December 21, 2010

Kayaking the Lehigh River in December – Fun!


OK, time to catch up on the myriad of blog postings I have not been putting on here.  I just got back from nearly a month in Pennsylvania and yes, I did take a kayak out with me since I drove out – I have a strong feeling that it’s just wrong for a whitewater kayaker to go on any kind of significant road trip without at least one boat on top of the car.

Nick LaBarbera and me at the put-in for the Lehigh River.

I had pretty much given up on finding anyone to go paddle with me when I ended up driving to Harrisburg to help out my brother-in-law, who it turns out works with a guy who has two sons are way into whitewater kayaking.  I told him about my blog, his kids checked it out, and lo and behold – not too long after that I was meeting up with Nick LaBarbera (I hope I spelled that correctly) to do the lower portion of the Lehigh River gorge on a 27 degree day in December – a ‘record cold’ for both of us when it comes to kayaking, but it was a blast!

My record cold kayaking day so far.

The flow was around 3500 cfs, at which level there were some beautiful surf waves, especially during the first part of the run.  I’d love to tell you that I busted moves all over the place, but a) I’m not a great playboater by any means, and b) I was kind of timid about even trying to catch waves in the beginning because I wasn’t sure how well I was going to hold up to the cold if I rolled.  I could  have relaxed, because with 8 layers underneath a GoreTex drysuit (Kokatat, I really like it), my little skullcap underneath my helmet (kayaking not being exactly a glamor sport), and Snapdragon pogies that I tried out for the first time because I forgot my trusty Glacier Gloves, I was amazingly warm even when I ended up rolling – which was, incidentally, about 3 seconds after getting onto a wave. :)

Seriously, I have to hand it to the amazing gear they make these days.  I was just thinking how surprisingly warm I was even with the wind when I realized icicles were forming on the brim of my helmet.  It was a blast!  Nick says he raft guides on this river all summer and that the flow is typically 700 cfs – it’s hard to imagine what it’s like at that level.  Anyway, much thanks to Nick for braving the cold and guiding me down, it ended up being around Class III with a few monster holes, and at that temperature the danger level bumps up on any river.

Three and a half days like this - woofta!

Since I’m mentioning the road trip and it has also been a while since Libby made it onto the blog, I’m going to give her a big vote of appreciation because she is the ultimate road warrior dog – unbelievably patient, fun to snuggle with in the back when the other person is driving, and she managed to fart only minimally for most of the trip. ;)


Lehigh River, Libby, Nick L.

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