“It’s gonna be a wet one,” I told the two fellow Sojourners I ate breakfast with at the Port Clinton Fire Company, before finishing the thought… “but aren’t all kayak trips on a river?” I wasn’t sure if it was a punchline or some stoner philosophy, but man, it was true. After walking back from the bountiful fire hall breakfast, while watching my second bald eagle of the trip fly by on a bridge over the Little Schuylkill River that also carries the Appalachian Trail through this part of Pennsylvania, we put in to the Schuylkill in a Pacific Northwest mist.
Rain was the theme of the day, in all its Pennsylvania forms. The misty morning gave way to a steady rain, followed by will-it-or-won’t-it overcast conditions, followed by enough of an afternoon sun to make you curse yourself for not taking off the black rain jacket under your PFD (personal flotation device, AKA life jacket), followed by the blackest clouds and not-very-distant thunder you ever did see and hear on a kayak.
Heading down the day’s home stretch toward Jim Dietrich Park in Muhlenberg Township after 18 and a half river miles, we watched those clouds roll in to beat us there by 8-10 minutes, every last person drenched as we made our way up to an excellent and very welcome spread of Mexican food presented by the Muhlenberg Lions Club.
Trash wise, the river was nigh pristine, a Schuylkill River National Heritage Area vision of Yosemite or Yellowstone. (The evening’s program centered on the history of the National Park Service, presented by Independence National Historical Park ranger Matt Ifill.) There was very little trash to speak of, some bottles here and there, and the typical large film plastic wrapped around exposed tree roots. I think 90% of these are those large clear plastic ‘bags’ that come around microwaves and TVs inside the boxes they’re shipped in. But beyond that, just a few observations on trash:
• One problem trash spot was on both sides of the river at Peace Rock, an otherwise gorgeous rock formation and swimmin’ hole that’s covered in graffiti, including a prominent peace sign. Clearly it’s no news in Port Clinton that this area is a party spot, but the used diaper next to a discarded t-shirt with an eagle on it and a pile of pool noodles was pretty gnarly.
• A second problem spot was just below the Kernsville Dam. A largeish pile had collected in a boil and the Sojourn caravan was already moving such that I couldn’t get a photo.
• Only four tires today, and two of those were on the landing at Jim Dietrich Park.
• One shopping cart, one dishwasher…
And that’s about it. I’m happy to have the problem of too little trash to report.
Speaking of missing that photo of the trash pool at the dam, I do have a number of photos taken on the waterproof Nikon Coolpix AW130 that Schuylkill Action Network provided me for the trip. Unfortunately, getting it to communicate with my iphone has proven difficult, the one technological gadgetry I haven’t been able to pull off. All the pics so far (and presumably through the rest of the week) have been from my phone, carried in my pocket in a Seattle Sports waterproof protective case that has been okay. It’s kept the phone dry but the plastic gets a little bunched up and blurs up the photos sometimes. First world problems. I’ll make a photo essay from the Nikon pics after my return.
Finally today, a great blue heron followed (warned?) our group for a bit, flying overhead and clucking at us. A muskrat(?) swam along the starboard bank during the sunny interlude. The I-78 bridge was pretty cool to pass under until we came to Peacock’s Lock Viaduct, an amazing bridge built by the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern division of the Reading Railroad in the 1850s. Visual highlight of the Sojourn so far. Here then are some of today’s visual highlights…