From Smooth Rapids to VFW Lodge, McMinnville – Folbot Aleut

With the 2003 Anniversary Edition Folbot  Aleut I bought in late June, I drove to McMinnville again to float the Barren Fork River from Smooth Rapids to the VFW lodge.  My son and I paddled that length of river  in our Grumman canoe.  Longer ago than that, after a rainy week, I’d taken the Aleut to Smooth Rapids only to be advised against putting in there by the guy in charge that day d/t debris, etc.

In late September, I finally got back to Smooth Rapids with the Aleut, but by then we’d had about no appreciable rain on the Upper Cumberland Plateau for about two weeks, and I had some concerns about low water level.  Still, hypalon’s supposed to be a tough material for hullskins, and I numerous times dragged a 75# wood-framed solo kayak with PVC hull over rocks and fallen trees and heaven knows what crud may choke a laughably small river’s channel.  Without mishap.

During my late September paddle/float down the Barren Form & Collins rivers, I had reason to regret leaving a handy painter in the car.  Two or three times I my kayak hung on rocks and one time I just got out and pulled the Aleut, wagon-like, behind me.  I started writing this post about a month ago, but I’d already prepped the snapshots, so here they are:

Bow Half Float Bag

Stern Half Float Bag

Bow and stern sections, respectively, with NRS medium float bags. Inflated, they take up most of bow and stern sections under the deck.  Pretty good displacement for the 12′ Aleut, I’d guess.

Smooth Rapids Put In

That’s the Smooth Rapids restaurant, office, store up there on the hillside. Restaurant seating is available up there  on the deck.  You can drive down near the put in, then back up the hill to a parking lot out of frame to the building’s left.

Aleut Seatback

That’s how I got the Folbot’s seatback to stay in place. I’ve got the seatback’s tension pretty high and lean forward when paddling.  Sort of like a backband, but not quite.  Just making due with what I’ve got.

Aleut & Klepper Paddle

That’s the first kayak paddle I ever bought – probably close to my own age, it’s about 240 cm in length and is a Klepper paddle.  I tried it out on this river float trip and found it far superior for the purpose than my Eric Renshaw Greenland style paddle that’s a lot shorter.  Also, the Klepper paddle’s got metal riveted to the blades’ edges which proved helpful this day.  I think in future this is the paddle I’ll be using with the Aleut at least until I get a longer Greenland paddle.  I think I mentioned in a previous post about smashing fingernails against the Aleut’s deckline D-rings using the shorter paddle; not a problem with the Klepper paddle.

Barren R Steep Rocky

Meadowy Grove

Future Fossil Bed

Confluence Construction

Construction Site Runoff

Too Shallow Need Painter

Barren R Curve

I wish I’d had time to get out and paddle a Franklin County slough, today, but instead dropped off the Jamis for some repairs and the Sprite frame for headset.  Stopped by a gun store and range where I spoke with a fellow I haven’t seen in several years, entered a drawing for a “tactical” shotgun.  If I win it, I’ll review it here.

 

 

Advertisements

Barren Fork River Float, McMinnville, Tenn.

Collins River Vista

Last Sunday, my son and I skipped church and floated the Barren Fork River through McMinnville in Warren County.  We put in at Smooth Rapids (who shuttled us back for about $11.00) and took out at a concrete ramp in the VFW parking lot – a downstream journey of about six miles.  Another father and son team paddled with us; the kids threw rocks in the water, talked, went for a swim, shared snacks.  After we got back to the outfitters and put the canoe back on the Cross Country, we had a pretty good lunch at the restaurant the outfitter operates overlooking the riverside launch point.  Here are some pictures – I’ll add a few more later as I noticed none of those I’ve posted below are particularly good representations of the river as seen while paddling downstream.

Canoeists

Kayak Fishers

Kayak Fisher

We saw at least three guys paddling sit-on-top purpose designed fishing kayaks not too far downstream from Smooth Rapids put in, and tried to keep our noise to a minimum until we got past.  Much later on, we saw three or four guys in what looked like an Oregon drift-boat (only with an outboard motor) – they were also fishing.

