Winter weekend paddle in Maryland

Joined
Dec 7, 2011
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425
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Maryland, USA
Now I know for a lot of you winter is a lot of snow and -20 degrees, But here in Maryland it isn't quite that bad. In spite of a "winter storm" warning this past weekend three of us decided to go canoeing. I am planning a two week paddle down the Connecticut River next July from the US/Canadian border, close to the headwaters of the river, south to Massachusetts. I normally solo but since Ralph and I are doing this one together we will do it in a tandem. The impetus for this weekend trip was to test paddle a tandem with Ralph to see if the tandem canoe we will use would work for us AND to see if our friendship would survive paddling in the same canoe. We have been on many trips together in kayaks and have known each other for a good ten years. I have a Wenonah Seneca available to me that is 19.5 feet by 39" with about 2" rocker. It looks huge but proved to paddle well and carried a load. We planned to paddle the Patuxent River and arrived at the Selby Landing just below Jug Bay for a 10 AM launch. We originally had 6 other lunatics lined up to go with us, but a decaying forecast reduced it to us and solo canoeist Chip Walsh in a Hemlock SRT. The morning was mild and sunny, so things looked all right for Friday the 13th…FRIDAY…the 13TH??? I guess I missed that during the planning!!

We launched with me taking the stern and Ralph paddling bow, and after an initial period of adjusting to the new boat and each other, started to make good headway against the remained of the incoming tide. We easily left Chip, who is a very strong and experienced solo paddler, behind as the power of two paddlers and a 19’ waterline ate up the miles. We stopped for a gam with Patuxent Riverkeeper out on his dock at the offices in Nottingham. After a bit, he wished us well and we headed downriver, now with a slack current. We pulled out on the far shore at Ferry Landing for a quick break and lunch, then were underway again.

We pulled into our destination, the Milltown Landing paddle-in campsite, after a 10 mile paddle at about 2 PM.
We pitched camp, scrounged for wood, and got a fire going as the sun quickly sank about 4:45. The sky was alternately banded with cloud and then crystal clear, letting the nearly full moon shine down as the Canada Geese settled in for the night with many cluckings and honkings. After dinner we chatted around the fire. Ralph baked a pineapple upside down cake in his dutch oven for dessert and life was good! We retired to our tents (or bivy sack as the case may be) about 9:30, and when we turned in, my thermometer reading 27 degrees F (-2.8 C), I took my stove fuel canister into my sleeping bag (iso-butane gets cranky below about 30 degrees).
A watery sun greeted the dawn and the temperature rose into the low 30’s as we got up and had breakfast. I feasted on eggs and corned beef hash, while Chip and Ralph had brought oatmeal and hot drinks. We packed up and were on the water by our 10 AM departure time, catching the incoming tide as we headed north. This time, I took the bow and Ralph had the stern. We made very good time as the air filled with flights of ducks, eagles scrounging for breakfast (this area is a big bald eagle nesting area and we were lucky to see a dozen or so this trip including 4 at once), cormorants cruising up the river, and many, many Canada Geese moving out to glean for the day. Having the current with us made a difference, as we pulled into our next camp at White Oak a little after 1 PM. This campsite is off the river about a half mile up a creek named the Matoponi. Four creeks join to make this one and they re named The Ma, the To, the Po, and the Ni. Somebody had a fun time when they named stuff in this area.

Ralph and I set up camp on the bluff. On one trip up top, I spotted Chip paddling into the creek, but a half hour later, after we had camp up, no Chip. We began to wonder what happened to him, so decided to walk up the dirt road to the wooden bridge over the creek and see if he’d paddled up for a little sight see. No Chip. We walked back to camp intending to hop into the tandem and search the river for him. When we got there, he was just unloading. He’d taken a cut-off through a marsh area and missed the bend on which White Oak is located only finding camp after turned around and paddled back down the creek.

Despite all the cargo capacity, Chip decided to spend the weekend under a 12’ Noah tarp and with a bivy sack. Friday had been fine, but tonight forecast promised rain and/or snow. We pitched a big blue tarp over the picnic table and got dinner going as it started to rain and by 6:30 it was pouring down! No fire tonight—we were all in the bags by 7 PM as the temps hovered around freezing. One rule for winter camping: bring TWO books and make sure your MP3 player is fully charged or you will spend a lot of time staring up at the tent.

The rain finally let up about 2 AM (we never did have snow). In the morning we let the weak sunshine dry what would dry and packed up, loaded the canoes and paddled out for the short trip back to Selby Landing.

All in all, we decided the Seneca would do for our Connecticut River trip and we were sufficiently compatible in the tandem that homicide could probably be avoided. It was very nice winter weekend on the Pax, my favorite backyard river.

Ralph's photos here: https://plus.google.com/photos/102459087707170525949/albums/5957750318316647057
My photos here: https://picasaweb.google.com/101178211036772879744/2013DecPaxCanoeTrip#

Dave
 
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Joined
Nov 28, 2013
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Red Hill, Pa
Great trip report! Since I have joined this site, I have learned a great deal. The trip reports are always interesting since like this one, they give insight to what was used and WHY it was selected. This goes from canoe to gear. I understand that everyone has their own preferences, but interesting to see what they are and how they select their tools accordingly. This looked like a great trip you took and thanks for letting me tag along in the report while still learning.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
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Raymond, ME
I think from what I read elsewhere Chips tarp is retiring.. You'll need help on the CT River dams right.. Pineapple cake...yum. I will be at Moore Reservoir!!!!

Your boat sounds huge and seems huge but our standard tripping tandem is our 18.5 foot long Wenonah Odyssey. It does fine in moving water( not little technical streams thought)

You're spot on about bringing books at this time of the year.. and probably batteries..to bed too.

Did you have a lumpy sleeping bag?

