Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lazy August Saturday on French Creek

Seven of us (Sawyer George, Laura, Ed, Rick, Tom, Charlie and I, plus Maggie ) gathered yesterday to paddle from Cochranton to Utica on French Creek. Six of us put in on private property (with permission) a few hundred yards upstream of the access area. That allowed us to run the chute and standing waves before we picked up our new kayaker, Tom, at the access.

Immediately below the bridge in Cochranton, we saw an Osprey flying upstream. We speculated on how few of these birds we've seen this summer, and our expert birder Tom suggested that it might be because of all the rain and the muddiness of the water, which makes sighting the fish difficult.

The water level was as close to perfect as possible: high enough to move along at a good current but not so high as to be too pushy and dangerous in a strainer situation. Many of us love to paddle the back channels, which is where the strainers might be encountered on this section of the creek. At one point, several of our group took a rather shallow back channel and the rest of us went past it because we saw them out of their boats in the shallows. When we arrived at the bottom of the channel, there was no sign of the others. We paddled up the channel till we found them on the other side of a snag, loafing. Suddenly we heard a loud splash: Sawyer George took a swim! I knew he would stand up in his canoe one time too many! Once he was back in his boat, they headed down the other back channel and avoided the snag, meeting us at the convergence.

Among the birds we saw in addition to the Osprey were Rough-winged and Tree Swallows, Red-tail Hawks, Green (juvenile) and Great Blue Herons, many Cedar Waxwings, geese and others. Ed lives near the take-out and gave us an update on all the eagle nests in the area, including one that came down this year after the young fledged.
August wildflowers were in full bloom and included ironweed, Joe-pye weed, wild dodder, boneset, goldenrod, various milkweeds, phlox, jewelweed--both orange(Spotted) and yellow (Pale), sunflowers and coneflowers, virgin's bower clematis, stinging nettle, enchanter's nightshade and many more.

We stopped for lunch at Deer Creek at the scout camp. Ed led us on a short walk to see Guyasutha's grave, and I snapped a few photos of the wildflowers.

As we paddled along after lunch, listening to the silence....kersplash! Yes, Sawyer George was back in the water. I think this time it was on purpose because he mumbled something about its being so hot.

All too soon the take-out appeared. Laura voiced what we were all thinking: Will someone pick me up in Franklin so I don't have to take out yet?

postscript: Ed told us that the access area in Utica is no longer owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. They turned it over to the PA Fish and Boat Commission. So now you need a boat sticker to use this access area. Yet another good access falls victim to the sticker people.