Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Behold the Forbidden Wave!

I know no one wants to read a blog to hear someone complaining.  And I can't stand those people who complain about how cold it is all winter, then bitch about how hot it is all summer.  But I gotta say - I really hate the last half of November thru the middle of December. 

The sun comes up just before I get to work, and sets before I get off.  That's what really gets me.  Maybe I need a set of night vision goggles to wear.  Not that it would do any good this year - I'm still laid up with my head injury.

About that - the doctor said to wear the cervical collar for six to eight weeks.  Today is six weeks.  So TECHNICALLY I could take the thing off today and be done with it.  But I'm only going to take it off for sleeping at first, and try to wear it during the day for the full eight weeks.  We'll see how that turns out.  I'm itchin' to get out and have some adventures.

Had a LOT of rain here, with even more in western Pennsylvania.  This is rain following previous rain, so the ground is saturated.  And looking at the gauges, with more rain today - I can tell that Deer Creek will definitely be runnig tomorrow.  That's one of my favorite Allegheny gorge creeks - maybe THE favorite.  It's only about 3.5 miles run but has something like 24 class II to easy class III rapids.  I love this run and have paddled it a couple dozen times over the years.  And I've never seen another boater here, except the few times that I've brought someone else along with me.  I compare it with the dam release run on the North Branch Potomac - it's about the same level of difficulty and fun, but actually has more rapids.  And it has a pair of really cool surfing waves down near the end - deep, long ones that can give you a great ride, or grab you and kick your butt.

And here's the kicker - TECHNICALLY I'm cleared to go do stuff as of today.  So TECHNICALLY I could load up my car with gear and head over there first thing in the morning tomorrow before heading in to work.  I can not express the amount of frustration that doing the smart thing is causing me.  I am going to be going nuts tomorrow while sitting at my desk working, knowing that the creek is running and I'm missing it.

One more thing with there being so little daylight - it's hard to get any decent pictures if there isn't any sunlight when your only picture taking opportunities occur.  So I headed out to Mill Creek Park again today at lunch to take pictures of the forbidden wave at it's absolute best.

The forbidden wave is a great little surfing wave on Mill Creek.  It's usually nothing, but at the right flow it looks like you could have some fun.

It's got a cut stone wall along one bank at the picnic area, with woods on the other side.

This is the only whitewater creek in Mahoning County and it's closed to paddlers, on the authority of the Mill Creek Metroparks - even though only the state of Ohio has the authority to do that.  And if they see you paddling, they will call the police and have you arrested.  Pretty bogus.  Just another case of the man trying to keep a brother down.  Anyway, I promise this is my last post criticizing Mill Creek Park.

It looks like the weather is taking the turn towards winter this week.  We're going to have some snow flurries tomorrow (no, that's not a reason to stay home from paddling or riding) and it's going to be staying below freezing at night.  If that keeps on happening it won't take long before the ground freezes and trail work pretty much comes to a halt for the year.  Hopefully it will hold off for at least a couple of weeks so that I can get this neck brace off and do some work.

Man, I swear - I'm soooo close to heading out to go paddling tomorrow.  Must.  Do.  The. Smart. Thing.

EDIT:  I did the smart thing and went to work and am none the happier for it.  Such is life.

Friday, November 25, 2011


We had our Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday evening, since Diana had to work both jobs on the actual day.  So my mom came over and we had a big dinner - the things that we a associate with the holiday.  And my wife took Kenny for some holiday shopping on Thanksgiving night - this is what she associates with the holiday (too bad - don't we have enough other opportunities to be consumers?)

On Thankgiving day Kenny and I went out to the North Road Nature Preserve and spent two hours in the woods flagging the new trail.  It's great that we start to move into a more mature, open woods as we get closer to the creek.  There is a pretty good variety of mature deciduous trees back in there.

We also managed to run the trail right beside this ancient apple tree that's growing back in there.  This thing is awesome - it looks like some sort of ancient "wizard tree", all twisted and weird.  Very cool to be able to bring the trail that way.

We had the usual tough time trying to pick a line between the soft area and the refuse back there, but we did manage to get in what I hope is a decent line.  It moves us further towards the creek banks, plus it gives us access to one of the few areas that has a decent supply of rocks.  Once we get the trail done another 200 yards from the existing trail we'll be able to move our trail wagon down there and start moving some of the big rocks to the wet areas that really need them.

This is a picture from Mill Creek Park, the metropark for Youngstown, Ohio (where I work).

Look at that beautiful trail beside the creek.  Notice the fantastic quality of the stonework, originally done by CCC & WPA workers during the depression.  Then notice the "NO BIKES" sign - there are no trails open to bikes in the whole park, which is over 4400 acres.  And then look at the creek (the only whitewater in the county) - it's also closed to paddlers.  Closed to paddlers despite the fact that state law says that it should be open and that the local parks don't have the authority to ban paddlers from navigable waterways.

For some reason this attitude is big in our area - the parks are being PRESERVED for the PUBLIC, but they can't actually be USED by them.  So we have big areas of land (including a 900 + acre part of Mill Creek Park) that are totally closed to everyone.  And trails that you aren't allowed to ride a bike on (ask the guys up in Cleveland what they think about that particular position).  And creeks that you aren't allowed to boat on.  I've complained to these guys for 15 years, and there is no sign of them easing up.  There are no places to legally ride a mountain bike in Mahoning County, yet this huge park won't even open up ONE trail.  Ridiculous.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nine hours of light a day

The sun rises at nearly 7:30 in the morning and sets before 5:00 in the afternoon.  So it's mostly dark by the time I get off work.  The temperatures have been slowly dropping, but we're pretty lucky so far to have had a number of really beautiful days.  It's usually not the weather that gets to me anyway, it's the dark.  But we're only a month out from the winter solstice, so the amount of daylight we lose each day is slowing down and soon we'll be gaining light again.  Then it's just the endurance contest that is waiting for spring to come.

