Lost Creek, Copper, Anderton Branches – Tims Ford Lake

Lost Creek Branch

Lost Creek Branch

During an approximately 14 mile roundtrip Friday, I paddled Lost Creek Branch, re-explored Copper Branch, and for the first paddled Anderton Branch on Tims Ford Lake.  My left shoulder hurt again the first mile or so, then no longer pained me.

House looks okay from a distance

House looks okay from a distance

A house on the lake with sign proclaiming that it is or occupies Britney Point appears derelict in spite of the fact of its evidently recent construction, huge size, elaborate outdoor entertainment areas, and covered dock. I first saw the house a year or two ago, and wrote about it at my Yahoo blog. At the time, I wondered, “What happened to these people?”

Somebody's kept the yard mowed

Somebody's kept the yard mowed

Paint peeling and weathered on the ghostley outdoor entertainment area

Paint peeling and weathered on the ghostley outdoor entertainment area

Yesterday I found myself wondering the same thing. The white-painted wood frame doors at the back porch hung sagging from their hinges with torn screens. The many windows appeared lifeless and still, the speedboat continued to mildew in its covered slip, and its woodwork has rotted green. I was surprised and somewhat heartened to note that none of the black windows appeared broken. Somebody, maybe the wind, has cleared away the dock’s cobwebs and the dusty orange lifejackets piled haphazard trailing their straps into the murky lakewater. Buckets and field tile littered the leaf-covered steep hillside.

Ski-boat moldering dockside

Ski-boat moldering dockside

Mossy limb

Mossy limb

Gothic arches

Gothic arches

A final view after my first lunch stop

A final view after my first lunch stop

I ate part of my lunch across from the three-storey brick derelict, while seated on a beam set up on cinder-blocks near a dry dock and two circles of of folding chairs in need of burning. Certainly other things had been burned nearby. Moss grew heavy on one tree’s limb – not unusual, but for some reason I noticed it.

I ate part of my lunch other side of that dock

I ate part of my lunch other side of that dock

Colorful dock on Copper Branch

Colorful dock on Copper Branch

Paddling back out Copper Branch, elaborate houses on my right cluttered the shore like an expensive ghetto. Two guys in a bassboat sped up and down Lost Creek, Copper, and I later saw them at Anderton, branches. I never did see them fishing. My guess is they were making a burglary list of houses that’ve been closed up for winter.

Anderton Branch Crow Tree

Anderton Branch Crow Tree

On Anderton Branch, which I’ve bypassed at least three times before, I saw and heard a large, ungainly bearded man berate a little boy for having broken a “thurday dollah” gew-gaw in his tackle box, “These don’t just fall off, you broke it off!” Sheesh, like I’m sure the little kid deliberately broke whatever the aitch it was. They’d been bank fishing but had come by boat, which was pulled up on the shore. The kid was in the boat. I slowed, but don’t think the man physically beat the child. What he said to the boy, and the way he said it was beating enough.

Colby + Chryssy Forever

Colby + Chryssy Forever

The Dawn Sisters

The Dawn Sisters

Go Vols!

Go Vols!

At farthest corner of Anderton Branch, I came to a public boat ramp I never knew was there. But when I looked at my map, there it was plainly shown – Anderton Branch Public Access Area.   I stopped, stretched, ate the rest of my lunch.  After that, I threw some trash away at the garbage can next to the dock’s boardwalk, and noticed that Colby and Chrissy had declared the eternal nature of their presumably romantic attachment no less than three times in graven characters upon the structure’s upright supports.  Gad, I thought, who would name his son after a cheese?  Then I thought, this is what I would expect of someone named for a cheese.  Then I noticed the sheer number of names and messages carved upon the dock’s every surface.  They spoke all at once momentarily unfiltered into my brain through my eyes. I realized this was a significant anthropological find, and set about photographing many of the most striking glyphs.

Mysta Big & Illegible

Mysta Big & Illegible

Amanda

Amanda

Haley + Bryan, and Heart Rebus Verbed

Haley + Bryan, and Heart Rebus Verbed

Derisive & Vulgar Imperative JR

Derisive & Vulgar Imperative JR

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Having completed that important work, I set out to return to my car, Thursday, and then home.

But first I paddled out of Anderton Branch in a more southerly arc than proved adviseable, completely overshot the main channel of Lost Creek Branch, and found myself unbenownst at the mouth of Ray Branch staring due south at the smaller of the two islands near Tims Ford Dam.  I shouldn’t be seeing these, I thought, then turned my back on the islands and paddled north.  In the distance, the channel narrowed.  I saw a rocky outcrop that didn’t look familiar.  I saw a line of colorful jugs floating in the distance.  To my right I saw another channel, its features likewise unfamiliar.

