Trip Report - Kinzu NT Memorial

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I thoroughly enjoy the change in group dynamic on trips where folks show up on different days. And I enjoy my solo time. I hit the jackpot last week.

I headed up to Allegheny Reservoir (AKA Kinzu) on a Wednesday morning and paddled into Hopewell early in the morning (one benefit of a 4am departure from home) to find all of the 20+ campsites vacant. On Nightswimmer’s recommendation I took site #1 on a bluff and hauled up wayyy more food, gear and drink than I needed.

With camp set I was reposing in the day-hammock - a location that saw much inaction in the coming days - when a loud, linear rustling of leaves traversed the forest behind me and suddenly stopped silent. Followed seconds later by the crashing of a large tree coming down.

Best I could figure this was a black bear toppling a snag for a grubby meal, or maybe a sow and cubs that caught my scent and chose a climbing tree unwisely. Taking this as a cue to cease being a bear burrito I took a short daypaddle on the calm and nearly motor-boatless lake (both rare occurrences on Kinzu) and was early to bed with a good book.

Early to bed and early to rise. Next morning I was lying half-asleep in the tent when I heard a gentle gunwale thump, and then a second. It’s dawnish, it’s foggy, and as I peer out the vestibule groggily I see that it’s a “courtesy gunwale thump”. Conk don’t bang gunwales unnecessarily.

I believe I first met Conk on a Kinzu trip, but beyond group trips there and at Raystown I have never had the opportunity to camp with him as a sole companion.

Conk had been to the Handsome Lake sites, and spotting a single canoe beached in the fog illuminated some sleeper’s tent for a looksee. A good reminder that I should put up the bright yellow Duckhead flag as a beacon for future arrivals.

Conk is highly recommended as a companion. Or as a non-companion; he kindly paddled off most days to leave me puttering in camp and hammock lazing. Sometimes I just like to hang out in the woods by myself, and Conk’s daily daypaddling departures gave me that lazy and quiet solo time.

He reminds me a lot of friend Joby. I need to get those two together on a trip, they’re peas in a pod – smart, understated-quiet, experienced, boat knowledgeable, good birders and most often indefatigably off, out and about hiking or paddling away from camp, leaving me, just as I like it, all by my lonesome. Thankee boys.

This was in part a trip to memorialize a departed friend. NT. Norb, Weldzilla. NT was rough, gruff and kissed no man’s ass ever, but he had a heart of gold and was trueblue as a friend. He was a talented craftsman across a range of media – woodworking, metal working, boatcraft, paddlemaking and photography. He had an eye for design, a passion for things done well and a generous spirit. If NT called you friend you undoubtedly came to own something made by his skilled hands.

It was a good day to lay long in the hammock, look at the lake and think about absent friends.

A short daypaddle eventually ensued, to poke about the shoreline and gather firewood. Conk eventually returned, and we were both early to bed without touching fire to twig.

Friday was a reprise of Thursday, with Conk off for another long day paddle and me lazing in the hammock, watching the Roper’s Hollow launch across the lake, anticipating the eventual arrival of a few more friends come to remember NT.

Nearing dusk a couple of canoes appeared. Welcome Nightswimmer, ShesaKeeper, and Jsaults. I could not have asked for finer additions to the group dynamic.

(I named Ed “Nightswimmer” on this very lake, and feel I should be allowed the honor of naming Laurie)

We settled in ‘round a hearty white man’s fire, determined to put a dent in a virgin bottle of Blantons, and were telling NT tales when a large bolide flashed bright and blue across the southwestern sky; explosively bright enough that we turned to watch is streak down to the horizon. I think it was aiming for Youngstown.

To quote Conk quoting NT “God I love this stuff”. Or to quote Jsaults “Invisible Sky Genie I love this stuff”.

I am pleased to report that on Friday night I was once again the last man standing (or sitting). That is, for me, a Kinzu tradition that started years ago, on a trip where I consumed nothing but Guinness and Topher brownies for 4 days, and yet remained awake and upright when all of my companions had fallen asleep or fallen over.

I may not be as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.

Saturday’s wake up was only slightly painful; 10% due to a hangover and 90% because my cheeks hurt from laughing too much the night before. NT my friend, you would have loved it.

Conk paddled out on Saturday afternoon, although we decanted the remains of his flask of Sailor Jerry’s into the Blantons grenade before allowing him to depart. There followed another night of storytelling ‘round the fire, and fortunately Jsaults had a stash of Blantons; a slug of Sailor Jerry’s from a Blanton’s bottle is a rude surprise to the anticipatory taste buds.

Nightswimmer and ShesaKeeper stuck around long enough on Sunday to deplete the Jerry grenade, leaving just me, Jsaults, Blantons, 19 beers and two hammocks.

We did a whole lotta nothing on Sunday afternoon and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t wander further than 50 feet from camp all day, from tent to hammock to cooler and back.

Jsaults packed it up and paddled off on Monday, and by Monday afternoon the lake was as calm as Kinzu gets, and all but devoid of motorboat traffic; I counted three boats through the day, all slowly trolling with spread rigs.

Despite the allure of the hammock (so well positioned and, as ShesaKeeper would say, so well hung), it seemed only fitting to conclude with a day paddle down to Sugar Bay and continuing remembrance of exploring there with NT.

A calm lake paddle down to Sugar Bay and, on the way out and back, a perfect rising tailwind to carry me back to camp under sail. Back acamp I did not come close to finishing up the accumulated pile of firewood, and was even further from finishing those 19 beers. But I tried.

I stuck around for one more day of solo and quietude and was up before dawn on Tuesday, packed and paddling out just as the fog began to lift. The Roper Hollow lot was empty but for my truck and I was quickly on the road. I had been hoping for a Tuesday morning take out – my route home takes me (not) past an excellent backwoods diner for a massive breakfast with unending coffee, and then (not) past Blue Mountain Outfitters.

I was smart enough to write a BMO list before I left home and, as usual, they had everydamnthing: G\flex, drip rings, high quality bungee cord, high quality floating rope, my preferred carry handles for decked boats, peel ply, minicel and a half dozen small outfitting pieces – open cleats, closed cleats, deck hooks, grommet straps, clips and sundry doohickeys – everything that I need for the current shop rebuild or for future shop stock.

The pull-out bins of small parts and pieces at the end of the counter can be a wonderland of outfitting items you didn’t even know existed.

As important as the availability of everydamnthing on the list I had the unhurried mid-day opportunity to talk to some of the shop staff (and the shop shop staff); quality time that should count towards continuing education credits.

Even with a lengthy BMO stop I was home before rush hour syphilization, after a week of unbelievably idyllic weather. Seven consecutive days of sunny skies, no rain and gentle winds is an unknown at Kinzu.

Add to which a perfect realization of my desire for different-folks-at-different-times:
Wednesday – Solo
Thursday – Conk and solo
Friday – Conk and solo and Nightswimmer, ShesaKeeper and Jsaults
Saturday – Nightswimmer, ShesaKeeper and Jsaults
Sunday – Jsaults
Monday –Jsaults and solo
Tuesday – Solo

I’ve been west to Utah and north to Maine and south to the Carolinas this year, and that week at Kinzu was as fine I trip as I’ve had. Maybe it was the company.

Thankee all. Same time next year?

A very few photos:

http://s1285.photobucket.com/user/CooperMcCrea/slideshow/Kinzu
 
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“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”
Jim Morrison

Yes, it was the company.
 
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Feb 14, 2013
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That was a great read, Mike.

As much as I read from and about NT, I am jealous for having never met him.
 
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