A Birthday Paddling…

Catchy title, don’t you think?

So I went for a paddle on my birthday.  Took the old kayak out for the second time this season, and it was nice to be on the river again.  I went WAY up north compared to my usual paddle spots, and paid dearly for it.  That far upstream had very little water, and I spent quite a bit of time walking instead of floating.

I put in at Oscar Patterson Road, which is in northern Madison County.  My goal was to make it as far south as Ryland Pike, a trip of around 17 miles.  Ambitious, but with a decent flow that far north, not impossible.  With the river at floatable levels, the current is about 7 mph, so with some paddling you could do that in a reasonable time.  I put in fairly early, so had hopes to be at Ryland Pike around 2-2:30 in the afternoon.

Didn’t happen.

For one, the trip was just too full of walking and portages to be done that quickly.  Only one real snarl where I had to drag my boat up on dry land, but that was enough.  Getting in and out made the boat fill with water pretty quick, so there was that too.  Had to stop twice to drain the boat.  In my kayak, an Old Town Vapor, the very stable design makes it hard to get water out.  It’s also pretty hard to get water IN, so that’s okay.  I put in a drain plug, but put it in a place I THOUGHT would be reasonable, but really isn’t.  This year’s model has a drain plug, and it is in a much better position.  At $5 to install, I may copy them and put one in where the factory does.

Anyway, the trip was fun.  I didn’t bring a camera, so no pictures.  There was more technical spots than I am used to, including going over a 2 foot waterfall.  Exciting.  But again, plenty of walking was involved as well.  Saw more turtles on this trip than I have ever seen.  Don’t know if I was quieter of if the population is higher that far north.

Also, I’m used to the Flint to be a mostly mud bottom.  Up that far north the bottom is mostly stone.  That meant the fish changed from big old fat catfish to big old fat bass.  That was different.  And while I’m used to seeing 3-4 herons while paddling, I must have seen 20 on this trip.  Including two that were fighting, a sight I’ve never seen before.  It looked like two swashbuckling swordsmen going at it with their big old beaks and their wings spread wide.

I did see snakes, but not many.  I expected to see more since the bottom was stone, but the water moves fast and they tend to not like that.  I’m not complaining.

Didn’t see any muskrats or signs of river otters like I do further downstream.  In fact, I didn’t seen many large animals at all, except for heron.  Which is a pretty damn big bird when it circles around you making angry noises.  Thankfully no geese, since any geese there this time of year would be resident.

I missed the ducks I’m used to, but again the fast water would deter that.  I missed the cliffs of the downstream sections, but the drop was significant.  I won’t swear to it, but the GPS said I dropped near 100 feet.

I didn’t prepare well for the heat and the sun.  I’m a bit sunburn on my face and I ran out of water.  So when it was 1pm and I made it to Winchester, I had to pull out.  I couldn’t survive another 10 miles in the heat without fresh water.  There used to be a canoe rental place at Winchester, but that closed when the owner died and is all locked up and not accessible.  I did find a way out, but it wasn’t easy and involved pulling the boat up by rope.  That wasn’t fun.

But overall, a very fun trip.  Unfortunately pulling my gear up the cliff at the take out caused my paddle to fall out, and I didn’t notice it till I was almost home.  So I had to return to the take out and search for it.  Thankfully I found it.

I took with me a new paddle, so I’m extra glad I found it.  I wasn’t sure I’d like this new paddle that was a birthday gift, but I found I really did like it.  Instead of locking in place with spring loaded pins, this one locks together with a compression joint.  That allows me to feather the paddle in any position I want (I like about 30 degrees I found) and not in the predefined 45 and 90 degree settings.  It also means I could make the paddle as long as I wanted.  I need at lest 230cm, and while this one is only supposed to go to 230, I had no trouble going beyond the stops and having a 240 or 245cm paddle.  So yea, much paddle love.

So that’s my trip.  Not very exciting since I took no pictures or video this time out.  Frankly, I’m glad cause I was exhausted by the end.  I did turn on my tripminder, so if you caught my tweet you could have followed me down the river here at the blog.  Hopefully I’ll be out again soon and you’ll get another chance.