Islands of the Dammed

Islands of the Dammed

Excrement, I thought, I’m lost, and the last of my food just eaten.  Not so lost I don’t know where I am, just lost enough to be unsure how to return to where I want to be.  Grateful I’d had the last-minute sense to bring both map and compass, I put my back to that small island, found the island on my map, consulted my compass, consulted my map, looked due north, marked a feature, found it on the map, and paddled back to Lost Creek Branch.

The breeze freshened as I paddled northwest, and I paddled with renewed vigor, happy with the wind’s resistance.

Roof Better Now & Island Paddling

Island maze is visible at far right - click for larger image

Island maze is visible at far right - click for larger image

I got out and cleaned the rain gutters yesterday morning. After the roof shingles dried, around 11:00, Don came over and fixed the roof. I was going to act as his helper, but got preoccupied degreasing Thursday’s motor, then trying to figure out why it quit running as I’d left it in neutral, hood-open to dry out the engine-compartment. By the time I climbed up the ladder, Don had pretty much got the chimney work done. Then I got hung up trying to figure out whether to pay off this house, list it, sell it, before buying another, or do those things without first paying off the mortgage. Trying to think through emergency funds, investments, Seventy-Six college funding. By that time, Don had completed the work and I wrote him a check. I felt bad leaving him to do that work alone when his goal had probably been, in part, to teach me how to do some of that stuff. Somehow, when I’m trying to manage things, I often manage to disappoint myself and others. Maybe just myself.

Car started again, probably some moisture in the distributor cap that dried off after awhile, because the plug sockets were bone-dry when I checked them, earlier.

Around three o’clock, I loaded the car with gear, and roof-racked Campsis Radicans, took a check out to my Hillsboro mechanic to pay for that replacement radio I got a month or two ago from a smashed 850 Turbo in his field of parts cars. Brian and I talked about parenting, Tommy educated me on the finer points of engine-compartment beautification, I looked at an ’01 Cross-Country and ’89 745 that still had both corner lights and something I’ve never before seen on any 700 series car – the towing-eye cover. Yes, I wanted to buy both cars. Heck, we need a wagon. My dream car has always been a Volvo wagon. Caution-Lady would love a wagon. We could trade or sell Whitecar (’93 940T)…

A fellow named Denny paddling upstream from Dabbs Ford to fish

A fellow named Denny paddling upstream from Dabbs Ford to fish

Yeah, so about an hour later I made it to the put-in below Prairie Plains Road Bridge at Dabbs Ford, and saw something I’ve never before seen on Woods Reservoir – another seakayaker. Guy in a truck with a 17′ Wilderness Systems Unknown-To-Me model kayak on the roof racks. We talked about paddles, the unlikelyhood of meeting another long-boater at Woods. He paddled upstream to fish, and I paddled downstream to challenge myself with the maze of islands down at that end of the lake.

Entering the maze of islands where the Elk flows into Woods Reservoir

Entering the maze of islands where the Elk flows into Woods Reservoir

I didn't know turtles were such good climbers

I didn't know turtles were such good climbers

Because I don’t often get on the water this late, I didn’t have any clear idea how much daylight remained to me. I paddled down the Elk, past the small refrigerator that serves as a channel-marker, its door open and empty. Keeping left, I paddled to a shallow place, got out, and inflated the hip pads I’d forgotten to inflate when I launched. Climbed back in and continued. I saw three bird-boxes on posts in backwater channels and along the shore. I saw a fist-sized turtle clinging to the branch of a fallen tree. I saw duck blinds. Heard two sonic booms occurred one quickly after the other; these sounded, if possible higher because their shockwaves were not very intense. I saw herons and three or four ducks.

These red leaves attracted my attention

These red leaves attracted my attention

On the water only an hour and forty-five minutes or so, I didn’t feel like I’d had much of a workout. I drove out Prairie Plains Road to Miller’s Crossing with the low mountains of Grundy County ahead and to my right.

Morris Ferry Dock to Elk River’s Bluebell Island, and Back Again

And back again…

At one point, I found myself paddling almost due south on the Elk River

At one point, I found myself paddling almost due south on the Elk River

Conservative estimate 22 mile round trip. Probably only about 20 miles…Tiring, but not difficult. Because I missed my turn to Prairie Plains Road and realized my mistake at a point where Winchester Highway (upon which I was driving) wasn’t far from the causeway across Woods reservoir near the VFW hall, I figured I’d just drive on and put in at Morris Ferry Dock. Heck, I found my way through those islands at the Elk River end of Woods last year. No problem. Of course I’d remember the way through this time. Sure.

