I recently exited the Army, and moved back to Ohio from Alaska (which I hate every day of my life). Rivers are flat and finding fellow rafters in this area is more difficult than spotting dall sheep on a cloudy day. I caught wind of a festival in Johnstown, PA on Stony Creek (Stonycreek Rondezvous - Class III+/Class IV), and headed there last Saturday. I met up with the event organizer, Steve Podrasky, and he agreed to show me the lines. Him and his paddle partner Clark looked at me funny when they looked in the car, and didn’t see a boat hanging out. They even went to the extent to say that there were no boats to rent at the event.
The shock and awe kicked in when I pulled the Alpacka out of my 10 liter dry bag started inflating it. I don’t know how many times I was asked if the boat was whitewater worthy. I was even asked by them if it was a boat I bought at Wal-Mart. I continued to assure them that it was plenty able to withstand what they had to throw at me. We headed to the put-in, and from there on I lost count of how many people asked what it was, how it plays, if it can be rolled, and anything and everything between.
Stonycreek reminds me of a mix of Eagle River and Six-Mile put together into one beautiful creation. Water was at 4 feet on the gauge, and lines were evident, although at times the water was shallow on the straights. The creek provides several across river standing waves where the kayakers were playing, and I was even able to settle in to a couple of them to show that the raft was able to hang for a few seconds.
The river had several 3-6 foot drops that were easy to boof into, but one in particular was a bit sticky, and I found myself caught up in it and riding the bull for a good 45 seconds until I got spit out vertical and recovered without swimming. After this there were a few shorter drops, more trains (Three Sisters rapid was a blast), and several large S-Turn rapids, with one in particular that reminded me of Pillow Top Rock on the Gauley.
The river for the most part was very continuous in its rapids, so swimming meant you may have to swim a rapid before finding a pool several hundred feet down. No one in the part swam, and they got out at an earlier take-out. I decided to continue down to the end at the festival where a kayak rodeo competition was taking place. I waited to cross the rapid, and this allowed me to show the boat off to about 600 onlookers. I think many of them forgot about the competition as they started to surround me asking what I was in. 10 or 15 folks even asked for contact information and the website, so hopefully they will consider buying one.
This trip was worth the five hour one way drive I made to paddle for 3 1/2 hours, and certainly made me miss Alaska, but reinforced the fact that the east side of the country has some magnificent creeks to paddle that are easily comparable to what AK has to offer.