The 25th Southern Paddle Trip
By Keith Finn
This was the 25th Southern Spring Paddle Trip!
Also the most consecutive days we spent canoeing in the Okefenokee Swamp (7, Sunday - Saturday).
Most swamp Mileage (12+12+9+10+6+4+4) = 57 miles!
Six people were on the trip - Trip Leaders Dave Seslar and Keith Finn, COP members Jeff Haven, Walt Taylor, Michael Lange and Ann Gerckens.
The swamp canoeing was broken up into 3 segments, each segment based out of one of the 3 entrances into the swamp.
Part 1: Sunday and Monday
First trip was an overnight trip from Kingfisher Landing to Maul Hammock Lake, and back to Kingfisher Landing the next day. This was the longest paddle of the trip, and the second day turned out to be the most difficult day of paddling we had.
Last time I made this paddle was in February, 2004. The fires in 2007 and 2011 affected this portion in sporadic areas. What Dave and I both noticed was a lot more of the "hedgy" growth along the trail - we remembered the trail to be more in open prairie than what we saw on this trip.
As an out and back, I would not do this portion again. The trip to Bluff Lake is 8 miles instead of 12, and would allow you to explore more interesting areas just south of Bluff Lake.
We had just a slight current on trip to Maul Hammock, making me apprehensive for the paddle back on Monday. The 12 miles in this part of the Okefenokee is, IMHO, the equivalent to 24-30 miles on a typical river trip. Adding in a just a slight current to fight will make that much more difficult!
The mile markers went by slowly. My new Old Town Penobscot 16, on its first trip proved to be a pleasant surprise. It has a superior glide compared to my Wenonah Rendezvous - the Rendezvous is slower but more maneuverable the Penobscot is faster but harder to turn. A good choice for this trip!
We keep slogging along, in and out of narrow water trails bordered by hedges that occasionally open out into broad, lily pad covered "lakes". As it turned out, the last mile marker we see is for mile 9, the others had been burned and not replaced. My bad right shoulder was acting up by mile 8, and I took a long break to give it a rest at that time. That was a good move, the pain and cramping eased off and I was fine for the next 4 miles.
Onward we slogged! The faster kayakers had long since left the slower canoes behind. And here is when being a more experienced paddler was a problem. Michael Lange had asked a kayaker we had seen earlier in the day about the Maul Hammock platform, and the person gave him some general directions to reach the platform from the trail. I didn't ask, because I had been to the platform before, I KNEW where it was!
Except I didn't. The platform had been burned down, and the refuge people had built a new platform in a different place. I hunted around quite a bit before I heard voices in a direction opposite to where I was searching. After some difficulties in changing directions in a narrow trail, I was able to home in on my yammering companions and found the new Maul Hammock shelter. Notice I didn't follow the signs to the shelter. That is because there aren't any!
The new shelter was a very pleasant surprise - situated in the open on Maul Hammock Lake, with a most salubrious aspect. Dave and Ann arrived shortly after I did, and camp was set and dinner started. A most peaceful evening ensued, interrupted only by occasional downpours and the gentle swaying of the platform when someone walked about.
Monday morning is cool and damp, but the rains are gone. We pack up and head out on the looonnnnggg slog back to Kingfisher Landing. One odd thing on Monday morning - we had 2 bull alligators doing their bellow/growl. A bit early in the season for that. Monday is HOT! Mid 80's at least. Slog, slog, slog, paddle, paddle, paddle... After a very long, hot, tiring day - we get back to Kingfisher Landing at about 6pm. Nobody wants to camp tonight, so head back to the Western Hotel in Folkston for a shower. Dinner that night is at the Okefenokee Restaurant. They have fried catfish in the buffet!
Part 2: Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday
Second trip was a two night trip from Suwannee Canal Recreation Area (SCRA) to the Monkey Lake shelter. Then Monkey Lake to Coffee Bay Shelter, and then Coffee bay back to the SCRA. We had breakfast at the Huddle House. Should have known better.
