
  • 4:56 -Bridge 7 – Normal modern concrete bridge with I-Beam structural suppots below.
  • 4:54 – Power Easement 8
  • 5:04 – Power Easement 9
  • 4:56 -Bridge 8 – Normal modern concrete bridge with I-Beam structural supports below and a suspended white pipe of something dangling from it.
  • 5:19 -Bridge 9 – Old stysle beamed concrete bridge
  • 5:29 – Dam/Waterfall 1 – I got caught and the top and got through.  Kathy carried her boat around.
  • 5:34 -Bridge 10 – Tall single-arch old style stone bridge.
  • 5:36 – We begin to chase a Blue Heron down the River.
  • 5:41 -Bridge 11 – Normal modern concrete bridge with I-Beam structural suppots below.
  • 6:00 – Take Out at Shepard Kollack Park, Chatham.  We left the Kayaks there, took everything else in may car and drove back to the put in at Valley Road, Long Hill Twp.  We pulled through a McDonald’s drive through on the way there.
  • 6:43 – We get to Kathy’s car at Valley Road and start driving back to the take-out at Shepard Kollack Park.
  • 7:08 – We arrive to Sheppard Kollock Park to find no one stole our Kayaks we left in the boat ramp.
  • 7:26 –  Car is packed and ready to go home.
  • 7:46 – Kathy’s car and the Kayaks are parked in the driveway.
  • 8:00- Kayaks are in the house.
  • 9:14 – After walking the dogs I cracked a bottle of Havens, Red Wine Bourriquot, Napa Valley, 2005 and posted a quick blog and next I started on this adventure’s blog.

The first half of the trip move pretty slowly.  We had to trek trough many narrow passages of downed trees.  Fortunately, with the help of the high waters , we were able to get through obstacle with out a problem, but it was a bit of a maze.  The water was not heavily polluted and empty drink bottles were not as plentiful as I expected.   The water was a dark chocolaty brown.  Kathy described it quite succinctly as appearing like chocolate milk.  And she was right.

We didn’t see to much wildlfe.  A few frightened turtles that dove in the river upon seeing us.  We found on Blue Heron late in the day that we chased down the river.  That was about it.  We saw one elicit campsite set up on the right bank of the river early on.  There were lots of bridges and sewage treatment plants.

The last half hour of the trip the river narrowed and picked up speed.  I went over two mini-waterfalls caused my dams and they were a risk and a rush.  Kathy portaged around the first one.  This one was easy and fun  even though I got caught on a rock right at the cusp of it.  The second waterfall was much more moving and when we went over it we both got splashed and our cockpits took on some water.  I did the second one so quickly and effortlessly Kathy didn’t think twice about it when she approached it.  Actually, I had little choice about it.   She got through it fine but her heart was pounding.  It was right at the end of the trip any way.  It was like a log flume where the whole thing is mellow till the two big dips at the end with the big splash as a finale.

First waterfall where I went over after getting stuck at the crest.

First waterfall where I went over after getting stuck at the crest.

Kathy had been fearing the take-out, since it was moving rapidly at that point, all day long and after the exhilaration of the 2 waterfalls it came up quickly upon us.  I overshot it a hustled to get back to it.  No big deal and I got on the concrete ramp and out of the kayak with no problem.  As Kathy was drifting by she threw me her painter rope, which I missed but I was able to grab her and drag her up the ramp no problem.   The rest was the hell of shuttling back and forth but we had made it.  12:30 – 6:00pm on the river and feeling good about it.

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DCC_8039_edited-1A rainy past couple of days presented us with a grey cloudy morning in which to drive to our Delaware Water Gap (DWG or Gap) kayaking trip with the Hackensack River Canoe and Kayak Club (HRCKC).  John Franzetti in the red canoe was our organizer and kudos to him for executing a perfect trip.  The water was great, the weather was great and the people on the trip were all nice.  I think this is what the HRCKC is all about and I am glad I found it.