Right now I can't envision cold camping. Its minus 21 F. More snow to come. Nice to read your TR inside with coffee.
 
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G

Guest

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Great trip report Dave, and thanks for the photos too. That looks like a sleek hauler, it should be superb for the trip next year. With all that capacity, and no carries (I guess, I don't know) am I correct in assuming you'll be taking some comforts as well? I thought I saw a wet suit in the photos, is that a precaution this time of year, even in your waters? Despite the rain, it looked like a nice test paddle. Thanks for sharing it.
 
Joined
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Raymond, ME
There are carries on the Connecticut.

Map available though Dave no doubt already knows about it. Has campgrounds portages etc. http://www.connecticutriverpaddlerstrail.org/node/7

All waters in the US at this time of year deserve a wetsuit except maybe in Florida. I will surmise that the water temp along Daves river was in about five C. I take that back. You don't need a wetsuit on our rivers here in the US. They are mostly frozen. Snowmobiles on the lake..waiting for the first truck to go by on the ice.

You probably want the wetsuits for your trip down the Connecticut. Water temperature rarely goes above the high forties below dams that are bottom release.
 
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Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
425
Location
Maryland, USA
Thanks guys. Schiff- Sometimes the criteria for choosing gear is that it's what you have!! The main criteria for selecting this canoe was it won't cost us anything. It just so happens it will hold two big guys and two weeks or more of food and gear and the CT River is not a technical river. And it only weighs 55 pounds. The light canoes today are certainly not as good looking as a classic wood and canvas canoe but they are absolutely gorgeous when on your shoulders. I guess you could say there is beauty in functional design.
YC, I am not familiar with the Odyssey. What does it compare to in Wenonah's current line up( or any other canoe) if anything. Yes, we would gladly trade a piece of Dutch oven cookery for help at any of the dams. I think there are 11 all together but the total portage distance is only about 6.5 miles for the 240 mile trip. Not exactly wilderness paddling but looking forward to it.
Brad, water temps are about 40 F here right now. We were all wearing dry suits for immersion protection. I spent 20 years in the Coast Guard dragging people out the water and I know from personal experience cold water can kill you. I wear a dry suit when the water hits 60F. I could go on and on about that but I won't. I know lots if not most canoeists will hit the water right after ice out and paddle with no immersion protection but all it takes is one capsize and it could be all over.
 
G

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Guest
5 C , ouch! I've only paddled in chilly conditions, not cold. Thanks for the paddle trail link YC, I'll explore it over my morning coffee. You being a New Englander and all, I can't teach you anything about winter storms, but I can happily moan about them. I was snow shovelling while Dave was test paddling. As much as I actually like pushing snow in December, I'm looking forward to pushing water next year; and especially hearing about this Connecticut R trip.
Wet suits, dry suits, are all gear items I know nothing much about. Thanks for the insight Dave.
 
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Joined
Sep 2, 2011
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Raymond, ME
I was snow shoveling too. The Weather Channel ( our equivalent of your Weather Network) showed where Dave was paddling. It didn't look nice even though it was rain. I would have been sorely tempted to stay inside. If its rainy I am not tempted to leave the house. But today its sunny and even though its well below freezing (I think the equivalent is -30) it's warmish in the sun and the snow fluffy.

More snow tonight then a rapid warming and I see a swear word in the forecast for Friday.. Say it won't RAIN! Ick! That would mess up Lucys exercise..



Anyway the Odyssey is a deeper expedition version of the Minnesota II.It has quite a high bow to shed water. We do find it maneuverable in moving water and also it can be heeled pretty stably and without upset.
 
Joined
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I grew up and lived in CT until I was 23 but don't know the VT/NH part of the river at all. The biggest issue right now is figuring out how to get 200 miles or so back north at the end to get the truck!!
Dave
 
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Depending on when you go its possible for someone to bring the truck to you... its really not that far. Or if you want, shuttle it to midpoint or anywhere you might need it to resupply, if you need.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Dave, I enjoyed reading that, especially knowing Chip’s capacity for making things interesting.

If my truck hadn’t been stuck in ice and snow at the bottom of the driveway for the last 2 weeks I might have seen you there. It’s been a while since I paddled with Chip and that objective will have to go on the 2014 wish list.

The good part about being stuck is that I’ve had Joel’s trailer and a couple of his boat held snowbound in the shop. Joel and I have had a couple of very productive shop days and the boats and trailer are fully ready to head south, even if we have to man-haul them to the top of the hill tomorrow.

I’m going need a project boat soon; with the trailer and three kayaks finished the shop is going to look mighty empty. At least I won’t keep bashing my ankles on the trailer tongue outside my office door.
 
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Guest
Kim, is that a remote control float plane, of is the perspective skewed? If Lucy catches it does she at least help unload the packs?

One of the best canoe dogs I’ve ever had in the boat was a Golden named Lucy. She would lie in the bilge with her muzzle resting on a thwart or seat, just calm and happy to be travelling in the canoe, watching the world go by.
 
Joined
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Mike,
I continue to be amazed at what a small world it is. I had one of Joel's canoes that he is selling for the last week to try. We have a few friends in common. Actually, Joel just left the shop about an hour ago having picked up his Rendezvous.
Regards,
Dave in Annapolis
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
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Raymond, ME
Kim, is that a remote control float plane, of is the perspective skewed? If Lucy catches it does she at least help unload the packs?

One of the best canoe dogs I’ve ever had in the boat was a Golden named Lucy. She would lie in the bilge with her muzzle resting on a thwart or seat, just calm and happy to be travelling in the canoe, watching the world go by.


She'll never catch it. When it lands she loses interest. She is itchy in the canoe and insisits on nuzzling otherwise she paces

http://www.paddling.net/photography/showPhoto.html?showID=733
 
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