Turtles

We saw numerous turtles along our route sunning themselves on logs.

Rocky Undercut

Some rocky cliff faces with undercuts, as above, in many places to our left as we paddled downstream.

Water Grass

A lot of this kind of water grass we saw during the entirety of our trip downstream.

Two Canoes

Got out of the canoes here so the kids could swim and throw rocks into the water. It was here that we picked up a number of rocks, and piled them in the boats so the boys could throw them when we continued.  Easy fun, and I was happy to note they didn’t throw them at each other.

Collins R Meets Barren Fork

Here’s where the Collins River meets the Barren Fork River.  On the map, the stream’s marked Collins River past this point.

Nearing VFW

This point is not too far from the VFW parking lot take out.

Aleut on the Elk River

Did I mention the Folbot Aleut is slow compared to the kayaks I’ve been used to?  It is.  Back when I was paddling every available free day I had, was used to traveling fast and a lot farther.  This weekend, I’d planned to paddle the river that runs alongside McMinnville, Tennessee, putting in at Smooth Rapids and having them shuttle me back from the VFW lodge – only about 8 miles and maybe four hours, but downstream so the Aleut’s speed limitations wouldn’t bug me as much.

NOAA indicated only 30% of thunderstorms which meant, to me, 70% chance of no thunderstorms.  Weather radar imagery was clear.  I attached the Folbot to my car’s top, put my overpreparedness gear in a large bag and that bag in the car and set out.  You’ll notice what I’d failed to do before driving 30-odd miles – didn’t call the outfitter to make sure they were operating.

The fellow running the place asked, “Are you sure?”

“Why would I need to be sure about this?”

“The river’s at flood stage – we’ve had storms all week.”

“Yeah, the weather has been crap.”

“Whenever we have storms here, we get trees falling across the river.”  He went on to mention that two or three people had died during the past couple of months in the area – a kayaker on that stretch of river a couple of weeks ago when his boat capsized caught in a strainer and he panicked, and two swimmers drowned at Rock Island.  He said he had no way to tell whether the water was passable.  Said the water was about three feet above normal level.

“Would you do it?”

“No,” he said, “and I’ve (paddled those eight miles) a hundred times.”

So, I left and went in search of some other water to paddle.  On the way back to I-24, I looked for an access point to Womack Lake, but finding none, I decided to put in at Prairie Plains Road Bridge, on the Elk River in maybe Coffee County, and drove out there.

This time, I’d remembered to take my Magellan Cyclo 505 to measure progress in addition to what my wife considers my usual over-prparedness.  It might have been about 11:00 a.m. when I arrived at the put-in.  No one else was there, and during my entire paddle upstream and most of my paddle downstream past where I’d launched, I saw no one else on the water.

Magellan Sat Route Photo

The furthest point on this image shows where I found a place to eat lunch. The 505 unit shared a PFD pocket with my camera and it’s touchscreen apparently got bumped and it shut itself off.  I didn’t get much past this point after eating.  A ways into my paddle back downstream I again looked at the unit and recorded part of the downstream paddle.

I did see about 30 turtles sunning themselves on logs, one large snake, also sunning on a log, and three otters swimming fast downstream while I ate my lunch.  A few great blue herons, numerous other birds I couldn’t identify, and a flock of swallows swarming around the bridge as I came back downstream.

A few pictures with brief descriptions from start to finish:

Elk R 7-8-17

Not far upstream from Prairie Plains Road Bridge.  It turned out not to be as jammed up with broken trees as it looks here.

Elk River Snake

So, as I was paddling by I saw what looked like an iguana sunning itself on a log.  When I got closer, I saw it was instead a snake curled up, sunning itself on a log.  I snapped the picture when I got a little further away using zoom.  During the rest of my time on and around the water I remained mindful of the possibility of snakes on over-hanging tree limbs and nearby logs.

Winged Visitor

This creature landed where you see it and rode with me for about a mile upstream.

Elk R Local Color

My photographic skills and camera failed to capture the bright beauty of these occasional pink flowers I saw from time to time on either bank of the Elk.

