Saturday, April 24, 2010

Paddle Log #13: Monocacy River Bluebells

Saturday the Monocacy Canoe Club (MCC) hosted a "Bluebells" paddle down the Monocacy River.  This event was named after the bluebell flowers that are all in bloom along the banks of the river.  Overall, it was a GREAT day on the water.


I wasn't sure we were going to get to go paddling yesterday.  The weather reports have been calling for rain, rain, and more rain all weekend.  I told myself all week that I would wait until Friday to make a determination and kept hoping for the forecast to change.  Sure enough, late Friday, the forecast changed and said the rain wouldn't come until later in the afternoon, so I decided to go for it.

We put in here at the bridge where Mumma Ford Road crosses the Monocacy River.  (For a map of the Monocacy River with each of the put-in points, click here.)  There was limited parking available here (about 3 cars on the west side of the river where we put in, maybe room for another 3 on the other side of the river).  It was about a hundred yard walk from the car down a dirt path to the water's edge as seen in the picture above.

During the drive up to Frederick, it was a beautiful 64-degree sunny morning.  As soon as we got to the river, I broke out my digital thermometer and checked to see if we met the 120 thumbrule (air temp + water temp = at least 120 to go kayaking without cold weather gear).

120 Rule - Check!

Level-of-difficulty wise, this trip was similar to the Goose Creek trip we did last summer.  There were several very small patches of water where the current picked up and we brushed up a few rocks here and there, but nothing too challenging.   Oh, except for the dam...

There was a small dam that we had to portage around on the left side (1.3 miles downstream from where we put in at Mumma Ford Road), but it has a nice concrete landing area to pull up, get out of your boat, stretch your legs, and carry your boat down.

Landing on left side of river just before the dam.

It was a really nice, calm day on the water.  There were two couples in canoes, another couple and another family from Virginia in kayaks on this trip (2 canoes and 7 kayaks total).  Now that 8 year old ES has seen another 8 year old out in his own kayak, ES has informed me he wants his own kayak, too.

Peaceful day on the Monocacy River

The bluebells were in bloom everywhere along the banks of the river.

LeGore Bridge (built 1898-1900)
We passed this beautiful old stone-arch bridge along the way.

Gentle Rain

As I mentioned, the forecast had called for rain.  When we got underway, it was sunny and nice out, so I just took our rain coats and stuck them in our dry bag.  About 12:30, it started to very gently rain, so we pulled out our rain coats and put them on.  It only rained for about an hour and then stopped for the rest of our trip, but it knocked the air temperature down three degrees from 64 to 61F. 

Gear Update.  This was our first time out with a few new items of gear.  Because it was our first time out for the season and still teetering on the edge of that 120-rule, and because of the chance of rain while we were out, I went in seach of some things to keep the boys dry and comfortable. 

Cascade Rain Pants

I picked up a couple of pairs of Cascade Rain Pants from the REI website.  They were almost perfect for our trip.  The boys willingly put them on before we got underway.  They wore a light pair of pants underneath for warmth, and the rain pants are just a waterproof material to keep them dry.  My only complaint about them is that the velcro at the ankle cuffs was sewn on by somebody who doesn't understand the purpose of putting velcro there.  The soft part of the velcro wasn't put in a position where you could tighten the pant leg around the boys' ankles and attach the hard part of the velcro.  The pants were a little long, so the boys ended up stepping on them a lot.  Other than that though, they were awesome.

NRS Hydroskin Socks

I was also concerned about the boys' feet staying dry and not getting too cold.  I didn't want to buy a pair of scuba booties like mine though, because they'll just outgrow them right away.  Instead, at EMS I found these NRS hydroskin socks.  I figured they should last a little longer / not get outgrown as quickly as a fitted-shoe type of footwear.  We didn't put them on at first.  In fact, I even kept the tags on them and kept them in our dry bag.  If we didn't end up needing them, I just figured I would take them back and return them.  However, we stopped for lunch at a sandbar along the way and it was lightly raining.  The boys feet were getting a little cold and wet, so I put the hydroskin socks on, and they were perfectly cozy and comfortable the rest of the day.

