Trap Pond State Park
May 14 16, 2004
Cast of Characters Joe Lilydipper, Sheree Lilydipper, Mike McCrea,
Diane Hollingsworth, Tyler McCrea, Cooper McCrea, Vic Chenowith,
Theresa Alexander, Patty Hale, Laura Totis, Buck Totis, Charlie
Vestal, Kara Brown, Frank Rochowiak, Zach Rochowiak, Frank Weichold,
Anna Weichold, Lena Weichold, Steffi ?, Natalie Mobley, Baxter Mobley,
Sendy Rommel, David Hone, Anne Jerse, Dorothy Hone, Tom Wilhelm, Bob
Wilhelm, Jane Michalski, Lauren Wilhelm, Nikki Wilhelm, Ben Palmer,
Kathy Palmer, Sam Palmer, Quinn Palmer, Linus Palmer, Mark Kaufman,
Jean Kaufman, Kevin Brown, Megan Brown, Sean Brown, Jack Brown, Erin
Donnenberg, Bernie Donnenberg, Sam Donnenberg, Gabriel Donnenberg, Jim
Obert, Kathy Poff, Emily Obert, Labradoodle Obert, David Pauza, Maria
Salvato, Victoria Pauza (and apologies to anyone I forgot).
Forty-seven people, four dogs, countless canoes and kayaks and three
days of delightful weather. Trap trips in the past have featured a
similar cast of characters, but seldom such fine weather.
On arrival Friday afternoon we deployed the portage cart to shuffle
gear-filled canoes across the footbridge to the island site, set up
camp and paddled down the pond to inveigle the Lilydippers into a
short exploratory paddle to check the gauge for James Branch/Hitch
Finding a low but satisfactory 1.15 (1.10 being canoe zero for this
run) on the stick gauge we made plans to paddle this tiny swamp creek
on Saturday and returned to the island to meet and greet Duckhead
arrivals. And arrive they did, until a veritable fleet of canoes and
kayaks awaited comparison paddling at the edge of the pond. Some fine
specimens this trip; the Lilydipper's Mansfield, Charlie's spankin'
new Encounter, the Pauza's workhorse Bluewater Tripper, Frank's
Vagabond and Champion.
And a small fleet of kid-sized boats as well Typhoon, Acadia,
Tupelo, Pack and more. If you couldn't find a boat you wanted to
paddle you weren't really trying. Having such a fine collection of
boatage available may have reduced the number of test paddlers taking
out this trip's review boats, the Old Town Ojibway and Mad River
Adventure 16. Although a few rating sheets were filled out and
collected we'll have to schedule another test paddling trip to get the
complete on-water skinny on these boats.
Sundry sub-groups of Duckhead scattered throughout the pond on Friday
afternoon; a gaggle paddling here, a gaggle there and Duckheads,
Duckheads everywhere. Eventually all boats returned to the island site
and the customary fireside sit & sip commenced.
Trap Night Float I - (4/14/04) Mike, Tom, Dave H, Vic, Ben, Kathy,
Linus, Patty, Theresa, Laura, Kara.
By midnight Friday a critical mass of diehards had arrived and a night
float of the Trap Pond feeder streams was undertaken. Having not yet
made a daylight trip up into the feeder streams our lead boat missed a
turn or two in the inky darkness, and instead of paddling up the
stream fearless leader led us back into the dense and dark cypress
swamp. This would not be the last miscalculation made by fearless
James Branch/Hitch Pond Branch (4/15/04)
Group I Mike, Joe, Sheree, Natalie, Sendy, Baxter, Jane, Charlie
Group II Ben, Sam, Quinn, Laura, Buck, Patty, Theresa, Kara, Vic,
Sean, Jack, Kevin, Megan, Erin.
The 5.2-mile trip down James Branch/Hitch Pond Branch was the main
event of Tip Top Trap. Emphasis on "event". Make that "epic event".
Past trips down the small stream have run the gauntlet from
effortless, strainer-free floats down a seeming fairyland of birdsong,
black skimmer hatches and sunlight dappled cypress knees to grueling,
swim filled strainer-fests (this being the only venue in which I've
swum twice in the same trip).
