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.

Elk River Upstream: Dabbs Ford Bridge to Rutledge (not Patterson) Ford Bridge

NOTE:  If you are offended by religious reflection, quit reading after you get the word “pretty” a few paragraphs down.  I offer no apology.  Not any thing that I can think of to write about is all about one thing and nothing else.  I’ve also included a little political commentary.  It would be a mistake to think of this space as primarily a paddling blog.

(4/25/11) Also, this is the second of these “NOTEs” in as many blog posts, which strikes me as annoying. 

Finally, after looking at a satellite image of Patterson Ford Bridge, I realized it could not have been the bridge up to which I paddled on Friday because the bridge at Patterson Ford is really two bridges for four-lanes of traffic, and the bridge I recall seeing was only a narrow concrete two-lane.  A closer look at Tennessee Landforms showed me a couple of things:  a) I paddled as far as Rutledge Falls Ford Bridge, only about 4.5 miles upstream from my put-in; b) I never did make it as far as Bluebell Island and so my two previous blog posts about paddling this section of the Elk River above Woods Reservoir contain mistakes of fact that I’ll have to get around to correcting.  Until I can get around to making those corrections (lack of time), this extended editorial note will have to do. 

Rutledge Ford Bridge

I’ll try to get a topo-map image of the bridge at Rutledge Ford (satellite image, instead, above).  In the mean time disregard the image of Patterson Ford Bridge below. 

I hadn’t paddled since November 2010 when a friend and I put in at Normandy Lake.  This year my free time has been occupied in parenting, yardwork, and school work.  I’ve spent weekends plug-aerating, liming, fertilizing, hoeing, seeding, mowing, as well as playing outside with my son.  I have been strength training again, mostly pushups, chin-ups, pull-ups, dips using an Iron Gym I got  for Christmas, as well as dumbbells for biceps (shoulder’s still a bit weak for overhead shoulder and triceps work), and medicine ball for abs.  Also a lot of walking.

Thursday evening I sorted out my paddling gear and got it ready for Friday morning.  I wasn’t able to find my blue hat or my small yellow drybag with spare car-key, but everything else I got ready.  I even had a lunch handy because Thursday afternoon I’d had lunch with a friend from work, so I was able to repurpose my sandwich and generic fig-newton cookies.  Friday morning I got up early and dressed for paddling, sprayed down with Deep Woods Off, loaded the gear bag in the trunk, Campsis Radicans on Thursday’s roof, and forgetting my camera and wallet, took off.  My put in was the bridge where Prairie Plains Road crosses the Elk River above or upstream the confusing maze of islands that end of Woods Reservoir – Dabbs Ford Bridge, according to the topo map easily accessed at the Tennessee Landforms website (name not shown below, but near top-left of that image).

Starting Point

The road is roughly paved leading down to the put-in, but I was able to keep the 850 from bottoming-out carefully avoiding some ruts and potholes.  A gold 1990s model Nissan Sentra sedan was already parked below, but no other vehicles.  I nodded and waved at the thin-faced man who was smoking a cigarette behind the car’s wheel, pulled up to the packed-dirt ramp and unloaded boat and gear.  As I backed my car out of the way and parked it, the man in the Sentra drove off.  I figured he’d been up to no good.

It took me a couple of minutes to get the rudder rigged because I’d forgotten how I’d left things back in November.  Inflated bow and stern floatation, put my keys and cell-phone in my larger emergency drybag (stuff in there like towel, light anorak, extra gatorade-type drinks, etc.) in the stern, sealed the stern, arranged junk on the decks making the boat look like something paddled by a hobo, and got into the water.  Cold, surprisingly cold with a perceptible current right away there below the bridge.  Usually don’t encounter a current until much further upstream.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately, but I don’t think we get snow melt – our so-called mountains around here are hardly Alpine. 