We had trail work day again this Saturday morning.  Bernie already had his bench installed at the junction of the entry trail to the loop.  He donated the materials, built it himself, hauled it into the woods singlehanded, and set it in concrete.  Heck of a job and it makes a great place to set and rest.

He's already suggested that he'd like to put in another bench, and we've looked at at a nice spot back by the crabapple grove.  He's already made such an impact on this project, and now he's going even further.  I really appreciate having a great guy like him associated with our project.

We also started laying the rocks on the tread.  There's an area that had a bunch of flagstone type sandstone buried in the dirt, so we dug out a bunch and moved it on down the trail.  This weekend Dave James, his son and another scout tackled the job with me.  We laid all the stone that we had stockpiled - one section about 25 feet long and then another section about 10 feet long.  I'll be back in there digging out more rocks, and we'll see if we can get another stockpile and then do another section.  Next week we may start on the real rock work - laying a path across the swale at the top of the trail loop.  We already have a ton or so of rock sitting there, along with a bunch of smaller stuff.  We may have to move some dirt as well, but it shouldn't be that hard to get a nice sustainable tread.

Took a bunch of pictures this week.  Got a couple of a the home of a disgruntled Ohioan in the boonies north of us.

Look at the beautiful brickwork on this old building in Youngstown.  They certainly don't do work like that any longer.

Took a few shots of the abandoned (??) church out by Silica Sands.  It looks like the steeple is starting to slip off the top of the building - much like that old church just north of Lickingville, PA.

I've been trying to take some shots at just after sunset, when the sky is getting dark but still has some light.

Northeast Ohio in November.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trail work and campouts

We had another trail work day on Saturday, November 5 at the North Road Nature Preserve.  Quite a few people showed up to work - Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts, plus Bernie of course.  We got quite a bit done - enough that it's easy to hike the loop now, even if it's not all perfect yet.  I was limited to what work I could do because I'm still in the neck brace, but I did start flagging a new line for the trail to the creek that the park board approved last month.

After trail work, at noon there was a ribbon cutting held by the Trumbull County Metroparks.  The local politicians were there and we had a short ceremony.  Hopefully the Warren Tribune will be enough on the ball to get the photo in the newspaper soon - it's been a week and still nothing.  But it makes no real difference, we'll be continuing with our trail building as long as the weather cooperates.  Bernie and I were back out there this Saturday hauling rocks.  Can't wait till I'm back to 100% and can really get some work done.

Also had some bad news this week.  One of my old friends from way back passed on the news via my brother - his wife had a tooth pulled Friday and was found dead on Saturday morning.  She was only 43 and there were no signs anything was wrong.  It's just so devastating to see a young mother taken away from here son and husband.  Bill and Tony have been on my mind a lot this week.  I hope to stop and talk to Bill this next week after the hub bub dies down a bit.

And we had our first snow fall of the year this week.  Not liking that even one bit.

Kenny and I went down to Tomlinson Run State Park near New Cumberland, West Virginia to join Boy Scout Troop 101 for a campout.  The weather was great and Kenny had a great time with the boys.  That troop runs like a machine and the boys are really an integral part of what is going on.  We were both really impressed by the way they do things.  It got pretty cold at night, but we had enough gear that we both managed to keep warm.  I'm betting that this is the troop that Kenny chooses to go to next year.

Another couple of quick photos.  One is from todays drive with King Dave - someone failed to stop at the intersection and the tire tracks tell the tale.  The other is just a photo of the silver bridge at Mill Creek in Youngstown.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time passes slowly

Well, it's been a slow (read: boring) week. 

I'm still wearing the cervical collar and it's about driving me nuts.  Imagine wearing a bucket on your head all day and you'll have some idea of what it's like.  Totally irritating, uncomfortable, restricts your vision (can't turn your neck to look to the side) - just a real pain in the butt. 

I went to the doctor earlier in the week for a progress report.  He didn't do a scan or xray or anything, just checked on how I was feeling.  He showed me a spine & skull model to pinpoint where I was injured.  The tiny jelly bean sized protuberances on the very base of the skull, where it rests against the top vertebrae, are where the fracture occured.  He said it was a hairline fracture with no displacement, which is how I managed to get away without having to have a steel halo drilled into my skull for two months.  Of course when you look at that possibility I sound like a cry baby whining about wearing a cervical collar.  He said I'll have to wear it for 8 weeks - so according to my calendar that means on December 13 I'm going to be able to take it off.  Oh, and I found out that when I was so irritated that the doctor never even stopped in to see me when I was in the hospital - he did come in and discuss the situation.  I was just so loopy from the concussion and the morphine that I totally don't remember it.

I've also managed to get a cold, which doesn't help the general situation.  A bunch of people at work were sick in the last week or two, so it's not really surprising but that doesn't make it any more fun.  And since I've been sick I've been having a TERRIBLE time sleeping at night.  It doesn't take too many nights of nearly no sleep before you feel like a piece of chewed gum.  I'm probably going to see if I can get some antibiotics next week.

My cousin Barb, who lives down in North Carolina now, is competing in her first Ironman competition down in Florida this weekend.  She's been training like a pro all summer and seems to be as ready as possible.  It's such a grueling event, and to have to be doing the whole thing with the crowd of other competitors - totally intimidating.  My hat goes off to her - total admiration for taking on such a challenge and facing it with such determination.  I'm sure she'll do great!

Kenny took the Picture of the Day for today.  I decided it's not against the rules, because I'm making up the rules as I go along (makes things a lot easier - I may start doing that for other stuff on a daily basis as needed).  I call this one "protecting the wounded".