About Me

My photo
Columbus, Ohio, United States
A project manager by day, but an outdoor enthusiast 24/7. Desired profession....KAYAKER! My boats include a red 14' Wilderness Systems Capehorn, an orange 11.5' Dagger Blackwater, and a lime green Dagger Approach 9'. One more boat and I think I qualify as a livery. My other toys include a Specialized Allez Sport road bike and a Jeep Wrangler to hold 'em all!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Allegheny National Recreation Area - camping, kayaking, and fishing

Allegheny Reservoir at Willow Bay

On my trip to the Allegheny National Forest area in May 2012 staying at Kiasutha campground on the western shore of Kinzua Bay, a southern branch of the Allegheny Reservoir, I checked out other campgrounds along the Allegheny Reservoir.  

Willow Bay Recreation Area and campground caught my eye so I planned a trip back in July this time securing a tent site right on the water.  Willow Bay campground attendant allowed me to drive through the campground to check out the sites but since the tent sites were off the road 150-200 yards nestled in the woods right on the water it was hard to tell which were the premium sites.  

Tip #1:  Call and ask questions!  You'd also be surprised what information the campground attendants volunteer to share too!  

So I called the campground directly and was overwhelmed by the assistance of the campground attendant!  I told her I was bringing kayaks and wanted to tent camp right on the water and just wake up and paddle.  On her rounds that afternoon, she walked the tent area and wrote down the best level sites for my needs and called me back.  She even left a fishing map with my name on it at the entrance for when I would arrive 3 weeks later.  The campground map online and the website to register are not particularly helpful as it is hard to tell which sites are right on the water.  

Best sites at the Deer Grove area (tent sites) are, in order, 102, 99, 95, 93, 90, 89.  Best sites at the Hemlock Loop area (electric sites, mostly rvs) are, in order, 68, 66, 70, 64, 62.  

Campsite #95

Tip #2:  Secure your food not just in tubs and coolers but put heavy rocks on top and perhaps wrap them in tarp and put heavy rocks on top.  

We learned this after the first night of raccoons opening the clasps on our tubs and stealing our bread.  Also remember, even after a late night of heavy drinking, to take your garbage to the bear-resistant dumpsters.  Otherwise, you may wake up to not just raccoons but a black bear visiting your campsite like we had.  Yes, a black bear was hanging out with us and even sat in my Jeep Wrangler as I had the doors off and he was looking for food.  Very minor damage but I have several clues that he was there!  Bears did not show up when the place was heavily populated and I believe because there were quite a few dogs around.  Instead, these smart creatures waited for our last night to scare the crap out of me.  My friend, still thinks I saw a raccoon, but a raccoon does not 'talk' like this bear nor can a raccoon poke a hole through a nalgene water bottle or scratch a short but deep gouge in my Jeep dash.  

In addition to admiring the destructive remnants of the mammals, we also fished and caught white bass and small mouth bass.  They were not big enough to filet so we threw them back.  Also out fishing and kayaking one morning, we got caught in a thunderstorm and torrential downpours riding it out for about an hour on land hovering in the pine tree grove snacking on cheese, crackers, and canned margaritas.  After the rain lightened up, we decided to get back in the yaks and fished the small inlet catching a few small mouth bass.  

Other things to do in the area include dining at Docksiders Cafe Restaurant located at the Kinzua Wolf Run Marina off of route 59 east of Warren, PA and southwest of Bradford, PA.  Bring your dog and they will seat you outside and bring your pooch a big bowl of ice water!  Natural must see attractions include:  Rimrock Overlook, Jakes Rocks, the Kinzua Dam, and a great dog (and kid) swimming hole/boat launch/osprey nest/fishing spot off route 321 just north of route 59.  If you have more time I highly recommend going to the Kinzua Bridge State Park Sky Walk.   The Morrison Loop Trail which includes the Rimrock loop and the Morrison loop is also very beautiful traveling for miles along a small creek for the latter loop.  When I went there in May 2012 the mosquitos and black flies were horrible even with bug spray.  It was hard to fully enjoy the scenery on my 5.5+ mile trek with my boxer along the shorter Morrison loop as these bugs were so bad.  Perhaps another season I'll head back to hike the longer Rimrock loop and maybe even camp at the Morrison campground which is a hike or boat in only site.  

