by John Snitzer - Sun, Jan 2
The evergreen tree commonly known as red cedar is not a cedar; it is a juniper, Juniperus virginiana. It is common in our area, a fine native tree that creates food and shelter for wildlife and adds a beautiful sage green color to open winter landscapes. But it is so common in old fields, hedgerows, and roadsides that it has become unremarkable. While paddling this afternoon near Winchester, I saw actual cedar on the banks, Thuja occidentalis, which is rare and remarkable, then I remembered that we were paddling on Cedar Creek which was obviously named by a plant lover. For comparison, see Spruce Run in the Catoctin drainage which runs through hemlock and pine forest.
Five of us, Gus, Miki, Alf, John and a guy whose name I didn’t get, took advantage of the warm January day and Friday’s rain and got in our first paddle of the year on Cedar Creek, from Minebank Road to VA Rt 11. It was a quick trip in the cold weather with 372 cfs at put in (min 200). This is a beautiful, natural looking creek through farm fields and with handsome forests with a minimum of invasive plants and no litter. There are frequent cliffs and moss-covered outcroppings on both sides of the stream. We saw Panther Cave on river left, but alas, no Puma concolor, and a short paddleable cave just downstream. At this water level the creek has mainly riffles and wave trains and two more interesting rapids, a broken out low water bridge and a set of offset ledges that created nice surfing waves today.
We saw typical winter birds, chattery kingfishers, a red tail hawk and great blue heron and a quick wild turkey running away from us. We saw a newfangled flying creature, a drone hovering 20’ over the river just above the railroad bridge. No evidence of feeding, mating, or territoriality. The diversity of habitats and the rich undisturbed forest suggest that this would be an excellent paddle for wildflower viewing in spring.
All paddled elegantly. Mask discipline was exceptional. Restoration Fellowship Church, the one with the three immense white crosses on Rt 48/55 just west of I 81 is searchable on Google Maps and was a convenient meeting place.
Thanks to all in the group who came out on this winter day. Fine way to start the new year.