Schuylkill Sojourn Day 7: Home Sweet Home Stretch

Skyline in view! O! The joy!
Skyline in view! O! The joy!

And on to the final push, the home stretch, the last leg to Boathouse Row. If it’s even possible to have better weather than we had on Day 6, we had it. An absolutely perfect day for paddling the final 16 miles from West Conshohocken to Boathouse Row.

Camping in West Conshohocken is a trip in and of itself. Norfolk Southern’s freight trains rumble through approximately 14 inches from everyone’s tents, and in the train’s intermittent absences, the Blue Route keeps the noise white in the background. I didn’t even realize West Conshy had a riverfront park on a bluff about 20 feet above the river, but there it is, shielded by those awful high-rises and parking garages that define the place from the Schuylkill Expressway.

Speaking of that maligned roadway, a big shoutout to the geniuses of the 1950s who decided it best to build a four-lane limited-access highway through the heart of Fairmount Park from Valley Forge to Center City, in the process usurping the definition of “Schuylkill” to most people who live in the Philadelphia region. It’s called Schuylkill Expressway because it snakes alongside the river that’s rolled from coal country to the Delaware since time immemorial. Take back the Schuylkill!

Day 7 launch, West Conshohocken.
Day 7 launch, West Conshohocken.

The first part of the final day’s journey took us through familiar (to me) territory, a section of river I’ve ridden with my man Hollis on his 25-foot pontoon boat on River Road, docked next to the best tiki bar you’ve never heard of. Arriving at Flat Rock Dam, we took our final portage on river right and waited for final safety instructions from Allan to pass through the last rocky rapids of the trip. Fun to think that one of the most difficult (but not that difficult) runs of the 115-mile trip is right here in Philadelphia, a rocky stretch above Manayunk.

Manayunk: just a little trashy.
Manayunk: just a little trashy.

After passing through that section one at a time, everyone waited just downstream. Eddying again with the fellow trash-minded Megan and Dave, I counted six tires on a small muddy beach. I finished with eight total for the final day—89 total for the week—again recognizing that there are many many more below the surface. The banks immediately below Flat Rock Dam were a little messy; among the plastic bottles and styrofoam, I also found a Native American spin drum. Shame the skin was broken.

Beyond that, the only other place where there was any litter to speak of was within the jurisdiction of the Schuylkill Navy River Stewards Committee, the group headed by Alan Robinson at Boathouse Row doing the good work of cleaning up the Schuylkill River in its rowing sections. In fact, the day before the Sojourn pulled into Boathouse Row, they’d just done a big cleanup on the silt island behind the Fairmount Dam that netted 360 plastic bottles.

Coming in through Manayunk was great fun, passing under Green Lane, Manayunk, CSX, and Pencoyd bridges one after another. And it gave me great joy to paddle just a little upstream the Wissahickon Creek as we made our final stop for lunch at the Philadelphia Canoe Club. Sandy Sorlien was on the bank waving hello, and she made a great and short presentation for lunch on the ruins of the Schuylkill Navigation Company that included a plug for the great Fairmount Water Works. Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s Tim Fenchel also presented a record 79 people with “I paddled the full Schuylkill Sojourn” stickers that I assure you will go on the sticker table I’ve been adding to for over 20 years. And while the final kudos and thank-yous were made to all the right people—SRHA for organizing, Take It Outdoors for outfitting, Bad Adventure for being there with first aid just in case (it was never needed), and Canoe Susquehanna for being superb guides—it was everyone’s grandma Fran who brought a Schuylkill tear to everyone’s eye for offering a sincere thank you on behalf of the seniors on the trip to everyone who helped them make it down the river.

The final four miles through Fairmount Park went by strictly on autopilot. Normally the domain of scullers and their captains, the lanes were clear on this sunny Friday while joggers and cyclists and tourists populated the banks, drivers on Kelly and MLK Drives none the wiser to the 114 people finishing 115 miles in kayaks and canoes. Beautiful stuff.