I was happy about the current but annoyed because I’d forgotten my camera.  The current made me happy because I knew it would make for a good workout, and I thought with that much water flowing, the water level would be higher and I might get farther upstream without having having to get out and tow the kayak through shallows.  A couple of years ago, I paddled this stretch and had to drag the kayak over deadfallen trees blocking the river.  I had no real idea what to expect this time.

While paddling, I thought about fitness, and that one of the best reasons for maintaining fitness is so that I can do things few other people do and have experiences few other people have.  I thought about the President of the United States of America and that he is incapable of doing the things that I can do, although I could probably manage the work of presiding over this nation’s executive branch tolerably well.  I thought about that film, Chariots of Fire, and thought that my Creator may be indifferent to my aquatic activities.  But as I had that thought I heard the wind moving through a hundred treetops like the voice of God declaring that not even the thought of a man on a boat in a largely unknown river in Middle Tennessee goes unnoticed by him even though he doubtless has other interests.

As it happened, the river was clear as far as I was able to paddle.  The current was constant and swift enough in places that I was happy I’d read books by canoe guys explaining hydraulics (I think is the word) and why it’s better to paddle upstream in zig-zag patter and how to use eddies to make better progress and to rest.  A lot of people think of longer kayaks with no rocker as useless for paddling rivers, but I think they are mistaken.  My Pouch E-68 is 16.5’ in length and did just fine.  I wouldn’t have made much progress at all in a stubby rec-boat or the average, short wooden-shoe-looking kayak designed for river or creek paddling.  In places the current was not too strong at all, and in others I had great difficulty making headway.  By the time I reached Patterson Ford Bridge, I was tired.  The river there was narrow and water moving very quickly downstream had a gnarled, ropey-looking uneven surface.  Possibly what is meant by ‘swiftwater.’

Turnaround

I wished I’d had a laundry marking pen or a can of spray-paint to make my mark upon one of the generally unseen concrete pylons that support the bridge as a means of proving that I’d reached that point in my journey.  This because I’d forgotten the camera.  I settled instead for picking a sprig of purplish wildflowers growing on a muddy bank near where I’d dragged Campsis Radicans out of the water.  They were a bit wilted by the time I gave them to my wife, but still pretty.

Paddling back downstream was easy until God sent pollen from those hundred trees and a thousand others to humble me.  Still, I was grateful for a hyperactive immune system and the fact that germs, pollen, and sundry bits of crud don’t stand a chance against the biology with which God endowed me.  Clearly, I have failed to learn the lessons of humility.  Paddling a wood-framed kayak with wooden paddle at cross-ways is the most Christlike I will ever be, but in my pride and the pleasure I took and generally take in the roughly cruciform activity, I fall far short in Good Friday remembrance. 

Michael Willis on Facebook today (Saturday) wrote that today we commemorate probably the most frightening and disorienting day in history – the day after the Christ suffered unparalleled humiliation and total failure achieve this-worldly aim of restoring the nation of Israel to rule by YHWH through judges and to change the governance of the inhabited world by instituting the governance of God in Israel and through Israel the nations.  Sunday will be here before you know it; the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ changed the world and instituted the governance of God in ways that continue to defy the expectations of his elect.

Sprig

Another Duck River Expedition Above Normandy Lake

Lunch Stop

This is the place I stopped for lunch upstream the first bridge above the Fire Lake boat ramp. At 9:37 am, I was already hungry.

Pionier 450 s Bow

Already out of the boat, it occurred to me this was a convenient place to take some photos of the Pionier on the water. I had just walked the boat up past that branch across the stream in the background.

Pionier-450s-Front-Left

Front left three-quarter view Pionier 450 S

Pionier-450s-Right-Rear

Pionier 450 S right rear three quarter view

Pionier-450s-Stern

Pionier 450 S seen from astern

Pionier-450s-Logo

Photo of the Pionier's back deck with logo. After I took this picture, I pushed the boat in to deeper water and practiced cowboy re-entry. Worked okay, but deck rigging would be nice for holding the paddle.

