Shoulder, Boat Bag, & Some Photos

I’d planned to paddle yesterday, but was again awakened from sleep by my sore left shoulder.  I chose instead to remain home and disassemble my Pouch E-68, and put it away for awhile.  I don’t think I’ll have another chance to paddle until New Year’s Day, and reckon it’s best to store it out of the weather until then.  I’ve kept the boat assembled in the yard on sawhorses this past season, so there’s little likelihood the skin will shrink while in storage.  The boat’s frame is badly in need of stripping and revarnishing, and I need to find someplace to do the work.

Frame needs some maintenance work

Frame needs some maintenance work

Back during the summer, a gentleman from Louisiana met me at Chattanooga and gave me two Folbot lateen sailing rigs including an old vinyl Folbot hull bag with some Big Glider or Super seats and one rib.  If I had the power to create a skin on frame vessel from one rib, I’d probably make Folbot Super out of that rib and name it Eve.  Providentially, according to my theology, I lack that ability.  On the other hand, it is not good, in my time and space bound opinion, for a man to be without a boat.

That Folbot bag, covered with I-don’t-know-what grease, spider’s nests, dirt, saw-dust, once cleaned up and zipper rehabbed with a lot of parafin, makes a great hull and rib bag for the E-68.  The green canvas GDR duffel-sack I’d been using was always an annoyingly tight fit.  The Pouch hullskin fits easily into the Folbot bag.

Pouch E68 hullskin & ribs fit with plenty of room to spare

Pouch E68 hullskin & ribs fit with plenty of room to spare

Finally, I drove out to Morris Ferry Landing with my camera to see what it looked like with all the holiday homes and campsites razed.  I took some photos – you can see all of them at my FLICKR account photostream at left.  I posted a couple below –




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.

Another Look at Morris Ferry Landing 9/13/08

Won't be waving long here

Won't be waving here much longer - Old Glory at Morris Ferry Dock

Even though I was not feeling entirely well, I thought I’d paddle Saturday. I needed the physical activity. NOAA predicted much wind as Ike made his way north, brushing Western Tennessee with his right shirt-cuff. Paddling in wind either pisses me off because it impedes my progress, or makes an otherwise boringly familiar location interesting by offering resistance, chop, and spray. Sometimes paddling in excessively windy conditions is a challenge to God – strike me down or let me pass. Some days, I don’t much care which answer I receive. Saturday was almost, but not quite one of those days, in part because winds weren’t expected to exceed 25 mile per hour gusts, partly because I wasn’t that frustrated with the course of my life on earth.

Last weekend I stayed off the water because, if I recall this correctly, we’d made an offer on a house, were trying to get our house decluttered, and I’d just started chiropractic treatment for my badly misaligned, somewhat hideously deformed body. I still had a fair amount of physical pain, and didn’t want to mess up the chiropractor’s work.

I put in at the public boat ramp in Coffee County, down the hill from the hunter’s check-in station off Old Brick Church Road. A sign up at the shuttered check-in informed one that bobcats could be taken (shot? killed?) at any Tennessee Wildlife Management Agency site. I’ve seen their tracks at Normandy Lake, and heard them nearby in the brush along the trail at Old Stone Fort (annoyed me being stalked, so I ran after them – never saw them, but sure heard them or it running surprised away from me).

I’d left my Snapdragon neoprene deck sprayskirt in the boat shed. Damn. However, rolled up in the car’s trunk was the sieve-leaky blue nylon NRS Kilt I’d planned to post to a friend at Nashville who’s got a plastic rec-boat. It would at least serve well enough to keep most of the paddle drip off me.

A word about those sprayskirts – the lighter-weight, coated nylon skirt is hot as hell in the warm weather, whereas the much heavier neoprene-decked, “breathable” fabric Snapdragon skirt (which cost three times as much as the NRS Kilt) has never this summer been a source of discomfort to me. The Snapdragon also keeps the cockpit dry when edging or when small wind-waves break over the deck. So I guess that fabric’s breathability is not just bogus sales puffing.

A set of steps from the street to the lake on the Franklin County shore of Woods Reservoir

A set of steps from the street to the lake on the Franklin County shore of Woods Reservoir

Maybe 7:30, 7:45 a.m. when I began paddling. Already the wind was blowing steadily, and I made for the small, evil-smelling bird rookery island. There I rested in the lee of one of the lake’s stouter duck-blinds, before crossing to the Franklin County shore. Watch (I finally bought a new watch) had 8:30 as I reached the shelter of the far shore. I wasn’t making very good time.

