Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lake Conewago, PA

Jean was attracted to this little plant, which I discovered is called a spring beauty.  How appropriate.  I would see several areas where the forest was carpeted with large clusters of these.

Conewago Lake, DeLorme P.82, B-3. Located in Gifford Pinchot State Park, Conewago is 340 acres and offered 8.75 miles of paddling around the lake. Because of being in the state park, many locals refer to it by the nickname of Pinchot Lake. It is situated south of Maytown and Lewisberry, PA.

Doing Lake Conewago right after Lake Marburg at Cordorus State Park was unfortunate. Every lake is unique, but these two don’t compare well. Whatever Marburg is, Conewago isn’t. Marburg is deep right off the shore and reaches 120 feet; Conewago is shallow, with the deepest depth of 25-feet occurring only at the dam. The rest of the lake runs between 6-10 feet. Marburg is very clear. Visibility had to reach to 20 feet. On Conewago, when I hit bottom with only the lower half of the paddle blade in the water, I still couldn’t see what I was hitting. Visibility was only about four inches while the sky was cloudy, and when the sun broke through, it still only pierced the water to about eight inches. The problem with that is the lake is studded with Volkswagen-sized boulders. With the lake being so shallow, many are awash, and many more are hiding just below the surface. Some rock piles are buoyed, but marking them all would make the lake look like a chocolate birthday cake with a hundred white candles. I was concerned about sliding up on one that would deprive Ibi of all her stability while my camera rested in the bottom of the boat.

Several times I’d go to put the paddle in the water just to have it go “bonk” on a boulder that slid by unseen and less than six inches below the surface. It was fairly breezy, about 20 mph., and the leeward side of the lake was safer to run because the waves coming across the lake would break against the submerged rocks. I could look around and see 6-10-inch geysers of water shooting into the air. Marburg was a haven of wildlife, but all I saw on Conewago were a handful of mallards and a few brown ducks. While it may pale a bit in comparison to its larger sister, the paddle was a nice couple hours. When the sun broke through the heavy cloud cover, the water sparkled here as well as anywhere.

I had a decent collection of trash when I got back. A busload of kids were having their lunches on a pier. Even from a distance, I could see them throwing stuff in the water literally with both hands. I went downwind and paddled toward them as I gathered the trash that floated, like cans, drink containers, waxed paper box liners, plastic Musselman apple sauce cups, cellophane chip bags, etc. When I got to them, I suggested that they perhaps didn’t need to be throwing their garbage into the lake.

It not only cluttered the lake and ruined the enjoyment of others, but was dangerous to wildlife. There was no direct adult supervision, but a man near the bus apparently saw me talking to them and started walking down to the pier. Behind me I could hear each kid accusing all the others of littering. By the time I came back down the lake, the kids had been loaded on the bus and were gone.
Love those spring colors!

They grow big catfish here. I saw a couple two-footers leaping from the water. Near where I encountered the trash-heaving kids, a man on the shore picked up one to release it back into the water. It laid across both of his forearms and dangled a good bit off either side. It was one big cat. I wouldn’t begin to guess at its size, as I would unavoidably be accused of exaggeration.
Finally---some redbuds in their natural setting.

The shagbark hickory is a common tree in the Eastern U.S.  Hickory comes from the Algonguian word "pawcohiccora."  They will grow to about 90-ft. and 200 years of age.  Hickory nuts are sought by black bear, racoons, squirrels, chipmunks and mice, wild turkey, foxes, and various birds and ducks.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Canoeing A Continent

Illus. Credit: Google Books

“Canoeing A Continent: On the Trail of Alexander Mackenzie” by Max Finkelstein

(261-pp, four appendices, 2002, by National Heritage, Toronto, Ontario)

Before going to Lake Conewago tomorrow, I’d like to bring you this review. This is another recommended volume from the Paddlers’ Reading List. Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to cross North America, arriving at the Pacific on 22 July 1793. It was word of this trip that reportedly spurred Thomas Jefferson to send out the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition thirteen years later. It is a sore point for the author that even Canadians know Lewis and Clark better than Alexander Mackenzie, even though it was Mackenzie who opened the trade routes that led to the exploration and development of most of Canada. Mackenzie’s book, “Voyages from Montreal”, was published in 1801, and a copy of the book is reputed to have been carried by Lewis and Clark. Jumping forward over two centuries, it was not until 1997 that Canada proclaimed the route the “Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route,” “the most significant water trail in North America.” Following the route would take the author six months, 4,423 miles, and 135 portages. Throughout the book, Max compares what he and Mackenzie are experiencing a couple centuries apart as he follows the trail.

