Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Mon (Aug 6 to Aug 14)

Back in 2005 Joe and I went to Trawler Fest in Solomons, MD.  That was the year we put a down payment on Carolyn Ann and also met a nice couple from Pennsylvania.  One morning in Pittsburgh Joe received an email from Bill - half of that nice couple - saying that he'd seen on a boating site that we were at Station Square.  His weekend job happens to be driving the Duck Boat that starts and stops at Station Square.  We ended up having dinner with him on Carolyn Ann and getting lots of first hand information about the Monongahela River - The "Mon" to locals.  Barb and Randy had come for dinner also and the next morning we bid them adieu as they started the trip up river.  Joe and I had decided to stay at Station Square another day or two to wait for Fred and Linda on "Young America".  This whole trip was Fred's idea.  Years ago he was looking at an Army Corp map showing the waterways that they control.  He was familiar with most of them, but was surprised to see the section going to Morgantown, WV and decided he'd like to go there by boat sometime.  Once he mentioned it, we all decided it sounded like an interesting trip and decided to go along.  So here we were at the mouth of the Monongahela.
While we waited, we managed to get in a little more sightseeing.  We ended up skipping the mass transit most of the time and just walking - well, "Bad Foot" Joe rode his little bike.  As we walked back to the boat from the Strip District on our last day we decided to take the path along the Allegheny River.  As we passed the impressive convention center, we discovered a great water feature walkway leading under the center up to the street.  Water falls down both side walls, and then flows down along  the walkway sides, casading over the river rock shelves.   It give one the sense of being near a cool forest stream and waterfall, insulating you from the normal big city noise.
 Fred and Linda arrived, we had a celebratory dinner and the next day started up The Mon.  After a full day that included three locks, we planned to stop at an American Legion Marina.  Sammy there had assured Joe that there would be room for both of our boats.  Evidently, there were some boats in there that Sammy hadn't heard about.  There wasn't enough room.  Sammy got on the phone and let us know that he had a friend with an empty dock a mile or so up the river.
We found the dock - empty, with plenty of depth and tied up.  We enjoyed a nice happy hour at the picnic table on the dock as the day started to cool off.  Later Bob Ventura, the owner, stopped by to welcome us and extend an invitation  for our return trip.  You meet such great people on these trips.
We started out early again the next day.  As we entered our third and final lock for the day bolts of lightning slashed the sky.  Once we'd tied up in the lock, the rain began to fall.  The lock tender raised us up and opened the door, but said we could stay in the lock to wait out the storm.  We took him up on that and were able to get under way again after a short delay.
The trip up the Mon was a mix of nice scenery - tree covered high hills - and industry - mostly huge power plants.  One interesting thing about the barge traffic on the Mon and the Ohio is that you see barges of coal going both directions, passing each other.  Different types of coal, I guess, but it all looks the same to us.
We arrived in Morgantown, WV and tied up at one of the docks in town where Lazy Dolphin was waiting for us.  The locks above Morgantown are only being run for three and half days a week.  There is a move afoot to shut them down completely.  Don, who heads a group to keep the locks running, had contacted Barb.  The morning after we arrived several men from his group, a reporter and a photographer arrived.
 After a couple hours of interviews, pages of notes, and what seemed like hundreds of photos, we all felt like celebrities.  The next day the article and one picture appeared in the Morgantown newspaper.  We all had a great time reading the article, which was not totally accurate (what did he write in all those notes??).  Joe was said to have done the trip to get to pat the Moth Man's butt!  Now we know how all those real celebs feel.
One of the big attractions - for us anyway - in Morgantown was the PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) for the WVU students, but open to all.  The university is spread all over the city - up and down the hills, so a people mover was a necessity.  The PRT is electric and runs on demand.  The cars have seating for eight, but can hold 20 - or 97 during the annual PRT Cram.  Students ride free, but for fifty cents we rode the full circuit, getting a nice view of the city and different areas of the campus.
Next on the agenda was the trip up to Fairmont and the beginning of the Mon - the confluence of the Tygart River and the West Fork.  Joe had noticed on the charts that the elevation there is 860 feet above sea level.  Back in 2009 when we did the loop our guide book informed us that at Balsam Lake we had reached an elevation of 841 feet above sea level.  The claim was that it was the highest elevation in the world a boat can reach by traveling on its bottom from the sea.  Now we know it was wrong!  Who knows how many of the superlatives we hear are wrong - I'd guess lots - most? - of them.
                                                                              So Lazy Dolphin and Carolyn Ann (Young America had opted out and started back to Pittsburgh) cruised to the Tygart River, turned around and started back down - or up, because downriver is north. 
 Because of the short locking days, we stopped short of Morgantown on our way back tying up to a lock wall to be ready to lock through when they opened at eight the next morning.  Evidently our information wasn't exactly correct.  Shortly after seven am. the lock doors opened and the green turned on.  We all scrambled around and got ourselves into the lock.

As we continued down the Mon, the morning mist was still hanging over the river.  It's only mid-August, but we are starting to see the signs that fall isn't far off.  We welcome the cooler - to a point! - weather, but foggy mornings are apt to disrupt our plans.
After a stop at Ventura's dock again, we got back to  Station Square in Pittsburgh.  We were all ready to start our trip down the Ohio so we left the next morning.

There are more pictures on the picasa site:

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