Campsis Radicans

Campsis radicans growing on a tree overhead.  Also the name of my old Pouch E68 kayak.

Some Water...

The camera got wet; I guess I paddled more vigorously than usual, yesterday.

Lunch Stop

Here’s where I backed in and ate my lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwich and one of those wafer-cookie bicyclist snacks – before paddling out and turning left. I made maybe two-tenths of a mile more upstream before I turned back.  I’d wasted half the day driving to McMinnville and then trying to find access to that small lake.  And the current was stronger the farther upstream I paddled.

Flooded Creek

On the way back downstream, on my right, I explored a flooded creek that’s normally impassible. I got this far and photographed the flooded vista beyond.

Flooded Creek Water Plants

Here’re some of the plants growing under the water on that flooded creek.

The Way Out

And here’s the way back out to the Elk.

Floating Downstream

As someone has noted on a FoldingKayaks.org forum thread, the Folbot Aleut is stable enough you can sit back put your legs up outside the cockpit. Floating back downstream was lot less trouble than paddling upstream.  I ate another pbj sandwich and relaxed a bit.

Prairie Plains Rd. Bridge

There’s the bridge beyond which is the dirt ramp where I launched a couple of hours previously.  I paddled down farther, toward some of the islands at the top of Woods Reservoir, got repeatedly buzzed by a wasp, whack the snot out of the insect with my paddle, turned around and headed back to the car.

Red Car Blue Boat

And there’s the car with the kayak on top.

Folbot Aleut First Report

Aleut View Forward

Today, I paddled my new 2003 Anniversary Edition Folbot Aleut for the first time.  Most of you know this already, but the Aleut is Folbot’s 12′ single kayak.  Here’s a link to information on the Folbot line-up of folding kayaks that I think was current when the company went out of business last year (2016).  Weighing about 40#, it’s easy to put on the car’s roof racks.  I used a couple of cheap foam blocks to protect the hull.  The boat’s aluminum frame, probably aluminum in general, ‘feels’ more fragile to me than my previous folders’ wooden frames.  The Aleut’s gothic arch cockpit is huge – it seems even bigger from the inside.  I used a bungie cord to keep the seatback in place.  I remember reading on the old Folbot Forum that the style seat my kayak’s got consistently annoyed users by falling forward when they entered the cockpit.

Aleut Lakeside

The Aleut has zero rocker, is beamy, has a lot of primary stability but I was unsure of its secondary stability so I edged to turn with caution.  It was a little breezy today and I found the kayak didn’t turn into the wind much; no rudder today nor was one needed.  The kayak seems sturdy, stable, not bothered by boat-wake or small wind-waves.

Compared to Campsis Radicans, my old Pouch E68, the Folbot Aleut is pretty slow.  Surely no more than six miles did I paddle this afternoon, but I had no real plan except to put the boat in the water and paddle it around a bit.  It took me a mile or two to remember how and begin to paddle efficiently.   The kayak’s D-rings for perimeter line are placed where I carelessly and repeatedly whacked them with the paddle.  Altering habitual form to avoid that will take at least conscious effort and another excursion to effect.  My form today was sufficiently poor that one of my elbows hurts.

Aleut Beached

As you can see from the pictures, I overprepared – spare paddle, a couple of dry-bags with stuff I might need, a second lunch in case I got hungry, a bilge pump, a bilge sponge, about a gallon of drinking water in a Viet-Nam era military collapsible canteen.

I rode my ’07 Jamis Supernova this morning and again this evening after supper.  Being active outside feels good.

Aleut & Supernova

Old Canoe & New Paddler

Last Sunday afternoon I took my son for his first time on the water in our canoe since he was about two years old.  We paddled about an hour and stopped a couple of times so he could jump in the water.  Here’re three photos:

Canoe Excursion 1

Moorings

MTCanoe

Last week, I reaffixed the peeling edges of three of the Aleut’s keelstrips. This weekend, I’m planning to paddle it for the first time.  Here it is on my Volvo wagon’s crossbars.  I tried to work out how far apart to space them. Got a couple of cheap foam blocks to serve as hull or deck cradles.  Dunno yet whether to cartop it hull-down or deck-up.  Regarding the deck, I stupidly applied the wrong 303 product to it last week – the UV protectant that’s intended for  hull-type material.  It doesn’t seem to have harmed the fabric in any easily discernible way.  I’ll get some Fabric Guard soon, though.

