Monday, April 13, 2009

maiden voyage


Well it wasn't a total failure but I will have to re-think my entry point. I started out just a few hundred yards downstream from the Fort Patrick Henry Dam a spot I've been eyeing since I had the bright idea of commuting to work via the Holston River. I decided today was a good day to make my first test run to see if there was going to be any problems. My entry point is somewhat of a sketchy hike down to the river trying to carry my kayak while balancing along a very rocky and root infested path. I made it down to the waters edge with no problems and set my kayak down noticing the river still had a little flow which was okay since I was traveling down stream. I checked the dam release schedule before I left the house and it was scheduled to stop generating @ 3pm. At 3:04 I entered the water and started my journey. Earlier in the year I had noticed the water is pretty shallow where I put in which I figured was a good thing if I ever tipped over. I guesstimated it to be around 2 ft deep. Not long after I started I ran across a spot where a small stream entered the river, something I had never seen before but I didn't foresee it as being a problem since it wasn't creating much of a current.
My trip was pretty interesting, I took my time snapping pics of various interesting objects, houses, trees and bridges. My downstream trip in the 10 ft boat took me about 40 mins. a time I new I could easily beat if I just paddled not goofing off with the camera. An interesting feature I did see was a train bridge crossing the river which the train came straight out of the rock cliff from a tunnel which was pretty cool. I actually got to see a train come out of the tunnel on my trip back up stream. As I watched the train cross the river I could see the engineer, gave him a wave and got a wave back. I also saw alot of wildlife, muskrats, ducks geese and a few blue heron which are alot prettier up close.
As I cruised closer to Eastman I passed the burning ground which is located on the cliffs just above the river. As I passed by I could see I was getting quite a bit of attention from the operators who were perched on the catwalk above me. Alot of pointing and looking was going on, I guess they've never seen a kayak before or maybe there was something large and vicious lurking under me in the water that only they could see. That was something I thought about for a split second two separate times during my trip as I scrapped the bottom of my boat on a submerged tree I did not see until I hit it.
I pulled into Eastman just below my gate that I enter for work jumped out, stretched a little and shed a layer before heading back up stream. I decided to put the camera away to see if I could make better time because 40 minutes was just not acceptable when it's 4:15am. I just can't make myself get up much earlier especially when my drive only takes 3-5 minutes. In reality I won't be saving much on gas and I knew that before I made the purchase, I'm in it more for the adventure.
My trip back upstream didn't take as long as it did going down which I expected so my next run should be alot faster. Everything was going smoothly until I reached the point where the stream entered the river. I really didn't have a hard time fighting the current but that was also the point where it got really shallow. I started bottoming out on large rocks and hitting my paddle on the bottom trying to get a good deep stroke. Twice I had to turn around and try a different approach but finally I made it making a mental note of my route. Now here's where my problems began, the further I went upstream the more and more I had trouble running up on large rocks and not being able to get a good paddle stroke due to the shallowness of the water. I starting thinking it wasn't like this on the way down so what gives. Then it dawned on me, I left shortly after the dam stopped releasing which meant the water level was probably still up. Now it was lower and I was fighting a serious headwind. The combination of these factors made me decide to call it a day and head to shore. I really wasn't too far from where I started but trying to reach my original starting point was going to be more work than I wanted to deal with. Once I reached the shore I noticed blood streaks down the side of the kayak. Yesterday I had cut my knuckle and I guess while I was fighting the rocks and wind I nailed it a few times causing a big mess.
The place I decided to hike out really wasn't the best but I made due, finally after a bit of scouting I found an old trail that was used by fishermen and I was able to get back to my neighborhood. As I hiked back up to my house I realized that one of those little 2 wheeled trailers was going to be a must. After an hour and a half of paddling my arms and shoulders were toast and carrying that kayak uphill wasn't helping anything.
If I get a trailer I will be able to use my 12 ft. boat which will be faster and allow me to hike further down to a better put in point where the shallow water won't be a problem. I plan to give it another run later this week to get my route nailed down and hopefully make the first official trip this Friday to work.
I was unable to load any photos this afternoon our computer or internet was acting up but i did run across a few more from Warriors Creek curtosy of Andy Mullins.



Brad said...

this will be the neatest commute of all. well....maybe next to hang gliding to work. let me know when you pull it off. I might still have some black face paint from my military days. you can have it if you want. How's security? Will they have a cow?

Joshua Stamper said...

That sounds like a spectacular way to get to work.

Riding with dogs said...

no need to be sneaky Eastman doesn't own the Holston River. I will be getting out just outside my gate

Alan said...

That has to be one of the sweetest ways to commute

Christopher said...

That is pretty darn cool!

I thought Eastman owned everything in the greater Kgpt area...