Asheville Gear Swap

Early last Saturday morning, January 28, my goal was to leave the house before 5:00 am and drive across the Upper Cumberland plateau to I-40 East at Crossville, then drive through Knoxville and points further East to Asheville, North Carolina, to meet my friend Eric at a downtown hotel parking lot.  I was motoring along that stretch that runs uphill, past the curves, that is between Sparta and Crossville.  At my right, to the East, the sunrise backlit the horizon so that it resembled nothing so much as a freight train speeding parallel my course.  The picture below doesn’t capture the thundering dawn train I imagined; I must have snapped it about three minutes later after fumbling in my backpack for the camera.

Sat-Morn-Into-Crossville

The drive from Stepford to Asheville only took about four and half hours.  I enjoyed driving I-40 near the border and through Cherokee Forest into Asheville, especially the tunnels.  Although my 1997 850’s horsepower was anemic even in its day, the standard transmission, front-wheel drive car handles superbly.  As I drove, I listened to the entire book of Genesis on CD, and experienced a surprising emotional impact the narrative never had upon me when I read it.  I arrived at my hotel about 11:30 a.m. local time.

Sheraton-Four-Points

The Sheraton Four Points is, if Tripadvisor and other online hotel review sites are correct, a former Best Western hotel.  But the rates were excellent and the location good – a block or two from downtown and right off the freeway.  After I checked in, I phoned my friend, Eric, who said he was only a few minutes away.  Our goal was to exchange human powered vehicles – a Pouch E68 folding kayak and a 1985 Razesa 12-speed road/touring bike.  As also noted somewhere on Tripadvisor, the magnetic room-keys didn’t work, but the friendly staffer at the desk quickly “made” new ones.  The room, itself, was a bit small but apparently clean.  The room’s WiFi signal was relatively weak, at two bars, but adequate for email, looking at the weather, etc.

We parked at the edge of the hotel’s lot and emptied our cars of gear.  I assembled the kayak so Eric could see how it was done; he took photos to help remember.  I’m still puzzled by the fact that I always look worse in photographs than I do when I check my appearance in a mirror to make sure I’m presentable before I go outside.  I also brought along some miscellaneous gear found a watch I thought I’d lost at a put-in a couple of years ago; it’d probably got stuck to the velcro on a paddling glove for cold-weather I included in one of the boat’s bags.  We’d both brought our lunches and ate them in the parking lot while assembling the boat and monkeying with the bike.  Here’s a picture of the kayak and gear spread out behind our cars in the parking lot, followed by another picture of Eric riding the Razesa to make sure it could still be ridden and also so I could take the picture of one of his final rides on the bike he bought at Madrid in about 1985.

While we worked in the parking lot, the bus driver for the Liberty University women’s basketball team, in town for a game and staying at the Four Points, came over and talked with us about the kayak and about religion and culture.  Something about a folding kayak that never fails to attract the attention of passersby.

Gear-ExchangeEric-Riding

I bought that red kayak from Ralph Hoehn at www.pouchboats.com in, I don’t know, maybe late 2005.  I wanted something that tracked straight and was sufficiently sturdy that when bracing knees and feet against the frame, the frame itself would not come apart.  Ralph’s demo-boat fit the bill, perfectly.  When I bought it, it had what I think was its original hullskin – without fore-hatch, deck much faded, a sort of rubber tractor-seat, PVC hull much scuffed and nicked.  Ralph challenged me to assemble it without instructions.  As with any of the folding kayaks I’ve owned, it took not too much time to look at and think about the pieces to see how they must fit together.  I was able to manage the thing without very much difficulty, with maybe one part left over.  I assembled it for the first time in the front yard of the first house my wife and I owned. 

The faded red deck was about the coral-pink color of the common trumpet creeper or campsis radicans, which I saw growing on the rocky shoreline of Woods Reservoir the second or third time I paddled the kayak, so it came to me as a sort of vision-quest revelation of the kayak’s name.  Ralph had told me the kayak had never been named, so I was free to find a name for it.

In this kayak, I explored portions of the Duck River up and downstream Normandy Lake, all of Normandy Lake, all of Woods Reservoir, portions of the Elk River up and downstream Woods Reservoir, and most of Tims Ford Lake.  In addition, I paddled Lake Ocoee and Lake Watauga in this kayak.

Here are many of the photos I’ve taken of and from this boat – http://foldingkayaks.org/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=3318 .

