Canoeing down the Youghiogheny!

On October 21, 2017, Lane Darby, Brian Lee, Brandon Pek, and Michael Jehn headed to Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters in West Newton, PA (not far from McKeesport) for a peaceful, relaxed Saturday afternoon canoeing trek on the Youghiogheny River. The weather was perfect for an easy autumn paddle in calm waters: warm, partly cloudy, and lightly breezy with the heady fragrance of fall's gradual transitions in the air. After being dropped off upstream along with their canoes, the group traveled about four miles down the river and back to the outfitters. Freight trains passed by occasionally and cyclists traveled along a bike trail running parallel to the river. The group encountered fishermen, kayakers, and a couple with a swimming dog. Wildlife sighted included red tail hawks, a groundhog, and a cat. Other than a few areas of very light rapids where the water became significantly more shallow with minor submerged obstacles, the journey was smooth and unrushed. An excursion such as this would be perfect for beginners, and this particular outfitter does offer longer trips.

- Michael and Lane

Upper Allegheny River

On June 8-9, Abhik Bhawal and Mike Jehn organized an overnight canoeing trip on the upper Allegheny River (Allegheny National Forest) beginning in Warren, PA, with canoe rentals by Allegheny Outfitters. Since most of our participants lacked experience with canoeing, we chose to do the Allegheny Outfitters -- Wildwood trip, which allowed us to stay overnight on an island and to do a significant amount of canoeing without overwhelming the newcomers. There were 8 people in total with 2 people per canoe. We traveled around 16 miles in total, passing by scenic natural areas as well as industrial sites and quiet communities.

Locating an island camping spot proved to be a bit challenging since the first several desirable sites were already occupied. However, we succeeded in finding an excellent campsite with plenty of daylight left to set up tents, get a fire going, cut some wood, prepare dinner, and relax before nightfall. (Luckily Mike brought a sharp folding saw with him to cut a large fallen tree bough for firewood; very little wood was available otherwise since previous campers had foraged most of it.) Our group enjoyed spaghetti with sauce and bread for dinner; s'mores for snacking; and a breakfast of oatmeal, eggs and sausage (plus tortillas and cheese) the next day.

Overall it was a fantastic trip. The weather couldn't have been better--sunny with occasional clouds and not a drop of rain. We encountered wildlife ranging from white swans and Mallard ducks (with lots of ducklings) to Blue Herons, turtles basking on the shore, and snakes (which Mike Jehn was compelled to catch and share with everyone!). The river water was pretty cold but a few people jumped in for a quick swim on Sunday afternoon.

-A. Bhawal, M. Jehn