We have gotten pretty good at getting the boats and gear off and out of the vehicles. We are on the water by 10:30 am - even without some officious little twit getting on our case (note, that is a bitter interlude from years ago, the current staff is really very nice...)
ANYWAY...we have a 9 mile paddle to Monkey Lake. Most of this is new to me, and a very nice trip it is. We were in a lot of open prairie wetlands. A very nice day, not as hot as Monday. As usual, Michael takes the lead and paddles out of my sight. It is just a nice paddle today, does not feel like endless slog. No real twinge of shoulder pain today, and it feels good to have the really hard paddling behind us. For whatever reason, this a just a nice day to paddle. The Monkey Bay shelter is tucked in a woodsy pocket out of sight of Monkey Bay Lake. Too bad, cause this is one buggy shelter. Not too bad this time of year, but in another month - ugh! Highlight of the evening was a trifle Ann made with vanilla yogurt, frozen strawberries and pound cake formed in a 1 gallon water jug! Coolers and Canoes do go together.
Wednesday - Monkey Lake to Coffee Bay
Wednesday dawned gray and cloudy, with a chilly breeze. A cold front is moving thru. We have a 10 mile paddle to get to Coffee Bay, so we best get going. As it turns out, I misplaced my camera for most of the day, so no pictures until I get to Coffee Bay and found where I had "lost" it. We had some light rain, and just enough to keep you in rain gear for most of the day. Again, a very nice paddle for the day, and the rain kept the larger wading birds in the wet prairies. Saw a lot of Wood Storks today - a bonus. Had not seen many of these in prior trips. The route backtracks about 6 miles of the trail we paddled, and then we branch off towards the west to find the Orange trail again. Part of what we paddle is the wider power boat channel, but no power boats out today!
Coffee Bay is where we stayed on our overnight last year, and it is a newer shelter. Very nice. One bonus is that with a canoe, I can unload the boat from the edge of the platform without dragging the boat onto shore. The height of the canoe and the height of the platform and the depth of the water all conspire to allow me to lie on my stomach and comfortably unload my boat. Wednesday night is cold! No frost, but temps dropped into the 30's.
Thursday - Coffee Bay to Suwannee Canal Recreation Area (SCRA)
Thursday morning dawns clear and cold. I do not feel like getting out of my cozy sleeping space, but I do...and have a very rare cup O coffee. We have an easy 6 mile paddle today. We will traverse much of area burned in 2011. Another nice surprise is the Orange Trail that used to be shared with power boats has been allowed to revert back to just a canoe trail. Makes for a nicer paddle! Another pleasant day of paddling, my hands are hardened up nicely, my shoulder has given me no problems since Monday afternoon, I am eating OK - my allergies to maple tree flowers is NA is part of the world... things are just ducky. No sunburn even!
We stop for lunch at the junction to the Cedar Hammock trail and the Orange trail. I hear people talk about some really small alligators, and hear "chirps" that may be the noise from a really young gator. Then I spot 4 small alligators just a few feet from me - these are the smallest ones I have ever seen in the swamp, probably late hatchlings from last year, maybe 7 to 9 months old.
So we saunter back into the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area, and once again do the tear down / unload / load truck routine. Tonight we are going to stay in Cabin #9 at Stephen Foster State Park! We got a cabin there a couple of years ago, and they are fairly priced and very comfortable. We are packed up and are on the road to the Stephen C. Foster State park, and our cabin. Dave is making burritos for us tonight! It is 72 miles to get to the western entrance of the swamp.
Part 3: Friday - Saturday
Now we have a short paddle into a very beautiful section of the swamp. Just 4 miles to the Minnie’s Lake Platform, thru the big cypress tree section of the swamp. We are actually paddling the East Fork of the Suwannee River. And another really nice day of paddling. That sounds monotonous, but it is not! We paddle for a mile or so on the wide open Billy's Lake, and the head up to Minnie’s Lake. This has to be one of my favorite trips in the Oke. And after a short day, we find the Minnie's Lake platform. This also serves as the rest stop for boaters in this section of the swamp, so we will be sharing it for a while. Dave and Michael head north to check out where the Big Water platform used to be. Jeff leaves a little later for somewhere else, Walt and Ann take naps. I start my Vegan Dinner. Another peaceful night (many owls and frogs, but no Raccoon Raiders.) Ann did have to rescue a Cotton Mouse that got trapped in a Ziploc bag.