About three years ago, now, maybe a little longer ago than that, but not much, I bought a more recent hullskin from Ralph.  Although it was used, it was not much used.  New hullskin came with a forward hatch, a little better workmanship on the rear-deck closure, as well as better workmanship on the rudder-cables management (plastic sleeves to prevent the cables catching on stowed gear aft, and reinforced exit points on the rear deck).  The problem with the new skin is that it never fit quite right, due, in my opinion, largely to PVC tabs holding the sponson sleeves in position.  Inflated, the left side tubes always pushed up over the gunwale frame in front, and at right, was significantly lower than it ought to have been.  Nothing I tried, in terms of fitting the frame into the skin, could correct this.  The kayak paddled fine, but looked odd to me.  I guess I’m OCD enough to have been significantly bugged by the left side bulging.  Back during the summer of 2011, a couple of times I was so frustrated with the odd fit that I wanted to burn the boat or throw in front of a speeding tractor-trailer rig.

I’m not sure why I got so frustrated with the E68, but I couldn’t tolerate the fact that the deck was uneven left to right.  When I mentioned a couple of months ago to Eric that I wanted to burn it, he said, “I like that kayak.”  He’s paddled it several times.  Here’s a picture of him in it on the Stones River near Manson Pike Trailhead at Murfreesboro:

Eric told me he’d purchased the Razesa bike in Madrid in 1985, at which time he was serving as a short-term Southern Baptist missionary there.  He said he bought the bike for around $300.00, and it was a mid-range roadbike he thought comparable to what’s available currently at about $1000.00.  Eric said he and another guy had ridden from Madrid to the Mediterranean coast and back using this and another bike.  When he got back to North Carolina, he said he’d ridden the Outer Banks a few times with it, as well.  Maybe a couple of years ago, I remember him telling me he hadn’t ridden in a long while and that he’d slowed down his jogging regimen.  Back pain, leg pain.  When I mentioned that during the Christmas holidays I’d ridden a very old (late 60’s to early 70’s) Raleigh Grand Prix at Goldman’s Bicycles, and wished I’d gone ahead and bought it at $119.00, he mentioned that he’d had the Razesa in a trainer stand for the past three years using it as a clothes rack.  Said I could have that bike.  I began researching downtube shifting and Razesa bicycles. 

Razesa-View-1 Razesa-View-2Razesa-View-3Razesa-View-4

The bike’s got a lugged frame, Weinmann brakes, Weinmann rims (the original rim on the back and a newer rim on the front), Shimano 600 derailleur, Simplex (according to Chuck – and I found a West Coast Craigslist ad with photos that seems to confirm this) shifters.  I think the frame’s about 54 centimeters.  The steel frame bike is lighter than my aluminum Trek Navigator.  The lugs have some cool decorative cut-outs.  The rack is original, and Eric included a couple of panniers purchased at the same time.

Later on we had supper at Mafel’s downtown, a place we chose because Eric wanted the salmon advertised on the Daily Specials chalkboard.  Turned out to be a good choice – good food and a waitress who laughed at our jokes.  Inside, somebody’d turned the music up too loud; we ate at a table outside protected from the wind by plastic and vinyl side-curtains.  I took pictures of stuff I saw; because my camera bounced out of my sweatshirt pocket while riding around the parking lot earlier, the SD card got scrambled and I lost some of them. 

Ghostbusters-BuildingKress-BuildingRestaurants

Gallery-WindowAsheville-WindowAsheville-Angel

The drive back Sunday was pretty uneventful.  I stopped off at the scenic overlook as I drove down to Sparta from Crossville.  I was reminded again that the state of Tennessee is a good deal more than its government – it’s the land, air, water, living things and what the people living here make of it.  Government is limited because it can be nothing else – a flawed human construct.  Below are some photos I took from the overlook.

Zig-Zag-ParkingWall-of-NamesOverlook-ExitSunday-Morning-Vista

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

Sunday 27 June Estill Springs Slough

I am still trying to figure out how to get multiple photos to appear in some kind of sensible order.  Probably the solution involves inserting a table and inserting the photos into the cells, then adding captions.  I’ll try that next time.

