Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Gone With The Wind..... On the Wallkill River
by Martin W.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

After several attempts which were thwarted by floods, a few raindrops in Ohio and a lack of interest, we finally managed to get on the mighty Wallkill River in Sussex, NJ.

OK, no forecast rain east of Iowa.... no floods..... no plague and pestilence..... no locusts... no zombies... this time the trip was on - no matter what, even if they were forecasting 45 mph winds!

Meeting at the usual Sussex Queen Diner parking lot, seven members of the HRCKC were ready for the 9 mile trip from the Rt. 565 access to the take-out at Oil City Road. Those hardy folks who participated in the adventure were.... Mary D., Al G., Alan R., Barbara P., Kevin M., Melody W., and myself.... all in canoes but save one.

After unloading the boats and running the shuttle to Oil City Road, we set out downstream (north since the Wallkill is one of only two rivers in NJ that flow South to North - the other is the Millstone). Expecting almost hurricane force winds, we were pleasantly surprised that - yes, it was a bit windy, it was nowhere near as bad as predicted and luckily for us it was a tail-wind (highly unusual) all the way.

Mary and Al were in what we referred to as the Chiquita banana boats - bright yellow Bell Prodigy WW solo canoes which made for some vibrant photographs. This was Mary's first long distance moving water trip (I think) with her new WW canoe and she did extremely well even with the gusting winds. As I often say, I've never seen someone pick up the fine art of solo canoeing as fast as Mary has this year.

Paddling with ease over the "Jersey Barriers" at the gas-line construction site (along with the gawking construction crew) we passed the formally infamous and 'yak eating "The Strainer" which is now just a feeble shadow if it's magnificent former self since most of it was washed away in flooding a couple of years ago. It used to be plenty fun rescuing pinned kayakers out of that strainer (that's funny, canoeists never had any problems - why is that?).

We were moving along at a good clip with the help of the decent current and the tail-wind which was blowing increasing faster. As we approached Bassett's Bridge, the wind really started to howl. We pulled to shore for our mid-day stop and sat on the boardwalk to partake of vittles and drink, but really had to hold onto our sandwiches in the howling winds (my pickle flew off to Warwick with one of those gusts).

Getting back on the water, the river narrowed a bit and the trees cut the effects of the wind dramatically so the paddle downstream was actually quite easy. As we approached "The Rapid" the current increased a bit and but since it was high water conditions there was nary a bump in what is usually the most exciting portion of this stretch of the Wallkill - much more fun at lower water levels. A short time later we passed the "Redneck" campground which is usually full of the local ATV'ers and dirt bikers - but none were sight on this day.

Alas, the trip was concluded as we approached the take-out at Oil City Road a short time later, loaded the boats on the cars and said our fare-thee-wells. We did the entire 9 miles in under 3 hours of actual paddling - now that's good time.

I stopped at Neal's Sports Emporium to say hey to our pal Neal and learned he will be out of commission for a bit due to a knee replacement he will be getting the week after next.

And again.... no one died!