Paddling was easier heading along the shoreline to Morris Ferry Landing. Although I had no real distance goals in mind today, I planned to paddle out to the doomed vacation village, cafe, fuel dock, and campground to see whether the residents were really leaving, to witness the end of something I never in the first instance knew much about.

Morris Ferry Landing marina - that's Beech Point trailer in the distance

Morris Ferry Landing marina - that's 'Beech Point' trailer in the distance

Rustic slips gone vacant

Rustic slips gone vacant

Old pontoon boat apparently removed from a covered slip

Old pontoon boat apparently removed from a covered slip - cobwebs and bits of broken wood on deck

Still a number of pontoon and speedboats tied up to docks along the shore on my right as I paddled up. Saw right away that a number of vacation trailers on the hillside had been removed. The sun porch attached to the trailer of the woman with whom I spoke Labor Day Weekend, right next to the “Beech Point” trailer, had been gutted. I saw two men standing at the “Beech Point” trailer’s dock. They said they’d removed that trailer’s underpinnings, and that the owner was having it hauled off later to a nearby farm. The older of the two men said the United States military could pretty much do what it wants “in time of war – with everybody’s attention in Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody’s looking at what’s happening here.”

"Beech Point" trailer - underpinnings removed preperatory to its removal

"Beech Point" trailer - underpinnings removed Saturday preperatory to its removal

Removal of structure and deck that'd been affixed to a vacation trailer

Removal of structure and deck that'd been attached to a vacation trailer - not far from 'Beech Point"

Around the little point and right, I paddled into the marina area – still plenty of boats tied up, but most of the boat-shed slips were empty. An old pontoon boat, cobwebs and flakes of rotted wood on its deck, floated beside the shed. Back out into the lake, and past the cafe-store, I looked and could see that IV and his family were not in residence this weekend. A number of camper trailers were still set up further along the shore. A pile of plastic chairs and unidentifiable debris behind a red enclosed tractor sporting a bucket in front bespoke disruption and change.

Red tractor's work is complete

Red tractor's work is complete

Early yet, I thought I’d buy a cheeseburger at the cafe. Nine-thirty always brings the beginning of lunch-pangs. So I tied up at the dock, as I’ve tied up there before. In a porch swing by the front door sat a man who greeted me. So I sat down on a nearby padded bench and exchanged speech with him. Rick Braytenbah, if I’ve remembered correctly. Thing about talking with people while out paddling, without waterproof writing implements, I’ve got to rely upon a memory largely self-absorbed or taken with things of a non-evidentiary nature.

Rick Braytenbah outside the entrance of Morris Ferry Dock cafe/store

Rick Braytenbah outside the entrance of Morris Ferry Dock cafe/store

Mr. Braytenbah, a former Detroit resident and General Motors retiree, said the residents at Morris Ferry Landing got an official letter notifying them of their eviction about a week ago, although he thought the leaseholder was given legal notice some time ago. “It’s a slap in the face,” said Braytenbah of the eviction. With two sons in college “this is what I can afford,” he said. He talked about the homeowners’ attempts to fight the Arnold Engineering and Development Center commander’s decision. He said after having publicly announced his decision, the commander was unable to back down from it. Braytenbah said he thought it was likely the military had real reasons for the decision to evict the residents and leaseholder, but would probably never publicly state their true reason for fear of publicity and liability problems.

I joked that the time for clearing out former Soviet listening posts in the name of homeland security was long past. The Wall’s been down a long time. Let the hypothetical old spy have a quiet retirement, or find other means of preventing prn work besides forcing everyone out.

One of the many camper trailers at Morris Ferry Landing

One of the many camper trailers at Morris Ferry Landing

Braytenbah said he thought once the residential trailers, as opposed to camper-trailers, have been removed, the base commander might relent, as the original intent had not been to provide space for permanent dwelling houses. He said he was able to look at the matter unemotionally, and could see the military point of view. Additionally, looking at the structures maintained by the leaseholder, it is clear that they have not been sedulously kept up. The eviction and closure, we both agreed, is galling.

Inside the store, I bought and ate a chicken salad sandwich, stood and ate it while talking to a government employee and her husband. Good sandwich, and cheap, although I’d gone in thinking to get a cheeseburger. Good time to eat a cheeseburger, when you’re going to paddle a few miles. But the chicken salad’s a slightly healthier choice.