It would be hard for any book to not succeed when covering such a venture. It’s captivating, educational, and enjoyable. I found many things of interest, such as the idea of measuring distance in pipes. The canoes used by voyageurs and fur traders were hulking 35-40-foot canoes that would carry four tons of supplies in addition to the paddlers. It wasn’t until they reached the smaller waterways and strong rapids of the West that they would switch to “small” 26-foot canoes. There seemed to be very little difference in the speeds that would be made by different paddlers. The greatest variable in distance made good pertained to the paddling conditions: up stream or down, the difficulty of the rapids, how exposed an area was to wind, etc. The paddling cadence was very consistent, about 50 strokes per minute. Also consistent, was their habit of paddling for 55 minutes of each hour, and then pulling to the side to stuff a small bit of tobacco into a pipe for a short smoke while relaxing their muscles. The only variables were the conditions under which they paddled, so it became more reliable to refer to a portion of a trail or stream by the number of pipes it consumed, than by trying to measure miles, although days were generally assumed to cover roughly 25 miles per day. Another consistent was how a canoe was packed. Whether it was supplies or furs, a canoe was loaded in “pieces”, and each piece was a pack of 90-pounds.

The author includes a nice history of those that have done expedition paddling. It was interesting that he uses a Verlen Kruger Loon on his trip, and considers it ideal for handling big loads and big seas. He is very connected to those that have shared his love of nature, the water, the wilderness, and I was also interested to learn something new from the author about Bill Mason.  Mason's favorite spot on earth was Old Woman Bay, Lake Superior. It was here that his ashes were set to rest after his passing. If anyone is unfamiliar with Bill Mason, reward yourself by correcting that. He was a noted author, filmmaker, painter, and lover of canoeing and the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and these passions come through in all his work.

The author’s appendices include a packing list for such an expedition trip, how to make different styles of bannock, more detailed information on some things mentioned in the text, and how to research further to put such a trip together. It is a personal walk into the wilds of Canada, and into history.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lake Marburg -4

I was hoping to get a better picture of the loon, but every time I got within 50-yards of it, it would dive.  Hoping to be closer, I figured about where it should surface and let Ibi drift in that direction.  I don't like to harrass wildlife, so if this didn't work, I would just go on.  Of course it was just luck, but it surfaced right in front of the canoe, and I took this picture.  I was still a bit disappointed, because they have the ability to come to periscope depth, like here, rather than fully surface, so I still only got a glimpse of its back and half its head.  To leave him in peace, I just turned and paddled on.

Getting to the end of one finger cove, I found a groundhog out for lunch.  Being more laid-back by nature than the loon, I was able to drift toward shore for a couple shots.

It wasn't groundhog day according to the calendar, but a half-hour later I saw this one making his way through the woods. 

Much of the 26 miles around the lake is wooded and natural.  Usually the only unnatural influence is where grounds are cleared for park and camping facilities, but then, somehow, this intrudes on the tranquility.  If anyone is worried about how the one-percenters are doing in the economy they created, here's evidence that they are doing fine.

A small group of mergansers.  Like the loon, also an uncommon sight in this area. 

Happy Memorial Day

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lake Marburg - 3

On the way back from Lake Marburg, I stopped to get a shot of this barn on Bonny Brook Rd.  You can more clearly see the interesting brick work in the side of the barn.  Spaces are left between some bricks both for ventilation through the barn, and also to create interesting designs.  Set on a solid foundation and hip wall of stone, these barns can last almost forever if maintained. 

