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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Last Thursday and Friday, I completed most of my Chattanooga reports and did some other work. I haven’t felt much like writing anything else, but do want to post some photos from my paddle yesterday afternoon at Winchester, Tennessee. Mapquest revealed the location Winchester City Park, which is across the street from the city’s Swimplex. A windy day, and possibly the coolest sunny day we’ve had this Fall, the boat ramp was not busy, although a children’s party of some sort was taking place at or around a nearby pavilion.
As I was readying Campsis Radicans for launch, a man in a bassboat in friendly fashion told me I would be well served by a sailing rig. No fish had he caught. We laughed about the wind. I was looking forward to paddling against it, I felt like I needed the exercise and something to resist (however, if the radical socialists prevail in the coming US elections, thinking Americans who put their nation and its constitution first will have plenty to resist – see Buchanan & WSJ).
On the water, I paddled left, past the other boat ramp and the fishing dock, then under the bridge. I came to a sort drainpipe through which I paddled into a backwater into which flowed a creek the name of which I do not know. Paddled under a footbridge and around a bend then through a tiny sea of twigs until I ran aground, then back the way I came. A footpath with benches and a bridge passed over and along the creek’s bank, apparently part of the city park complex.
Both my prior trips this way, I ignored Wagner Creek Branch. On the map, it doesn’t look like much. From the water, too many houses on the bank at my right, steep and rocky with fewer houses on my left. I liked the left bank much better. Saw a small kayak unsuitable for covering flatwater distance on a paved private boat ramp behind a too large, too new house that I tried not to covet. On the left bank I saw an eccentrically but attractively painted dock.
Under the road bridge farther upstream I saw a fat, brown groundhog on a rocky shelf next to the water. Looking at me as I greeted it with a quiet and surprised, “Hello,” the creature turned and hastily walked out of sight under an overhanging shelf nearby. Around the next clump of trees and shoreline, I met a man and woman fishing. They said they had caught nothing, and asked a couple of questions about kayaks.
Back out and around the point to Boiling Fork creek, the wind began to howl from the northeast, as NOAA had predicted. I spoke baby words my son uses into the wind, “Eeeachh,” “Eh, Eh,” then “Bwah!” to the water. Early yet, I thought it would be interesting to back to that cave I’d paddled into on June 21, the day I paddled twice to the map’s edge. The water was lower by several feet, yesterday, as Tims Ford reduces volume to winter pool levels. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it that far back up Boiling Fork.
Strong wind at my back I thought, “Paddling back against this will be difficult.” Water was sufficiently high to wend my way through Winchester, the slough behind the main street into town, probably Hwy 41-A/64, then past the new Franklin County High School, and to the cave in question. I could have gone farther, but since I’d got such a late start (on the water around 12:15 pm), I’d head back after seeing the cave. I observed tracks in the cave I could not identify. One of the photos I took of the inky blackness beyond the muddy floor shows the gleam of what might have been an animal’s eye. Maybe a raccoon or a small wildcat of the sort indigenous to the region. I observed the cave paintings of a troglodyte band proclaiming themselves “PUNKS” next to red earthen handprints and an alphabetic arrangement I have not yet deciphered in the same medium. Through a cloud of mosquitoes at the cave’s mouth I paddled backwards, observing a large carp in the shallow water unconcerned with my presence.
Stopped out of the wind to eat a snack made of two Slim Jims and a croissant, three generic Fig Newton cookies, and two hands full of salted almonds and raisins. And then back to the boat ramp against the howling wind that sped my passage the other way. Near the roadbridge close to the city park’s boat ramp, I saw two men in a flatbottom, motorized fishing boat. One of them said he was having a pretty good day, had caught no fish, and opined that less the wind, the day would improve.
Shortly thereafter, upon reaching the boat ramp, I wished the wind had been stronger. I saw another of the groundhogs standing on the rocks beside the ramp. I took a picture as the animal quickly walked away.
Thing about blogging at 360.yahoo.com is it more or less forced me to choose only one image to include with my posts. WordPress makes it pretty easy to include as many as I like, and I’ve exhibited some tendency therefore to choose with less care than is warranted.
These pictures were taken in the slough near the “steps” across the water from Estill Springs City Park. Something about the straw-like dried grass in the following photo exerted a strong influence over my attention.