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December 3, 2012 - 9:06pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, canoeing, J.D. Barrett.

A dusting of snow and a thin mantle of ice wasn't about to deter J.D. Barrett and some friends from their appointed rounds, especially on a red-letter day such as this.

Beginning last January, J.D. has canoed every month in 2012 and Saturday, December 1st saw him set out on his 87th paddle of the year -- one paddle for each year of his life. The idea was suggested to him a few years ago by some of his canoeing companions, and it was those same folks who made the arrangements for Saturday's outing on Black Creek, for years one of J.D.'s favorite paddling destinations.

Though well-regarded among fellow paddlers and his fly-fishing brethren alike, J.D. Barrett shuns the spotlight and is quick to deflect attention to his fellow outdoorsmen. Maybe that's why his canoeing pals chose not to tell him Channel 10 News would be on hand to capture what they felt was certainly a milestone achievement.

One of those friends was Tony Figueredo, eagerly waiting to break the ice -- no pun intended. 

Linda Grant getting set to launch. Linda was kind enough to pass along some of her pics.

With everyone on the water, the trip upstream is about to commence.

The wintry weather posed no problem for this crew of dedicated paddlers. As Hyde Hitchcock said, "This wasn't about speed or distance -- it was about paddling with J.D."

Left to right are Dale Jones, J.D., Steve Tolle, Hyde Hitchcock and Paul Conklin. Besides his paddling gear, Hyde packed a Dutch oven and the fixings for a tasty meal on the creek bank including soup, smoked ham, baked beans, fresh biscuits and black tea.

No black flies, no mosquitoes, only a peaceful setting...

This outing marked J.D.'s second milestone of 2012. Earlier this year he and his wife, Dorothy, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary......Congratulations on both counts, J.D.!!!!!

October 31, 2012 - 9:46am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, canoeing, Black Creek.

Last Thursday morning I had my pickup backed up to the launch at Churchville Park, and I was jawing with another canoeist, who, like myself, was waiting for his paddling partner. My partner showed up within minutes and before I was able to slide my canoe out of the pickup, another vehicle pulled up, stopped in front of the launch and a voice from inside said something to the effect of, "You gonna unload that thing and move so the rest of us can launch?" When I looked up I saw old friend and outdoor enthusiast J.D. Barrett grinning like the Cheshire Cat. This promised to be a good day.

Black Creek has long been a favorite among the canoe and kayak crowd and a paddle along Black Creek can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye most anytime of year. Come autumn however, the waterway provides a trip that is downright picturesque and it is especially alluring during the month of October.

Beech and oak trees dominated the creek bank along this stretch.

There were maples found here and there along the bank.

Normally on his day off former Batavian Mike Keil can be found on the tennis court or golf course. But this day he opted for a canoe trip along the Black, our second such venture of the year. 

The fella on the right is avid canoeist and flyfisherman J.D. Barrett and on the left is his paddlin' partner, Hyde Hitchcock. This pair has logged an incredible amount of time on the waterways over the years. It was J.D. who first introduced me to canoeing the Black many years ago.

Wherever we looked the shoreline was mirrored perfectly in the water.

On the creek bank in the "middle of nowhere" a swing seat for two hangs from a colorful beech tree.

More after the jump (click the headline):

May 29, 2012 - 10:15am
posted by JIM NIGRO in Camping, outdoors, nature, Genesee River, canoeing, Bald eagles.

There was no mistaking the telltale markings. Even at a distance the wing span, white heads and white tail patches indicated we were looking at a pair of bald eagles in flight. While the pair of eagles soared above the Genesee River, Le Royan Jerry Fitzsimmons and his grandson, Ryan Fitzsimmons, of Caledonia, were gliding past the right bank in a tandem kayak. Riding the current, Jerry maneuvered quietly, hoping to get close enough for photos. Finally, one of the eagles alit on the remains of a weathered log, enabling Jerry to get a few pics before it once again took flight.   

It was day three and the final leg of a canoe trip that included, in addition to Jerry and Ryan, Andrew and Kathleen Hulme, of Pavilion, Christine Hayes, a Pavilion currently residing in Brockport, Batavians Jeremy and Amy Fitzsimmons, and myself.

Our river run began late on a Friday in the Allegeny town of Caneadea. A short paddle on the Rushford Lake overflow took us onto the Genesee River. That first day on the river found us still paddling as the sun drew near the horizon and Jeremy opted for a suitable gravel bar to set up our tents. Our campsite wasn't really lined with gravel, but rocks of all sizes that had been washed and shaped by the river for ages.