450-S-at-Rest
Gongle (or Gongol) my 1962 Pionier 450 S kayak up a shallow creek that empties in to the Elk River upstream from the ruined footbridge above Beth Page Rd.
450-S-Stern-.75-Waterline
Starboard (right?) rear three-quarter view showing waterline, rudder, steering yoke.
1962-Comfort-Seating
State of the art comfort seating of 1962. My butt didn’t hurt until about the third hour on the water. The curved seat provided adequate thigh support, and seatback supported my lower back to a much greater degree than either of the modern Pouch folding kayaks I own.
Back-Downstream
Heading back downstream toward the bridge above Beth Page Rd. Don’t usually manage to make this far upstream on the Elk; helped by recent rains.
Beth-Page-Rd.-Bridge
Eric paddling Campsis Radicans, my Pouch E68, at Beth Page Rd. bridge. Note the high water.
Blanket-of-Green
A blanket of green water plants (dunno what they’re called) near that second bridge.
C10-in-450-S
That’s me looking a little Spock-like under the hat and smirking while at rest in the cockpit of 450 S.
E68-Cruising
Eric paddling upstream toward that second bridge. Note the waterline. I liked the reflection, which is why I took the picture.
EricE68
Eric & Campsis Radicans up that shallow creek.
Eric-Underway
A snapshot of the E68 underway. Eric was using a Werner Skagit paddle he’d purchased a couple of weeks ago to use with the plastic rec-boat he bought. At 230 cm, the paddle is too long for the E68.
Getting-Seated
Eric snapped about six shots of me getting out of and back in to the 450 S hoping to capture something similar to his concrete-roll portrait the day before at Boat Day in Murfreesboro. Here I’m getting in to the boat. The paddle’s about 223 cm. Dunno what that is in inches.
Lunch-Lock
A not terribly secure lock on our lunchtime mooring in the shade of the bridge at Beth Page Rd. The Pionier came without any deck rigging or perimeter line; I improvised.
Pontoon-Baot
A couple sight-seeing in their 20′ pontoon boat
Rafted-for-Lunch
We rafted up for lunch and ate the remains of a large chicken alfredo pizza.
Rocky-Overhang
I love this stretch of the Elk River above the ruined bridge. Even in extreme heat, this section is cool from the cold river water, and the smell of spring-water seeping and flowering leafy plants at the rock overhang is pleasant. As a bonus, bird sounds and the sound of wind in the trees makes this place worth the price of admission.
Shallow-Maze
The shallow creek maze where we rested a couple of minutes before proceeding to the next bridge upstream. Usually passage upstream from here necessitates wading and pulling the boat behind not much past this place on the map. The river is to the photographer’s back.
Steps-Ahead
Winchester has a number of these stony piers that don’t seem to have much to do with anything currently visible either here or behind the city’s housing projects.
Steps-Close-Up
Some of the stone facing is missing this year. Previously I’d always thought these were Civil War old, but the concrete underneath makes me wonder if they were’nt part of some WPA flood control project before the river was ever dammed.
Strange-Marker
Strange marker at that second bridge. The map shows a gauging station here.
Swallow-Nests
Swallow nests under that second bridge.
Take-Out-Awaits
Thursday awaits us at the take-out, an “unimproved” dirt ramp at Estill Springs City Park in Franklin County, Tennessee.
Trumpet-Creeper
Trumpet creeper, or campsis radicans, in bloom.
Upstream-Elk-River
Just paddling – note improvised deck rigging.

Goals

Cussword Freaking Rain

UPDATE: Cussword Freaking Rain is interfering with my plans for the day.

Today I’m taking another run at the Pionier 450-S keelstrip project.  Remember last time I found that the floor of my garage wasn’t clean-room appropriate for the application of toluene to the approximately 13′ strip’s underside.  In a “D’oh!” moment last week, it occurred to me that I could clean it and keep it clean if I put it upside-down on the hull of the inverted Pionier over sawhorses making a semi-clean work surface under a tree in the driveway.

Hullwork

Pionier 450 S inverted on sawhorses in my workshop

I know that Mark’s instructions for keelstrips call for perfection, but I’ve never been able to manage perfection in the realm of DIY projects.  Historically, I’ve had a hard time figuring out how quarter-round needs to be cut to fit in to and around corners.  That stuff’s baffling.

Because it’s essentially a 2.5″ x 13′ ribbon of synthetic rubber and fabric, the hypalon keelstrip ribboned off the boat’s hull at one point, and I cussed asking God to judge the matter and send it to the hottest place as I caught it in loops and kept it, mostly, off the ground.  That happened as I was rolling the strip with the clean-side out, per instructions, before putting it in it’s bag to stay clean until called for.