I shot a lot of pictures, and those worth keeping, for reasons documentary, are here. I have a little more to write, and will get it done in due time. The more I think about it, the more I think I didn’t make it quite as far as Bluebell Island. I know I passed the crescent-shaped creek branch that enters the river, seen about middle of the map, below. Probably the dock and ladder I reached and paddled about a hundred feet beyond is located due south of that last “L” in Sherrill Cemetery. The road that crosses the river near the map’s bottom right corner is Highway 64.

The woman in the golf-cart at Morris Ferry let me launch my kayak from the ramp without paying the $3.00 fee. I was on the water by about 10 ’till eight, and set off down the middle of the lake toward the islands. No interest in exploring the shoreline I’ve already poked around in several times. I had a long way to go.

Paddled from about one edge of the map to the other, and back again

Paddled from about one edge of the map to the other, and back again

My impression of the new hullskin on the frame of Campsis Radicans is that sponson placement and the fact that they’re tabbed into position with sewn and glued PVC semi-circles results in a slightly more steeply pitched deck. Also, when fully inflated, the sponsons make a wavy line of the hull’s sides. Dunno whether that latter glitch or feature affects performance or not. Because the water’s surface was mirror flat, the air windless, and I was fresh, I paddled as hard as I could for a little while. Bow waves rippled their note as I sped roughly northeast. Then I slowed, but kept a steady pace until I found myself at the first of many islands.

Foliage is greener this time of year, and the water seems higher than it appears in this picture.

Foliage is greener this time of year, and the water seems higher than it appears in this picture.

I spent about an hour completely turned around in those shallow water islands. Probably two of the miles paddled were spent looking for the main channel of the Elk. Deck compass was helpful, as I knew I’d need find an easterly course to find the the Elk. One of the things that confused me was the varying water temperature. Whenever I detected rippling, or felt the water radiating a coolness up through the hullskin, I imagined I’d come to the river. Actually, I think there are several springs in those now-flooded low hills, and the cold water I intermittently noticed was evidence of their presence below my keel.

My first mistake was in paddling along the left side of the first island. I should paddled to its right, and may have better recognized the pathway between the low islands, shallow, shallow water, and fallen trees.

Maybe an hour, but I’m not sure how much time I wasted (because I lost my 1992 Eddie Bauer waterproof watch at a put-in, somewhere in Tennessee) searching for the Elk. Must’ve seen the same styrofoam bait cup pushed up under leafy branches a couple of times. Thought, “I’ve seen that before. Just like some fool lost, in a movie.” Saw a dome tent hidden in the trees on one of the islands.

I saw a white bird wading. I saw dead wood covered in spiders’ webs. I saw a man smoking a cigarette while fishing from a bank, and asked directions. “It’s that way, I think,” he said, pointing the way I was already heading. I saw square metal box – a piece of junk that had been in the same place last year, and I remembered it marked the Elk River’s entry to Woods Reservoir. This time, the metal box looked shut, and had a piece of duct-tape on it. Last year, its door hung ajar.

At that point, looking up and sort of to my right, I saw the AEDC police boat further upstream. I paddled toward them, trying to point my bow out of their way, but the boat’s occupants evidently wished to exchange speech, motoring slowly toward me. They veered off a little and idled. I’d spoken to Troy Jernigan and another officer in the colder weather after umbrella sailing near Little Elder Island. I didn’t recognize either of the men in the boat this time. We greeted each other and went our different ways.

Upon reaching the bridge at Prairie Plains Road, my originally intended destination, I saw a family of plus sized people apparently breaking camp. Three women stood around the trunk of a green Camry or Avalon using cusswords. An older female child, possibly a teenager, sat sullen-looking in a lawn chair near the bank. A man removed the rain-fly from a blue and white dome-tent. I think the police in the boat had just told them to pack up their camp and move along.

In need of a stretch and a snack, I got out at the other side of the rudimentary boatramp. A shiny yellow small motorboat on a trailer was parked near where I stood and stretched. My way-past-expiration-date Power Bar had become melty in its colorful mint-green and purple foil wrapper. I rinsed it and my hands in the river water after I’d eaten the mint chocolate and crunchy stuff, then neatly folded the foil and put it back in my lunch bag. I stowed it near the bow hatch. The sullen-looking girl and the tent-man watched me like I was doing something extraordinary.