Pool-Above-Cat-Creek

Here's what that pool looked like where I took the boat pictures. At far right frame you can see where I walked the boat up through and over that fallen wood.

Pool-Above-Cat-Creek

Paddling up past that first pool. A lot of fish up there visible under the clear green water. They didn't take much notice of me in the kayak. My guess is, the area's not been fished much.

Got-About-This-Far

Here I'm standing upstream that discarded tire and looking back. This is as far as I got because the water for the next stretch was only about ankle deep. I didn't see much point in dragging the kayak a quarter mile over slimy rocky bottom. Walking the boat back down to where I could again paddle, I slipped and fell in a couple of times.

Paddling-Back-1

Paddling back to the pool pictured earlier.

Paddling-Back-2

Here I am paddling back just below that pool where I took all those boat pictures. At left is the gravely bank holding the pool in. Ahead is the fallen tree I had to paddle under on my way upstream. The only passage is at far right.

Under-This

I'd never before seen that flaky-looking bark on the fallen tree. A little farther right was enough space to paddle under and enough water to paddle over the fallen tree's trunk and branches.

Duck-River-Stairs-1

This stretch I referred to in 2008 as Duck River Stairs. I was not able to paddle up this far, and photographed the rock upon which I sat to eat my lunch on that drizzly June day.

Pushing-Water

It was easy to see at the time, but it doesn't show up well here - I was trying to photograph what looked like a pile of water I was pushing downstream ahead of me.

Feathers

At this point, too far upstream and too shallow for any bassboaters or jet-skiers, the still water was marked with a lot of white feathers.

Second-Lunch-Stop

I stopped here at an isthmus not far from the boat ramp in mid-afternoon because I badly needed to stretch my back. Here's where I ate what was left of my lunch - trail mix, a few pretzl sticks, and drank some water and way-past-expiration-date Gatorade. This could have been a cool photo, but I spoiled it by leaving my hat on the foredeck.

Back in June of 2008, on a drizzly day, I put in at Fire Lake boat ramp on Normandy Lake and paddled as far upstream the Duck as I could get.  I made it to point where Cat Creek joins the Duck, but beyond that, the river extended uphill in a sort of shallow spillway like a set of broad steps curving away to my right.  I dragged Campsis Radicans, my Pouch E68, up to a flat rock large enough to serve as bench and lunch table.  That post is here.

In this post, I am experimenting with use of a table to organize my photos.  Seems to be working okay.

On Sunday 8/8/10, I skipped worship service and went paddling.  A hot day with a heat index of about a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, I paddled about 14 miles in Ga-Gong or Gongol (my son’s word for “water”) my 1962 Pionier 450-S.  Great boat.  However, its aging hullskin is not as abrasion resistant as it perhaps once was.  The keelstrip I affixed has helped some, but I’m going to have to refrain from taking this boat on any more shallow, rocky expeditions.

That’s it for today.

Isthmus-Camp

Also at the isthmus was this day camp. Instead of being inhabited by sireens, it was the work of a couple of fishermen who reminded me slightly of a pair of assassins from an old James Bond film, but were pleasant enough to talk to.

Father’s Day

Although I’ve got a lot to say, I haven’t got very much time to get it written, so I’ll give you the short version and start with some photos from yesterday on Woods Reservoir where I put in at Morris Ferry boat ramp.

Up early yesterday morning for a walk then back home to finish assembling Campsis Radicans, my Pouch E68 folding kayak.  After that was done, Seventy-Six was ready to play outside for a while, and he wanted to blow soap-bubbles in the boat’s cockpit.  I held an old golf-umbrella to keep the already hot morning sun off his head.  He thought that was funny.