Folbot on Volvo

For those of you who actually know me, my former telephone number ending in 6642 is no longer active. The same area code and prefix with last four digits 1389 is active.  Also, with that phone, I can actually send and receive text messages, although my texting skillset is below average.

 

 

Thinking About an Expedition

I’ve been thinking about a Tennessee expedition for at least two, three years, now.  Two of them come readily to mind, although I’m still not clear on whether or what degree of support is needed.  Not too far away from here are the fabled sources of both the Elk and Duck rivers.  Neither river is famous for its commercial value, except in a couple of locations to canoe-float outfitters.  Both have been dammed in one or two places to create lakes used for fishing and other recreational purposes.  The Duck River is contained entirely within the State of Tennessee; the Elk’s course takes it over the state’s southern border and down into Alabama.

The feasibility of hiking, pedaling, and canoeing or kayaking the entire length of the Duck is at present an unknown.  There’s a guy in the UK who’s done something like that – his website takes a while to load, but is pretty cool and worth seeing/reading.  Slingshot Bikes of Michigan produces a foldable, full-size mountain bike that could be stowed aboard a canoe for those parts of the journey that could be completed by canoe.  It’s conceivable that a foldable, stowable trailer could allow the canoe and gear to be pulled with the bicycle overland, or trailered canoe with bike stowed could be pulled by hand where necessary.

Slingshot's folding, full-size mountain or all-terrain type bike

Slingshot’s folding, full-size mountain or all-terrain type bike

I did enter a competition to win the use of a Slingshot bicycle for a period of months, but I and others who posted more serious-minded entries lost out to a Canadian who called himself von Bubblegum and later changed his Facebook surname to Slingshot.  That was the “other venue” I mentioned in my post entitled “Three Years On Two Wheels.”  Ah, well, that’s how it goes.  A company’s got to make marketing decisions it hopes will maximize exposure and increase sales.  I wish the Canadian guy well.  Canada is probably a great market for these bikes, not all of which are foldables.

A Short Trip Up the Elk River

Grumman-Bow

I’d planned to bring our canoe to Tennessee after our summer trip to the farm, but reckoned the 18’ aluminum Grumman behemoth would not fit on the wagon’s roof racks with my bike on the hitch-rack at the tailgate.  The end of the boat would conk the bike resulting in a loss of the bike’s ride-ability and aesthetics.  So, I figured I’d drive up and get the canoe on a quick weekend trip.  But in July, when my wife’s parents came to visit for a week, they brought the Grumman with them.

A couple of weeks later, my friend, Adrian, and I took the canoe for a short paddle up the Elk River from Prairie Plains bridge to the point where the river became too shallow to paddle it upstream any further.   It’d been well over a year since I’d gone paddling, and I’m not sure Adrian had ever paddled a canoe.  We took lunches, bug spray, and water with us, setting off on a Saturday morning in August.

Cyclemeter's trip webpage screengrab

Cyclemeter’s trip webpage screengrab

We saw no one else on the river, but did hear gunfire from a nearby shooting club.  Paddling a canoe is more tiring than paddling a kayak, but they’re different types of boats for different purposes.  We took a sixty year-old paddle, a fairly new lightweight paddle of reasonable quality, and a really long, double-bladed Klepper paddle.  We stopped for lunch at a riverside pavilion at the edge of a farmer’s beanfield, then paddled a little farther upstream before heading back.

Cartopped-GrummanCanoe-Put-In

Near-LaunchAdrian-by-Canoe

Canoe-DocksideLunch-StopTractor-Seats-Table

BuckeyeRiverside-Beanfield

Rocky-Bank