Lost Creek Branch, Broken Umbrella

Lost Creek Branch, Tims Ford Lake

Sunday evening, and I’ve just reread this after mowing the lawn, running the line-trimmer and the leaf-blower. I am a man in need of an editor, or a man who needs to run a line-trimmer around the edges of his prose.

Now that I’m cartopping, I’m less freaked out about leaving the house later in the day to paddle. Caution-Lady actually got out of the house before I did, taking Little Squall with her to scrapbook with friends at Name Removed Denominational Church.

I’m noticing wear on the E68’s keelstrips, toward the bow, and have only noticed since I’ve been keeping the the kayak assembled. Probably I need to spend part of an afternoon out back with the boat, needle and thread, patching material and the soldering-iron. Been noticing also some bow flex, too, and am wondering whether I’m cinching the bow tie-down too much. The distance between the 850’s rack-bars is certainly less than 1/3 the boat’s length.

Predicted high temperature today was 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and when I left the house the temperature was in the low 60s. Grass, car, inverted boat’s hull were all still wet from the rain that’d been falling earlier this morning. Stopped by my mom’s house (it was on the way) to say hello to a family friend from California childhood, a contemporary of my mother’s, who is now teaching at Tulane and contemplating retirement and a return the Golden State.

Water temperature’s been in the low to middle 60s, so I’ve left off wearing the drysuit. Instead, I’ve been wearing cutoff knee-length thermal bottoms under NRS Black Rock splash pants, an unfortunately form-fitting short-sleeved garment under a bicyclist’s 3/4 sleeved jersey. Today I brought a long-sleeved splash-jacket folded under bungies on the back deck, but Monday, when it was a bit cooler, I wore it. Sealskinz waterproof socks, Chota light mukluks, a WWII USN watch-cap, and a PFD completed the outfit. Also, although I feel foolish with them on, I wore my sunglasses.

Brought a map in case I got farther down the branch than I had previously. I knew to expect some islands and the dam if I got far enough. Brought the Round-Up golf umbrella hoping to sail part of the way back north to the put-in should the winds continue to blow as predicted.

I put in at Lost Creek public access area boat ramp (Moore County), and the wind blew strong from the south and west. Without any real distance goal in mind, I paddled south after crossing the water to the far bank. Didn’t stop to explore the shoreline, having already done that last year. Just paddled steadily against the wind to see how far I’d get. Last year I got as far as Anderton Branch, but did not explore it. This time (now yesterday, as I’ve picked up writing again Sunday morning), I didn’t explore it either because it didn’t compel my interest. As I approached the point at Finney Hole, the wind got stronger, and I could see chop being blown in the channel straight ahead.

At the point, there’s a covered dock, a large seawall, and steps up to a house I couldn’t see from my position in the water. That floating dock’s in the position most exposed to the wind that blew from the southwest. Nothing was tied up there, and the large sign affixed to it served as notice that the property is “For Sale.”

With the point on my right, I could see the dam straight ahead. I’d seen it about 12 years ago from the highway, and don’t remember it being as large as it seemed yesterday. The wind had a lot of fetch just there, pushing up scores of small wind waves which broke over my bow. Paddling straight into the wind is easy because the kayak’s most stable then, and Campsis Radicans tends to point into the wind, anyway. Again, I was glad I’d purchased and learned to use a Greenland style paddle. Less wind resistance, less required arm movement, easier on the joints. Mostly torso rotation and abdominal crunch type movement – large muscle groups designed to hold up all day under repetitive use.

I was paddling in the direction of The Narrows, toward what the map on my foredeck identified as the smallest of two nameless islands. My lower back had begun to ache. Before launching, I’d forgotten to inflate the Klepper seat pad I use to cushion my back in the E68. To my right I saw still water flanked by the windblown point now behind me and to my right, with a rocky outcropping of sorts protecting it from the wind to the right, ahead of me. I needed a stretch anyway, altered course and paddled in.

All along the lake’s shore deciduous trees are in bloom, and the smell of flowering things in the air was present in my awareness to as great a degree as the wind, and more so than the gasoline exhaust of the outboard fishing boats and other motorized craft on the lake. Once in the smallish sheltered bay the profuse trees in glorious white bloom spoke loud the joy of their existence in a language olfactory. Someplace heavenly on earth for which I gave thanks to the Creator. Found a place with bank sloping gradually enough to deeper water to enable me to get out, stretch, inflate the backrest. Back in the boat and feeling hungry, I ate a power bar snack significantly past the shelf-life printed on its wrapper.

Into the wind then, I paddled toward The Narrows and the smallest of the islands, having made up my mind to paddle around the former hilltop, then try umbrella sailing back up Lost Creek Branch. Tediously the wind waves broke against the kayak’s bow, and tiresome my paddling into the wind that spawned them. Close to the island, I saw the water benext its banks muddied by the lapping waves.

Around the windward tip of the island, remembering the swim I took this winter past, I carved a turn cautiously left. Not so much wind with the island on my left. A larger island to my right looked interesting. But because I hadn’t earlier made up my mind to paddle around it, as well, I took my umbrella from the foredeck bungies preparatory to sailing north. Thus, I rigidly adhered to my chosen itinerary.

Wind tugged the umbrella held by my left hand aloft, and the kayak’s bow dug in as the boat surged forward. Sailing maybe 50 yards before the umbrella inverted. This happened before, on my 25-mile day on Woods Reservoir, and I remembered to hold the inverted funnel-shape over my shoulder into the wind, which provided motive force, and bent the umbrella back into its usual configuration. I made another 30 yards or so, and the umbrella again inverted This time when I let the wind force it back into shape, a couple of its metal frame spokes snapped. I furled and stowed the broken thing. I took the paddle from the foredeck’s bungies, and made straight downwind seemingly pursued by legions of small wind waves. I experienced a surfing sensation as I raced them.

At Anderton Branch, now on my left, the wind howled from the west, and from this point on there was no more easy downwind paddling. More tedious paddling, million dollar houses, thoughts of what God has in mind for me, remembering that line from Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule, “I have enough.” Enough to be the only man on the lake moving his own boat competently with his own strength, enough to be married to Caution-Lady, to be father to Squally Boy, to have more than enough money to meet every one of our reasonable needs and most of our reasonable wants, to have found a church I can tolerate attending, to have two or three good friends, to perform work that uses my skills and abilities, work that sometimes serves to help others who are in need of help, to have robust good health and reasonable fitness at the age of 44, a cheap brick house in a mercifully forgotten neighborhood, and three nearby lakes to paddle. Some good. Certainly enough. All of it attributable only to the Almighty. Stuff I think about while paddling. Some days I manage to paddle without thinking about much of anything. Either way is fine.

Back at the top of Lost Creek Branch, I was pretty tired. Because I’m a goal-driven, obsessed freak, I still felt I had to paddle the keyhole under the causeway that crosses the top of the branch. Three local guys sat atop the concrete arch fishing. I greeted them, and politely asked whether I could pass without interfering with their fishing, and they said sure, that they’d just got there, anyway. I was too tired to paddle the entire impoundment’s shoreline, or to search for the actual flow of the Lost Creek. I just paddled in a large circle up there to satisfy my need to complete the course, then back through the concrete tunnel to the boat ramp.

No pictures today because Caution-Lady had the camera to get prints of baby photos. Paddling without feeling the need to snapshot document the journey was pleasant.

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