I loaded the gear and boat in to and on top the car so I could leave after worship service and head to the lake.  Until Caution-Lady asked me where I planned to paddle, I hadn’t made up my mind.  When she asked, I said, “Morris Ferry Landing.”  I thought I would paddle out and see whether any of the water-lilies were still in bloom (turns out I was way too late for the lilies).  I paddled maybe eight miles.  Then back home and unpacked the car and put the boats in the garage.

After that, I played in the too-small wading pond with Seventy-Six while Caution-Lady prepared supper.  Because we got really dirty, and I already stank from sweating all day in synthetic-but-quick-drying paddling togs, we both had to bathe before the evening meal.  Then a terrific supper and an evening at home with my family.  What could be better?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.

Here are some photos:

Cold Morning Sans Camera

15 degrees Fahrenheit when I checked the weather online yesterday morning. Frost on the red boat’s deck. I debated whether to skip church, and paddle today, instead, but ultimately solved the problem by getting a later start. By the time I got to the put in at Hurricane Creek Branch on Tims Ford Lake, the temperature’d risen to about 31.5 degrees by the 850’s in-dash digital thermometer. Only one other vehicle at the boat ramp. Maybe on the water by 10:00 am. NOAA predicted a gentle breeze from the south at 5 mph, but I felt no wind as I pulled on my Bombergear Radiator drysuit for the first time since March or April. A couple of months ago, I finally sent it off to the good folks at Amigo’s for professional repair, although that Kirch’s Kwik Patch was still holding up pretty well.

Water didn’t seem too cold as I waded to get into my boat. No camera because the beloved Caution-Lady required it last week to photograph a classroom project, and she’d left the Pentax at school. Paddled in a southerly direction with significant left-shoulder pain, and adjusted the stroke as I went to minimize same. I’d forgotten the inflatable blue Klepper seatback I normally use as lumbar support, so had to take responsibility for keeping my own spine straight for proper torso-rotation. I did okay with that, too. Not much back pain by the end of the day. Had some left leg numbness and pain that resolved with position changes and exaggerated leg use while underway.

I turned left into Turkey Creek Branch, realizing as I did so that the features I was expecting to find there are located in the vicinity of Lost Creek Branch. I paddled as far back into Turkey Creek Branch as the winter pool water level permitted. I came to a place where the water was so clear and lightly blue-tinted it appeared much shallower than it really was. The kayak’s keel passed over four or five tires, miscellaneous junk, fishing lures, hundreds of little two-inch fish swimming together in swirling patterns like those made by water-weeds in current, until I came to place where the sandy soft bottom barred further progress. Ahead and to my right I could hear the stream’s gurgling as it flowed around and over dry sticks of the water plants that flourish in the summer months when the water’s level is higher, and the water itself warmer.

On my way back out toward Hurrican Creek Branch, I came to a backwater on my left in which I saw more of the straw-colored plant stalks like a field of dry grass. On these Tennessee lakes I have frequently seen in the warmer months something like soap-foam that gets pushed by the wind up against anything relatively stationary in the water, or along the shoreline. Looked like a lot of foam up against those water twigs. I paddled in for a closer look at the gray hulk of a wrecked speedboat. I’d seen it before the last time I was up this branch, only at that time, the water was much lower, and I couldn’t get near it. As I approached I became aware as my bow broke through it a layer of clear, thin ice in place of the water’s usual liquid surface. It cracked, and I was able to paddle through, close to and past the wreck. Somebody’d removed the steering wheel, the outboard motor, the seats, but had left the boat’s in-dash AM radio. All covered in gray mud, I didn’t imagine the radio could be made to work again, but wondered why the fiberglass hull had been left. Maybe holed-through? Dunno. Didn’t get out to check. Water over the wide transom in the hull was completely iced over, too. Up close, what had looked like foam was ice all around where the dry sticks poked up from the water. Before paddling backwards out again, I gave the ice ahead of me sound whack with the paddle, and it reluctantly broke, but no point in going any farther that direction.