It is absolutely worth the 5+ hour drive for me to reach the Allegheny National Forest and recreation area.  I cannot wait to visit again.  Perhaps kayaking down the scenic Allegheny River again and camping on one of the 7 Wilderness Islands.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buying the Perfect Kayak

So you want to buy the perfect kayak, ey?
Just like you want the perfect relationship?

Well, it ain't gonna happen!  Unless you buy 3 or 4 boats!  I get the question occasionally from my friends and acquaintances wanting help choosing a 'perfect' kayak.  I love to talk nitty-gritty kayak talk so it is about time I shared some things on my blog.

Here is my advice.  
If you live in the Midwest, target an 11-13 foot boat
If you live on the East coast target a 14-17 foot boat
If you live in West Virginia or western NC target an 8-10 foot boat.

'Nuff said...right?  Well, but not so simple as you have to figure out what type of water you are MOST likely to paddle wherever you live.  Everyone seems to say..."I want to paddle rivers and open water."  WELL what else is there left??  Oh, I guess the ocean but hey I'm in Ohio...the ocean to me is Lake Erie and I'd put my 11.5 foot Dagger Blackwater kayak up against any boat.  Ok...so my point really is, you may have to compromise on some water to maximize potential on another type of water.  But don't be discouraged...read on!

The Midwest has some amazing flat, open bodies of water to paddle that would be perfect for the larger length boats.  And the Midwest also has some fun rivers and creeks with some rapids (in the fall/spring) that would be fun with a shorter boat.  

But guess what?  You CAN paddle the rivers and creeks with a longer boat and you CAN paddle the open water with a shorter boat!  Nothing is stopping you!!  But if you primarily plan to paddle open water, why not buy the longer boat...unless funds and weight of the boat are an issue. And if you primarily plan to paddle creeks and rivers, why not buy a mid-size boat.  And forget getting anything smaller than 10 foot unless you are FOR SURE looking to paddle whitewater and even then you should take lessons!  If you live in central Ohio you are looking at going 3-5 hours away to get decent or up to pretty darn good rapids!

So bottom line is there is really no perfect boat.  You make due.  You enjoy your own boat.  You relish in the fact that you have your own boat.  You post pretty pictures of your shiny new boat (and life jacket) on Facebook for all to see!  So what if it paddles like a bath tub in open water the few times you take it out on a lake to relax or fish.  You will LOVE it on the creek and river.  So what if a longer boat seems overwhelming on a creek or river.  You'll glide along on open water and reservoirs like you own it!

...and length of boat is NOT all there is to it!  Perhaps I'll discuss that topic in my next blog.

*Longer, touring boats 14+ ft = longer, skinnier, tippier, squeezing your hips & booty in sideways.
*Shorter, rec boats 10-13 foot = more initial stability (you are less likely to flip thus embarrassing oneself, beverage holder which is key, and a more open cockpit to stash a medium size dog or cooler or fishing pole!
*Extremely short boats <10 foot = Good luck on the rapids!!  Take lessons and wear your helmet!

~The Ohio Kayaker (seems like an oxymoron)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Top 10 camping lessons learned on my first solo camper towing:

Top 10 camping lessons learned

10.  Pay attention when the rental guy tells you that the awning is the hardest thing with the camper operations.

9.  Fill up the water tank at home even if it means carrying an extra 80 pounds.  When you’re already over the limit by 1000 pounds, what’s 80 more pounds!

8.  Bring a generator even if you don’t think you’ll need it.  Even better when a friend has one to loan you and offers it up!

7.  Hide the firewood underneath the camper even if you don’t think it will rain.  Tip: See #3.

6.  Don’t be shy…ask a camping neighbor to help you put the awning up so that it doesn’t scare you or your dog trying to do so. 

5.  Before departing, find out from Dad if you need to have the Jeep in 4-wheel drive or not.  Saves panicking as you’re half way through the trip wondering if you’re suppose to or not.

4.  Have a backup plan for important items whether it is no electric for the coffee maker, inoperable stove, inoperable water system.  Hints:  instant coffee, backpacking Jetboil stove, bring extra water to ‘flush’ the toilet.   As in #10, pay attention to the rental guy’s instructions so as not to be wishing you had done #9!

3. Don’t leave your camper windows open when leaving the site unless you know the weather report for the day.   

2.  When towing something, remember that it’s back there! 

1.  Choose a good co-pilot!  An 11-month old Boxer pup riding shotgun is pretty cute….not so helpful navigating or setting up the camper though!