Welp, I reckon this is signoff—for Day 7. I have a whole other camera’s worth of photos to go through, so I’ll put together a wrap-up and photo essay some time next week. I also have a related photo essay to finish—something along the lines of “Every Bridge Over the Schuylkill River,” which I think I was diligent enough to complete between Schuylkill Haven and Boathouse Row. I’d like to also get those over the tidal Schuylkill in Philadelphia and maybe take another trip up to get the ones above Schuylkill Haven and Pottsville. But first, these photos of Day 7.

West Conshy kayak greeter.
West Conshy kayak greeter.
Early morning, Conshohocken.
Early morning, Conshohocken.
The waterproof thing I kept my phone in all week kept the phone dry, but by Day 7 the plastic casing suffered from wear and tear and, more honestly, my slathered up sunblock hands.
The waterproof thing I kept my phone in all week kept the phone dry, but by Day 7 the plastic casing suffered from wear and tear and, more honestly, my slathered up sunblock hands. This one’s a nod to my homie Hollis and the Roxborough TV towers.
Here's hoping Josh caught something good after Sojourners disrupted the waters.
Here’s hoping Josh caught something good after Sojourners disrupted the waters.
The Flat Rock Dam fish ladder seemed to be closed... why? It's springtime. Open it up, jeez!
The Flat Rock Dam fish ladder seemed to be closed… why? It’s springtime. Open it up, jeez!
River Skittles at Flat Rock Dam.
River Skittles at Flat Rock Dam.
Lucy paddles past the works of Texas, Gane, and Smells.
Lucy paddles past the works of Texas, Gane, and Smells.
Sojourners and Manayunk Bridge.
Sojourners and Manayunk Bridge.
Philadelphia Canoe Club, holding fort at the mouth of the Wissahickon Creek since 1905.
Philadelphia Canoe Club, holding fort at the mouth of the Wissahickon Creek since 1905.
Canoe Club, pic 2.
Canoe Club, pic 2.
Canoe Club, pic 3.
Canoe Club, pic 3.
Queen Lane Reservoir intake, a beaux-arts reminder that Philadelphia drinks the Schuylkill River.
Queen Lane Reservoir intake, a beaux-arts reminder that Philadelphia drinks the Schuylkill River.
Falls Bridge (1895) ahead.
Falls Bridge (built 1895) ahead.
US Route 1 twin bridges (built 1960).
US Route 1 twin bridges (built 1960).
Strawberry Mansion Bridge (built 1897) through a greasy waterproof plastic thing.
Strawberry Mansion Bridge (built 1897) through a greasy waterproof plastic thing.
Turtle Rock, beacon of Boathouse Row.
Turtle Rock, beacon of Boathouse Row.
Schuylkill Sojourn meets Philly Skyline.
Schuylkill Sojourn meets Philly Skyline.
Schuylkill Sojourn: FIN.
Schuylkill Sojourn: FIN.

Schuylkill Sojourn Day 6: Turtles & Dragons, Tires & Balls

Balls to that.
Balls to that: the Seattle Sports dry bag I keep my phone in has, in fact, kept my phone dry. It has not, however, kept a clear screen to shoot through, resulting in some very soft focuses. Hrgh.

I don’t know what it is, but a lot of guys lose their balls in rivers. During One Man’s Trash, I found over 50 different balls in the Wissahickon—basketballs, footballs, tennis balls… and that doesn’t even count the golf balls from slices and hooks coming down from Walnut Lane Golf Club. On the Schuylkill River Sojourn this week, there’ve been balls aplenty—several basketballs, some beach balls, at least one football, and on the Schuylkill Canal below Phoenixville today, a volleyball joined the game.

More Megan and Dave haul: BALLS. (And tea bottles.
More Megan and Dave haul: BALLS. (And tea bottles.)

The great character, lockmaster Dan Daley, said I should expect to see dozens and dozens of tires on today’s stretch of river, but incidentally the tire count was low, only eight total. Again, ssubmerged tires. What can you do about them?

Generally speaking, as the river is relatively lake-like above the Norristown Dam, it was pretty calm and clean on a picture perfect day. A blimp advertising a housing development in King of Prussia had predictably (and hilariously) gone awry, wrapping itself around the branches of a tree and flapping in the wind like a housing development’s advertising blimp gone awry. DERP.