I paddled on out to the main branch. A little farther down on my left is a boat ramp I’ve never been able to find from the road, and a little beyond that I stopped and ate all of my lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten everything in my lunch bag at one sitting while paddling. I have always left something over for the paddle back. I guess I was thinking I could get something at Holiday Landing restaurant if I needed it.

Around Awalt Bridge I paddled, then back into the branch where Holiday Landing is located. Some very large, rectangular houseboats in there. Bigger than buses they appeared from the cockpit of my kayak. The restaurant was closed, all its outside seating stacked up on tables. I paddled around the floating docks, looking at the boats in their slips, then back out again to the main channel.

By this time I was tired, and stopped to empty a bottle of something called Vitamin Water (I got a case of the stuff pretty cheaply back in the Spring, and it tastes like melted popsicles), took a swig of Gatorade, and paddled ploddingly back to the boat ramp. Maybe the slope of the ramp, but I had a hard time lifting the boat up to get it on the racks. I’ve worked out a sort of time-and-motion routine to efficiently lash secure the boat on the racks, then to release the straps and tie-downs to get it off the racks again.

Using the distance tool at Dunigan’s Tennessee Landforms site later on, I found that I’d only made about 12.5 miles, roundtrip.

On the way home, I stopped at my mom’s house and observed the work the city is doing to prevent further erosion along the creek bed that bounds the backyard at her house. Very workmanlike.

Mom last week knit Seventy-Six a winter cap with ear-flaps and toggle-fastener, and yesterday she had finished his matching mittens. Funny mittens for infants have no thumbs, like socks for tiny hands.

Then home, a much-needed hot shower, and the joys of family life that far surpass (edited) those of the life aquatic.

Morris Ferry Landing Final

Morris Ferry Dock
Morris Ferry Dock

This’ll probably be my last post about Morris Ferry Landing until the United States Air Force contracts with the relative of a hack careerist retired to a lucrative consultancy to build condos on the site in order to sell same to executives of some of the aerospace and other firms doing business as contractors at Arnold Engineering and Development Center. Well, that’s speculative. If things turn out differently, I’ll report that, too, if I wind up knowing about it. Like most Americans, I want to believe that hack careerists of the sort I’ve described end their careers with demotions or shunted into positions that declare their dishonor and inadequacy to the discerning observer.

I hurried through a two sandwich lunch after church Sunday, that is, yesterday, strapped down the kayak (I’d already set it atop Thursday, the silver 850, Saturday night after loading my gear in the trunk). Changed into polypro, and drove out to Old Brick Church boat ramp. On the water by 2:30, my stupid should immediately began to hurt. The big lunch sat uneasy in my distended-feeling gut as I tried to concentrate on paddle cant, torso rotation, and legwork to reduce shoulder strain. The wind was sort of at my back as I paddled past the Island of the Birds, a trick of that wind sparing my olfactory the rookery’s smell.

Not many boats on the water Sunday afternoon. To my right I could see what looked like an inflatable city at the base’s enlisted recreational beach. I paddled left toward the causeway for a last look at Morris Ferry Landing before it enters the past tomorrow, 9/30/08.

The former vacation colony was now mostly bare hillside and waterfront. The docks remained. I some camper trailers about three lots up the hill from the water’s edge. I could hear power tools being used somewhere out of site. The rustic covered boat slips were just about completely empty. All the larger, permanent trailers were gone.

Beech Point - Morris Ferry Landing
Beech Point – Morris Ferry Landing
The site has been mostly cleared of the vintage mobile-home-and-frame vacation dachas

The site has been mostly cleared of the vintage mobile-home-and-frame vacation dachas

Rustic slips empty now

Rustic slips empty now

Red-fly Coleman dome tent

Someone had pitched a beige, red-fly Coleman dome-tent adjacent the cafe/store. No boats were tied up at the dock. Most of the travel trailers that’d been near the bathrooms were gone. The small trailer with sign advertising some small construction business was still there. Someone had the engine-covers up and appeared to be working in the bilge of the big houseboat across from the fuel dock. IV, Lynda, and Isaac Hill’s vacation cottage had been reduced to a pile of structural timber, insulation, splinters, and one very old camper trailer. IV and another man were working to complete demolition. Hardware had been moved to one side. Nowhere really to burn the debris.