Last year, somewhat later in the season, when I paddled this part of the Elk, the river’s water was a sort of milky green in color, and felt cooler than it did last weekend. A large number of fallen trees and miscellaneous deadwood has stayed where it’s drifted, and looks like it would make passage difficult for most boats larger than human powered craft. In places the water’s too shallow, I’d guess, for even those 12 – 14 foot aluminum boats budget fishermen sometimes use.

Throughout the day, I observed at many points along the lake’s shore, among the trees on the islands, and along the riverbanks purplish-pink as well as orange plastic streamers tied to tree-limbs. I’m not sure if those were put in place by fishermen marking the many places where static lines were hung in hopes of catching fish in absentia. More likely, by Wildlife Resource Management Agency personnel to mark boundaries meaningful to people who rely, as I should have relied, upon maps.

A couple of places, I got out to stretch. I felt hungry, but ate nothing. I drank water only after I felt dryness in my mouth. Always trying to conserve something for the trip back.

My right elbow began to hurt. Tendonitis I haven’t felt on the water in over a year, since switching to the Eric Renshaw Greenland paddle I bought from his Ebay store for under a hundred bucks. Feeling pain, I concentrated on better form making exaggerated use of torso/abdominal crunch technique, and pushing off more with my feet. Found some relief. Found that if I moved my hands closer to my knees than to my waist, while paddling, and maintaining blade cant, torso-rotation, and low-angle blade-entry, I felt none of the tendonitis. So, that was the problem. I’ve developed a habit of holding the paddle too close to my waist, putting the blades in the water aft of my knees.

I paddled to a strange looking creek branch, on my right, that had a high, curling bank on the right curving around left and out of sight. The left bank lay like a gently sloping, low mound of mud, dirt, trees, fallen leaves. I paddled past it, then backed up and paddled into it looking for a place to get out and stretch. It was blocked further back by a couple of small, fallen trees. The sound of insects buzzing furiously informed me this was not the place to get out of the boat. Paddled backwards out, zig-zagging around other trees and branches in the water.

Farther upstream, I saw on the high bank to my left what appeared to be a lofted pole-barn without sides. Maybe a church’s picnic structure, then to a sturdy-looking dock and ladder with a flimsier-looking floating platform attached. I debated getting out there, but don’t much like to trespass. Across from the dock to my right someone had tied a long, thick, and at-the-bottom-frayed yellow rope to an overhanging limb. I paddled upstream a little more, and the water got pretty shallow among a greater number of fallen trees than seemed usual for the river. Beyond the trees, I turned around and headed back after getting out in a shallow place for a final stretch before reaching the bridge at Prairie Plains Road.

I paddled faster on the way back, taking fewer pictures. When I reached Mud Creek, I stopped and paddled closer to its mouth. It’s one of those oddities – a straight line in nature, and I could see a long way up, but could also see it was more or less impassable due to overhanging and fallen limbs. Near the mouth I saw a deciduous tree that produced what I thought at first were berries like raspberries, but seen closer appeared to be tiny pine-cones. Another oddity. I snapped a picture and moved on.

I stopped for lunch at the Prairie Plains Road bridge (I don’t recall the bridge’s real name, although I’ve seen it on a map). I “Hellooooed” the fishermen on the bank, asking whether they’d mind if I pulled in long enough to eat a sandwich. They welcomed me, and I paddled in, apologizing for interfering with their fishing. About halfway through my meal eaten standing up, I asked the older of the two men, a guy about my own age, “You guys catching anything?”

“No, not really,” the man replied, “Just playing with the bluegill, it seems.” He told me it was two o’clock. The campers I’d seen earlier were gone. I told the fishermen good luck, and got in my kayak, paddled on.

Finding my way out into the lake was pretty easy. I made the mistake of paddling to the outside of that one big island. I would have been out of the wind if I’d paddled with the island to my right. NOAA had predicted five mile per hour winds from the south, southwest. My experience is that winds are stronger on lakes than NOAA’s vicinity prediction. Fetch.

The shorter ramp at Morris Ferry Landing before setting out Saturday morning

The shorter ramp at Morris Ferry Landing before setting out Saturday morning

The last couple of miles were the worst. I was pretty tired, my elbow hurt again by the time I got to the short asphalt ramp at Morris Ferry Dock. A couple of women with little red-headed boys were fishing. The boys came up and wanted to look at the kayak. Their mother tried to tell them to leave me and the boat alone. The kids just wanted to look, I talked to them about their fishing.

Better than a sports drink

Better than a sports drink

My elbow hurt in the car all the way home. But when I got there, and disposed of the kayak and gear, I found that my wife had supper ready, and had made a pie with apples from my cousin Maxine’s tree. Glucosamine and Ibuprofin, an early bed, helped my recovery.