Stepping back outside, I saw that Braytenbah had been joined by a guy in uniform I’d met before, another man with a small child. I asked whether I could snap the group’s picture for the web, and they all cleared out except for Rick Braytenbah. “I’ll remember ‘Rick,’ but there’s no way I’ll remember your last name,” I said.

“You won’t even remember that,” he said, “But it’s easy to remember – ‘Bray’_’Ten’_’Bah’,” and then spelled it out. I’m sure I’ve got his first name, and the last two syllables of his last name, correct.

It was time to go. I was getting fat, having sat for awhile when I should have been paddling, then further compounded the sloth by eating a sandwich I probably didn’t need. So I said goodbye, walked to my boat, untied it, and paddled off. Back to the AEDC side of the lake.

Elder Island shoreline at my right as I returned to the AEDC side of the lake

Elder Island shoreline at my right as I returned to the AEDC side of the lake

The wind really pushed me along, especially in that narrow channel between the Franklin County shore and Elder Island. Even in that channel’s deeper water, a tan-colored weed was growing up thickly, visible beneath the surface. I wondered whether it represents some sort of ecological problem, and will crud up the water.

I rested out of the wind at the other end of Elder Island, then set off in a long, shallow arc to the UTSI beach next to the boat house. Water became choppy, became quartering “seas” as I crossed. The boat did fine, I made good progress, although by the feel of the paddle, I wasn’t making much headway. A lot of water splashed onto even the back deck, which is unusual. The E68’s back deck normally remains close to bone dry.

A windy day for sailing - boats from Highland Rim Yachtclub

A windy day for sailing - boats from Highland Rim Yachtclub

When I looked to my right as drew nearer UTSI, I saw a number of sailboats getting underway. Highland Rim Yachtclub must’ve been having some sort of race or knockabout derby – looked like any class of sailboat qualified for whatever race required them to to around the big yellow floats towed into place by a pontoon boat and a runabout.

The entire way back along the AEDC shore was against the wind, and the effort made me happy. At the former Girl Scout camp Tannassie, now an AEDC Department of Defense, government contractor, or AEDC supporter’s club (paid annual membership) facility and recipient of a rumored $385,000.00 in improvements in the form of five small, rustic cabins and bath-house repainting, it looked like a group was having a child’s birthday party.

Docked yachtclub flagship - made me wish I had an FKO burgee to display

Docked yacht club flagship - made me wish I had an FKO burgee to display

A crew appeared to be setting up a pavilion of some sort at the rec-beach. At the Highland Rim Yacht Club beach, a number of families had set up chairs and picnic gear, kids played in the water, and one boat at its slip displayed a number of burgees, pennants, little flags the meanings of which I could not divine. A teenage girl in a bikini shouted “Hello,” and “Goodbye,” as I paddled past.

Once around the point past the officers’ club beach, the wind was at my back again, and I raced the wind-waves. The surfing sensation felt fast, but plowing into the backs of the waves seemed to slow me.

Most of the pictures I took can be found here.

Another, possibly last, look at Morris Ferry landing

Another, possibly last, look at Morris Ferry landing

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.

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.

Memorial Day 2008, Woods Reservoir

In a previous post, I think I mentioned having chosen to avoid the drunks on Tims Ford and Normandy Lakes this past Memorial Day Weekend. Monday morning, early, I headed out to Woods, putting in at the same spot I used Saturday. All I wanted to accomplish Memorial Day was to earn some Weight Watchers points, and to practice sculling, braces, maybe some wet-exits and self-rescue. The wind was blowing strong from the south, and I paddled against it to the lee of Elder Island, then east along the island and over to the Franklin County shore, thence under the causeway and over to Morris Ferry Dock.

Apparently the USAF has decided not to renew the facility’s lease, which means powerboaters on Woods will have no place on the lake to buy gasoline, the campsites and semi-permanent residents of the RV/Trailer Park will have to relocate to, probably, less pleasant environs, and a funky piece of Americana that’s been in place since the 1950s will be gone. Replaced by? Dunno, maybe officer housing, something concrete and soulless?

By the time I paddled back to the put in, which is where I’d planned to practice my embryonic kayaker skills, around 10:00 a.m. I’d been out maybe two and a half hours. Two older couples had set up their chairs and fishing poles near my car, and I thought it would be rude to splash around in the water and totally ruin their fishing experience. I got the kayak out of the water as quickly and quietly as possible, chatting with them a little; it was time to get home and ready for the day’s family activities.

Note the festive bunting along the hand-rail.

Long may it wave

Looking toward the Elk River with my back to Morris Ferry Dock