IV Hill standing near the wreckage of his family's former vacation home on the bank at Woods Reservoir across the fork from Morris Ferry Dock
IV Hill standing near the wreckage of his family’s vacation home – Morris Ferry Landing, Woods Reservoir, 9/28/08

IV Hill said he wished the Air Force had had the courage to tell the residents plainly why they have chosen to close Morris Ferry Landing. “We’re all grownups,” he said, “It is their land, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t just say what they have in mind.” Tearing down the cottage has been emotional for him, he said. He remembered holidays at the site as a child, then the summers with his own wife and son. “We’ll find a way to come back,” he said, “even if we just bring our boat on a weekend.”

I paddled out and to my right, near where I photographed the red bucket tractor a couple of weeks ago. A couple of guys who looked like they were repairing something on a pontoon boat asked if I was having any luck. Not fishing, just paddling, I said. Working, not fishing, one of them replied.

I saw a tree with pods that’ve dried – gone to seed – as I paddled beside the causeway on the AEDC side of the lake.

On the way back to my put in, I met a couple of women paddling bright yellow sit on top kayaks. Audrey and Shawn, I think they said, were their names. At the boat ramp, a couple’d brought their beagle to the water. The happy yearling walked right in, then strained against the leash to get a closer look at the kayak on the grass, near my car.

Morris Ferry Dock, Woods Reservoir, Labor Day 2008

Morris Ferry Dock, Labor Day, 2008 - a last hurrah for many of the families who have had vacation homes here for 30 years

Morris Ferry Dock, Labor Day, 2008 - a final holiday weekend for many of the families who have had vacation homes here for 30 years

Sunday’s activities precluded my getting my gear and boat loaded up. And yesterday afternoon, my wife, son, in-laws, and I drove to Alabama for a barbecue at John and Linda’s house on the outskirts of Huntsville. I overate, but not like last time. I was full, fat, and tired by the time I hit the sack about nine of the clock.

I slept late this morning, was late getting boat and gear ready, and was late getting on the water at about eight o’clock. NOAA predicted winds from the northeast at 5-10 mph. The temperature was warm, and the wind calm, when I paddled away from the boat-ramp. My goals today were to have a look at Morris Ferry Dock, then paddle back to UTSI “beach” to practice sculling, braces, wet-exits, and kayak re-entries.

Small bird island several species' rookery - noisy place and stinks

Small bird island several species' rookery - noisy place and stinks

I paddled past the mysterious Island of the Birds, then across the lake to the causeway. Two aluminum canoes on the grass behind the VFW lodge waited side-by-side for someone to pull them into deep water.

Vacation homes at Morris Ferry Landing - dock's at the left

Vacation homes at Morris Ferry Landing - dock's out of the frame to the left

A woman sitting in a lawn-chair outside outside an ancient mobile home modified with equally old red-painted brick foundation and Florida room told me all of the Morris Ferry residents have been given notice that they must clear out by September 30. Her parents first, and now she and her siblings with their families share use of the house. She said, if I remember this right, it has been in their family for 37 years.

Today, she said, they were all planning to meet there to divide up furnishings and items of personal property. They will have the original trailer hauled away, and she wasn’t sure what they were going to do with it. She said the rest of the family was probably not interested, nor prepared to buy or lease a vacation home or property elsewhere. She and her husband, she said, were considering some options, but were glad their children had been able to spend their summers at the lake house.