DCC_7751_edited-1Kathy and I so far in our recent  journey have only paddled the Passaic and Rockaway Rivers.  While we have both gone down the Delaware with work and friends in the not-so-recent past, this would be our first trip in our own kayaks.  This time we were putting in south of where either of us has paddled before going through Delaware Water Gap and taking out in Belvidere, NJ.  Seemed like a pretty long trip, 12 miles so I thought, but with the current of the Delaware pushing you along, it should be a joy to paddle.

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Right on time, at 9:00 we arrived at the National Park Visitor’s Center rendezvous located at the last exit in NJ off of Route 80.  Once there we found out we were going to caravan up 3-mile to the campgrounds at Worthington State Park. We spent 30 minutes schmoozing here using flush toilets, taking pictures before heading up to Worthington on Old Mill Road which parallels the Delaware.  Kathy and I have camped at Worthington before and are familiar with the location.

DCC_7683_edited-1At 9:40 we started to unload the boats at the Worthington boat ramp parking lot and then one person per car shuttled up to Belvidere.  In Belvidere it was garage sale day and the whole town was for sale.  There is no option to stop with a group like this especially considering the paddle was dominated by women who seemed to be especially ravenous at the thought of a town-wide garage sale.  We found the take out point at the end of Front Street, filled up the parking lot and squeezed into 3 cars and shuttled back to Worthington State Park.  We arrived back at Worthington at 11:15.  Here we had one last chance to use a composting toilet and in the river we went at 11:30.  The put in had a great concrete boat ramp and getting in for me was dry and smooth.  I immediately unpacked the camera and camcorder and started taking shots.

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One thing you notice when comparing the Delaware to the Rockaway and Passaic Rivers is the bigness of the Delaware.  There is a lot of water flowing and the mountains, especially in and around the gap are big and you can see distances.  The other rivers are dominated by personal woodlands on the banks and you are much closer to everything.  In the Delaware you look far and wide.  In addition, the Delaware is much deeper at points and the water seems much cleaner.  We saw virtually no litter or pollution and the water was not muddy or murky at all.

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With respect to wildlife, there was little to see and enjoy.  Buzzards circling  high over the cliffs were everywhere, a few geese, one heron, no fish, mammals, reptiles.  There were some wild kids threatening life and limb jumping off a railroad trestle just before lunch.

Along the way it was mostly undeveloped, undevelopable land, but after leaving the Gap, more and more homes appeared along the shore.  More so on the PA side.  Many had developed their access to the river.  There were a few private swim clubs and motor boats and jet-skis made their minor presence known in the river.  It is amazing what the wake from a small boat does to the kayak.  Pretty cool.

Speaking of which, this trip down the Delaware presented Kathy and I with the most turbulent waters we have yet faced.  This also was pretty cool and exciting.  In addition, compared to my vague memories of trips I took decades ago, the strong riffles/rapids we faced in this trip happened often, Not just once or twice over the course of the day.  I would guess we had 12 or so episodes of rapids into riffles into waves which were something to deal with.  At times the crests of the waves dwarfed our kayaks and when you hit one right, splash!  It was more of a thrill than I expected and you got a lot of it.  It’s time for Kathy to get her own bilge pump and it’s time for me to keep my bilge pump at the ready.  In addition, we  both need to get big automobile sponges to sop up the mess after you get soaked.   To date all my camera protections and precautions have worked, but it maybe time to get a water-proof camcorder so I can relax a bit and enjoy the ride.  It wasn’t too bad where I was paranoid so it was still worth the effort and risk.  In closing with respect to the water and the movement of it, it was a lot of fun and I cannot wait to do it again.  Hopefully the video shows some of the excitement.

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DCC_7737_edited-1Back to the itinerary. We spotted the Route 80 overpass around 12:00 and Route 80 for the next hour or made it’s presence know with its constant din and occasional odd sound of a truck doing something that sounds like it is killing its engine.  At 12:09 I was under the Route 80 overpass making a left turn toward the Delaware Water Gap.  There were many nice turns and new vistas presented in this trip and this left furn from Route 80 to the Gap was one of the best.  Mount Tammany dominates the scene for a while but it is what the Gap is all about.