A much more modest, but beautifully maintained, barn on one of the roads coming out from the lake.

A local artisan that does chainsaw sculptures did this beautiful eagle's head on a feather.  We got an owl sitting on a stump from him last year.  His biggest sculpture in the area that we've seen is an eagle with spread wings and talons that must be 25-ft. tall.

More spring colors.

No, these are not multiple pictures of the same family.  It was the most wonderful day in a month, and everyone and every goose was out to take advantage of it.

Seeking cover along the shore.

It's called a Common Loon, but it is by no means common in this part of the country.  It had apparently stopped in for a rest while migrating.  I've never seen one this far south or this far inland before.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Canada to the Gulf

In just over a week, Dominique Liboiron will depart Saskatchewan, Canada, on the Frenchman River, to paddle down the Frenchman to the Missouri River and Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. The trip will be in honor of his uncle Mitch, and will be used to raise awareness of heart disease, which took his uncle’s life at a young 42. To follow his trip, click on the link in the right margin.

Lake Marburg - 2

Out of the entire month, this was the nicest day, and a
lot of waterfowl turned out to enjoy the weather.

Lake Marburg, DeLorme P.82, F-3, is located in Cordorus State Park, covers 1,275 acres with a 26 mile shoreline. It is a 120-foot deep man-made lake three miles southeast of Hanover, PA, to provide drinking water for the town of Spring Grove, and for the industrial needs of the P.H. Glatfelter Paper Plant. The town of Marburg has remained at the bottom of the lake since the dam was finished and lake filled in 1966.

I got up at 4:45, beating the alarm by a quarter hour, downed a bowl of cereal, poured a travel mug of black coffee, and hit the road. Lake Marburg is 26 miles around, and with the head start I got in yesterday, I intended to complete the perimeter of the lake today. The hour and a half drive got me to the lake at dawn.

A reflection of spring colors.

The air was hazy and moister-laden from the evening and night’s rain. With no breeze moving yet, the glass-smooth surface was covered with a blanket of yellow pollen. That didn’t last long, however, as I was soon joined by both fishermen and a breeze that all came with the sun’s rising over the hills. The amount of wildlife is much greater than I’ve experienced elsewhere. I’d see mergansers, loons, wood ducks, coots, ground hogs, about five couples of Canada Geese with their goslings, osprey, herons, and much more.

With the break in the weather, as short as it was, I began to see paddle boats moving around on car and truck tops, and saw five paddlers on the lake during the course of the day. On my way back to the ramp yesterday, I saw something new to me. About a dozen paddlers were out in small kayaks and playboats playing a game of kayak baseball on the lake.

Another mallard zooms by the marina.

A couple things I need to work on is orienting my paddling around a body of water to keep the sun behind me for the greatest part of the day, and having the wind behind me when I reach the most interesting areas of shoreline so I can drift down on wildlife while remaining motionless. I lose more shots than I’d like by the subject being backlighted, thus losing all the colors and best appearance, not to mention gaining water reflection or glare. I messed up this morning. I saw this mountain side that was beautifully flooded by the clear, yellow light of the sun rising over the opposite hills. Between the great lighting and early hour, I thought it would have been a great chance to spot a deer. While moving slowly and silently along as I scoured the hillside, I totally missed the osprey with a fish having breakfast on a branch above me until it took off. I just sat and watched, as it was useless to try to grab for the camera in that instant.

It was a perfect training day, and pairs of geese were seen frequently
taking their young goslings out for an introduction to their new world.

The ends of the fingers, coves, or closed bays are the most interesting for finding wildlife. Surprisingly, today was such a beautiful fluke of a day, with highs reaching 88-deg., that a lot of the waterfowl were using the warm weather to get more in the open. Each of the next several days would see temperatures dropping ten degrees a day.

These are a bit older, and with their color change, are harder to see.
I count six.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lake Marburg, PA

I saw this barn south of Carlisle, PA, on my way to Marburg Lake.  It was on Rt. 34 between W. Old York Rd. and Mt. Holly Park.  Everything is beautifully maintained, and again, I love the architecture.  You'll see it better in another picture, but notice the intricate brick work in the ends that allow ventilation through.