The woman told me she’d heard three or four rumors about why the Arnold Engineering and Development Center commander did not renew the Morris Ferry Landing leaseholder’s contract. She seemed to disbelieve the reason provided by the AEDC public affairs office – that the fuel-dock, store, and other facilities were in a state of disrepair so severe that no reasonable expenditure could make them right; that the lease was originally granted when the area had no recreational boating, fishing, or camping access, and now there are several. Like her, I think the stated reason is bogus. The facilities are not state of the art, but they are functional, and although recreational access is available at Normandy and Tims Ford lakes, both relatively nearby, none will now be available at Woods Reservoir.

The lady said the homeowners had sought the advice of two lawyers, gathered 8,500 signatures on a petition protesting the site’s closure, had contacted television news and print media, had requested the base commander grant an extension on the eviction date, all to no avail. The base commander, she said, never deigned to respond in any way.

The one rumor the woman disclosed (and I would have liked to hear all of them) is that the current base commander wishes to reopen a facility on the Morris Ferry Dock site when he retires from military service in two years, and wants the site cleared off for his use at that time.

Wouldn’t surprise me if it were true, but I’d guess the guy would build condos, selling them to government aerospace contractor executives. On the other hand, he may be a genuinely decent sort who’s got a real reason for divesting a number of civilians of the vacation dachas that’ve been in their families for thirty-plus years. Based, however, on what I’ve observed character-wise (although I can think of five to seven exceptions LaterI can think of at least a dozen exceptions now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit – pity, however, that reflection was required) in so many of those I know who have been associated with AEDC, I’d have to doubt it.

Isaac paddling the Campsis Radicans, sitting far forward to reach the rudder pedals

Isaac paddling the Campsis Radicans, sitting far forward to reach the rudder pedals

Paddling on, around the cafe-store and fuel-dock, I saw a boy apparently swimming, jumping onto and back into the water from a blue sit-on-top kayak near a large white spherical buoy and a brown vacation shack. In a minute, I noticed the kid paddling the short blue Wilderness Systems I-Dunno-What model toward me, Werner paddle held upside-down and backwards. He asked about my boat, and I told him about his paddle.

IV & Beth's Morris Ferry Landing vacation house - Beth and another woman whose name I failed to retain

IV & Lynda's vacation house - Lynda & Beth adorning the stoop, Charlie barely visible at table on the porch apparently breaking his fast

The boy’s parents gave permission for him to try out the E68. “Are you sure?” his father said, “He’ll wear you out (talking about kayaks).” We swapped boats in the thigh-deep water at the bank by the family’s two other SOTs. Isaac, that’s the boy’s name, had to sit well forward in Campsis Radicans to reach the rudder pedals. He informed me that speed was necessary to the rudder’s performance, and he experimented with my Eric Renshaw paddle.

His dad, I.V., which is a play on his generational suffix, The Fourth, sat in the bow of his pontoon boat, tied up to a very old dock, and talked with me some. I.V. told me his whole name, but I’ve sadly forgotten it, not having had anything with which to take notes this morning. I do remember that the family farms substantial acreage near Chattanooga, and that IV’s wife is probably an attorney. I remember IV said his father was “an old country attorney” who had been politically involved, had campaigned hard for George Wallace. We talked about kayaks, about paddles, about a houseboat apparently abandoned and inoperable nearby.

He sounded pretty disgusted with the way AEDC is treating the Morris Ferry Dock householders. He said a former base commander tried something similar about 15 years, but that man’s arrogance was checked by a superior officer. Sadly, it seems the current commander’s arrogance will go unchecked. Woods, with the exception of two somewhat inadequate boat ramps, will in short order become a tiny AEDC Mare Nostrum, which is a loathsome shame.

Charlie paddling Campsis Radicans - Morris Ferry Dock's visible at left

Charlie paddling Campsis Radicans

IV paddling his own boat

IV paddling his own boat

I.V.’s friend, Charlie, was willing to try out Campsis Radicans. The four of us – Isaac, I.V., Charlie, and myself paddled out around a no-wake or a channel buoy, and back again. I was able to get back in my boat using the Renshaw paddle as an outrigger – for me, a noteworthy accomplishment. All in all, I think I spent about an hour visiting with them, which was the most enjoyable part of my time on the water today.