Kokatat Jacket

This was my first time using the Kokatat paddling jacket that my MIL gave me for my birthday.  I can't find a link to the exact product I have, but it is like this pullover but without the hood.  It was easy to put on and cinch the wrist cuffs shut with velcro.  It was very comfortable and dry, and it didn't restrict my movement at all while paddling. 

Now, before anyone scolds me for the photo of the rain pants above, YES, I will be buying ES a new life-jacket.  He has apparently out-grown his PFD and was complaining that he had trouble breathing when it was zipped all the way up.  He still had the belt with the buckle fastened.  I figured the risk was mitigated by the fact the water was calm and only 2 feet deep and he's a good swimmer, but one of the other people on the trip is a water safety instructor and chastised me for not making him keep the jacket zipped up.

Lunch Stop

Wildlife.  We did see adorable baby ducklings, an eagle, a heron, and an osprey came flying low over our heads with a fish grasped in its talons.  Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough with my camera to get any good shots of them.

Some stats for the paddle log:
  • Date: 24 April 2010
  • Time In: 11:00 a.m. (approx)
  • Time Out: 4:00 p.m. (approx)
  • Elapsed: ~5 hours
  • Moving Time (GPS):  3 hrs 18 minutes
    Stopped Time (GPS):  1 hr 55 minutes (see below)
  • Mileage: 8.79 miles by GPS
  • Sea State: 0
  • Winds: 0
  • Air Temp: 64F initially then dropped to 61F when the rain started about 12:30.
  • Water Temp: 61F
  • Current:   (Discharge) 480 cf/s (about half the median daily value) (source)
  • Gauge Height:  2.45 feet (source)
  • Avg Speed (GPS):  2.7 mph
  • Max Speed by (GPS):  5.8 mph
  • Rapids?  Not really. There were several quick spots with some rocks to dodge, but I don't think any of them were above a level 1 rapids. The worst was just before the LeGore bridge and one of the canoes in our group capsized there. We got by on the right hand side there without any trouble. 
  • Hazards?  The dam 1.3 miles downstream of Mumma Ford Road.  There's a nice concrete apron on the left to take-out and portage around the dam.
  • Kit: Our Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL and paddles. Flop hat & sunglasses.  NRS paddling gloves. Long sleeve shirt, long pants, old Brooks sneakers, Kokatat paddling jacket (first time).
  • Configuration: I sat in the back seat, ES in the middle, YB in the front.  We were weighed down pretty well in the back.  One of the other paddlers recommended shifting some weight forward to even out our keel, so I put our dry bag up on the bow.
  • Route:  Put-in at Mumma-Ford Road (2.2 miles upstream of Rt. 77 which is mile marker 0 on the map), took out at Creagerstown Park (point 3 on the map).  The other club members said a lot of people put-in at Rt. 77 to avoid the dam 1.3 miles downstream of Mumma Ford.  See Garmin Connect for the track from my Forerunner. For some reason it has a stray data point back near our house at the beginning and then shoots up to the Monocacy River.  It was set to zero and I pushed start right as we got in the water.  Anyone know how to delete erroneous data points from Garmin Connect? 
  • Other comments (such as wildlife spotted): Ducklings, eagles, herons, osprey with fish in talons.
 Watering the Bluebells


Sagey said...

You forget your wife loves LLBean and therefore would direct her mother there for shopping...
Also, in regards to ES's life jacket he he has never worn it with that many layers under it.. usually just a swim shirt, not a long sleeve jacket and a rain coat! :-)

Hilary said...

I love when you take us on your canoe trips. The bluebells are lovely - how very kind of your son to water them. I had no idea about a 120º rule. That's wise. That bridge is awesome and so are the memories you're making for these kidlets. Thanks for the trip.

Steve Tucker said...

I've paddled that stretch of the river quite a few's a great trip. I've been paddling the Monocacy for about 7 years and have hit every section of it at one point or another. You picked a great section to paddle; the middle Monocacy essentially Rt 77 to Monocacy Blvd) is my favorite section of the river. If you're interested in some river tips or updates, I've started a Monocacy River blog.