A Short Trip Up the Elk River


I’d planned to bring our canoe to Tennessee after our summer trip to the farm, but reckoned the 18’ aluminum Grumman behemoth would not fit on the wagon’s roof racks with my bike on the hitch-rack at the tailgate.  The end of the boat would conk the bike resulting in a loss of the bike’s ride-ability and aesthetics.  So, I figured I’d drive up and get the canoe on a quick weekend trip.  But in July, when my wife’s parents came to visit for a week, they brought the Grumman with them.

A couple of weeks later, my friend, Adrian, and I took the canoe for a short paddle up the Elk River from Prairie Plains bridge to the point where the river became too shallow to paddle it upstream any further.   It’d been well over a year since I’d gone paddling, and I’m not sure Adrian had ever paddled a canoe.  We took lunches, bug spray, and water with us, setting off on a Saturday morning in August.

Cyclemeter's trip webpage screengrab

Cyclemeter’s trip webpage screengrab

We saw no one else on the river, but did hear gunfire from a nearby shooting club.  Paddling a canoe is more tiring than paddling a kayak, but they’re different types of boats for different purposes.  We took a sixty year-old paddle, a fairly new lightweight paddle of reasonable quality, and a really long, double-bladed Klepper paddle.  We stopped for lunch at a riverside pavilion at the edge of a farmer’s beanfield, then paddled a little farther upstream before heading back.






Elk River in the RZ96


Last weekend, my good friend Eric drove out to Stepford from his home in North Carolina to visit with us.  He’s my son’s godfather and I’ve known him since we were at seminary in the Nineties.  You may recall that we last saw each other at Ashville, North Carolina, in January of this year when we exchanged gear – Pouch E68 and Razesa road bike.  The plan was to paddle at least one day during Eric’s visit, possibly two.

We got a late start Saturday.  If you’ve never tried to accomplish a task with an interested and active young child around, you won’t understand why it took so long to get the kayak assembled.  I hadn’t done anything with the RZ96 since patching the hole in the bottom it sustained during a short Duck River paddle from Henry Horton State Park a couple of years ago.  Hole repaired, I carefully packed the boat away and stored it in the better of my two sheds.  I was interested to inspect the repair and hoped the patch hadn’t pulled loose during storage (although I very carefully followed the patching instructions).  When I opened the bags, I inhaled the smell of varnish from the boat’s frame, a restorative reminding me that I a waterman.

Water’s low at Tims Ford and Normandy, but Woods Reservoir is always full.  The bridge at Prairie Plains Road is a long drive, but worth it to paddle upstream the Elk River from what is, essentially, the top of Woods Reservoir (the bottom being, of course, down by the dam if you mentally reckon things the way I do).  When we drove down the rutted hillside road to the dirt parking area, I saw only a couple of pickup trucks backed in by the trees on the right, and noticed that someone, possibly the county sheriff’s department, has placed what purport to be surveillance cameras on a phone-pole, also on the right side as you drive in.  I backed Thursday up to the ramp and we took the Great Blue Heron off its racks.  Got the gear out and in the boat, and rigged the rudder.

As we were doing that, what might have been a family group consisting of one adult male, two adult females, and several children pulled in to the parking area in a small pickup truck.  One of the kids had a great mohawk.  I’m too old, now, for a mohawk, but I’d like to get my hair cut like that maybe once more in my lifetime.  The people from the pickup truck moved off to fish from under the bridge, over to the left.

The last time Eric and I paddled the RZ96 was around Thanksgiving maybe five years ago Normandy Lake.  We’d put in at Barton Springs boat ramp and paddled around Negro Hill and straight on up the branch beside the mouth of which, in high water, is a small island.  I remember we paddled against a headwind and cooked a camp lunch on the rocks partway up before continuing as far up as water level permitted.  On the way back down we umbrella-sailed using my old green and white Roundup golf-umbrella.  I recall the November hillsides looked tiger-striped with shadows and orange fall leaves still clinging to the wooded slopes.

Here’s a picture of Eric about to take a picture of me taking a picture of him at the put-in – neither snapshot showed our best likenesses:


Last Saturday at the Elk River put in, however, it was hot and windless, the foliage full and green, the water likewise a murky green common to the lakes in this part of Tennessee.  We paddled upstream, past the group fishing on our left.  I wondered whether I’d remember how to paddle a kayak, but it was not a problem.  I used my $100.00 Eric Renshaw Greenland paddle, and Eric used a 230 centimeter Werner Skagit.  A few years ago, I intended to install backbands to replace the Stasi torture devices Pouch included as backrests.  I wish I’d got that done.  Still, as long as I remembered to take responsibility for my own posture and correct for my peculiar leaning bias (I wonder whether the same portions of my brain failed to develop properly that, when damaged in some people who have strokes, produces Pusher Syndrome or its mirror-image), I was able to paddle without too much pain for most of the journey.

