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Indiantown Run

River of the month #32

December 2000

Any time you paddle a waterway named ‘Run’ you know it’s not going to be big and Indiantown Run is certainly no exception. Doug Gibson and I were exploring creeks after some big rains one winter when we came across this diminutive stream paralleling rt. 443 where it cuts through Blue Mountain at Indiantown Gap. Tiny, yes, but I couldn’t resist it, especially after noticing the creek flowing through some culverts under the military reservation’s tank trails.

Doug was not interested, he ran shuttle as I zipped through the culverts and bounced down the little creek fighting my way through numerous strainers. It’s amazing the things you do in a white water kayak to avoid carrying a strainer.

Most ‘strainer dodging’ techniques were developed in bitter cold weather, the kind that causes vapor thick enough to fog your glasses when you pop your spray skirt. When you see that steam wafting away and realize the amount of heat going with it, you’ll do anything to stay in your boat. With a good running start you can jump logs up 10 inches high (especially if they’re covered with a glaze of ice).

You can also slip under logs with as little as a foot of clearance, just so your boat will fit under. The sequence is important, first the boat, then the body, the head and finally, the paddle using an extreme high brace. The trick is to make sure the top of the paddle goes under the log before executing the brace or you’ll find your paddle chocked on the upstream side of the log with you on the downstream side. You can figure out what the result of this situation is, and it ain’t a way to stay warm (I know only too well).

Or you can merely flip over and drift under any log with enough clearance for a capsized boat. There’s an obvious problem with this technique in cold weather. It takes a hardy soul to wait out the drift. When upside down in cold water 5 seconds seems like 50. And if you try to roll up too soon, well... same result as the ‘paddle chock’.

Then there’s the ‘ape walk’ using your arms and knuckles to ‘walk’ short (or not so short) sections of land (works good for iced over pools). Finally, you can designate one boater to get out and be the ‘dragger’ (this works well in snow).

After a quick mile Indiantown Run turned away from the road and I found myself in a small impoundment, Lake Marquette. I believe this is a retreat for the Gap’s military personnel. In any event it appeared to be off limits to civilians. Luckily, Doug found me and we loaded up and moved on before the MPs showed up.

Postscript:

Although some of us continue to use the strainer dodging techniques described above, the paddler must be aware of the dangers of these methods. They should only be attempted on reasonably flat water. And there should always be other boaters in your party prepared for a ‘strainer extraction’ should something go wrong. Especially notable is the fact that the log-jumping can only be done with relatively large volume boats. Today’s designs with low volume sterns will pin vertically in a heartbeat if there’s any current. If you doubt the consequences of fooling around with strainers in whitewater, read ‘River of the Month’ for July ‘98. It describes an ugly incident on Perry County’s Laurel Run.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2000 Pat Reilly.  All rights reserved.

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