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There were lots of overpasses to go under in this trip,  Route 80 was one but there were several abandoned bridges and trestles along the way.  As previously mentioned, we saw two crazy teenagers jump off one of them.  One other was a cool stone multi-arch bridge.  Unlike the the other rivers we have been on, bridge abutments didn’t poses and navigational challenges in the currents of this river and didn’t impact the flow to any appreciable degree.

DCC_7782_edited-1At 12:30 we passed the launching area where we assembled at 9:00 in the morning.  A few people got out to use the bathrooms so we just hung for a while with Mount Tammany and the Gap looming in the foreground.  By 12:45 we were passing through the Gap directly under Mount Tammany as we say good bye to it and all its glory.

From this point on the river got deeper stronger and more exciting.  We encounter more recreational uses of the river, more riffles and less scenery.  It’s not that it was ugly, it just wasn’t as majestic as the gap.

We passed under the abandoned multi-arched bridge at 1:15.  It has trees growing on it. and then went under a new looking pedestrian bridge at 1:20.  There was another overpass, just past this pedestrian one and I think it is for rail, but I am  not sure.  Shortly thereafter at 1:35 we come upon a power plant in Pennsylvania, just about the only real industrial complex we found during the while trip.  It had 2 large stacks and an effluent release that cascades off of a large concrete block.

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At 1:50 we went under the abandoned railroad trestle where the kids were jumping of the bridge.  I barely got a shot of one of them jumping and I think I got a video of one of the jumping.  None of the footage is that good unfortunately.  It is difficult to turn your body in a kayak to take pictures with 2 hands of subjects behind you.  I’m glad I didn’t photograph anyone getting hurt as the two daredevils seemed to survive the encounter.

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DCC_7949_edited-1At 1:55 we were pulling over to the pebbly shore of New Jersey to eat lunch.  In and out of the kayaks here was easy and eating and standing felt good.  I had 2 PB&J sandwiches, Kathy had one, some honey-dew and back we went.  At 2:30 we were getting back into the water.  Now most of the fun would happen with several stretches of large riffles that randomly soaked a paddler that dared hit the crest of the wave wrong.

As we lagged toward the back of the pack we encountered a few forks in the river starting around 3:00pm that we took. The forks in the river were created by the presence of several large islands in the middle of the water.  This provided some smaller channels to go through, which was a nice change of pace, but where the channels came together it usually resulted in some adventurous currents.

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With respect to lagging behind, in our 12′ recreational kayaks, it seemed difficult to keep up with the rest of the pack as the day wore on.  We paddled hard but it was tough to catch up to everyone else.  The day was certainly characterized by a lot of paddling, non-stop for the most part, and there was a lot of arm and shoulder toning going on.  It was amazing how effortless it seemed the canoes were  in moving swiftly through the waters.  By 4:15 I finally worked my way to the front of the armada so I could turn around and get some frontal photographs of the paddlers in the club.  Most of these kayaker photos I posted in my Google Picasa Web Album which I shared with the club.  You can get to it by using the link below or just enjoy the embedded slideshow.

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2009-06-06 Delaware Water Gap HRCKC Paddle

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DCC_8067_edited-1At 4:25 we staged for landing at the Belvidere overpass into Pennsylvania. I spotted a few swans resting in a patch of vegetation but nothing too exciting. There was a boy scout troop at the take out point that crowded the area but they did help several of us get out of the boats and carry them up to the parking lot. John, help with mine.

At 4:30 I has out of the water and by 4:40 I already had one kayak on the car. We took Route 46 home, all the way, for a change of pace. We got home at 6:00 to feed and walk the dogs. Made a quick turn around unpacked, showered and off to visit Kathy’s brother Joe in Montclair for dinner. We got home after dinner and crashed good. We are now looking forward to having a little more fun on the Delaware River now that we know a little more about what is is all about.

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Just a little more “diary of the mouth” from your humble narrator Larry.

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