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.


Front left three-quarter view Pionier 450 S


Pionier 450 S right rear three quarter view


Pionier 450 S seen from astern


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.


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.


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.


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 to the pool pictured earlier.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Normandy Lake 7/18/10

Josh H. and I, after church and after lunch Sunday, loaded the E68 and 450S and drove out first to Ovoca Lake to see if that would be at all interesting to paddle (it was not, it is a largish pond of probably no more than 10 acres covered in sludgy-looking lily plants).  We drove on, then, to Normandy Lake and put in at Barton Springs boat ramp.  Crowded parking lot filled with trucks that’d trailered in pontoon-boat party barges, jet-skiis, run-down bass boats, and every variety of lesser motorized waterborne conveyance.  The drivers and passengers of these small craft seemed a little boozed-up and under-dressed for the occasion.  Because we got to the water fairly late in the afternoon, we didn’t spend long on the water – paddled out to the bridge, then crossed to Negro Hill and around to the other side of the public camping area there, and then back.  Way better than no time on the water.  I tried out round-tipped canoe paddle with the Pionier, and it worked pretty well.  It was easy to stash in the cockpit and may reasonably be expected to serve in the event of some emergency.

Crumpton Creek Branch, Normandy Lake

Fallen leaves litter the lake's briefly still surface

Fallen leaves litter the lake's briefly still surface - click for larger image

More of the pictures are here.

Up this morning before five, I intended to get on the water by about six-thirty. I was about to make my lunch, I heard the baby making happy sounds and went in to play with him. Way more fun than paddling. I was on the water an hour later than scheduled, and the wind was earlier than usual, blowing from the south or southwest.

My goal today was to paddle as far up Crumpton Creek branch as I could get. I last paddled there with Mike and his son, Jesse, in the spring of ’06, if memory serves. At that time, I was paddling sans rudder, which proved a trial in beam and tailwinds. Water was higher then, and we got maybe three tenths of a mile further than I got today. Leaves turning now fall is here, and released by their trees scattered upon the water’s surface.

Light rain fell some this morning. I saw blue, purple, yellow, and white wildflowers in bloom. All the flowers were very small.

Sonic boom startled me as I rested under the overhang

Sonic boom startled me as I rested under the overhang

This morning, under the overhang below the house in the picture, a plane broke the sound barrier and its boom shook the rock. Thought it was a thunderclap right overhead until the next boom from the chase plane again shook the earth. A startled fish jumped beside my bow.

I ate my lunch seated on a rock in the middle of Crumpton Creek an easy walk upstream of where I beached the kayak. Then I paddled back to the car. Wind almost took the red boat off my car’s roof as I attempted to strap it down.

Later this afternoon we looked at houses, found one we think we like enough to make an offer on. We may put our house on the market next week.

Duck River above Normandy Lake

This shallow vista greeted me as I approached the place I'd have to wade
A shallow water vista

My photos from this trip are here.

This part of Tennessee has had no appreciable rain this month. The grass in my yard has been crunching when I walk on it. Yesterday evening, after a quick supper, I mowed the front yard. I really shouldn’t have, but the grass was growing too high in places. Then I loaded the car with gear still ready from last weekend’s aborted mission, and put Campsis Radicans on the 850’s racks.

I left the house not as early as I wanted, but by about 6:20 am. I got stuck behind a cement mixer at a four way stop near Toliver Lake, but managed to get on the water by about 7:00 am.

00 am this morning
Fire Lake Boat Ramp, a little before 7:00 am

Almost as soon as I started, my shoulder hurt, and I thought I would make no more than four miles before having to turn back. Since I wasn’t going to be on the water long, I began experimenting with forward stroke. Remembering my lesson from the Elk River, I made conscious effort to hold the paddle farther in front of my torso than is my tendency. I tried an almost side-to-side stroke, plunging the paddle deeper while keeping my hands relatively low, maybe chin-level. To my surprise, that stroke resulted in forward motion. With a little torso rotation, footwork, and ab-crunching, I was able to make speed without pain. At a couple of points, I felt my elbows tug, so I adjusted my stroke until I lost that sensation I figured would become tendonitis if left unchecked. I worked on sitting up straighter, and leaning slightly forward from the bottom of my spine. Forgotten was any early turnaround.

My goal today was to put in at Fire Lake boat ramp on Normandy Lake, and paddle as far upstream the Duck River as I could get. I hoped I’d make it as far as Old Stone Fort, but really knew that was unlikely. A year or two ago, my friend Andes and I made the same trip, but didn’t get as far. At the time, we reckoned we’d made it as far as Cat Creek, but comparing my observations today with a topo map, I think we gave ourselves too much credit. Cat Creek’s as far as I think I got today. Maybe an 18 mile roundtrip, possibly a little more distance. Dunno for sure, as I don’t have a GPS, and rely upon the distance tool on the Tennessee Landforms website.

Washboard Waterfall
Washboard Waterfall

Past the bridge I drove in over from Highway 55 I encountered no other boats. At a waterfall that appeared to drip flat on washboard surfaced rock, I saw two small yellow birds that might have been hummingbirds, by the way they moved, but looked the size of small finches. We have some yellow finches hereabouts. I saw a gar swim past me, break the surface, then swim away. The water rapidly becomes shallower there, and stumps, logs, other hazards make it difficult for power boats within about a mile and a half upstream from that bridge. Not much past that, my paddle began scraping bottom. At one point my rudder scraped rocks making a metal-clanging, grating sound.

White wading birds fed on things I could not see along the muddy, gravely water’s edge. They had a body type like Great Blue Herons, but were smaller, and tended to stay in groups of two to six. I saw a flock of black-headed buzzards, as I was coming and going.

Like the Elk River, exploration of the Duck required me to get out of the kayak and tow it behind like a child’s red wagon. Once past the wading, I was able to get back into the boat and paddle a part of the river I’d guess rarely gets any waterborne traffic. I saw large, maybe foot and a half long fish in shallow water beside a partly submerged stump. It hung like an airplane shaped helium balloon hardly moving as I paddled past. I saw dirt tracks used, I’d guess, by locals riding four-wheelers.

Rain fell as I paddled up the channel of the Duck, and as I waded with Campsis Radicans in tow. Even in a downpour, the E68 doesn’t fill up with water, and compared to the last time it rained while I was on the water, today’s shower was a gentle mist. Still, it was pleasant, and the area needs rain.

Looking upstream, Duck River
Looking upstream, Duck River
Looking upstream Cat Creek

Looking upstream Cat Creek

I paddled to a fork – what I now believe was Cat Creek lay too shallow for paddling on my right, and the Duck, like a long, low staircase ran swift and shallow over slippery rocks to my left. I waded, towing the boat, up each branch as far as seemed reasonable. Cat Creek first (although at the time, I thought both streams were part of the same with an island between them), then the Duck. I sat on a chair-height rock on the Duck using Campsis Radicans’ foredeck as a table, and ate my lunch. Then packed up and headed back downstream.

Lunch Stop

Lunch Stop

At Crumpton Creek, I thought about turning left and re-exploring that branch. It has been probably three years since Mike, his son Jesse, and I paddled the strange green, then clear waters there, below Rutledge Falls.

As I neared the boat ramp, I encountered two or three jet-skiis. That just doesn’t look like fun to me. And the expense. You never stop paying for something like a jet-ski. Spoke with a man launching his jet-ski at the boat ramp. He asked how far I’d gone, and I told him. Talked about the rain. About burning gas, burning calories. He said it was about 1:30 pm. The clock in my car said it was more like 2:20 pm. Another long day, and home.

Life in the stream

Life in the stream