A HANDFUL OF GOOD ADVICE
How to avoid falls on your way?
A trip down the bottom of a mountain stream is an effort that can be compared to going up a slippery and loose climbing wall. Wet rocks are extremely slick and often unstable. You should take every step cautiously, making sure you don’t stumble on a nasty surprise hidden under the piles of dry leaves.
Any fall can have unpleasant consequences. Be especially wary of stones covered by the carpet of the bryophytes that grow in the shadows. These are highly water-absorbent, making stones a slippery slope. Sometimes it will take you up to as much as half an hour to cover a hundred metres of the most difficult sections of a stream.
We have arranged the suggested routes in order of difficulty: starting from easily-available sites, to wild and elusive streams that require extraordinary effort and experience. The first trail will help beginner stream-walkers gain the minimum experience necessary to venture into more demanding sites.
When’s the best time to go on a trip down the stream?
Early spring, when the snow has melted and the water has gone down and cleared up, is the best time for this trip. The trees have not grown leaves yet, so the sun can reach the deepest recesses of the ravines. Several weeks later, covered in leaves, the same trees will have cut off the sunlight, making the trails dark and shadowy – yet, some might find this to be a quality that enhances the whole experience. During summertime, the stream beds provide cool shelter from the scorching sun. Late autumn is the last wake-up call for all the enthusiasts of downstream trips. In winter, we recommend you to take some rest. The most you can do at this time, we feel is having a walk down alongside your favourite stream.
The essential equipment
Shoes are the most important. Knee-high rubber boots, equipped with quality skid-proof soles, are the right choice for autumn and winter. High waders provide good water protection but are quite burdensome. Trekking shoes are best for hot summer time – you can easily take them off to cover some water-filled sections bare foot.
It is common experience that going upstream, opposite to the stream’s current, is much more comfortable. No wonder, going downstream, you are more likely to be tripped up by the rapid flow of water. Of course, it is all a matter of habit and convenience.
Other elements of equipment are very much the same as your usual mountain tourist stuff.
How to identify which waters are clean and worth bathing in?
On hot days, you might feel tempted to get into the water, provided it is deep enough. However, you have to make sure it is clean. This is where a very important issue for each “ground-water walker” crops up: the quality of water. In Lesser Poland, you will barely find any top-quality water that can be drank straight from a river or stream. The prevailing (and horrifying) majority of waters are biologically contaminated and require treatment. It is neither the place nor time to explain the ins and outs of this situation. Suffice it to say it is an undeniable fact – and a shameful one indeed.
For each of the suggested stream trails, you will find information about the quality of water and the opportunities for taking a refreshing swim. Keep in mind that regular, state monitoring of surface waters in Lesser Poland covers only selected sections of larger rivers, and the streams described here have never been inspected and controlled. The fundamental water quality (cleanness) criterion we use for our trail is the presence or the lack of permanent buildings in the drainage basin of the stream. No buildings means no people and, consequently, no pollution to the water, which stays clean. If you are an inquisitive and experienced nature explorer, you might want to take a close look into the bottom of the water. If the space under the stones is densely inhabited by trichopter larvae in their pipe-like homes, and also by the quick-running and menacingly-looking, “whiskery” day-fly and stone-fly larvae, the water is clean. The less inhabited is the space under stones, the more probable it is the water have been intermittently or constantly polluted by the waste coming from nearby houses.