The mouth of Norristown’s Mill Creek (Montgomery County has so many Mill Creeks) runs open-air for all its course except for the last six blocks or so, which run through a culvert, presumably collecting all the trash the storm drains send it, because the small gravelly beach at its mouth was pretty littered, including what looked like one of those colorful toy xylophones. I couldn’t get close enough to tell, but I did get really close to a nearby giant snapping turtle. Hey buddy!

Speaking of turtles, the paddle from Lock 60 down the Schuylkill Canal to the short river portage two miles downstream was chock full of em, at least a dozen box turtles sunning themselves on logs.

[blushing]
[blushing]

Plenty more great birds today too, cormorants and ospreys soaring across a crisp blue but windy sky to join the tally. Yesterday I saw a swan, and all week I’ve seen the common goose, but today I saw a swan goose. I don’t think he cared for me.

After a few miles on the River after the Canal, we lunched at Valley Forge National Historical Park, fresh with the info from yesterday’s ranger talk and eager to hang with the next character, raffle master Chaz from the Stony Creek Anglers Club. The Anglers made with the serious goods—Suzy Jo’s donuts and Corropolese tomato pie—and held a free raffle to give away hats and coffee mugs and Chaz’s flea market scores, but by god don’t you think you’re getting his Appalachian Trail belt buckle.

Best belt buckle ever? Name one better.
Best belt buckle ever? Name one better.

Shoving off from Valley Forge, we passed under the almost-finished Betzwood pedestrian bridge, a very welcome addition for folks on foot and two wheels trying to get from the Schuylkill River Trail to the main part of Valley Forge NHP. Until it opens in August, cyclists and pedestrians can still enjoy the daunting US-422 roadside crossing. For this leg, we were joined by a women’s dragon boat with super soakers, and a DIY pirate ship replete with a bell and the jolly roger flying high.

In portaging around the Norristown Dam, we got to watch several SEPTA Route 100 cars cross the bridge. A number of people looked at it puzzingly; it’s not a train, it’s not a trolley, what is it? I tried explaining that it’s also known as the Norristown High Speed Line, a single-car interurban thing, sometimes two, and that it goes from Norristown to Upper Darby, and that SEPTA wants to take it into King of Prussia but that KOP doesn’t want it. I’ve been riding SEPTA almost 20 years and I still can’t explain that damn thing. And I’ve ridden it!

Passing under the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Blue Route bridges, things really started to feel familiar, and tomorrow will serve as the literal home stretch for me. I’ve done the Conshohocken–Flat Rock segment on my man Hollis’ pontoon boat, I’ve written about Venice Island and the Manayunk Bridge, there’s a stop at the Canoe Club on a creek called Wissahickon, and the rest of the way is Fairmount Park with a Philly Skyline view. The forecast looks superb. Let’s take it on home.

View from my tent first thing this morning: the Schuylkill River and a goose carved from a tree.
View from my tent first thing this morning: the Schuylkill River and a goose carved from a tree.
Lockmaster Dan Daley warms up the crowd for the reverend Bernie Sanders.
Lockmaster Dan Daley warms up the crowd for the reverend Bernie Sanders.
Schuylkill River Sojourn 2016!
Schuylkill River Sojourn 2016!
Canal paddlin'.
Canal paddlin’.
Paddling is peace. Appropriately, near Valley Forge.
Paddling is peace. Appropriately, near Valley Forge.
Betzwood Bridge and US-422.
Betzwood Bridge and US-422.
SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line toot toots the Sojourn.
SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line toot toots the Sojourn.
BLUE Route. GET IT?
BLUE Route. GET IT?
Tonight, West Conshohocken. Tomorrow, home.
Tonight, West Conshohocken. Tomorrow, home.

Schuylkill Sojourn Day 5: It’s a Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall

Dun dun dun...
DUN DUN DUN

Waking up in Pottstown, Schuylkill River Sojourners were greeted to a cool morning, a pretty sunrise, and clear skies. That all left by the end of the safety talk.