This is when I wish I had a 400mm lens.  This is the only wood duck
I've seen, and here I got a male and female.  You can click
the picture to enlarge.

This is a great lake with numerous coves that are wooded and natural. Some continue into a wetland or bog. The lake water was a beautiful aquamarine, and so clear that I feared running aground when I still couldn’t reach the bottom with my extended paddle.
Using a ramp adjacent to the marina (No. 1 in illus.), I paddled south into an unnamed bay and then into Wildasin Flats. The lake is on a waterfowl migration route, so there was a lot of activity to see. I got to the headwater of Wildasin Flats and continued into a feeder stream. When I ran out of water, I tried to turn around in a spot barely wider than my 17-ft. 9-in. length. I stuck the rudder into the bank (No. 2)  behind me and broke the rudder cable. The rudder should be raised when trying that, but I had been having problems with the rudder not wanting to drop freely when released, so had left it down. I pulled into the marsh (No. 3) and sounded for something solid enough to bear my weight, and climbed out while looking about for snakes. I tied the rudder off to create a skeg that would assist my return to the ramp. After only an hour and a half, my day was over after 3.7 miles.

A purple martin on a bluebird nest box.

I called Jean, and while I was loading Ibi on the truck, and the gear back inside, she started searching for a place to locate repair parts. She found Blue Mountain Outfitters on the bank of the Susquehanna River, in Marysville, just north of Harrisburg.

(Blue Mountain Outfitters, Ph. 717.957.2413, 103 S. State Rd., Marysville, PA. Just north of Exit 65 off I-81. Closed Sun & Mon.)

Black-capped chickadee in birch.

They have a very complete inventory of everything a paddler could want. A very knowledgeable member of the staff knew exactly what I needed, and had me fitted out with a replacement cable and compression sleeves in short order. If you happen through the area, it would be a great place to just browse.
As it turned out, the day may have been a challenge anyhow. I had no sooner loaded the canoe back on the truck than the wind picked up to 25 mph. As I began to work on the rudder, the sky darkened. I got the rudder apart, cleaned all the parts, greased the bolt with lithium grease, and reassembled. The aircraft-style nut on the bolt doesn’t need to be tight because of its nylon bushing, so I wound it on just enough to engage the bushing and keep it from backing off. The rudder was much freer.
Canada Goose

By the time I got Ibi back on the truck for the third time, it started to rain and continued through the night. At 128.5 miles for a 90-minute paddle, the day didn’t go quite to plan, but I still got on the water, met some nice folks at Blue Mountain, and learned more about my boat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fuller/Laurel - 3

Pine Grove Furnace paymaster's office.  Workers went up one set of stairs,
signed for their pay at a table inside the door, and continued down the other stairs.

In 1830, Peter expanded his operation with the addition of the Laurel Forge, which heated and hammered the cast iron to produce wrought iron. An 1837 bankruptcy caused Ege to lose the iron works to Frederick Watts and his lawyer partner, Charles Penrose, at a sheriff sale. If you think wealth buying political influence and position is something new, consider that Watts became Commissioner of Agriculture under President Grant in 1871, and Penrose was state senator and Treasury Solicitor under President Harrison. On the plus side, in 1855, Watts used his money to found Penn State University.

Mules provided the power for most stages of the operation, making the stables
and shops an essential facility.  The store here now offers the famous pig trough
ice cream sundae that Appalachian Trail hikers consider an important milestone.

In 1864, Jay Cooke purchased the operation and brought in Jackson C. Fuller as operations manager, thus the name of Fuller Lake. Cooke is called the “Financier of the Civil War.” He raised $l.2 billion through the sale of Federal Treasury Notes. Today, this would be $32,584,000,000. By war’s end, just the small commission he got from each sale had made Cooke the wealthiest man in America.

The grist mill ground grain from nearby company farms.