Several difficulties arose in planning this trip having potential
participants scattered on campsites throughout the park is always an
organizational challenge. This was resolved by declaring the "We are
leaving from the island at 10:00am". Being unsure of the condition of
the stream after Hurricane Isabel made the strainer potential a
crapshoot. This was resolved by declaring, "We'll do a small group
exploration first and see if conditions are suitable for a group
At 10:29 and 13 seconds, having allowed a nearly 30-minute grace
period, an appropriately small group of Joe, Sheree and I set off from
the island. Portaging over the Trap Pond Dam into Hitch Pond Branch we
espied no late launchers heading down the pond and pushed off as a
The first 1.5 miles were relatively clean and easy, if a bit low
watered. Pausing just before the Rte 463 bridge we heard the distant
clunk of a paddle on gunwale and were soon joined by Natalie, Sendy
and Baxter in their Reflection 16, Jane in her Nova and Charlie in his
Encounter. Taking a 17' solo down this tiny, twisty creek calls for
some paddling skill, and Charlie proved he has what it takes.
Taking Sendy and Baxter down the tiny, twisty creek calls for some
verbal encouragement, and Natalie proved she has what it takes,
occasionally shouting "Paddle bitch, paddle". And I thought Baxter was
a male dog. (Note Once we disabused them of the notion that the
notion that the stern paddler does all the steering and taught Sendy
the draw stroke they made a well-coordinated tandem team).
Jane was just happy to be paddling solo, in her own boat, sans kids or
spouse. And perhaps a bit pleased that her Nova 16 is R-84 and she
tossed it over innumerable strainers without being strained her own
Having been joined by this select group things immediately began to
get interesting. There were strainers. Haul the boat up the side of
school bus-sized fallen cypress strainers. Limbo logs. Lay in the
bottom of the boat as the gunwales scrape the tree trunk limbo logs.
Speed bump logs. Ramming speed will only get you half way over and
then you're stuck speed bump logs. All manner of woody obstruction.
And the further downstream we progressed the more closely spaced these
obstacles became. It was, in short, the epitome of a Duckhead paddling
There is something comical - or disheartening, depending on your
tolerance for a challenge - to fighting your way past, over, around a
riverwide strainer, getting back in the canoe, paddling another 20
feet around a corner and getting back out to do it all over again.
That no one swam borders on the miraculous.
Some haul-over methods, dismounts and reboarding maneuvers make this
lack of swims all the more extraordinary. Natalie found herself
stranded on the upstream side of an immense fallen tree, standing
shakily on a branch bobbling in the current, surrounded by deepwater,
mud and muck. Her canoe had already been hauled across, her bow
paddler was high and dry and out of reach atop the log. Ponder the
possibilities Natalie announced, "I'm going to jump for it". No one
thought this was such a hot idea, and cameras were made ready to
capture the result.
Bouncing on her springboard branch Natalie catapulted skyward, arms
outstretched. Picture Superwoman pushing 50, without the cape. Perhaps
after a couple of Kryptonite cocktails around the campfire the night
before. I don't, however, recall Superwoman ever affecting a similar
touchdown. Natalie nailed the landing with a full-body splat of the
tree and a sound not unlike a handful of Playdough being hurled
against a wall resounded through the swamp.
Throughout the day I was treated to a spectacular display of unlikely
abilities. Sendy demonstrated a certain gymnastic prowess with her
ability to perform a near perfect split, one foot in the canoe, one on
the bank, somehow concluding this maneuver without the anticipated
splash. Jane performed a similar exercise, with an added degree of
difficulty involving a high bank and a bit of current, no doubt
pulling it off only because I told her she couldn't manage it. Don't
tell Jane she can't do something!
Natalie and Sendy were also handicapped by the presence of Baxter.
Having an 80-pound lab along on a strainerfest only adds to the
challenge. Not the least of these difficulties was Baxter's insistence
on selecting a souvenir stick from each strainer to add to his
collection in the boat. By the time we reached the take out Natalie's
Reflection contained enough wood to start a decent bonfire.
Joe and Sheree demonstrated their northwoods wisdom, hanging back and
seeing how the various strategies at strainer passage played out
before selecting a route and methodology. No fools there.