I tried to use one of my razors to debride the worn places along the keel, but that didn’t work.  It tended instead to fuzz the edges out somewhat.  So I’ll just have to slop on the glue and stick the strip down extra hard hoping for a good bond.  I will have to measure again, mark, sand, clean, and mask the hull along the keel before painting on the neoprene cement.  The chemical fumes may get me in touch with my left brain and result in better work.  I can at least hope so.

Other goals for the day include a long walk, other fitness activities, cleaning out the little “frog-shaped” pool in the yard Seventy-Six has been using to splash in, assembling the E-68, and washing the 850.  Tomorrow I think I’d like to paddle and mow the lawn.

SECOND UPDATE 2:25 PM:

Downspout

As the rain began to fall in the morning, Seventy-Six and I ran around in the yard kicking the basketball

The rains stopped two or three hours ago, and I was able to get the hull re-marked, wiped down with toluene, taped, and have applied the first coat of neoprene cement.  Humidity’s relatively high, but this is the day and place I have to work with, so I will hope for the best.  Thanks to the chemical fumes, the gnomes in my noggin are feeling pretty active and have found their hammers.  In hoping for the best, I am hoping the left brain gnomes make contact with the right brain gnomes and some sort of equilibrium ensues thereafter.

Taped

Hull is taped prior to application of neoprene cement

Rubber Cement

Neoprene Cement

LATER: When I removed the masking tape from the hull, some of the glue pulled off, too.  At the bow I noticed it first, and brushed on more neoprene cement, let it dry, then began at the stern to gingerly remove the rest of the tape.  Got most of it removed without too much trouble.  I tried to follow Mark’s printed instructions for applying the strip to the glue (although I never did remove the hull’s endcaps and bumpers).  I used a wooden spoon as a “hard object” to press firmly down on the keelstrip as directed to smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles.

Cement Problems

Results of masking tape removal

Glue Strip

By the time I had got about two feet of keelstrip down on the hull, I was aware of problems with the strip sticking on the side of the boat furthest from me.  The edges didn’t seem to be staying down “right.”  I completed the process anyway, and then went back over the entire length of the keelstrip with the wooden spoon to see if that would correct the problem.  In some spots it did.

At the places where the edge was not stuck down, I brushed in a little more of the cement, then used the spoon to press the strip down and smooth it out.  That seemed to work.  I’ll know for sure in a couple of days after the application has had a chance to “cure.”  If it doesn’t work, I can always paddle the kayak until the hull wears through and then order a new one from Wayland.

Paddling Injured

Ready to launch - dirt boat ramp at Estill Springs City Park

Ready to launch - dirt boat ramp at Estill Springs City Park

Injury

Yesterday, for the first time since November, 2008, I paddled my kayak. My shoulder diagnosis was something like “partial thickness tear supraspinatus,” and “spurring on the acromium,” as well as tendonitis. I had a cortisone injection. I took a drug called Soma for 30 days, followed by two months of physical therapy. Star Physical Therapy at Stepford was fantastic. Had some almost out of body experiences while napping in traction. Overall pain reduction and regained most of my pre-injury range of motion. I’m still working on regaining full strength in that one shoulder. Same side trapezius is still occasionally very painful, but much improved. Hurt my back again two or so weeks ago and couldn’t walk for the better part of a day, but my genius chiropractor fixed me up.

Take It Easy

My physical therapist, my chiropractor, and my wife all recommended I take it easy, maybe a couple of hours or about a quarter of my normal distance. So, with no real goal in mind, I drove to Estill Springs City Park. The city permits campers there, and the sites are what I’d call primitive. About five or six families were camped out in tents and RVs when I pulled up at about 8:00 am. Late for me, but I was trying to do this without any goal in mind beyond getting home in time to mow.

Campsis Radicans, the plant after which I named my red Pouch E68 folding kayak

Campsis Radicans, the plant after which I named my red Pouch E68 folding kayak

Going through the routine of assembling my gear, securing the boat to my car’s roof racks, putting on my paddling clothes reassured me at home that I might still know how to do this stuff. Same at the put in, going through the motions in reverse, except I left my boating clothes on. And once in the boat, I felt about the same as I always have in the cockpit. Low-angle stroke powered by torso-rotation and leg movement produced no discernible stress on my injury, no pain.