Saturday morning is cool and humid, with Ominous Skies. We are packing up when the first Tourist boats start checking in. The first group was some kayakers, and nice people. Then a motor boat full of younger kids and parents shows up, and it is time to go! Just as the thunderstorms starts up, even more people are headed for the shelter in motorboats! We vamoose! The rain starts slowly, and then commences into a genuine downpour. I was last off the platform, and the only person I see in our group is an occasional glimpse of Jeff. This is fine; we do not want to bunch up in a thunderstorm. From what I have researched on lightning storms in a swamp environment, we are best off in our boats, away from land / water interface, and not bunched up. This is what we do. Jeff and I arrive back at Stephen Foster State Park at the same time. Everyone else is there and we commence to tear down and pack up. While ANYTHING is bearable on the last day, this is a really sucky packing situation. Everything in the back of the truck is now wet. Tempers get a bit frayed, but no handles fly off and we get things put away. I decide we need to take pirate showers at the campground, and that does raise some spirits. Lunch is then done in the warm and dry Suwannee River Cafe in Fargo, and we decide to take I-75 north to get home.
Thus ends our 25th trip. We had no adventures, no bad things happened, the plans actually fell into place. Doing this for 25 years makes things easy!
Photos available at:
The Last 2011 ACBE
By Mark Nadal
The last ACBE was fun with some first timers, some old schoolers, some climbers, followed by some beers at The Pub.
This was my first year coordinating ACBE. It may have been at the Boat and Climb that Joyce convinced me to coordinate. Thanks to volunteers Jimi, Janice, Eve, and Andrew, and to the all the participants who entertained, I mean worked hard to perfect their rolls, ACBE made for a fun summer.
Check the COP calendar for the pool sessions if you want more practice. I plan to be at Alum creek on Tuesdays next summer to work on my roll, so see you then, unless I see you on the river before.
Let me know if you have any suggestions for improving ACBE next year. Some suggestions already accounted for, so no need to submit, are:
- Clearer water during the last week in August but with global warming the new whitewater is mochawater.
- An ASCI like Whitewater Park, which will be ready in 3011.
Have a great rest of the summer. See you at Gauley Fest, on the river, or at the pool.
Labor Day Yough Trip
By Chris Russell
With the promise of good weather, a small group of COP paddlers headed to the Lower Yough for an impromptu Labor Day paddle. Veteran boaters Larry Krall, Gina Schmidt and I were joined by recent Kayak II graduate Shawn Duffy. We rounded out the group with former Columbus resident and one time COP boater Mike Maloney along with two unsuspecting neophytes. Beyond fun and frivolity, Larry and I needed to reintroduce ourselves to paddling the whitewater tandem kayak and get some serious roll practice in. Water releases on the Gauley River would soon begin and we did not want a repeat of last year's crash, curse and swim fiascos.
Day 1: It all started so well. Larry and I in the tandem with Larry in the captain's seat. Mike and his neophyte friend were in yet another tandem. Gina and Shawn showing Larry's neophyte friend Baylee the easy and safe lines down the Class 3 Lower Yough in her inflatable kayak. The weather was perfect; Baylee's lines were not. Approaching each of the major rapids in the first section of the river, Baylee's eyes would stray from Gina and Shawn’s safe lines and instead look at the looming dangers ahead. Common boating wisdom is to keep your eyes on where you want to go. Inexperienced boaters tend to look at what frightens them and insure themselves a better view of the danger and a dunking to boot. Larry, who had hitched a ride to the river with Baylee, came to the conclusion that his ride back to Columbus hinged on his friend finding another way down the river. Larry took the inflatable kayak and Baylee got a safe ride down the river with me in the tandem. So much for the tandem practice that Larry and I needed for the upcoming Gauley season.
