Sorry I haven’t written for a few days. I’ve just been so cold and tired that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Yesterday was the easiest of the three, so I got my journal current, which I will now share:
Tuesday, 2/5/13: 15.2 miles; Trip: 1468.7 miles
Wednesday, 2/6/13: 11.9 miles; Trip: 1480.6 miles
Thursday, 2/7/13: 8.6 miles; trip: 1489.2 miles
The daily miles tell part of the story. As I approach the river’s headwaters, the river gets steeper and steeper, and the paddling gets tougher. I haven’t counted, but I think that I’ve averaged having to get out of the boat 7 or 8 times per day these last three days. Most of these events have resulted from encountering rapids that I simply couldn’t paddle up, but a few have involved getting around trees that were blocking the entire river. This far up the river, the channel ranges from about 25′ to 100′ wide. Where it is narrow, it is normally fairly deep and fast. The wider sections are usually the result if rapids. With the recent heavy rains, a lot of undercutting of the river banks has occurred, often sending trees into the river, where they sometimes block the channel.
Getting out of the boat has ranged from very difficult to quite easy. One of my earlier out-of-boat experiences was the toughest. Upriver of GA 372, I encountered unpaddleable rapid that was so deep and fast that it was impossible to wade, and the banks were too steep to walk and line the boat up. In fact, the bank was too steep to stand and unload the boat, so I pulled myself up the bank with the aid of exposed roots and vines, and then pulled the loaded boat up the bank. That took every bit of strength that I had, but I got it done. Unlike an earlier portage, the growth at the top of the bank was too thick to allow easy maneuvering, so I unloaded the boat and slid it along the face of the bank, keeping it from sliding back into the water with the support of trees growing along the bank. The whole portage was no more than 80′ to 100′, but it was a challenge.
The easiest encounter was actually fun. A multiple-trunked tulip poplar was completely blocking the channel, but at one point, one trunk was submerged and two were above water. I was able to pull the bow of the boat under the lower of the two exposed trunks, step over the trunk, back into my boat, duck, and pull boat and self under the other one. That all took no more than two minutes. The only hard part was keeping the boat in place as I stepped out and then back in. It was reminiscent of military training obstacle courses.
During the course of each of these three days, I benefitted greatly from my new, Kokatat, knee-high, paddling boots, until I was forced into water higher than the boots. Their waterproofness worked both ways, keeping my feet nice and dry, even when I was briefly in water over the tightly cinched tops, but keeping my feet immersed for the rest of each day after I had to wade a while in thigh-deep to waist-deep water. I supposed that I could have taken the boots off and emptied them, but that takes a while and requires a stable place to get out of the boat, which never seemed to be handy.
I camped one night of these last three, going home to wash and dry gear the other two. I have had great support from dear friends, Richard Grove, Tom Lamb, Murray Lamb, Mike Saunders, and Joe Smith. These guys shuttled me, helped me carry boat and gear, and met me at times that were tough to pin down with the variable river conditions. I will never be able to fully repay them for their kindness.
Enough blogging. I am meeting Mike, Joe, and their wives over breakfast this morning, and then the guys are going to help me put in and shuttle my car from Ga 136 to Castleberry Bridge, the section I will paddle today. Richard and his friend, Steve, are paddling the same section, but downriver from Castleberry Bridge today. I am looking forward to seeing them. I just hope that they don’t go through the gold mining tunnel while I am working my way upriver around it. That would actually be kinda funny.