A Goal

Because I’m obsessive, goal driven freak, I was unable to make having no goal my goal for the day. When I observed the water level in the Tims Ford impoundment of the Elk River higher than I’ve seen it before, I took the opportunity to poke around in the slough. I paddled over ground that’s normally dry, got just about stuck in a shallow place with grass gone to spiky seed. I’d gone in over a small log, but my rudder caught against it paddling backwards out again. Necessitated an 18 or 20 point turn in a 16.5′ kayak. Still, it was better than getting out and wading half sunk in the mud to turn the boat by hand. I felt hungry, but ignored it.

Shoreline across the water from the put-in

Shoreline across the water from the put-in

More water made this place accessible

More water made this place accessible

Straight ahead's where I almost got stuck in weedy mud

Straight ahead's where I almost got stuck in weedy mud

My best guess is that man has carefully explored shoreline out of the desire to find a non-muddy, easy landing place to get out of the boat for urination.

Round-trip maybe 10 miles - not much straight-line paddling, and in no real hurry

Round-trip maybe 10 miles - not much straight-line paddling, and in no real hurry. Click on the image, then in the browser url address line on the linked page change width to some number greater than 300.

When I returned to the main channel of impounded Elk River after exploring hitherto unseen backwaters, and after having found a convenient place to, um, stretch my legs, I continued paddling up toward the bridge at the place Spring Church Road becomes Payne’s Church Road. There’re a couple of farmhouses on your left as you paddle toward the bridge. Past that bridge, which Saturday morning had people fishing under it and off it, the river water has noticeable current, and is much cooler felt through the boat’s skin.

I thought I’d paddle past the first bridge to a ruined bridge maybe a mile further upstream, and then turn around and come back. But at the ruined bridge, I was annoyed to find loud campers, talking like people talk who have been drinking already in the morning after having had too much to drink the night before. Unwilling to have my turnaround place spoiled by the presence philistines, I paddled on, up to where the river takes a left turn (as you are paddling upstream) in broad, steep-banked, tree shaded place. I’ve only ever seen one other boater that far, and saw no one on Saturday.

Because the water was clearly deeper than at any other time I’d been on this part of the river, I thought, “why not see if I can make it to the next bridge?” So I did, even though I knew I should probably call it quits for the day and return to the put-in. I made it to bridge at Morris Ferry Bridge Road (I’m pretty sure that bridge was not Morris Ferry Bridge). Not long after that, I had to get out and wade for a bit, pulling the kayak behind me. I shot some video at this point with the Pentax, pulling the boat by a length of yellow poly-pro line in my left hand, and the camera in my right while trying to step carefully over slippery shin-deep rocky bottom. The water was cold, and felt good rushing past and around my legs that’ve been too long out of sun and kayak and water.

 Reduntantly, the bridge Morris Ferry Bridge Road

Redundantly, the bridge Morris Ferry Bridge Road

Big block mid-stream

Big block mid-stream

Back in the boat, paddle a bit. Out of the boat, wade and pull a bit. My injured shoulder ached a little bit deep in the muscle. I paddled farther despite misgivings. I passed a huge concrete block with rebar around it set squarely in mid-stream. Finally, I came to a place where I had to get out of the boat again near a bank littered with small shells. Undoubtedly some raccoon’s shellfish buffet. There I turned around and headed back downstream.

Small carnivore's shellfish feeding place

Small carnivore's shellfish feeding place

Heading back to the second bridge

Heading back to the second bridge

Plant submerged tenaciously clings to rock in current

Plant submerged tenaciously clings to rock in current

A pretty place

A pretty place

I needed to get back to the car with enough energy remaining to lift the 70 plus pound boat up onto the Volvo’s roofracks, then, once home, to edge and mow the lawn. Going downstream, I think I only had to get out of the boat once at a shallow place. Easier going with the current. I saw a large bird of prey with a white head and whit e tail feathers – a bald eagle?

I ate my "lunch" as I drifted past this place

I ate my "lunch" as I drifted past this place

Last night my shoulder hurt pretty badly a couple of times – woke me up – aspirin helped. This afternoon, I did my prescribed physical therapy exercises. We’ll see whether I can sleep tonight.

This is what a fish sees when it looks at me

This is what a fish sees when it looks at me