Day 2: Baylee was safe and off the river. Gina and Shawn were ready for another day of adventure. Mike's friend had gone back to school and he was paddling solo. Larry and I were finally going to get the tandem practice we needed. So we headed down river, surfed a few waves and made it easily through the first two rapids. Then the fun began. We decided to practice a roll in flatwater. Proper paddle placement, a hip snap with the head down and we would be up and breathing fresh air after flipping the boat over. So we gave it a go and all we managed to do was get wet and scare the fish. After several more attempts we also managed to point fingers and place blame. We are currently considering couples counseling. Our wives will probably endorse this plan.
Kudos to COP Volunteers
I wanted to thank the Columbus Outdoor Pursuits KII volunteers. I was truly impressed with the caring commitment that each showed in imparting their knowledge of their avocation to strangers (but in the end friends). Your positive attitude exhibited in a very well thought-out program, allowed me to push myself with the constant support of the 1:1 instructor to student ratio. You accomplished your goal of gradually instilling self-confidence, punctuated with safety. Your pride in the strength and energy of your organization, speaks glowingly of the sustainability of what you have built. hank you again for a very enjoyable and fulfilling weekend.
I'm writing to say thank you again for putting together a great learning experience (Kayak II). Even though I bailed early, I felt I learned a lot. I also felt fully supported and safe. That's high praise for a totally volunteer effort. Everyone I met was terrific. I appreciate everything you did to help me this weekend.
Guys: What can I say? You were great at PP this year, and I can’t thank you enough for your efforts. Despite nose-diving Saturday mid-afternoon, attendance overall was up (almost) 20% from last year, so I need to at least think about a PP III. Let me know your thoughts when you have any – and enjoy the sun in the meanwhile!
Dan Armitage, Producer, PaddlePalooza!
Lower Gauley River Trip
by Chris Russell
Gauley Season begins when the Summersville Dam gates are opened in the fall to take the lake's water reserves down to winter pool levels. For COP boaters it is a chance to test their skills on Class IV water and catalog a new set of misadventures/adventures to share around the campfire.
The season began on the weekend of September 11 with a well run trip lead by Jim and Janice on the Lower Gauley River.
Here are a few photos of the adventure portions, the misadventures ( mostly experienced by a somewhat less than Dynamic Duo in a whitewater tandem kayak) required the attention of all hands working ( in tandem) to collect the runaway boat, gear and bodies hurtling downriver.
The first photo shows Jimi Nixon hand paddling his way over a small waterfall at Rocky Top Rapid. Other photos include the Dynamic Duo with their heads above the water and and an adventurous Ben Harder disappearing into a hydraulic in Junkyard Rapid.
Liffey Descent - Ireland’s Premier Paddling Event
By Donal O’Mathuna
This summer I was visiting Columbus and, at the same time, preparing for a kayak race back home in Ireland. I’d like to thank John Lane and Columbus Outdoor Pursuits for providing me with all the equipment I needed to paddle regularly. They suggested I provide you with an account of the race. I’m a recreational kayaker, but every year the Liffey Descent offers a unique opportunity to paddle my local river in a torrent of water. My approach to preparing involves an hour or two of paddling three times a week. This gets me to where I can finish the race in about three hours without being in agony for the last mile or two.
The race is 18 miles long along the River Liffey. This rises in the Wicklow mountains, just south of Dublin city, and eventually enters the sea through the middle of downtown Dublin. Last year’s 50th running of the race saw a record entry of just over 1000 kayakers and canoeists. This year, about 800 paddlers took to the water on September 4.
What makes the race unique is that high water is guaranteed. You might not think that could be a problem in Ireland, but sometimes we do have dry spells (some even last more than a few hours). However, the Liffey has three hydroelectric dams on it, and our electric company releases millions of gallons of water for the race. All this water raging over 11 man-made weirs and a few rapids makes the Liffey Descent Ireland’s premier paddling event, and one of the top in Europe.
