Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sycamore and More

So, on Saturday of the Memorial Day Weekend I paddled to Sycamore Island.  Located in the Allegheny River north of Pittsburgh, between Verona and Blawnox, this river island is covered by silver maples and managed as uninhabited wilderness area by the Allegheny Land Trust.

To begin with, I had to find a convenient launching point. The Three Rivers Water Trail was my resource and according to it, #12 on Arch Avenue in Verona seemed to be the best option. It was not difficult to get there from the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

Paddling past Sycamore Island
When I arrived at the parking lot of the Steel City Rowing Club I was welcomed by a bunch of friendly and hospitable members of the Rowing Club. The extra low rowing dock was also perfect for launching my Night Heron.

You can see the Island from the dock, so paddling across was certainly not going to constitute the entire day's outing.

At the dock I also met Mike Cooper who together with his dog Porter was headed over to the Island in his canoe. He offered to take some pictures. 

After paddling over to Sycamore Island and admiring the lush growth and listening to the abundance of birds, I headed along the more narrow channel along the island downstream toward Highland Bridge.

On my return upriver the elongated Island showed its narrow side and...

it looked inviting...
so I decided to stop for lunch.


Fortified with an apple and a banana, I headed back out on the main channel.

By then power boaters had woken up and started to cruise around the river. While I much prefer the quiet, non-polluting sort of boating, I quite enjoyed surfing the wake of some of these monsters - aptly named River Warrior and such. In flat waters the wake travels far and I did not have to be close to the buzzers to harness their aquatic disturbances.

So I paddled past the launch and then up North past Verona and Oakmont and under the Hulton Bridge on the narrow channel of another long Island.

As opposed to Sycamore Island, this one is rimmed with cottages which of course each have their own private dock. I have no doubt that these little weekend refuges are handed down over generations to remain a convenient family hang-out.

Approaching the PA Turnpike bridge, there are a number of small islands

and shallow areas

which apparently is quite the power boaters rendezvous spot.

It is beautiful and could be serene on a weekday.

On this 90 degree day, it was THE place to be. I lingered for a while to absorb the scenery and to rest from a hot paddle upstream before turning around downriver this time by way of the main channel back to the Steel City Rowing Club launch.

I have done a number of kayak outings since the last blog entry. All I can say is that paddling the Night Heron is sheer joy! - The slightest wave will induce the hull to surf and though the boat does not have a skegg, the hull tracks and carves turns very well. When you power up the boat with a few strokes, the boat simple takes off.

All told, it was a 12 mile paddle. Without a doubt, this outing was delightful and

...I will be back for Sycamore.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Paddling in Pittsburgh

This past Saturday afternoon I took my Night Heron on the Three Rivers. I had really been looking forward to this.

For the uninitiated non-Pittsburgher, this terms refers to the confluence of the Allegheny River descending out of the North and the silty Monongahela River arriving from the South.

They meet at "The Point" right by the point of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle where they join hands to become the mighty Ohio River. So, it's two rivers but three names... hence the Three Rivers.

It was a gorgeous day, mid 70's and not too windy. I had scouted out an excellent launching point, not pretty but very convenient and to boot "kayak-friendly" as professed to me by the resident marina operator. Free parking so close to down-town certainly was a plus. This marina is located right behind a couple of warehouses off of Beaver Avenue on Pittsburgh's North Side - on the Ohio River a bit beyond the West End Bridge.

My plan was to paddle up the Ohio toward Downtown and then north on the Allegheny past the Convention Center, the Heinz Plant, all the way to Washington's Landing, the Three Rivers Rowing Association and around the island (formerly known as Herrs Island) and back.

Right after I launched and started paddling in the Ohio toward the Point, it became clear that the river current was considerable. Making progress was not as hard as paddling against a 25 knot wind, but nevertheless, it required a bit of an extra effort.

Okay, I was there for a nice workout and I was in for it and or up to it - as you like.

Visitors always rave about Downtown Pittsburgh, coming through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and being welcomed by a truly stunning sight of Downtown... while others exclaim over the exquisite view  of the City from Mt Washington. Well, the appearance of the skyline is no less spectacular from sea-level - as it were.

Early May is the peak Warbler migration season and I was delighted to hear and see a myriad of these feathery migrants visiting around Washington's Landing.

All told I only paddled about nine miles but the first half of the trip took twice as long as the return even though I paddled more leisurely.

I've been working on my paddle stroke and think that I am making some progress. 

There are other parts of the Allegheny I look forward to exploring.

Sycamore Island (now managed by the Allegheny Land Trust) will be my next destination.

Of course, I'll have to launch further up the Allegheny River.

For a better perspective of the Three Rivers, I am adding a picture of The Point some months before when I would not have wanted to go paddling and at any rate, the Night Heron was not yet ready.