I’ve taken some family leave to spend time with my lovely wife and squally infant son this week. It’s also allowing me to make up some time paddling.
Most mornings, I arise about 5:15 – 5:30 a.m. I make a pot of coffee. For the past several weeks, I’ve been eating oatmeal (I ran out of yogurt one morning, and thought, “what the hell? I’ll try oatmeal”), so I put the kettle on to boil. Enter to win a boat at www.paddling.net. Check email. Look at the Internet news.
Babies grunt in their sleep, make odd, unhealthy sounding noises breathing; they smile in their sleep, open and roll their eyes, fuss and then quiet themselves. This morning, my wife brought the baby out for me to feed so she could sleep another hour. Fed him, then held him until he slept, and put him in his bassinet. I love being a father.
Later, once the little guy was sleeping soundly, I got dressed for paddling then remembered I’ve been wanting to order some flotation bags for the E-68. I telephoned Folbot and ordered the oversized Cooper bags. I apologized to Wanda for associating her name with the bags in this thread. The Swift Canoe bags I bought in 2005 from NRS were never entirely satisfactory, and now lose most of their air, one of them after an hour, and the other after two or three hours. For Christmas I got a bag that also provides dry storage, but still doesn’t fill up all the space in the E-68’s stern section.
Saturday afternoon I tried car-topping the E-68 to make sure it was a workable kayak transport solution. This morning I set out for Estill Springs City Park, or, if the water level was too low for that dirt ramp, the parking lot at Estill Springs Church of the Nazarene.
I haven’t paddled that part Tims Ford/Elk River since last June, with my wife in the RZ 96. At that time, the water was so low we were able to paddle only as far upstream as the farm houses on your left before you reach the bridge at Spring Creek Road.
Today, the water was up to its customary level for this time of year. I was able to paddle past Spring Creek Road, past the ruined footbridge, around the bend, and almost to within sight of the last bridge before the dam at Woods Reservoir. On my way upstream, I passed by the place where there’d been a tumbledown house inhabited by poor white people the last two or three times I’d been past, but this morning I heard the sound of a bulldozer where the house had stood. All I saw of it was a rusty piece of lawn furniture set upon the high bank.
The river’s current became discernible above Spring Creek Road Bridge, and was certainly in evidence at the footbridge piers. Before I got to within sight of the final bridge, however, I found the current too swift, and the rocky bottom too near the kayak’s keel. Turning the rockerless 16.5′ Campsis Radicans in midstream felt like one of those flying loops performed by an antique biplane looks.
I paddled back to where a very small creek flows in to the Elk, got out, stretched. To my right a spring gushed forth a small waterfall, and to my left the place where a small stream no longer flows.
On my way back downstream, I explored the sloughs now flooded, which were completely dry last June. I’d paddled them before, but now they are full of the weeds that grew up when the waters receded. I ate my lunch at the “steps” across from Estill Springs City Park. Dunno, but I think the structure is part of the foundation of a former railroad bridge. The Union army probably blew it up during the War Between the States. I can’t find it on any maps. Rain fell, and of course the wind blew against me, as I paddled across the bowl-like portion of river/lake toward the rail and auto bridges that cross the water at the Nazarene church.
Then I paddled into Tims Ford Lake proper, past the Nazarene church, Taylor Creek branch, and Rock Creek Branch. Found a shiny “Happy Birthday” balloon, popped it, and stashed it with my lunch trash to take home and throw out. On my way back passed the best farmhouse I’ve ever seen – just a plain 1950s brick house beautifully situated. Passed a shack that’s only a year or two old that’s probably worth more than the house I live in.
I’ve uploaded a gallery of photos from today’s paddle. They are in chronological order, and can be found here. Contrast Good Monday with Rotten Friday…
Enjoyed reading about your paddle, Chris. It all looks very rural from the photographs.
Just an aside: “poor white family” this is an expression that sounds very southern from across the Atlantic (don’t read anything into that – it just added local colour and flavour to your interesting descriptions).
Thanks! Monday I just didn’t have the heart to photograph all the million-plus dollar lake houses sqautting like monstrosities or perched like dreamland fantasy cottages along the shoreline. For instance, up the hill from that funky shack squats a foul white-and-windowed monstrosity designed to cater to the vanity of someone who made a bundle elsewhere and decided this part of the world was remote enough from the grittiness of the big world for retirement or vacations. The fantasy Keebler elf cottages I mentioned are across the water, between Rock Creek and Taylor Creek branches, from the farmhouse.
My guess is the decrepit house formerly inhabited by those home-grown poor folks was knocked down by the landlords to make room for a little waterside gentrification. That, or sheriff’s officers discovered a methamphetamine “lab” therein and the knock-down was a part of the state and federally mandated “clean-up” process.
The Southernism I didn’t use to describe the riverbank dwellers was “poor white trash.” To use another Southernism, that would have been an “ugly” thing to say. Heck, they greeted me politely whenever I’d paddle by. They were dressed and acting like the poorest class of working people in this part of the world – grilling out, fishing off the bank while seated upon lawn and former livingroom furniture while drinking beer from cans. Didn’t want to cast aspersions, but I probably wouldn’t have invited any of them over to the house.
The Southern U.S. is a strange place, and, to generalize, the people here are concerned about appearances more than the substance of one’s soul, to use the word in a non-religious sense. You know, upon reflection, I’m not sure that’s true. Closer to the truth that they reckon soul as, to an important degree, including a person’s external, observable, circumstances and behaviors.