The race starts at the K-Club in Straffan, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup golf tournament. In front of spectacular greens and a 19th Century mansion, the race starts in five groups. First go the real racers, with K-2 kayaks followed by K-1 kayaks. These flimsy fiberglass needles will fly down the course in about two hours. Every year, several end up walking to the finish line with various pieces of their kayaks under their arms. The third group are Racing Canadians, a hybrid kayak paddled like a canoe. Then come the general purpose kayaks – hundreds of them! Finally, the open Canadian canoes take off, those hardy lads who insist on going where only kayaks ought to go.
About a mile into the race the first weir is encountered. Various types of weirs were built on the Liffey to assist with navigation. Most are walls about 3 to 6 feet tall, with a slope of about 45 degrees. They can go straight across the river, or be built at an angle. Others are V-shaped, which makes for interested (and large) stopper waves at the bottom where the water coming from each wall collides.
The first weir at Straffan Bridge provides a magnificent vantage point for those who would prefer to stay dry and enjoy one capsize after another. Capsizing becomes more likely below the weir while trying to avoid people splashing around after their boats and trying to get to shore. The mayhem and carnage is monitored carefully. On the day, about 120 men and women are in the water at the various weirs to guide the capsized to safety. These include professional water rescue services and highly skilled kayakers who give up their chance to paddle the race.
After Straffan comes The Jungle. It will take almost 45 minutes to meander along the twists and turns of this narrow section of the river. Overhanging trees and swirling currents are the obstacles here, along with those who suddenly lose the ability to paddle in straight lines. Capsizing here can mean a long swim before finding a bank to empty the kayak and restart. It’s usually in this section that you hear the ominous sounds of the first serious canoeists thundering down on top of you, demanding passage at the narrowest of places. They see gold, and not the little kayaks who might be in their path.
After slogging through The Jungle, the sound of roaring water is welcome. Two straight-forward weirs bring a refreshing splash of water, and then the two sets of rapids. At about 75 minutes we reached Leixlip Lake, another reservoir. If the water is low, this can be challenging as it feels like the weeds are grabbing onto your hull. This year, the water level was good and after 20 minutes we reached the top of the dam. This is the one portage in the race, coming about half-way. At first, it’s a welcome relief to stretch the legs. After carrying the kayak 500 yards, I’m ready to get paddling again.
The next weir goes diagonally along the river for a long way, making it very shallow. I lost the nose of my kayak on this last year, so this time I went for the sluice at the end of the wall. Most of the water rushes through here, making huge waves. This is where I came the closest to going over, but managed to hold on. The weirs now appear every 5 or 10 minutes. The most notorious is Wren’s Nest, a large V-weir. If you shoot it at the V, and are less than perfect, you will be bumped and bruised along one wall. I took the easier way down one of the sides.
Then comes Palmerstown, another V-weir. This one you must shoot at the V. The water comes at you from left and right and lifts you up onto a vertical wave, only to throw you at another wave and another. It is brilliant! Safely through this, a couple of small weirs, and then the last mile to the finish. This mile goes on and on and on. But then you see the finish, and have to pass that guy up ahead! I finished in 3 hours 3 minutes, the end of another exhilarating and exhausting trip down the Liffey.
Words don’t do justice to this event. Check out YouTube for lots of interesting videos, and www.LiffeyDescent.com for more details. Visitors for the race come from all over Europe and South Africa. The Irish Canoe Union organizes the event and is happy to help anyone interested in participating from overseas. Maybe some day we’ll see a team from the Buckeye State!
Photos courtesy of Donal O’Mathuna's family.
The Yough Stop
By Elizabeth Adamczak, 2000
Nestled in the heart of Laurel Highlands, on a southern Pennsylvania mountainside is a peaceful, 2.5 acre piece of wooded heaven. It is well hidden and only the pure-of-heart can find it. Just 2 miles west by southwest of the sleepy borough of Confluence, a gravel lane winds its way up the slope and into the quiet trees. The little plot is perched high above the bustling town of Ohiopyle, home of the mighty Youghiogheny (pronounced “yock-a-gain’-ee”) River.