By the time we reached the take out we were all tired. By the time we
reached the take out we were all muddy. By the time we reached the
take out we were all nicked and scratched and cut and bloodied. By the
time we reached the take out we had battled our way for 5.2 miles in
an epic 7-hour journey. Fearless leader had predicted a 3-hour tour.
There's that refrain again a three hour tour, a three hour tour
And somewhere behind us on the river were the Squatters ("Not as fast
as they look") and Ben ("Hey kids, wanna go canoeing?"), leading a
novice-intensive trip into strainer hell. Disgorging shuttle drivers
and boats at the island I headed back to the take out, intending to
meet our little lost lambs with a cooler of drinks and a comforting
Cresting the hill beside James Branch I espied 14 disheveled and
exhausted souls perched forlornly on the guardrail and a line of
canoes and kayaks stretched alongside the highway. Having clawed their
way to within a mile of the take out they had had enough, and I don't
think a one of them believed me when I told them that the last mile
was the easiest. One of the young paddlers, when later asked if he had
enjoyed canoeing, responded, "Well, the first hour and a half was OK".
Probably best not to have asked him what he thought of the remaining
six hours. Hey kids, wanna go canoeing?
Meanwhile, back at the lovely and placid Trap Pond, the remaining
Duckheads, having experienced the "three hour tour" often enough not
to fall for that line anymore, spent a serene day exploring the pond,
paddling up the feeder streams (Kathy and Linus persevered the
furthest, portaging over 5 beaver dams to within earshot of the
Raccoon Pond dam) and sampling boats (the Acadia was a favorite
Some food, some drink and some cheery fireside conversation and a
stalwart few were ready for another night float.
Trap Night Float II - (4/15/04)
Steffi, David H., Frank, Tom, Mike
Sufficiently recovered from our 7-hour strainer battle I joined a
select few Duckheads on a reprise of the previous night's swamp tour.
If anything it was even darker on this night journey, and fearless
leader once again missed the entrance to the feeder stream, leading a
small flock of Duckheads deep into the thickening swamp.
I much appreciated the total avoidance to flashlight use; the feel of
navigating through the cypress trees soley by some zen-like feel,
proximity to the trees made known only by a spider-laden branch to the
face or a canoe suddenly balanced immobile atop a cypress knee. Good
Sunday morning saw continuing mini-flocks off exploring the nether
reaches of Trap Pond and after a leisurely pack up a congregation
gathered on the beach for lunch. Our hope was to conduct the official
Lilydipper Races, but a quorum of boats and racers was never found
(although Tyler and I both practiced our bow-only technique). Joe had
generously provided prizes for a series of races, with the following
conditions, stipulations and prizes:
A tandem race (two people in a tandem - a block of Adirondack cheese
as 1st prize
that oughta be some good cheese come August)
A stern-only race (one person in the stern of a tandem, with the bow
waggling high in the air a CD of campfire dock songs as 1st prize,
perfect for the Milburn dock festivities)
A bow-only race (one person in the bow of a tandem, with the stern
waggling high in the air a Zavrel paddle bag as 1st prize. I'm going
all out to win that one myself)
Joe The Lilydipper Races have been postponed until Milburn Landing
in August. Milburn may be a better venue anyway; participants will
race 100 yards across the tidal river, pluck a lilypad from the far
shore, and race back. Spectators will have ample dock space for photo
opportunities, encouragement and kibitzing commentary.
I'll provide an alternate prize for the tandem event but would like to
modify the racing stipulation so that the tandem paddlers must either
be seated facing each other or facing opposite ends of the canoe, and
that both must paddle.
Post Trip Notes:
Ben & Kathy - I didn't find a Texas Toaster in my van after this trip.
I think it goes back to Dave & Anita anyway.
Tom I didn't find a set of diving weights in my van either. But I
expect to find them in my canoe someday when I least expect it.
Reports from the field would be greatly appreciated Patty and
Theresa. I'd love to hear a bit about your strainer-fest experiences.
You might even be able to convince me to remove that "DNF" next to
your names from the mileage log.
Other reports? Joe & Sheree? TW?
Trap Pond State Park: