Trip Report: NE PA White Water Kayak School: Memorial Day Weekend Adventure 2010
Location: LeHigh River Gorge
School: Jim Thorpe River Adventures, One Adventure Lane, Jim Thorpe, PA, www.kayakschool.com
Guest House: Canal Side Guest House www.canalside.org
Total cost for one for weekend including lessons, rentals, guides, lodging, food, gas, souvenir t-shirts & hat: just under $500
Total worth: Priceless
Day 1: Begins with practicing wet exits with neoprene spray skirt, and ends with working on the eskimo roll (optional). Most of the day, we spent practicing paddling technique like bow draws, stern rudders, sweep strokes, edging, etc. and other strokes used both in flat and white water situations. I've been to enough of the River Connection's tuesday tune-ups so that much of the day is a review. At the end of the day, I was told by a coach that I almost did an eskimo roll independently with just a little assist with proper paddle position & momentum (but I suspect he was encouraging me). I leave feeling exhausted, confident, and happily excited about tomorrows white water experience.
Day 2 white water beginning: We arrive before the rafts at a LeHigh River launch used by both kayakers and rafting groups, so we were told to paddle through a few minor ripples to a site to listen to the white-water tutorial. Not used to moving water, I paddled this minor ripple terribly. All I heard during the lecture were phrases like "avoid strainers that are death traps" and "If you should find yourself pressed up against a boulder or pier, hang on and we will come scrape you off", while I was looking downstream at what looked like a water fall, a bend in the river, a stone wall, bridge piers and boulders.
So basically, upstream there were minor ripples that I botched, and downstream what seemed almost like certain death or physical disability. I was in a state of near panic. I was so afraid that I wasn't processing what was being said. Meanwhile another part of me was saying to myself "There are people here who have never kayaked before, and a coach my age and physical condition, so this must be possible or they would stop me, wouldn't they? I'm thinking "They could keep my tuition, if only they'd let me leave alive". But before I had a chance to bolt...we paddled off...
During Day 2: Somehow I survived the first set of rapids, which I believe was the most difficult of the day. Between rapid areas we received information on the next stretch of rapids, and practiced optional advanced skills: e.g. crossing eddylines and ferrying. We were told to wait if our coaches were all involved in assisting capsized kayakers, in other words, overturning was anticipated if not expected during these skills sessions.
Probably due to the coaching skills of our instructors who sometimes pushed us telling/screaming at us to paddle harder; and at other times, encouraging us to rest during skills sessions to save our energy for future rapids. It was exhausting emptying water out of your kayak following over turning in an eddyline...so I didn't practice as much as I would have liked. The students gave encouragement to each other...clapping when folks made accomplishments. The coaches told stories during quiet water too...e.g., like trying to distract Chelsea Clinton when she took the class paddling down pass graffiti derogatory to her father.
Outcome of Day 2: Miraculously, everyone in my class paddled through all the rapids with out a single capsizing!!! One person learned a reliable roll, another managed a couple of rolls, and I got to feel what a roll, paddling white water, and paddling through an eddyline feels like. I left feeling really good, having faced my fears. The feeling generalized beyond the kayaking experience: Somehow all the stresses in my life seemed a bit more manageable by the end of the weekend. I left with an "If I get through that, I can do most anything" type of feeling. I've been going through a rough period with all my eye surgeries and the increase in local taxes...so this experience really gave me a needed a break and something to get me emotionally back on track feeling confident and hopeful again.
Assessment: Priceless experience!
Additional historical info: The coal that ended up at the Rondout for shipment to NYC and New England began its journey around where the white water classes were held.
Additional location information: The Appalachian Mountains surrounding the gorge were beautiful.
Comparison with local runs: Although the Wappingers Water Derby run was rated the same as LeHigh River run (Class 1 & 2 whitewater)...there really was little comparison. Wappingers seems more like .5 by comparison.
My favorite experience: Spinning around on the rapids. The coaches frowned on this; but you know it was just so much fun that I couldn't always make myself pull out of a spin.
Additional sports information: The kayak & raft school also rented bikes.
Comparison between kayaking and biking: Main white water technique learned: Generally when crossing an eddyline in white water...lean in the direction you want to go just the way you would would turning a bike.
Additional guest house info: Rooms were decorated by sport. I slept in the "bike" bedroom, decorated with biking pictures, lamps, bedding, etc. The family room was done in skiing stuff, or was it the music/living room??? Anyway, it was really charming.
attached pic: Diane in white boat, Ivan in yellow boat and Shaun in green boat in front of a 2 pier bridge where 2 eddylines cross. Joel, one of the coaches said this spot with merging eddylines was the most difficult spot on the run to master without tipping over.
It was quite a weekend. I highly recommend it. If my finances ever get in better shape, I'd definitely go back. Diane