Clinging to the incline is a well-loved, pole-barn style building. The lower level is open to the outdoors affording a 360-degree view of the surrounding woods. Two picnic tables run end-to-end along the length of the first floor. They sit in dreamy contemplation of the meals, games, educational lectures and general conversations that have taken place here. A counter top runs along the back, home to an ancient microwave and coffee maker. A battered oven/stove convenes, waiting for a meal to be prepared. A dented clothes dryer lists proudly, trying to blend in with the kitchen appliances. An open stairway leads to the closed-in loft above. Mattresses are piled high along one wall, waiting for sleepy outdoors folk to pull them down and dream upon them. Several shelves offer more kitchen and cooking amenities. A gravel parking area sits empty on the slope below the barn. At the lower end perch two shiny, new port-a-johns. To one side, the ashes in the fire circle are a reminder of the tall tales and good times that have been shared there. Behind the barn and up the hill are several semi-leveled and cleared tent sites for campers seeking more privacy. This is the Yough Stop.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, rafting, kayaking and canoeing trips on the mighty Youghiogheny River were a popular pastime for Columbus American Youth Hostelers. A large number of these boating trips were run on the Middle Yough (pronounced “yock”), which was (and still is) ideal for open canoes and beginning closed-boaters. The Lower Yough provided more challenging waters for advanced paddlers. As the trips grew in size and frequency, it became increasingly difficult to find adequate camping facilities. Local campgrounds were used, but when the favorite was closed for refurbishing, something had to be done! Columbus AYHers decided to take action!
In the summer of 1973, while their spouses and friends went paddling without them, Jan Ichida and Ralph Rosenfield went in search of the perfect property. Jan remembers:
“In July of 1973, I was 7 months pregnant and had a 4 ½ year old daughter. Since I couldn’t kayak, I joined Ralph Rosenfield (who was dog sitting while his wife paddled with my husband, Allan). Ralph and I toured several sites with realtors all day Saturday. Most interesting - man with dog, very pregnant woman - - not his wife - - driving big van very fast in hilly countryside. Realtors were puzzled, but showed us many places for sale. Mr. Miller’s land was the best locale (off road and close to Middle Yough) and the right price.”
It did, indeed, seem an ideal spot. It was near Confluence and the put-in for the Middle Yough. It was fairly close to the put-in for the Lower section as well. It was also close enough to the Cheat River in nearby West Virginia.
The site was recommended to the Columbus AYH council and in the fall of 1973 the land was purchased for $2,000. Funds were appropriated from the Columbus AYH bank account, using money raised through the group’s annual bike tour, Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV).
AYHers happily camped on this site for well over a year. As it was not very flat for tent camping, folks often drove vans with beds in the back. A gravel parking lot kept the vans from sinking into the earth. Anyone who’s familiar with this area of the country can tell you that the mountains in summer are not always warm or dry - especially in the mornings! One can envision large groups of soggy, chilled campers huddled about a steaming campfire, eating breakfast in the rain! The need for some sort of shelter quickly became apparent.
The November 1974 issue of “The Buckeye Hosteler” (AYH’s monthly newsletter) presented a sketch of the prospective new shelter, along with a plea for donations. The sketch was dubbed “The Yough Stop”.
In March of 1975 a bid submitted by the Umbaugh Pole Building Company, Inc. in Delaware, Ohio showed a 1,200 square foot, 20 X 30-foot pole barn with Gambrel roof and loft for $5,657. The bid was accepted. The Umbaugh branch in Butler, Pennsylvania agreed to do the labor. Construction began in June of 1975. Again, funds came from the AYH bank account, TOSRV and donations given by AYH members.
Julia Schmitt recounted that gravel was put down first (with a “pit for dishwater”); then the building itself was built. Volunteers added the finishing touches. Tony Skrabak remembers that Charlie Huhn insulated and paneled the loft. Tony, himself, helped with that as well as with the electrical work. Terry Baughman built the picnic tables. The Yough Stop was completed on June 24, 1975.
