Note that all images and captions are aligned center in editing mode.
Last Saturday I paddled the Barren Fork/Collins River from Smooth Rapids at McMinnville to the former VFW lodge just outside McMinnville. I got to Smooth Rapids a little after 11:00, dropped off my kayak and gear, then the guy who runs the place met me at the VFW parking lot where I left the Volvo. He said they had some scheduling conflicts for shuttling that day.
The VFW lodge is now owned by somebody trying to run a barbecue restaurant. It didn’t look “Open” on Saturday but there were a few people around back who said they were preparing for a charity auction that night. I spoke with them because I needed change for a 20 in order pay the honor-system parking fee of five dollars.
I paddled Saturday without the rudder, leaving the pedal assembly in place but clipping in the foot-plate supplied by Long Haul. The foot plate ‘covers’ the rudder pedals. The bow gunwale halves come with a strap and clip for it pre-installed on either side. The top clip should be hung from the bow deckbar between ribs 2 and 3 during assembly. I didn’t but was able to attach it without much trouble when I deflated the sponsons some to remove the spraydeck. When I’d got underway, I found I hadn’t tightened both sides the same. You can see some slack left side in the picture, above.
By mistake I grabbed a 220 cm paddle from the paddle-bin instead of the 225 I’d planned to use. Turned out 220 cm is plenty long enough for the Long Haul Mark I. Without the spraydeck, the kayak’s gothic arch cockpit is easy to get into and out of.
Last Saturday was warmer than the previous Saturday, so I wore shorts, quick-dry undergarments and a short-sleeved shirt as well as Body Glove foot-shaped water shoes with drain holes. Those water shoes acted like little buckets and shipped a lot of water every time I got into the kayak. The week before, when it was about 10 degrees cooler, I’d worn splash pants with a pair of Chota Mukluk Light shoes, kept the spraydeck in place, and the kayak stayed very dry inside.
If you float the entire route I paddled, it’s supposed to take about four hours. I completed the section of river in about two. I paddled most of the way and felt disappointed it hadn’t taken longer. On the other hand, I wasn’t really enjoying the experience – no fault of the river or the kayak.
The temperature was warm and the skies mostly overcast, but without rain or even mist until the drive home. The river water was pretty cold and I wasn’t dressed suitably for immersion. The kayak’s Comfort Seat stayed inflated this time and was pretty comfortable. I’m undecided whether to move it forward. May leave it where it is for a while.
My heart wasn’t really in it last weekend – I was feeling glum about the recent national election. I’m not feeling excited about it today, but I remain hopeful that recounts, independent IT data scourers and the courts will result in a Trump win.
But I say that in order to explain in part why my experience on the water last Saturday, while not crap, wasn’t a lot of fun for me and I found myself just thinking about getting to the take-out and heading back to the house.
Without the rudder, I found I had to make a lot of corrective strokes to keep the kayak pointed in the direction I was looking. It tended to driftcock or weathercock or leecock or whatever the right term is.
I leaned modestly to put the kayak on its side a bit to turn more quickly. Stability for this didn’t seem too worrisome. Feeling connected to the kayak for me was a problem relative to leaning, though. In a couple of places where the river’s elevation dropped and turned, the Mark I proved maneuverable enough to pretty easily left then right.
Although it’s natural to hook my knees up under the curled tops of the middle cockpit rib, No. 4. They’re not as good as carlings, but they’re okay. I need to better adjust the foot brace, and I do plan to move the rudder pedal assembly as close to Rib No. 3 as possible when I next assemble the boat.
The water was running high enough I never had to get out of the kayak to pull it through shallow water over rocks. At one point the hull scraped a rock. Later, back at the house, I noticed part of a keelstrip’s black outer coating had scraped off. The hullskin’s previous owner had applied a lot of Aqua Seal. It’s started peeling off all over the hull and looks terrible but I don’t think that’s much of a problem.
During my brief trip downriver, I saw several great blue herons. I saw one bird that looked like a cross between a blue jay and a woodpecker. I saw two fat groundhogs shuffling fast along the shoreline. I saw a fish surface quickly. I don’t recall whether I saw any turtles.
I saw a weathered wooden pallet about halfway up in some tree branches near where the Collins River flows into the Barren Fork. Snapped a picture of that.
At one or two points during my float, I wasn’t able to hear any man-made sounds. I let my ears find their focus listening to a small waterfall on my right. Wind sounds in the many trees’ dry leaves also accompanied my paddle’s rhythmic splash.
At the takeout I had a hard time getting my kayak on the Volvo’s roof-racks on the steepish-for-that-purpose concrete boat ramp. About halfway up the ramp is a flat spot for turn-off, but I thought it imprudent to drag the kayak that far. A fellow paddler who arrived a little after I did helped me get the boat on the racks.
When I set out, I thought I would stop on the way home for a cheeseburger. I’d been wanting one of those Burger King Impossible Whoppers. I like them because I don’t feel heavy and polluted like I do after eating an ordinary fast food cheeseburger. But I didn’t stop. I’d had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Larabar about a half hour after getting on the river. That was enough until supper. I have some work to do figuring out my caloric needs.