Cloudy skies turned foreboding by the first bend of the river that revealed the Limerick Generating Station’s nuclear cooling towers, their white columns of steam contrasting the black-as-hell clouds that much more. With close to 18 miles on today’s log, the usually optional water stop (to refill your water bottle and to, you know, make water) became mandatory when the reds and yellows on the radar forced everyone into said water stop at Thompson Pavilion in Linfield, just below Limerick. Again the skies turned loose before the sweep boat was even pulled in.

Get to know your neighbors in scenic Linfield.
Get to know your neighbors in scenic Linfield.

Before we even got to Limerick, though, a beach on river left featured some installation art I’d heard about on Day One. I couldn’t figure out whether the beach, a sandy one on a bend, was a party spot or just the unfortunate recipient of high water trash deposits. At any rate, some creative soul married a shopping cart, bird bath, traffic cone, a red cup, and other objects into a riverside sculpture exclusively for Schuylkill passersby. Well played, sir or madam. (I did not get any photos of this on my phone, but I did get one on the Nikon camera I can’t connect until I’m back in Philly. Thanks for understanding this irritating explanation.)

The beach had other objects to choose from, including two more traffic cones and at least five tires. Big day for tires, with a final count at 21, and Tim Fenchel from Schuylkill River Heritage Area told me that, were the river not so muddy and murky today, the count would have likely doubled under just the Spring City bridge.

As though the cooling towers on the apocalyptic sky weren’t creepy enough, apparently a dude on the Chester County side of the river thought raising himself a peacock farm was a swell idea. The June vegetation is thick and green so you don’t see any giant birds with the showy tails, you only hear their unfamiliar non-native calls that sound somewhere between children on a playground in a nightmare with reverb and several cats painfully dying. Not a pleasant sound when you don’t know there’s a peacock farm on the other side of the knotweed stand (speaking of non-native). Or ever, really. And if that’s not enough, across the river hums—nay, roars—a rusty generator to nowhere with a hose in the river, either pumping river water up or filling it with something that makes the whole river warm. (And it was warm, warmer than the air.) All this in plain sight of nuclear cooling towers. Let’s get out of here.

Doug and Chris enjoy Sojourning the Schuylkill in all habitats.
Doug and Chris enjoy Sojourning the Schuylkill in all habitats.

After the storm subsided, we hit the river again, bound for lunch in Royersford. Rofo in this mofo! Lunch in Rofo’s Victory Park was a veritable summer cookout, the clouds pulling the curtain on a welcome warm sun after the cool rain, with burgers and dogs and potato salad and coffee… from Exelon Nuclear! Hot diggity. Royersford even made us a cake.

Chocolate and vanilla cake with chocolate and vanilla ice cream (not pictured). This is livin'.
Chocolate and vanilla cake with chocolate and vanilla ice cream (not pictured). This is livin’.

Mother Nature spazzed out again as we attempted launching, with another quick squall that rained down hard and left the wind in place for the rest of the day. The tailwinds were great! The headwinds… eh, they weren’t awful. Put us to work as we passed under PA-113 bridge in Phoenixville on our way to Schuylkill Canal* Lock 60.

*”Schuylkill Canal” is the misnomer of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. The Schuylkill Navigation was actually a hybrid of river and canal, the canals built in places where the river was not navigable, namely rocky places like Manayunk and Phoenixville. The Schuylkill Canal’s legacy was the theme of last year’s Sojourn. This year’s is the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, and park rangers and staffers have joined us to present topics on the national parks. Today’s lunch gave the mic to ranger and comedian Bill Troppman from Valley Forge National Historical Park (where we’ll lunch tomorrow), who made the story of the winter of 1777 the most entertaining it’s ever been. Ask him to pronounce Baron von Steuben’s full name.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ranger Bill Troppman!
Ladies and gentlemen, Ranger Bill Troppman!

Dowwn at Lock 60 in Mont Clare, the lock itself is usually one of the highlights of the Sojourn, with lockmaster Dan Daley and his wife Betsy hosting folks on the grounds and helping to run Sojourners through the locks. Unfortunately, it’s down for repairs on this trip, but Dan and Betsy still helped Sojourners portage the lengthy alternate to the lock down the canal, and it’s rumored but unconfirmed that Phoenixville/Pottstown stalwart Sly Fox Brewery was on hand at the lockmaster’s garage with cold, delicious, refreshing Schuylkill River Trail Ale in cans that feature Schuylkill River mileage along the rim of the can.

