ssǝɹddns ɹou ɹɐǝɟ ɹǝɥʇıǝu plnoʍ ʎʇǝıɔos ǝǝɹɟ ʎlnɹʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʇ ƃuıʇnɔolɯnɔɹıɔ suıɐʇuoɔ ǝʇıs sıɥʇ

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 Wyoming Valley RiverFest: Part II

One of the most pressing concerns associated with inviting untold numbers of novices new to paddling out onto the Susquehanna River is the safety concern.

When RiverFest takes place year-in and year-out, hundreds of boats set out on river sojourns, most of which are usually under the, ahem, control of first-time paddlers. Boats do capsize, people do need immediate assistance to get pointed in the right direction all over again, water-filled boats do occasionally need to be pumped free of water, not to mention what a distant crack of lightning might mean to those novice paddlers so completely exposed to the elements.

One factor that plays into this is the varying height of the river from year to year. One year it might be listed as being 3-feet deep. And the next year it may stand at 9-feet deep. And so, when one sets off, the boils, eddy’s, rapids and long-submerged man-made obstacles wildly intensify, subtlety change or disappear entirely. And that’s a big part of what makes a yearly paddle on the same river still feel like an adventure.

When you venture down that boat launch and push off as a card-carrying participant of RiverFest, you are obliged to follow the safety rules, which pretty much means you need to point your boat due south and paddle.

Having first-time paddlers setting off in every which direction does not provide for their safety. And as a result, exploration of the river’s many tributaries, curiosities as well as it’s backwaters is strictly prohibited. In other words, stay with the group and never get out of the boat.

But since we were protesting the shocking inclusion of gas companies in this event, we did not register as participants or pay any of the meager, but necessary fees. Simply put, we were free to navigate the river any which way we wanted too, and completely free of supervision. And I while look forward to RiverFest each and every year, I simply love being able to just go off and explore like the former Boy Scout that I am.

I’ve only done as much a few times, paddling up crystal-clear tributaries, taking in secluded, picture post card quality waterfalls, and practically sticking my head into combined sewage outflows among many other probably ill-advised things. But I liken those infrequent explorations to RiverFest being River 101, and the free-ranging trips to being River 2. RiverFest is the introductory course, while free-lancing is the advanced course. Something like that.

During our downriver sojourn on this day, we put ashore and explored a minute fraction of Dinosaur Island. While Don was spinning this yarn as we fast approached, Zach was claiming he was not buying it--live dinosaurs laying in wait in the middle of the river--and that he was not afraid. He wanted to put ashore and explore. But once we did put ashore, not even once did I have to shout what I always have to shout when Zach and I are out and about: “Zach! Wait up!”

No, despite his usual penchant for running off, he stayed pretty close to me. And after Don disappeared deep into the trees and we heard growling sounds coming from the bush, Zach was just about attached to my hip. Nah, we wasn’t afraid. Not in the least.

From there, we passed over the exact site of the Knox Mine disaster, a place that always gets me to paddling faster, and then a bit faster. And with only one more island between us and both of the 8th Street bridges, Don started telling Zach about the vile creatures native to that island and how Zach should not look directly into their eyes, so as to not be turned to stone. Medusa Island, we’ll call it.

While Zach claimed to be disbelieving and not afraid, not once did he say he wanted to put ashore and explore. Not this time.

You just gotta love little kids. Despite how much they think they know, they’re still not completely sure. Thanks in part, I suppose, to adults spinning wild yarns about man-eating dinosaurs and mystical creatures that provide stone-inducing glances.

A far cry from the days of the oft-told tales of legendary Chief Muckamucka and how he led the Muckoquoi Nation to a devastating rout of the invading hordes of colonists from Connecticut.

To be continued…

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