Camping on a gravel bar has its perks -- with no woodland canopy to contend with, we had an unobstructed view of the night sky. And what a view it was. There, nestled between the hills of the Southern Tier and shielded from even the faintest light from nearby towns, the river bottom was dark. The temperature dropped into the 40s that night with the air crisp and cool. When I woke during the wee hours the sight overhead was nothing short of spectacular. I never bothered with the camera -- combined with the surrounding darkness and the still of the night, a photo would never have done justice to the nocturnal panorama overhead.

I was still half asleep when a turkey began to gobble somewhere in woods along the river. Judging from the frequency of his calls, the tom was intent on finding a hen. Once the sun climbed above the horizon grosbeaks began to sing while Jerry prepared a hearty breakfast of sausage, potatoes, eggs and hot coffee. After scalding my lips on the coffee, it was time to break camp and load the canoes for day two on the river.

Because each craft was laden with gear, each day prior to setting out Jerry loaded the canoes, maintaing a proper balance. Because the Genesee is, as Jeremy described it, a "pool and drop" river, Jerry's expertise proved invaluable, particularly encountering the fast water found wherever the river dropped in elevation and did so at a sharp bend.

Jerry first paddled a canoe at the age of 9. His favorite haunt in those early years was an area of Oatka Creek known as Bailey's Mills near the Le Roy-Pavilion border. He and son Jeremy have been running rivers for decades, both as licensed NYS guides and recreational paddlers. Experienced and accommodating on the river, they not only served as our guides but also our outfitters and camp cooks as well. All they asked of us was to enjoy the trip...no problem! 

At noon of our second day we stopped for lunch on a gravel bar where the river flows past Fillmore. Another two hours of paddling took us to Rossburg where the Wiscoy Creek spills into the Genesee. That's where we made camp for our second night and it's also where we spotted one of two beavers we saw along the route. This one was busy making repairs to its home.

We saw several mergansers on the river and early that evening, not far from camp, Jerry spotted a fox kit and shortly thereafter located a den. When Jerry returned with his camera the young fox was nowhere to be seen, but he did find some turkey remains, including an entire wing, quills still intact. Evidently the mother fox had been teaching her kits the finer points in stalking North America's wiliest game bird.  

I'm not sure what Jerry's pointing at here. Could have been a heron, hawk, deer or beaver.

Cliff swallows were active wherever the river bank afforded them a place to live. The bluff pictured above contained a sizeable colony, literally dozens of small caves where the species make their homes.

While the entire trip proved to be a relatively comfortable paddle, our last morning on the river provided a few more stretches of white water along with a few obstacles. At times we had to contend with submerged boulders that came into view at the last second or bony tree limbs sticking out of the water. When the potential trouble spots were located in a bend and the current suddenly picks up speed, it required some hard paddling and oftentimes a quick change of direction, kind of like negotiating a "river chicane." Such maneuvers were exhilarating and challenging and a great way to end the trip. Our trip came to an end at Portageville after covering an estimated 30 miles on the river.

A hearty thanks to my fellow paddlers for a fun experience and for sharing photos!

October 23, 2011 - 8:48am

We hadn't traveled very far when, from the stern of the canoe, I heard Bill Moon say, "Listen to that." Except for the sound of his voice, there was absolute silence. He was referring to the solitude of the Adirondack wilderness. At the time we were paddling the north branch of the Moose River where it winds through brushy banks lined with winterberry and distant hills in the background

Downstream a ways, we would enter green corridors of spruce and pine, and finally stretches of river where the evergreens and maples mingle, splattering a predominantly green shoreline with red and yellow.

"Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiul to values as yet uncaptured by language." 

                                     Aldo Leopold, "A Sand County Almanac"

With the hardwoods already having lost much of their foliage, the evergreens had lost a bit of their backdrop...

yet they towered above the river bank, as aesthetically pleasing as ever.

Except for small birds flitting and rustling in the winterberry, these mallards provided one of our few glimpses of wildlife. Occasionally, the sound of geese could be heard, though they were nowhere in sight. Once or twice we heard the guttural squawk of a raven - it too was heard and not seen. 

The day was sun-filled and warm, the setting serene. The  leaning sycamore pictured above seems to be whispering to the trees on the opposite bank.

Clusters of winterberry  

The sound of water rushing over rocks and around and under sizeable boulders indicated it was time for our lone portage of the trip, a canoe-tote of approximately 200 yards. The portage trail was well-defined, though there were numerous tree roots spanning the path which tested our agility -- and patience.

Bill has made this trip a number of times - here's  "ol' man river" and his understudy!

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