After awhile, we came upon two couples in separate row-boat style craft lazily paddling.  I don’t normally snap photos of people I meet while exploring because I don’t like to be photographed, myself.  Eric had no such scruple and took a picture, but much in the way of detail is obscured by distance.


For about an hour we paddled upstream. At one point, the water was shallow, but deep enough for us to pass over the rocky and weedy bottom. I’ve noticed this on other trips, that the water of the Elk appears a milky blue in color maybe a mile up from the bridge at Prairie Plains Road.


We continued until our backs were sore past the point where we discerned the river’s current and decided to turn back around and head downstream.  Then we kept paddling upstream to see if there was a place just around that bend and then the next bend to get out and stretch.  Finally, our progress was completely impeded by fallen tree across the river too low across the water’s surface for us to get the kayak under.  Actually, looking at that picture at left, it appears we might have been able to get the boat under the tree there at the right bank.  Truth is, we didn’t notice, and it may’ve been too shallow there.


On the way back, having found no convenient place to get out of the boat to stretch my back, I raised and secured the rudder, then sat on the seatback swiveled to receive my overlarge buttocks.  I experienced great relief at the lower back and paddled thus for awhile.  Along the way, we saw some pinkish-purple wildflower in bloom.  We saw a great deal of driftwood.  We saw an otter swimming and I noted its peculiar pointed ears, like those of a cat, but smaller and wider set.  We saw one or two great blue herons in flight.  Eric saw a couple of turtles, but I saw none.  I saw no fish except minnows at the put in swarming about in the bathwater warm shallow.


I don’t like being photographed, but have been working on a fake smile for those occasions when the ordeal is unavoidable.  Eric shot this one over his shoulder, without looking.  It is less self-aggrandizing than the one wherein while paddling I assumed a heroic three-quarter sort of profile while pretending not to notice the camera.


Back at the put in, we witnessed a young couple that’d been drinking something with alcohol in it jump off the bridge into the green water.  They swam back and waded ashore, the woman saying she’d touched the bottom and the man saying he’d managed not to.  By the time Eric and I got back to the house, my wife had prepared a dish of kale and Italian sausage along with a dessert made with almond-flavored cream, blueberries and mandarin oranges.

LATER:  Here’re a couple of pictures of Eric that are better than the two above.  I took them the day after we paddled the Elk River – a week ago last Sunday:

Eric riding Miyata 610

Eric-at-SGBF Eric gave a brief talk about ministry to street kids at SGBF during his visit with us

Eric riding a 1981 Miyata 610

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.’


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.


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.

Dabbs Ford to Bluebell Island, and Back Again

After paddling as far upstream on the Elk as I had the patience to paddle, I turned downstream, and below Dabbs Ford Bridge picked up this rider

After paddling as far upstream on the Elk as I had the patience to paddle, I turned downstream, and below Dabbs Ford Bridge picked up this rider

This morning, I was on the water by 7:20. I wasted some time poking around the shoreline just upstream from Prairie Plains Road Bridge, or, as I think it is more properly known, Dabbs Ford Bridge. Paddling backwards out of one narrow place, the rudder banged against a submerged log or stump, and would not straighten out. I flipped it up, still turned ninety degrees right. I paddled back to the put in, got out of the boat, got the rudder unjammed, then headed upstream again.

My ambitious goal was to reach I-24. Tommy Rogers, at the TSRA forum, said he didn’t think I’d make it even as far as the Tyson plant at Highway 50/64. Too many fallen trees blocking passage, too many shallow rocky places. He said he tried it last year, became frustrated, and turned back.

Tommy was right. I made it upstream to a point where I could hear, or thought I could hear, traffic from the highway. Getting that far, however, involved getting out of the boat in three or four places pulling it behind me like a child’s wagon, and in one place dragging it over fallen trees. I made less than 10 miles today, but it took about five hours, round trip. My photos are here.

On my way back downstream - working hard, not smart.

On my way back downstream - working hard, not smart.

A couple of times conditions had me wishing for an aluminum canoe, a can of gas, and a chainsaw.  I think I would’ve been more likely thus equipped to persist in my exploration.  Not too far from Dabbs Ford, I met a couple of guys with a cooler and fishing poles paddling toward me.  First time I’ve met other paddlers on the water anywhere on or around Woods Reservoir/Elk River making purposeful use of a boat.

I waded a lot, this trip, and was mindful of foot placement around driftwood and submerged logs afraid of losing a toe to a snapping turtle. The E68’s tough PVC hull did fine, and the keelstrips appeared no worse for the abuse at day’s end. When I returned to the put in, I checked my car’s clock (I’ve lost my watch), and it said 12:00.

Too early. I got back in the kayak and paddled downstream to the lake. On the way, I picked up a butterfly that rode with me until I took the boat from the water for the drive home. Car-clock said 1:00 as I drove back toward Miller’s Crossing on Prairie Plains Rd.

Dramatic bow of Campsis Radicans

Dramatic bow of Campsis Radicans

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.