Have Paddle, Will Travel – The Perpetual Search for New Waters (Part 1 of 2)

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II

Some people like to use the term “life-long”. In our area, it’s usually in the context of being an avid fan of either the Penguins, Pirates, or Steelers; and infers individuals started their passionate affinity at a very young age and it continues to this day. By that definition, I have to say I’m a “life-long” paddling enthusiast. I can still remember my Uncle Jack taking me out in his canoe on the Susquehanna River when I was 5-years old and giving me the important responsibility of helping to paddle from the front seat. Under his tutelage, by the time I was 10-years old, I had advanced to the critical rear seat after mastering the J-stroke, which is used to propel a canoe forward and simultaneously steer its movement. By the time I was 12, I had Uncle Jack’s blessing to take my younger siblings and cousins out on the Susquehanna River in his canoe beyond the sight of adult supervision. I learned back then and still adhere to this day, NEVER get in a canoe or kayak without wearing a life preserver. I don’t care what body of water you’re on, it doesn’t matter what the water conditions are, or what the temperature or weather is; I wear a life preserver any time I’m paddling a canoe or kayak, and I highly recommend you do too! In 9th grade, I saved up the entire school year and made the first really big purchase of my life. I found a used 18-foot Grumman aluminum canoe that I purchased for $215.00 in 1978, and I still have and use it to this day. It wasn’t until 2003 that I purchased my first fl at-water kayak, an Old Town Otter model in forest green. Now, our kayak “fleet” has grown to four, since kayaking is a family affair and something I truly enjoy doing with our adult children as time permits. As a fl at-water kayaking enthusiast, I’m constantly searching for new lakes, streams, rivers, and reservoirs to paddle, since there’s something special about paddling new waters for the first time to see what lies just up ahead. Here in Western PA, my perpetual search has taken me to a wide array of locations. From downtown Pittsburgh a few years ago, where we paddled short stretches of all Three Rivers on a Summer weekday afternoon, having the waters all to ourselves as thousands watched out of their nearby office windows. To the vast expanse of Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park, where I’ve been out on “The Big Lake” up to a mile from shore and had the occupants of passing pleasure craft wave with somewhat astonished looks on their faces. This past weekend, my son and I decided to try a stretch of the Shenango River Reservoir in Mercer County, we hadn’t kayaked before. We had previously paddled on Shenango Reservoir down by the dam, over by the swimming beach, and in the restricted upper pool that permits you to work your way upstream to the low-head dam by Orangeville, Ohio; but for some reason we had never paddled the upper stretch above Clark towards Big Bend. To get to our chosen launch site, we headed north on PA-18 through Hermitage to the traffic light at Clark by Tara. There, we took PA-258 east for approximately two miles before turning left on North Neshannock Road. We followed the dirt road on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property for ½-mile and turned right at the “T”, then proceeded for another ½-mile before it ended at a locked gate by the water’s edge. The limited boat launch is suitable only for car-topped boats, canoes, and kayaks, but there is ample parking available. The recent high-water levels at Shenango Reservoir left abundant mud and puddles in the parking area, and we were greeted by a swarm of mosquitoes when we exited the truck; so, we couldn’t wait to get out on the water and away from the incessant insects. After launching from where the road literally goes underwater, my son and I were greeted by an osprey nesting platform only 60-yards from shore. We gave its occupants a wide berth and then proceeded to weave our way around the many islands that dot the shallow waters in that portion of the reservoir. Next week, I’ll share more on this excursion and others as I pursue my “life-long” passion for paddling fl at-water! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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