Tomorrow, we break 14 miles for Valley Forge and West Conshohocken. And Friday, we take it on home.

Schuylkill River Sojourn in pictures, Day Five:

Turkey Hill "Big Chiller," soda in styrofoam cups. Ugh.
Turkey Hill “Big Chiller,” soda in styrofoam cups. Ugh.
Oh no, it's raining again. And you know, it's hard to pretend.
Oh no, it’s raining again. And you know, it’s hard to pretend.
An hour later... Blue skies, nothing but blue skies, do I see.
An hour later… Blue skies, nothing but blue skies, do I see.
Dan Daley's got the Schuylkill on lock; portage train leading to Lock 60 at the end of Day Five.
Dan Daley’s got the Schuylkill on lock; portage train leading to Lock 60 at the end of Day Five.

Schuylkill Sojourn Day 4: Smooth Sailing (and a Storm)

Boom shacka lacka!
Sojourn Steward pièce de résistance

At 13.7 miles, Day Four of the Schuylkill Sojourn provides a midstream breather—a day to work on your form, to take in the scenery, and if you’re game, to horse around and try to upend your friends in the calm waters. It also reveals the motherlode of trash, the greatest centralization of it on probably the entire Schuylkill River.

Where the Schuylkill River Trail crosses its namesake between Union Township and Douglassville in Berks County, it uses a converted old railroad bridge—one built to replace an earlier bridge that was demolished but whose footings still lurk under the existing one. While my role on this Sojourn has a focus on trash and I aim to identify problem trash spots, the biggest ones I’ve found aren’t exactly news to Sojourners nor to the respective municipalities. The Pottstown Mercury profiled the SRT bridge’s trash buildup on Earth Day, including an interview with Silas Chamberlin, executive director of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, the organization that coordinates the Sojourn. (Silas leads each morning’s meeting that includes a roundup of that day’s events, a shoutout of gratitude to the Sojourn’s sponsors, and a handoff to Allan for the safety talk.) In the interview, he talks about the expensive complexities of first cleaning the trash, and ultimately, removing the old bridge footings that are the cause.

In other words, unfortunately the dam of trash will likely remain a feature of this scenic section of the SRT for the foreseeable future. And a dam it is: natural debris from heavy rain and floods like fallen logs have backed up on the bridge, allowing trash to back up on it—basketballs, inner tubes, a full styrofoam cooler, a skylight, a fridge. Tons of bottles and cans; so so much plastic. It’s kind of mesmerizing.

Before we even got there, though, we put in at the mouth of the Allegheny Creek after camping at Allegheny Aqueduct Historical Park and the 18th Century Beidler homestead and mill. And the silt islands the Allegheny has fed into the Schuylkill have really crafted their own little trash islands. Megan and Dave share a tandem kayak and at launch, we waited next to one another while everyone got in the river. In that three minutes or so, Megan found a wallet in the water—a wallet that had a woman’s ID, and the Social Security cards of five different people. That woman was either a spy who was killed or a fraud artist who got out of the game.

Who would you like to be today?
Who would you like to be today?

Elsewhere in Sojourn trash land (trash water?), I noticed eight more tires, all but one of them submerged, which means I must only see what, a quarter? tenth? of what’s really there. What do you do with spent tires, man? Doug Chapman, of Take It Outdoors Adventures (whose kayak, paddle, and PFD I’m using this week), rightly said that if there was any money in recycling tires, Goodyear would already have that market locked. Why haven’t we developed a new material for tires that could serve another purpose after their initial life other than at the bottom of a river? C’mon technology, get on the level.

Beyond that, the normal bottles on the banks and film plastic wrapped on roots, a couple plastic bags in trees. Oh, and a party spot on the Birdsboro side of the PA-345 bridge.

