Hackensack River Canoe &
by Martin W.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
After the just under 100 mile car ride to Exit 77 on the GSP … I just made the 9:00am meeting time at Double Trouble State Park with one minute to spare (everyone else was there waiting for the trip coordinator to show up – hey, I forgot my lunch and had to go back, losing 15 minutes – plus I drive slower than even Jeff does.)
Those hearty folks on the trip were:
Al G., Herta D., Gail S., Bela D., Melody W., Rich H., Ted W., Virginia and Jim M., Monica O., Lori B., Chris D., Neil S. and Martin W. paddling two canoes and 12 kayaks.
After exchanging pleasantries and of course - the signing of the trip waivers, we headed to the put-in at Dover Forge a few miles away. The unloading of the boats and gear was brought forth and now 'twas time for the worst part of any trip – the shuttle.
We took all the drivers and cars back to the take-out at Dudley Park off Rt. 9, left most of the cars there and took 3 cars with all the drivers back to Dover Forge to start our voyage.
Since this was the first Cedar Creek run of the season and not knowing what this past winter’s storms did to the navigability of the river, I kind of stayed ahead (but within earshot) a bit to scout out any major obstacles that might have been a problem, but surprisingly it was relatively clear considering the lower water conditions. The first three miles of Cedar Creek downstream of Dover Forge is usually the most difficult section (other than the torturous and frequently semi-unnavigable Bamber Lake to Dover Forge upstream section) due to the tight and twisty nature of the river upstream of Ore Pond, but other than a few folks taking the “scenic” route through the “Maze” we all did very well.
In all the decades that I’ve run this river I have never seen turtles as large as what we encountered sunning themselves on logs this day. They were huge. I hope the Oyster Creek atomic power plant didn’t spring a leak!
Paddling against a moderate headwind across Ore Pond, we arrived at our usual lunch spot at the dam accompanied by a crescendo of growling innards. The water level of the pond was kept high so there was some water flowing over the concrete section. After finishing our mid-day vittles the group helped each other portage the boats over the dam and continued on our journey. Just downstream of the dam we encountered the infamous summer icebergs and the dreaded river foam monster but dispatched them successfully. Passing the White Bridge at Double Trouble the river started to get a little wider so things get a little easier albeit energy levels usually start to get subdued at this point. But we have to keep up the pace to make it to the take-out before dark – so onward!
Well so far so good no one got damp – until…..
Coming to a section of the river that recently has acquired an interesting obstruction (first encountered last year but has grown much more complex and ornery) and representing a good indicator of one’s ability to render fine boat control and understanding of water currents, we had our first and only “Swim Without Your Boat Day” encounters.
The dreaded “Stumpcula – The Impaler”.
See, there is this stump sticking out of the water… oh, about maybe 8 inches high but at an angle pointing right into a swift current that is channeled into a 4 foot wide strainer clogged path surrounded by various low hanging instruments of Spanish Inquisition style torture such as the leaves of the Holly and other types of sticker-laden shrubbery just waiting to flail one alive, while requiring one to pivot the boat 90 degrees in a very short period of time against a current that is doing it’s best to impale one’s vital organs on “Stumpcula”.
Alas, some didn’t quite make it! A couple of boats (kayaks, of course) had to be retrieved minus paddler – one demonstrating a classic vertical pin / pirouette which was quite impressive indeed accompanied by a loud “stump-into-rib” sound effect.
I figured before we had any more carnage I ‘d pull my canoe upstream to the killer stump, park “Hippiecanoe” against Stumpcula and let the rest of the folks bounce off my boat and thus avoiding anymore endoscopic intrusions from the stump-beast. Worked well, but now everyone has various colors of Krylon Fusion plastic paint along the sides of their boats. Hey! Free pin-striping!
Those who got more intimate than they really wanted with this “character builder” know who they are and I will not cause them undue ridicule by mentioning their names, but one in particular was subjected to various cat-calling and remarks, especially by the female members of the trip, while he was changing into dry clothes on shore.
Another couple of paddlers (not with us) attempted to come through, so I let them do the canoe bounce too. Both paddlers had no PFDs on or even carried in their boats – except for the little dog they had along – the four-legged one was the only smart one of the bunch. Just after they came through three guys in sit-on-top kayaks came up and the first one promptly hit Stumpcula and flipped. Chris, in his drysuit, retrieved his boat and gear while the other two made it through upright – all without pfds anywhere in sight.
Anyway, enough of the frolics… we continued on.
After paddling under the Garden State Parkway and various local roads this is where we start to encounter civilization again – and all the trash associated with it. You now start to see more beverage cans and other debris in the lower sections of the river. The local yahoos trash this part of the river pretty badly.
“Are We There Yet?”
In a short while we pulled up to the beach at Dudley Park and the trip was over.
And again.. No one died!