Monday, July 14, 2014

New Canoe and a Codorus Morning Out

A morning spent at Codorus State Park near Hanover PA can be just what the doctor orders when she suggests less stress and more exercise! I took my new 15' Wenonah Kevlar Solo Plus out for her first Pennsylvania trip, putting in at the far end's boat launch, a shady, pleasant place that sees very little traffic. I hadn't even set up my camera when this happened (below). Sorry about the poor camera phone quality - the Canon DSL  wasn't even out of the dry bag yet!

Show Opener: Red-winged Blackbird bests a Bald Eagle!

To see bald eagles this far inland is a testament to the health and recovery of our inland waters in PA. During the 1970s there were no eagles in Pennsylvania, in fact, there were hardly any eagles anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic. The banning of DDT (which caused egg shell thinning in fish-eating raptors) and the establishment of conservation lands and conservation methods worked quickly to shelter recovering populations. Today we can observe bald eagles across the Commonwealth, especially on our bigger inland lakes and impoundments where fish populations are high, as they are here at Codorus - a popular fishing destination. Many larger inland lakes now have eagle nests, though invisible this time of year because of thick summer foliage. Wait till winter to spot these huge stick platforms high in sycamores or red oaks overlooking lake shores. Back at the launch I worked quickly to set up my DSL while the canoe drifted lazily into the grass beds.

Show Stopper: Bald Eagle catching a small mouth bass!

I've always wanted a fast, lightweight canoe like the ones I used when guiding backcountry in Canada. So, as a reward for successfully defending my dissertation proposal a few weeks ago, I emptied my 'boat bucks savings account' (the lady at the bank always giggles when I hand her my expense checks for this account). Our local paddle shop, Blue Mountain Outfitters in Marysville, had exactly the boat I wanted. The Wenonah Solo Plus weighs only thirty pounds and features a solo set-up amidships as well as a bow and stern seat for when you want to take a friend. I've had the boat for a month now and since have added kneeling blocks and thigh straps. I've had it on the Moose River and Nick's Lake in the Adirondacks as well as Rood Pond in Vermont.  Today she did a fine job in bigger open water with wind and wave for her first Pennsylvania dip.

Skimming Bluet, Enallagma geminatum

Black and Blue Skimmer guarding its favorite perch.

I nosed the canoe into a stand of black willow and observed the behavior of dragonflies and damselflies. Some twigs seemed to attract clouds of tiny bluets, while others were fiercely defended by a single large skimmer or clubtail. A green heron stalked along a log on the bank and the bald eagle was joined by a dark plumage juvenile just weeks out of the nest. A kingfisher hunted from a favorite perch and plunged repeatedly for minnows on the other side of my willow blind.

Kingfisher ready to launch for a minnow meal.

After a solid hour in the willow stand, I paddled the canoe into the open lake gliding into headwinds, dancing on a light chop until I reached the opposite shore where several small coves awaited exploring. Turtles everywhere! I kept my single blade in the water, paddling with an underwater return so that the movement and flash wouldn't scare off the basking turtles. I was able to move pretty close and snap some pictures, backing away when they became aware of the canoe.

Painted Turtle perches abound along the edges of the lake, to include man-made turtle islands for sunning.

Painted Turtle basking.

I was really pleased to find a Red-Spotted Purple butterfly basking on steep beach. I carefully pulled the boat into the brush, stepped out and stalked the butterfly from the bank. This is a polytypic species, having two distinct color phases according to region. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, Limenitis arthemis displays beautiful black-blue tones with characteristic reddish spots in the inner margins of the wings. The same butterfly in the Northeast displays a dramatic white yoke. I'd seen the northern version on my trip last week to the ADK, so with this observation I've seen both forms in the same month! Cool beans!

Red-spotted Purple sunning on the shore. This is one version of Limenitis arthemis.

White Admiral, the northern version of the same butterfly but in its northern form, seen here at Nick's Lake in the ADK

Paddling under the bridges I observed the beautiful mud-built nests of the Cliff Swallow. The young have recently fledged, leaving a quiet hollow of space. Only a few weeks ago, while paddling with a friend in our kayaks, the colony was a busy, chattering affair of begging young and busy parents swooping in and out with beaks full of insects caught on the wing.  I came out from under the bridge to observe a small cloud of cliff swallows swooping over the banks, the young among them learning their trade.

Cliff Swallow mud nests attached to the underside of a road bridge.

I'm always on the lookout for geological features, wherever I paddle and hike. Martinsburg shales lay on the bottom of the lake and are exposed in upright position around the banks. These are highly eroded, flaking apart like matted leaves, but very sharp! Not a good place to walk barefoot or nose in a pretty gel-coated canoe! Ouch! The vertical aspect is testament to the deformation and warping of horizontal marine beds during the Appalachian mountain building event over 480 million years ago.

Highly eroded Martinsbrug shale beds - sharp!

Trumpet creeper vine

Sandy shallows make it fun to pull the canoe along by its bow line.

White Wingstem, Verbesina virginica, a favorite nectaring plant of the Monarch Butterfly.
A very sweet canoe indeed! Wenonah Solo Plus, 15'5" Kevlar - my new favorite summer ride!


Wenonah Canoes -
can be test paddled at Blue Mountain Outfitters in Marysville, PA, just upriver on the Susquehanna from the capital city, Harrisburg. I've purchased all of my boats (save one from Vermont) from Mary at BMO. She and her staff are simply the best in PA.

Codorus State Park -

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