Saturday, February 25, 2012

Big Water

Most snorkel trips I go on involve crawling along in a few feet of water, with the bottom usually in easy arms reach. I am regularly amazed by the power of water. Experiencing one of earth’s elemental forces is one of the draws of creek snorkeling. But I can usually hold my own by hanging on. That isn’t the case on Muddy Creek.

The Muddy flows through a deeply cut gorge, forested in old hemlock. It is secluded, and I feel like I am in the Pacific Northwest or anywhere else much more remote than here which is only an hour from both Philadelphia and Baltimore. The water is blue green clear and big compared to most rivers in my area.

Ropy bands of smoothed schist plunge into the water as a sheer wall. Water carved chutes are too smooth to hold against the current and the eddy pushes me upstream, and then out into the main turbulent flow. I can make out the outlines of smooth scalloped bedrock sheets eight feet below as I swim hard across the current to an eddy on the opposite shore and get swirled upstream again over a large peaked sandbar.

The circular current pushes me out into the main flow where I am swept downstream across the river into the eddy, pushed upstream and back out across the flow in what would be a perpetual figure 8, if I didn’t grab a smoothed nub of schist in shallower water. It’s a pretty incredible rush, akin to weightless flying.

I picked my head out of the water and viewed the river from water level. A small hatch of small flies flittered away from the surface. Water continued to flow, and the eddies swirled. I have seen Muddy Creek dozens of times from a kayak, but this one short trip gave me a completely different perspective and appreciation for the forces that shape this place.

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