Asylum Run

River of the month #34

author: Pat Reilly
date: February 2001

I guess the name was the primary reason we decided that we had to paddle such a tiny creek. That and the fact that it takes a lovely yet intriguing path through the Harrisburg State Hospital grounds, hence the name. When you live and work within minutes of ‘Asylum Run’ you just gotta paddle it sooner or later.

Dave had been mentioning it for years, but it’s so small we needed just the right opportunity. It came one Sunday during the spring of ‘98. Dave called during a morning downpour and suggested running Asylum Run. When I told him I had company, he indicated that he would probably go hiking. Later in the day my guests left and it started pouring for the second time. I called Dave back but got his answering machine. With insufficient daylight to travel anywhere far, I headed for Asylum.

I put in off of Locust Lane by the WITF offices behind Edgemont. The creek was cooking good as rain was falling heavily. My destination was the confluence with Paxton Creek behind the Cameron St. Burger King. I would jog the 2 miles back to the car, simplifying the shuttle. From the put in, Asylum Run parallels the final stretch of the ‘Harrisburg Greenbelt’ to be completed. Running through a lush, swampy valley, this mile may be the Greenbelt’s finest.

When reaching the hospital grounds, the creek bed is contained in an old stone- walled channel. There is an exciting double drop by the second bridge that accelerates you through the narrow channel at a high rate of speed - a neat sensation.

I shortened my run where it ran under Cameron St. I could see a low pipe right in the middle of the underpass, creating a dangerous strainer while confined within a long tunnel. While I was running (literally) the shuttle, I spotted another boater in the hospital grounds. I couldn’t believe my eyes, ‘Who the heck would be boating this tiny ...??’, oh yeah, Dave, of course (who else?). He had been peddling his shuttle while I was putting on. Had I looked to my left where I slid into the water I would have noticed his boat stashed in the bushes.

I retraced my steps, we carried Cameron St. and paddled down Paxton Creek to Dave's car at Herr St. This was our second time down this strange urban corridor. Channelized within concrete walls Paxton still manages to be encased in a canopy of green ash trees.

Even though we were only gone an hour and it rained the whole time, Asylum Run had fallen considerably when we returned to the put in. Now too low to run, we had hit it just right! It’s no exaggeration when you say you have to launch while it’s still pouring to catch Asylum Run up.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2001 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.