Saturday at Woods Reservoir

The Great Blue Heron, my Pouch RZ96 tandem kayak, beside the boathouse dock at UTSI

The Great Blue Heron, my Pouch RZ96 tandem kayak, beside the boathouse dock at UTSI

In my behemoth tandem folding kayak, one of my nephews and I paddled Woods Reservoir today. It’s a great boat – stable, relatively fast, extremely sturdy – but its seatbacks are instruments of torture. I have been planning to buy backbands to replace them, but my wife objects to most kayak-related expenditures. Since Seventy-Six came to live in our house, my wife and I haven’t had the RZ out this year. This is only the third time I’ve had it out this year. So, I’ve been putting off the purchase.

My nephew’s a tall, 13 year-old kid. I made him helmsman today, but I think his mind wandered. He frequently had us steering out into the middle of the lake, or into an overhanging tree. We saw pine needles looked as long as railroad spikes. Pine spikes.

Gnarly pine needles - I would hate to drift into them - might lose an eye and have to change my name

Gnarly pine needles - I would hate to drift into them - might lose an eye and have to change my name

We ate our lunches seated on a Woods Ski Club dock. Three teenage girls repeatedly jumped off a nearby dock, and swam nearby.

Three startled ducks take flight

Three startled ducks take flight

We startled some ducks, and they took wing.

We watched a short-winged biplane performing stunts high up overhead. The plane’s engine stalled, and the silent aircraft tumbled down toward us.

“Are you going to move?” my nephew asked.

“Nope,” I thought, “No way to tell where it’s coming down, and anyway, the engine’ll catch.” The plane’s engine came to life again as its pilot completed the maneuver, faster than the time it would’ve take me to voice my thought.

A somewhat neglected day-sailer tied up at the UTSI boathouse dock

A somewhat neglected day-sailer tied up at the UTSI boathouse dock

We rested again at the UTSI boathouse dock before continuing to the boat ramp near the Rec Beach. At the boat ramp my nephew tried to catch small fish hatchlings in his empty Vitamin Water bottle. The crayfish he tried to get fell apart, having been dead but intact poised pincers open for no telling how long. A surprisingly large fish startled him, then swam around us as we got our gear together on the dock.

Tims Ford State Park

Winds’re predicted from East Norhteast today. I’m headed for a state park boat ramp, to an area I’ve never paddled. Have a map, have a compass, three quarts of water, and a lunch I’ve just packed. I overate yesterday at a coworker’s farewell lunch, so I’m all carbed-up for the day. Joints are feeling better, but the ancient Klepper backrest I’ve been using for the past year or so blew out last week. Dunno what that’ll do to my forward stroke, much less my aging lower back. Time to find out.

At the state park boat ramp and dock - Wildlife Resources boat
At the state park boat ramp and dock – Wildlife Resources boat
Paddling southwest and looking left - warm morning's sky
Paddling southwest and looking left – warm morning’s sky

When the markets crash, and those institutions and things relied upon are no more, this will look a lot more Charles Addams than it does now
When the markets crash, and those institutions and things relied upon are no more, this will look a lot more Charles Addams than it does now
Nameless islands and distant shorelines seen from The Narrows
Nameless islands and distant shorelines seen from The Narrows
Second time I've approached this island (last time was the day my golf umbrella broke), this time from another direction
Second time I approached this island (my golf-umbrella sail broke last time I was here)
My back and legs hurt badly by the time I reached the island's lee - convenient cinder-block steps led up
My back and legs hurt badly by the time I reached the island – convenient cinder-block steps led up
Steps behind me, I walked through a clearing and down the ridge's central trail, looking back to see the way I'd come
Steps behind me, I walked through a clearing and down the ridge’s central trail, looking back to see the way I’d come
To my surprise, I found island camping is permitted
To my surprise, I found island camping is permitted
No surprise at all, I found what trash left behind
No surprise at all, I found what trash left behind – this; an open latrine; a portable grill; etc.
Here's a view from the island looking back toward, IIRC, The Narrows
Here’s a view from the island looking back toward The Narrows
Tims Ford Dam distant - a boat ramp is to the right, almost adjacent the dam
Tims Ford Dam distant – a boat ramp is to the right, almost adjacent the dam
Not far from the dam

Not far from the dam

Completing my original circuit - here is the boat ramp at Tims Ford State Park

Completing my original circuit - here is the boat ramp at Tims Ford State Park

You can rent these at the boat dock - Looks like they've got them chained to prevent theft - Can you imagine?

You can rent these at the boat dock - Looks like they've got them chained to prevent - I have to laugh at this - theft

I saw a lot of fish, but didn't see anybody catching fish

I saw a lot of fish, but didn't see anyone catching them

Later: I’m going to have to find some back support. My body today was a Disneyland of neuropathy – numb feet, shooting pains in the palms of my hands, similar pains in the soles of my feet, some numbness in the left hand. Didn’t help that I started off with the Nautiraid Greenlander seat (which replaced the East German rubber tractor seat that shipped with the E68, and worth every penny) a little overinflated. That coupled with some of the lately recurrent shoulder pain, and back pain.