Fuller Lake was an accident. When the iron works failed in 1895, Fuller Brick was created to use clay exposed in the 90-ft. deep quarry from which ore had been dug. The Pine Grove kiln could hold 12,000 bricks per firing. The brick works kept the company town alive until 1912. With all the natural springs and ground water in the mountains, a waterwheel was run continuously to draw water from the quarry and prevent its flooding. The wheel broke down, but was fixed. A fix wasn’t possible when it failed a second time, and, voila, Fuller Lake. It flooded so quickly that all the mining equipment remained at the bottom of the quarry. During this past winter, between a drought stopping normal ground runoff into the lake, and the seasonal stillness from lack of use, the lake water reached its all-time greatest clarity. Divers went to the bottom of the lake, and due to the cold water preserving everything so completely, they said the equipment looks much as it must have the day they stopped working, a hundred years ago.

This was the boarding house for those that wanted to stay and enjoy the
fishing, swimming, or hunting longer.  It is now the park's administrative offices.

In 1913, 17,000 acres, or 60-square miles of iron works land was sold to the state for $29,827 to create the Michaux State Forest. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt had the Civilian Conservation Corps come in to provide work and training for young men 18-25 during the Great Depression. The crew of 200 started with a tent camp, then built barracks for themselves, the area roads, telephone lines, built the state park, and reforested the surrounding lands that had been stripped.

Perhaps conservation goes too far when this huge hornet nest is
left hanging outside the park office window.

In 1941, 250 acres of Bunker Hill Farm, one of the farms that had grown food and animal feed for the iron works and company town, was used for the construction of a prisoner-of-war camp. This was used for the holding and interrogation of German U-boat crews and Japanese prisoners until the end of the war in 1945.

The apple tree was buzzing with bees enjoying the beautiful blossoms.

 Today, here in Oklahoma, is a good day to hunker down.  The wind continues at 35 mph. with gusts today up to 45 mph. Forget keeping a canoe under control.  Even a screen door is a challenge.  This foolishness is supposed to continue every day for the next week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fuller/Laurel - 2

Wild apple trees blooming in the woods.

Driving into Pine Grove Furnace (PGF) we nearly collided with a wild turkey that flew across in front of our windshield. I had aspirations of a picture, but she hit the ground running and just kept on going.

Both lakes were created as part of the Pine Grove Furnace operation, but their uses diversified over the years until near the end the two train track spurs that ran into the furnace also brought trainloads of people from as far away as Philadelphia and Baltimore to enjoy the recreational facilities they had built around the lakes. These included fishing, swimming on the Fuller Lake beach, boarding houses for longer stays, and even rental log cabins, many of which still stand as private homes and cottages.

Pine Grove's blast furnace was filled with alternate layers of charcoal,
iron ore, and limestone.  Forced air would elevate temperatures to between
2,600 and 3,000 deg. F.  Molten iron would settle to the bottom.

Mouth of the furnace.  Slag would be raked from the upper doors, and
iron would run from the bottom into forms for iron pigs.

Laurel Lake was created by damming the confluence of Mountain Creek and Sage Run, and was used to run the waterwheel at the Laurel Forge. In the winter, ice was cut from the lake and stored in an icehouse built into the hill on the south side of the lake. The ice would then be carried by train to Baltimore.

Pine Grove Furnace was operated from 1764 to 1895, with the rail service coming in 1870. Three partners started the iron works along Mountain Creek. Besides creating iron pigs or ingots, they produced tinplate for stoves, iron kettles, fireplace hardware, and possibly munitions during the American Revolution. In 1782, Michael Ege purchased the iron works.  His business grew over 32 years until he was sole proprietor of Pine Grove, Cumberland, Holly, and Carlisle iron works.
Iron Master's Mansion, now a youth hostel on Appalachian Trail.

Pine Grove was inherited by his eldest son, Peter Ege. In 1829, Peter built the iron master’s English Tudor mansion for his wife, Jane Arthur Ege, who died in 1841 and was buried at the Pine Grove cemetery. Years later, the mansion would serve as a link in the underground railroad to free slaves escaping from the South.

Jane Ege, born two years before our Declaration of Independence,
resting near the lake since 20 years before the Civil War.