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OC1 Topher Reynolds, Tom Wilhelm, Mike McCrea
My first trip on the Yellow Breeches was also my first trip ever in which I didn’t drive to or from or set a shuttle. I can understand how I’ve managed to always have vehicular responsibilities over 30 years of paddling roadtrips, but I have no excuse for having missed this fine spring-fed trout stream in that time.
Although Yellow Breeches Creek is only an hour away from north Baltimore County Tom picked me up 3 hours before our scheduled arrival at the put in, which left ample time for some zizzing of van tires on my still snow covered driveway and time enough to scout out a diner breakfast en route.
A walking NASCAR billboard with a Dale Earnhardt fixation in Boiling Springs directed us to the local choice for morning diner grub. Directions that were both promising “It’s right next to the tractor store” and fraught with misadventure “You can’t miss it”.
For a change we really couldn’t miss it and after a reasonable café breakfast we were off to meet Topher at the Mt. Holly Springs put in. Topher arrived timely as ever, mixed up a batch of energy drink mimosas (caffeine for the buzz, champagne to sooth the jitters) and shuttle was set.
Pushing off from Mt. Holly Springs we had all means of propulsion covered as Tom single bladed, I double bladed and Topher literally stepped off the bank and commenced poling a stance he would relinquish only when shooting the dams and millraces.
There were, if I remember correctly, four dams along this stretch, all of them low-consequence runnable at the day’s level. Arriving at the first dam we stopped to scout. Topher announced his intention to run it. I pondered: well defined entrance tongue, moderate hydraulic at the bottom, bony run out followed by a hard left where the current swept the right bank. I’d need to carry enough speed off the dam to escape the hydraulic, hit the brakes, thread the bony section and avoid the pushy bit on river right.
Calculating a 90% probability of running it upright (and a 50% probability of running it cleanly) I elected to portage. Who wants to start a trip wet?
Taking station below the dam with camera and throwbag I snapped a photo of Topher’s flawless passage. Here comes Tom, he’s in the tongue and looking good (well, his line look good - Tom looks like Tom and is best photographed in soft focus through a diaphanous haze). Off the drop he comes, I snap a photo; the shutter opens and I see that he doesn’t have quite enough forward speed. The hydraulic snatches his stern, gives a little twist and everything’s better when wet.
I grab the throwrope but no need, Topher poles up to assist with boat and gear retrieval. At least Tom had the presence of mind to let me hold his Camels before splashdown, so the smokes are still dry and the only consequence of the swim are a broken stern seat and Tom’s reluctance to put on his dry clothes this early in the trip, as another swim would mean donning the loaner spares from my drybag; a choice of either the Salvation Army clown suit or the lime green bridesmaid’s gown. Tom elects to stay wet for now.
Continuing downstream we paused for a leg stretcher in Boiling Springs, with a lovely town commons surrounding a large spring-fed basin reminiscent of some north Florida spring locales. Back afloat we passed a passel of trout fishermen in the next mile and then once again had the Breeches all to ourselves.
Somewhere in there I vaguely recall another dam, millrace or drop. Or maybe two. But only one is remembered with any clarity.
A riverwide dam face shallow enough to beach the boats atop and scout. The sluice is river left, but the concrete spillway features a ski-jump kick up at the end. Once again, Topher will run it. No place to portage, so Tom and I will line our boats through.
I line the canoe down and paddle across to river left for a photo op. Tom ropes up to the stern of his canoe and begins to line the boat down the sluice. I snap a quick photo and begin stuffing the Nikon back in the drybag.
A sudden burst of Topher laughter makes me look up and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Tom’s canoe, careening towards me. Tom standing atop the dam, forlornly holding onto one end of a rope, the other end attached to nothing, bitter end flopping loosely in the sluice. Tom had tied what is commonly known as a not.
A bit more creek, a bankside stretch and smoke and we arrive at the take out conveniently located beside a roadhouse with Yuengling on tap. A round of beers, some bad jokes with the locals and we’re off to fetch the upstream vehicle before enjoying a delicious dinner at Pakhais Thai House in Dillsburg (hint: BYOB and let Topher order for everyone).
Tom drove and bought me breakfast. Topher drove and bought us dinner. There were various treats along the river including the first Duckhead swim of the year and lessons in not tying. To quote Spongebob “It was the best day ever!”
Thanks Tom. Thanks Topher. Let’s do it again soon. Taylors Island Passages. My treat.
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