We passed under that bridge and another rail bridge on the back channel of the river, the bayou-like “Tunnel of Love.” The lunch spot, just below the SRT trash dam, took place at Historic Morlatton Village, which I’d never heard of but which to my surprise has the oldest building in Berks County, a house built by Swedish settler Mouns Jones in 1716. The Heritage Area folks served us Rita’s water ice. I had chocolate, which Patty from Rochester NY said was gross, like slushy Yoo-Hoo. C’mon Patty, get on the level.

The rest of the route into Pottstown was pure cruise control. (Well, that and a 15-minute downpour.) The catalpas on the banks are starting to bloom, the scent of honeysuckle filled the air, and the onion-dome steeple of the Byzantine Catholic Church of Pottstown pierced the horizon by 2:30pm. Early in, early out today.

Pottstown ahead, storm incoming.
Pottstown ahead, storm incoming.

It may seem odd to camp out on Pottstown’s riverfront, but the Heritage Area’s offices are adjacent the park in a converted electric company building, and they let Sojourners take the best five-minute showers they ever did take. They also organized an all-out feast, with a salsa band and screenings of short films as part of the Pottstown Film Festival happening this week to boot. Good times.

Choice photos of Day Four, here they go:

Schuylkill River Heritage Area ED Silas Chamberlin gets the day going at Allegheny Aqueduct park.
Schuylkill River Heritage Area ED Silas Chamberlin gets the day going at Allegheny Aqueduct park.
Go home, Middleswarth, you're drunk and in the wrong watershed.
Go home, Middleswarth, you’re drunk and in the wrong watershed.
Pretty much the day's river conditions.
Pretty much the day’s river conditions.
300-year-old home, 20-second brain freeze.
300-year-old home, 20-second brain freeze, close enough on the season.
Sojourn postcard from the SRT bridge.
Sojourn postcard from the SRT bridge.
Sojourn postcard noir from SRT bridge.
Sojourn postcard noir from SRT bridge.
Hello nothern water snake (I think)!
Hello nothern water snake (I think)!
30% chance of rain, huh. Mm hmm.
30% chance of rain, huh. Mm hmm.
Kayaks in, tents up, storm's out, good night.
Kayaks in, tents up, storm’s out, good night.

Schuylkill Sojourn Day 3: Rapids, Reading, and Ruins

That's what's up.
That’s what’s up.

All that rain yesterday left everyone good and wet all right, but it also raised the river a good four inches. Combine that with the sunny and 82° (with fluffy Simpsons clouds) and you couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions. Day Three was a gem.

It started with a gradient orange-to-blue sunrise and coffee that was already on by 6am and the discovery that the bank we docked on was gone. The tires I noticed when taking out of the river in the rain last night were fully submerged, and a can of Yuengling Premium sidled up to them, because Pennsylvania. The morning safety meeting drew oohs and ahhs with mention of Kelly’s Rapids, and Pinning Rock induced maybe just a little terror.

But before we even got to these Sojourn milestones, we had to run the minor rapids of the former Felix Dam. That dam, built of concrete and wood in the 1800s, created a three-mile pool of Berks County lakefront property. It breached during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, turning residents’ lakefront docks into high-up staircases to nowhere. The ruins of the dam previously created the most hazardous portage on the Sojourn, but its removal in 2007 created a new water feature first thing out of Jim Dietrich Park. This was the first of at least a half dozen places I took on as much water as I could in traversing the waves. Wet all day. And it RULED.

But Kelly’s Rapids are the main attraction on Day Three—the most coaching, the most risk, the most fun. A few people went swimming on the single-file run, but I redeemed myself for my Day One dunk. Almost immediately after Kelly’s, the Schuylkill starts showing signs of life heading into Reading. And where there’s population, there’s trash.

As I predicted and confirming what Sojourn veterans had told me, the Schuylkill becomes much less pristine entering Reading. Like Philadelphia, Reading doesn’t have the resources to carry out street cleaning, and like anywhere, litter on the street becomes litter in the waterways, much faster after a storm like yesterday’s.

Plastic bottle eddy was no friend of mine.
Plastic bottle eddy was no friend of mine.