I did also enjoy paddling into the wind afterward, drifting up on some egrets (I’m pretty sure they were egrets), and photographing some of the few wildflowers now blooming along the lake’s shore.

In red bloom

In red bloom

Some wildflowers in context

Some wildflowers in context

Back at the put in (I never did make it to UTSI), I practiced some side-sculling, tried to figure out how far over I can put the kayak on either side without going over, for awhile before heading home.

A last look before paddling back under the causeway toward the put in

A last look before paddling back under the causeway toward the put in

How’s that for toned-down? Even a little proofread. Comments are welcome, but won’t appear until after I’ve hit the “Approve” button, unless you’ve posted previously. Bug or feature? Dunno.

Expedition Called on Account of Reunion…

On the phone today – I was checking up on our little seamonkey, and my wife was having lunch with my mom at Mom’s house – my wife asked whether I remembered a family reunion scheduled for tomorrow, around lunchtime. Nope. Didn’t recall, but we have to attend. I had the happy thought (actually have mixed feelings about skipping worship service with Cafe Church) that I’d just skip church, Sunday, and paddle then. But Caution-Lady reminded me we have a friend coming over to the house to have lunch with us. Maybe the Elk River will still be there next weekend.

I plan to cope by getting under the Soloflex, mowing, applying another coat of 303 to Campsis Radicans’ deck. I found that tube of Aquaseal I used when I replaced an ankle gasket on my drysuit. There’s a place where that gasket doesn’t seem to be adhering as it ought to, so I’m going to try to stick it down again. The guy at Amigo’s Drysuit Repair said he thought Aquaseal, applied liberally enough, will stick anything down. Once that’s cured, I’ll send the suit in for that knee patch repair.

I'll have to reinstall the software - the adapter lamp's not working when called upon
I’ll have to reinstall the software – the adapter lamp’s not working when called upon

Caution-Lady’s mom and dad brought an HP scanjet with slide and film scanning capability the last time they visited, week after Easter. I’ve finally hooked it up and will try scanning some slides from the 1950s and 60s shot by my mom’s second husband. Trips to Yosemite, California coast, boat-building, camping, etc. The HP software’s balking just now, and I’ve got to fool with it.

Have made some progress in getting the scanner to operate
Have made some progress in getting the scanner to operate

A number of these slides are posted on this page

Purchases

Last week bought a Sony Handycam with 60gb harddrive and a memory card slot so that Caution-Lady can record the vidworthy antics of little 76. It arrived yesterday, so maybe I’ll try it out today and post some video of my now much-faded Campsis Radicans – a name no longer matching the kayak’s deck color.

First assembly of E68 in September, 2005.

Yesterday I bought a replacement skin for the E68 that will, I hope, likewise confuse, due to the brightness of its red, those expecting the boat to somehow match its botanical name. I’m ordering some 303 Aerospace Protectant to evit future fading.

Compare the photo above with the photo a couple of posts below taken Monday 30 June 2008. That’s quite a bit of fade in a little less than three years of use, especially in light of the fact the boat’s been stored, for the most part, disassembled in its bags in a clean, dry boatshed. Here’s a video I took late this morning with the Sony illustrating the deck’s current fade:

When the new (slightly used, actually) skin arrives, I’ll photograph it next to the old and post the picture here. The replacement skin will have a hatch on the foredeck I plan to make use of for a couple of small drybags and lunch, thereby reducing deck-clutter.

Why am I writing this stuff instead of paddling today, Independence Day 4 July 2008? I guess I want to finish reading a novel, lift, do some housework, wash the car, instead. Freedom, ain’t it grand?

Yes, it is.

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.