Paddling Owl Hollow

I ate so much yesterday evening at John’s house that my gut physically hurt. He offered to send a covered plate full of that same amazingly good food home with me, but I could not at that time regard or contemplate another morsel. And that is why I am eating a bowl full of leftover spaghetti as I ponder what to write next.

This morning I slept in until about six. I got up, made coffee, boiled water in the kettle for oatmeal, looked at email, read the news, ate breakfast, read from another novel. I pulled my synthetic water clothes from where I’d left them hanging over the shower to dry, and more importantly, to air out overnight. Most of yesterday’s lunch I’d left uneaten while on Woods, so it served as the basis of the lunch I took with me paddling today.

By Thursday I’d made up my mind to skip church and go paddling this morning. I wanted to put in at Devil’s Step boat ramp on the south shore of Tims Ford Lake, and paddle west to explore Owl Hollow, which runs almost south to north.

Driving 41-A through Estill Springs and Winchester feels like it takes forever because the geniuses who run both municipalities have limited the four-lane highway’s speed to 40 – 45 miles per hour for unreasonably long stretches. It’s a speedtrap.

The boat ramp was busy with pontoon boats, daycruisers, speedboats, and jet-skiis. I quickly unloaded Campsis Radicans, moved the car, rigged the boat, and got underway. NOAA weather report predicted eventual winds from the south, southwest at five miles per hour, so I hoped I’d have a gentle breeze at my back on the return leg.

First, I paddled over to Devil’s Step campground, part of Tims Ford State Park, to have a look at the spot my wife and I camped in May of 2007. Water’s up pretty high, now. I saw a red, A-frame tent in the place we pitched our green A-frame tent. Most of the other spots were filled up with camper-trailers or motor-homes. A number of campers had pontoon boats and jet-skiis tied up near their campsites. Back past the courtesy dock at the boat ramp I paddled – last time I paddled near it, the water was low and the dock was high above it, as if on stilts. Today it was at water-level.

Around the other side of the boat ramp picnic area the shoreline cuts in and I paddled as far into it as I could. Saw what looked like a broken beehive cairn, maybe housed a spring spigot a hundred years ago. I continued on my way, and my journey was uneventful. I observed hundreds of small fish with bluish tails silhouetted under the water against shallow rock shelves. I stopped to stretch, and to don my sprayskirt. I saw a box turtle swimming away from my kayak. I enjoyed paddling the waters confused by powerboat wakes.

At Owl Hollow, two or three speedboats towed their tethered skiers. I paddled to the top of the branch where there were no other boats, and paddled further, up the creek I’d guess is called Owl Hollow Creek, but is not identified on my map.

Insects buzzed. The creek looked impassible. I found a narrow space between a fallen log and a bank overhung with a thorny vine’s branches. I made it through and paddled further, passing under a log fallen across the creek from bank to bank. about a 50 feet past the log bridge, another fallen tree completely blocked all passage, and the creek was too narrow for turning. I backed my kayak out, remembering to lay flat forward face to foredeck as I had on the way in.

I found the narrow space more difficult to negotiate on my way out. As I was managing the thing, I saw something that looked like a big, black tractor pedal. It looked like it had a length of black cable attached to it, and it was about six inches from my kayak’s waist, up against the bank. I prodded it with my paddle and it scooted forward. A snapping turtle, with a tail like a ray or a skate. I took its picture, camera battery about dead, and got quickly past the tiny Gamera spawn.

Finally, I found a place to eat part of my lunch, in my kayak, watching as a family group tried to teach one of their children to water-ski. I never eat all of the food I bring paddling at one sitting. It’s better, I think, to have something in reserve if delayed or without energy toward the end of a trip. Usually, I wind up not eating part of the lunch, and take it home.

I’ve got a bag of unsalted peanuts with salted almonds on the kitchen counter now. What I did eat was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with four generic Fig Newton cookie bars. I found the jelly in the cabinet yesterday beside the peanut butter. Apple Cinnamon Something. My wife often buys a variety of food items without mentioning them to me, and from time to time, I find them.

Not much else to say. It was hot today, but not hot as hell. I used my sprayskirt because the Greenlandish paddle I habitually use has no drip rings, and because I thought that if some drunk in a speedboat gets too close to me, I have a better chance of righting the boat if I don’t ship much water. An older couple watched me paddle up to the boat ramp. The man was interested in the folding kayak, and we talked about the boat for awhile.

Then I secured the kayak to the car’s roof racks and drove home.