The first obvious sign you’re in a city is the massive Carpenter Technology plant abutting the river, which started out as a small steel company in 1889 and still exists with nearly 5,000 employees. Some workers were outside on a smoke break watching us pass. The Schuylkill Avenue Bridge was the first of four concrete arch bridges in Reading proper (there were several more throughout the day), and trash wrapped around its support columns. The next arch bridge, however, is early contender for trash trophy for Sojourn 2016. Buttonwood Street Bridge is currently closed to traffic while its arches are restored and its deck completely rebuilt. A temporary work pier has two-thirds of the river blocked, funneling all kayak traffic and trash to the western side. Bottles, blunt wrappers, a shoe, aluminum cans of bad beer (Milwaukee’s Best), Kool-Aid Jammers… for a moment, it was One Man’s Trash redux. Pulling into the landing at Riverfront Park, more trash greeted us on the shore, including a can opener.

This isn’t a knock at Reading, though. I love the city, the second largest on the Schuylkill River, population 89,000+, home of the Reading Phillies. (I refuse to formally call them the Fightin’ Phils. That’s a nickname. They’re the AA affiliate of the Phillies. They are the Phillies. Stop the madness.) The Pagoda is a wonderful icon. Just up the mountain from it, the Mount Penn Fire Tower affords amazing views. The Mexican food is outta sight. Look for Alebrije. And in spite of the littered beach, the Riverfront Park is a nice amenity, including the large red steel sculpture Ruins XXVII by Ernest Shaw.

Heading out of Reading, we passed under a trio of bridges, and looked overhead to see an eagle circling. Three days, three eagles. At the next set of bridges, Pinning Rock awaited. Its biggest danger is that it’s hidden in the waves, but the crew leaders got everyone through unscathed. We arrived at 4:30 at Allegheny Aqueduct Historical Park, where the namesake was built by the Schuylkill Navigation Company in 1824 on land owned by the Beidlers, who operated a grist and saw mill built in the 1760s (now a ruin) and lived in a house built in 1783 where I type these words on a little Sharkk keyboard for ipads on an ancient wooden table with a museum cherry pie with ceramic lattice.

Elsewhere on today’s trash list, I observed a big metal panel that I’m guessing was the door to a walk-in freezer; an archery target; a rubber garbage can and an orange Home Depot bucket; a blue Christmas ornament(!); a green two-liter plastic bottle that joined the Sojourn for a mile or so. And finally, four tires – which again, is a small number considering how many must be submerged, especially in higher brownish water.

Despite the major uptick in trash, today was still the highlight day so far. Oh – and Day Three of the Schuylkill Sojourn is always Crazy Hat Day. So, here go some crazy hats and a collection of today’s photos. Tomorrow, we head to Pottstown.

This is Fran, "everyone's grandma." She's a better paddler than most, and she gets down to Crazy Hat Day.
This is Fran, “everyone’s grandma.” She’s a better paddler than most, and she gets down to Crazy Hat Day.
First light on the Schuylkill, 6am, Muhlenberg Township.
First light on the Schuylkill, 6am, Muhlenberg Township.
Morning devotion with Alan and Jeremy, safety leaders.
Morning devotion with Allan and Jeremy, adventure guides from Canoe Susquehanna.
US-222 twin bridges.
US-222 twin bridges.
Carpenter Technology complex: industrial Reading.
Carpenter Technology complex: industrial Reading.
Safe channel → (for kayakers and trash)
Safe channel → (for kayakers and trash)
Buttonwood Street Bridge construction in the background, trash accumulation in the fore.
Buttonwood Street Bridge construction in the background, trash accumulation in the fore. Don’t even play, Coors Banquet is gross.
Lunch break, Reading Riverfront Park
Lunch break, Reading Riverfront Park
Last leg of Day Three.
Leaving Reading on the last leg of Day Three.
Allegheny Aqueduct, built 1824.
Allegheny Aqueduct, built 1824.
Ruins of the Beidler Mill, built 1760s.
Ruins of the Beidler Mill, built 1760s.
To take us home, an important and topical message from the kindly people at Seyfert Camp Meeting, who let Sojourners shower every year. Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all. Keep it clean, people.
To take us home, an important and topical message from the kindly people at Seyfert Camp Meeting, who let Sojourners shower every year. Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all. Keep it clean, folks.