Tony had a few memories to share: “When we were adding insulation and paneling to the upstairs, I was impressed by how carefully Charlie Huhn would cut and fit each piece. I was younger and more impatient to get it done quicker. Now, when it is all still in place, I understand why he did it that way. When we were installing the electricity, we had a couple of guys who worked with electric lines in their jobs. I was helping hold parts on the tree while they were making the live connections. One of them told me, “Don’t move, your right hand is just a couple of inches from a live wire!” They got it out of the way so I could move away.”
AYH Yough trips continued to be numerous and large. The new shelter afforded a respite from the weather as well as a communal gathering place. It made cooking for groups of 20 to 30 people much more practical. Tony Skrabak relates:
“The building was built to have a shelter to sleep in and to provide a place to cook on two-burner Coleman gas stoves for the whole trip. Every leader normally acquired a stove, pots and tubs for washing dishes. I still have mine. We used to set up a volleyball net and play something that approximated volleyball on the Saturday night of trips. On Saturdays, we would leave the rafts inflated for use again on Sunday, so some people would sleep on them Saturday nights! During the winters of the late 70's, when we had snow, many boaters bought cross country skis and we started going to the Yough Stop to ski, enclosing the bottom in plastic to provide some warmth.”
Today, the Yough Stop is still most commonly used by Columbus Outdoor Pursuits’ (formerly AYH) boating program. Kayakers, canoeists and rafters use it as a “home base” from which several rivers are accessible. Paddling schools are often held here as all levels of difficulty can be experienced. The shelter is an excellent venue for lectures and even safety videos.
Hikers, bikers and backpackers are also common at the Yough Stop. A myriad of trails, overlooks and just general outdoor, wild beauty are available to anyone interested. Scout troops of all persuasions have also been known to use it, and some of these troops have volunteered their time and energy to the Yough Stop’s upkeep.
The Yough Stop Chair, Paul McPherson, oversees funding for the upkeep of the facility. He collects the nominal fee of $2.00 per night that folks using the Yough Stop are asked to pay. These usage fees cover taxes and electric. When maintenance costs exceed income, the boating activity funds help to cover them. Special fundraisers also help.
In 1999, John Lane (COP’s Boating Chair) and Eric Gehres (Yough Stop Chair at that time) campaigned for donations to replace the two aging port-a-johns (labeled “Turkeys” and “Foul Others”). More than enough donations were received for the purchase of one new unit. A second was generously donated. Eric Gehres and two other volunteers hauled them to the site and installed them. Michael Wadkowski remembers that originally the Yough Stop had a “real” outhouse situated behind where the port-a-johns are now! The problem was, they couldn’t dig deep enough (before hitting solid rock) to make a pit deep enough for “things” to break down. The outhouse filled up!
The future of the Yough Stop looks steady. It is perhaps not as frequently used as when it was first acquired and built, and it is true that rafting trips of 20 to 30 paddlers are a thing of the past. Now many paddlers own their own equipment, both for paddling and camping. It is not uncommon for them to opt for a private or state-owned campground - one with running, hot water! But the Yough Stop still serves its purpose. It is a beautiful and peaceful spot in which to rest and refuel after a busy day – a place to make ready for the next day’s activities!
A hush falls over the mountainside as the birds finish their evening refrain. The sun sinks slowly behind the purple ridge. Another weekday has ended. The weekend is rapidly approaching, bringing with it opportunities to splash in the river’s frothy waves, wander the cool woodland trails and gather around a cheery campfire with friends and loved ones. The beloved barn with its hallowed halls and proud history clings to the side of the mountain. It abides in dreamy anticipation of the weekend and the making of more fond memories. This is the Yough Stop, and it’s waiting for you.
