I only remember seeing the headwaters of one river before last year. It was the Arkansas River. That’s when I learned that rivers seem to be named for where they end, not where they begin. That’s an interesting notion to me! Somehow I had always thought that the headwaters of a river would be grand and obvious. The Arkansas starts in Colorado and the headwaters are a mere stream, of sorts, going through a meadow. This proved to be the same with the Allegheny.
After completing our flume/luge-like experience, our friend John was kind enough to oblige my desire to see where the river really started. I had googled it and found a sign indicating the headwaters. I wanted to see that sign and so he guided us back up river about 30 minutes to the meadow where the waters trickle together to begin the stream that becomes a river with deep waters and deeper history. The stream was tinier than Cassadaga Creek, that small waterway we had started on years earlier.
I still find it amazing that great things have such humble beginnings and I wonder if we will be able to someday say that we paddled to the other end of that river where it dumps its muddy waters into the Mighty Mississippi.
Our second day of adventure in 2014 took us back to where it all began in 2001. It was a short drive to Red Bird Corners in Sinclairville, NY, and one of the public access areas to the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail. My family used to live 1.5 miles up hill from this crossroads. I remember thinking one day when I was driving home that one could put a canoe in the creek there and paddle for months and get to New Orleans. It took me some time to find out that Karen was up for that adventure though we knew right away that we could not go all at once. The trip would have to be many years long, a segment at a time.
When we walked to the creek’s edge, it was clear that a lot of rain had fallen. The creek was swollen and moving fast.
Old friends back at the edge of Cassadaga Creek where it all began.
The swollen waters at Red Bird Corners
Karen studying the map for where to go next. Upstream to Cassadaga?
We wondered if we could get in above that point, perhaps even at Cassadaga Lakes, so we went on a drive to various put-in areas and found the water everywhere was over the banks, making once dry land into marshy land. We could not see how we would get in or get out. Finally we ended up at the lakes behind a fire department building where there was a place we could put in but the journey ahead somewhat resembled the Okefenokee swamps. Karen wondered if we could even find the main channel. And the wind was blowing hard upstream, a scenario we all too well remembered from our last day on the Ohio River last June. It is really NOT fun to push against wind in a canoe.
Completing our reconnaisance, we drove to Allegheny Outfitters in Ashville, NY, and treated ourselves to some new neoprene gear. Karen purchased some pants and I purchased a shirt. It’s always fun to add a new item to our gear. I remember the first year we purchased something special for our trips. We bought paddling gloves. I felt so professional! Since then we have purchased or been given wet suits and booties, tiny cook stoves, new sleeping bags and, of course, the canoe and paddles. It dawns on us periodically that we are seasoned canoeists! There were yet challenges that would confront us the next day that reminded us to stay humble, gear or no gear, experienced or not. We went back to Karen’s that afternoon and prepared ourselves for a two day trip starting at the headwaters of the Allegheny.
After eight years of renting canoes, we bought one this year. Next week we will put her in under the 6th St bridge in Pittsburgh and take her at least 100 miles down the Ohio River! Til then, Karen tries it out on dry land!
Any suggestions for names?
Stay tuned for the rest of the story…