The predicted wind blew, and was alternately a hindrance and a help.  I made about 12 to 13 miles, counting the paddle back through the park after completing my original circuit.  I’ve walked the trail to Weaver Point dozens of times.  Today I was able to paddle the water seen from that path, which has been sort of a goal since I got my first boat in 2005.

I think these are martin houses - used to see many more of them in this part of Tennessee.  The martins, in season, help to keep mosquitos and other insects in check.

I think these are martin houses - used to see many more of them in this part of Tennessee. The martins, in season, help to keep mosquitos and other insects in check.

I chatted with the Wildlife Resources woman before setting out about 7:20 am (I had farther to drive than last week).  A state employee, her job consists of every day driving around the lake in the boat pictured near the top of this post, and talking to every angler she sees in order to determine number of fish caught, their type, and their size, then recording that data for the agency.  That’s it.  She said that, as with any job you have to do every day, it can get old, but she remembers answering phones for the agency’s revenue division, her previous employment, and said, “I’ve been blessed.”  I guess she has.

Young great blue heron takes flight

Young great blue heron takes flight

Plenty of fish were in evidence.  All day long I heard the sound of countless cicadas in the trees, listened also to the sound of the wind in the trees, each tree taking a different voice than its neighbor.  I snapped a picture of large carplike beast to port in a shallow creek in the park.  I saw what I think, because of its slow reflexes and starveling appearance, was a very young great blue heron, and I was able to snap its picture as it moved to take flight.  On my way out of the park, saw something to port that I, with hardly a conscious thought, noted and dismissed as the shadow of a ledge, or a submerged stump.  And then it moved, swimming toward and behind the boat as I started, then paddled on.

Kudzu, at left, encroaches upon indigenous flora, right

Kudzu, at left, encroaches upon indigenous flora, right

Kudzilla rears up to smite puny kayak man.  Undaunted, Christov_Tenn takes a few snapshots to show Caution-Lady and Little Seventy-Six
Kudzilla rears up to smite puny kayak man. Undaunted, Christov_Tenn takes a few snapshots to show Caution-Lady and Little Seventy-Six

I discovered Kuzilla’s Garden, and Kudzilla himself. Some genius imported this stuff from I don’t know where to slow topsoil erosion, and it grows like a monster vine in Jumanji. At an Alabama barbecue, I recall discussing the plant with a fellow who works for a chemical company that manufactures weedkiller for use on big farms. He said it grows from a sort of potato, and to kill the plant, one must kill the tuber. I remember he also said the Kudzu potato is edible. Heck, it’d be the one crop nothing could kill, that would never fail. Probably tastes awful.

Kudzilla's garden - looks like fanciful Disneyland topiary
Kudzilla’s garden – looks like fanciful Disneyland topiary

Lazy Day on Woods Reservoir

E-68 tied up at a Woods Ski Club dock

I had originally planned to put in at Devil’s Step boat ramp just outside of Winchester and paddle north and west to have the wind at my back for the voyage back to the ramp. When I realized it was Memorial Day Weekend, I changed my plans and paddled Woods Reservoir figuring there’d be fewer drunks on the water there than at Tims Ford Lake. Not that I have anything much against drunks, having been one, myself, in my late teens and early twenties. But they do tend to be nuisances, and hazards to navigation when operating water craft.

Woods Reservoir, as I expected, had about a score of bassboaters, maybe five family groups on pontoon boats, several nondescript small boats with outboard engines, one sailboat sailing, two jetskiis, and one couple in an inboard day-cruiser pulling five or six kids on four inflatable lake toys. Also saw the police boat out patrolling. Probably the same guys who stopped me around the end of last year just to assure themselves that they really had seen somebody sailing a kayak with an umbrella.

I put in near officer housing, trying not to disturb a family fishing on the bank about 15 yards away, and paddled out around Elder Island thinking I would go around it once before heading toward Morris Ferry and then toward the mouth of the Elk River. What I did instead was to paddle close to the island’s south shore, then cross over near the Franklin County boat ramp and paddle along the lake’s shore toward the dam, making a clockwise circuit.

Wasting time, I dawdled along the shore looking at turtles, fish, birds. I saw an otter splashing in the shallows and thought it was boat-wake making little waves crash. When the little waves sprang up the bank in the form of a shiny, long, four-footed creature with a tail and round ears that shook itself dry and sat by a log eating something and grooming itself, I recognized an otter. Dry, its fur was dark brown, and the creature appeared not to notice me as I drifted toward it along the shore. My second-hand factory re-furb Pentax WR’s shutter speed is creaking-slow, so I repeatedly snapped pictures hoping one would turn out well.

Woods Reservoir Otter

Seeing me, the little carnivore ran back up the hill, along the ridge, and, because I saw it swimming across in front of me as I paddled back out into the lake, apparently sought refuge in the water. Some other photos from yesterday can be found here.

The other thing I did yesterday was to practice sculling on either side of the boat – putting it on its side and using paddle strokes while leaning on the paddle to keep the kayak from capsizing. Then, in very shallow water, I tried to at least simulate those braces where the paddler lays on the water with the boat on its side using the paddle on the water as a sort of outrigger/float. I didn’t reach the point where I felt comfortable enough to commit to laying on the water with paddle in my outstretched arm.

I think I will head out again early Monday morning to paddle a couple of hours and practice sculling, bracing, maybe some wet-exits and self-rescue.