Note: As I thought about this project I realized how very little I knew about the Yough Stop. It became apparent that I was going to have to do some serious research in order to do the Yough Stop, and the people who worked so hard on it, any justice. I would like to thank Jan Ichida, Julia Schmitt, John Lane, Tony Skrabak, Michael Wadkowski and Butch Weaver for all their help and inspiration. I hope that I have made a fair representation of what actually transpired in the purchase and building of the Yough Stop, as well as it’s more recent history. If I have left anyone or anything out, I am grievously sorry. Please let me know so that I can make amends!
Circa 2004, a volunteer crew tore out the musty insulation in the upstairs, and removed all the musty old maps and books. This greatly improved the livability of the place for anyone with mold allergies, but evidently also removed the nest of the flying squirrel which used to be seen around dinnertime.
In the spring of 2006, the roof was replaced by a professional roofing company.
In the fall of 2006, a crew of volunteers used plywood and Plexiglas to make a more permanent wall on the back and entry sides of the building. The thin plastic on the other side and front was replaced with heavier, clear upholstery quality polyester sheeting and a more durable roll-up system. Directions are posted on the wall for those who can’t figure it out just by looking.
The Tellico / Obed Trip Report
Where We Went and What We Did • March 22- 23
by Jimi Nixon
We met at my house at 5:00 in the AM, left around 5:30, and high tailed it down to Tennessee faster than legally possible and made it to the Obed river around 12'ish. Talked with some guys going down Crooked fork, but we decided to stick to the original plan of doing the river run instead. So after a mile long grueling hike down to the river, we put on.
The Obed has many class 2 to 3 shelves and a class 4, Rock Garden which gets that rating due to the undercut rock. Me, Steven, and Mary ran the Rock Garden. Mary liked it so much she ran it again in Toni's "drunken" boat. I found a nice auto ender spot right below the rapid to play in for a while.
I considered Oh My God to be the hardest rapid on the run. Apparently Toni did too since she swam right into Oh My God Eddy, which is what happens if you manage to not swim under Oh My God Rock.
Steven, Mary and I ran Nemo at the end. I was too cold to enjoy it, and the rapid is not really worth the carry back to the car unless you have energy to burn.
After a nice dinner of Mexican food at the best Mexican restaurant I've been to in a long time, we drove on down to Tellico Plains and holed up in the KOA to sleep off the very long day we had.
Bright and early next morning, we drive on over to the Upper Tellico where Steven and I put in to do a duo run. This was a very intense run! Especially after finding out 3/4 of the way through that Steven hadn't run any of that stuff either like I thought he had! This was creeking at the finest that either of us had ever done it! We scouted all of the ledges, and had no trouble with any of the upper ledges.
The `Baby' trifecta was just great! Steven picked out a tight, but good route through the Crybaby, and then we dropped right on over Baby Falls . I had no problem, but Steven got off course, went over sideways, and got his skirt blown out for his trouble. After emptying his boat, we tried to decide on a good way down the Diaper Wiper, but we both liked different routes down. So I ran the right side, and he ran the left.
After some more boogie water, we made it down to Jared's Knee. After looking at it, Steven decided it wasn't for him that day. So he set safety and I went ahead and ran it. After a very uneventful landing at the bottom, we were at the end of the Upper.
Even the little stuff was fun. Except for the no name rapid that I ran mostly upside down / and or sideways right after the Bald River Falls ! No one swam, and no injuries except a pretty good scratch Steven got on his hand. Mary and Toni decided that taking pictures from the road of these 2 crazy-ass fools running this stretch was smarter than running it.
Well after a small break, and time for Toni and Mary to prepare, we hopped back in the boats and all 4 of us ran the Lower Tellico . The rapids were tougher than I was expecting, and much tougher than Toni was expecting. Other than Steven giving Toni a couple of Eskimo rescues at the bottom of Bounce off boulder and a no name slot move later in the run, all was uneventful. Mary managed to snap a picture of Toni with a big smile on her face right after the Bounce Off Boulder. Clearly she had found her element!
After getting out, we had a lunch/dinner at the Ruby Tuesday's and drove on home. On the way home, it snowed. Boy did we pick the right place to be this weekend!!!
River stats were:
Obed - 2890 cfs @ 7.28 ft. The water was cold.