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CCA Icebreaker on Sleepy Creek - 2 March 2019
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For Barb Brown's photos of this, see the CCA Facebook page (top left corner of the home-page)

  I am just back from a morning visit to Barb's to wash off our gear (incl. Miki's boats & our incredibly muddy river togs - all laid out on her brick driveway).  We had skipped that, as we arrived at her place at 11:30 pm after a full course of 15 miles on Sleepy Ck at 240 cfs* and Chinese in Shepherdstown (my first visit there - what a beauty of a main street - and then - after mature deliberation, walking across Main to the Community Center and disporting ourselves in contra dancing, square dancing & a waltz.


    We were six boaters - also including trip leader Ed Gertler, Dave Stockdill (OC from Fredericksburg), and Jennifer Holcombe (Louise's niece, who works at River & Trail Outfitter opposite Harpers Ferry).)  Put into Sleepy Creek at CR8-1 bridge** and paddled down that Class I (II) stream to River Rd - almost at the Potomac.  Ed had us set the shuttle heavy at the bottom, so when we arrived all wet and cold we could be up and away rapidly.  Such was the theory.  Level was ca 3" which was low for those (Barb & Ed) who'd done it before.  Snow all over at the put-in, but on the melt toward midday - I think we were dealing with 42-48 degrees - overcast with a hint of sun around 3 PM.  Put-in at 11:45 - take-out at the predicted 4:45 as the day was quickly waning.  


     Beautiful cliffs, though not up to Sideling Hill standards, set off by the fallen snow.  Only in-river difficulty was a single stream-wide downed white pine of 2-foot diameter right across a swift section below WVa 9.  Had to portage river right and lower the under-strength Cooley backwards into the run-out.  I by the way was using my Kevlar Jackson-Pollock-decorated pencil kayak, which was the ideal craft for keeping paddling the full 15 miles.  And also for the next and final scene.


     This horror was the take-out, performed up a steep wooded slope all moist with snow and mud, which we quickly turned into footing from hell as we churned two paces upward and one pace back.  Eventually we formed a kind of bucket brigade to pass the boats upwards to the top - I figure the rise was about thirty feet.  Barb suggested unlimbering her rope to simply haul up the boats, but as we were strung out, this good advice went unheeded.  We then struggled the thoroughly muddy boats up on top of our cars and stripped our dank, dirty togs from our aching bodies.  To answer John's question - my wrist did incredibly well (note this typing on the morning after) both from the extended paddling and the brutal boat-haul up the bank.


     Ed took the shuttle driver back to his car, while the rest of us headed for Shepherdstown and the China House on the main St.  Taking a vote and losing two of our party, Ed, Miki, Barb and I walked across the street to the Community Center (War Memorial Bldg) and threw ourselves into the world of the dance ***.  We had about 25 couples and a four-man band and caller.  Yes, there was contra dancing, which as the name suggests is a form of line dancing with progression up the line that I for one was just beginning to learn - - as that form stopped, and we went over to square dancing, which was more familiar.  Finally ended up with some waltzes, where I was able to show Miki how much I had forgotten since dancing school.  But the main take-away was the incredibly friendly and helpful attitude of the local people toward us river-spavined dancing dubs.  


      Left town around 10:30, dropped Miki off at her car in Rockville, and arrived at Barb's.  We said to hell with washing the boats and untying the knots in the dark, took the dirty river clothes out and left them out for the expected slush-storm to clean.  Didn't happen, leading to this morning's hose-down.


      So, strenuous, but a nice introduction to a pretty and undemanding brook in the company of friends.  Contra-dancing was the cherry on top.  Should have been doing this icebreaking stuff when I was a bit more vigorous, but better late than never.


* 240 cfs at the Rte 9 middle point (135 sq mi) is based on a USGS reading of 420 cfs at the larger (235 sq mi) Jones Springs gauge.  For future use – the conversion factor is 57%.


** 39.567460, -78.171288


*** For video of the contra dancing, see the bottom of this link:

Just realize that we had four times as many dancers and a quarter of the musicians – and every bit as much fun.


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