Yesterday, Monday the 14th, was rainy, windy, and cold. Richard Grove had shuttled me around Weiss Dam Sunday, and he took me to the Leesburg post office to pick up a general delivery supply package from Kathy. At 9:00, I gave an interview with a very pleasant reporter, and finally got on the water around 10:15. Within 40 minutes, my hands were throbbing from the cold. Eventually, they went numb, but I had to keep looking to be sure that they were gripping the paddle properly. I responded by paddling harder, using longer strikes than normal to bring my core muscles more into the mix. This had the desired effect of keeping my core temperature up and eventually returning feeling to my hands.
About ten miles up the lake, I made a mistake: looking at my chart and the water ahead, it looked like I could leave the channel, cut a corner, and save maybe 3/4 of a mile. By this time, light was noticeably decreasing, so I wanted to get to a motel on the east side of Cedar Bluff, which is on the north side of the channel. As I neared Cedar Bluff, I saw that what had looked like water from two miles away was actually a mud flat bordering the south side of the channel. Looking at the chart again, I saw a cut of deeper water labelled “Crooked Creek” connecting the water I was in to the main channel, so I paddled on. But Crooked Creek is no more; it apparently has filled in from being under the lake surface for many years. By this time, I was 4 miles from where I made that short cut out of the channel, and it was getting dark. Spotting a row of camper trailers on my right, I pulled ashore to ask for help in finding a way out of this mess I had gotten myself into. Surely, I reasoned, these folks would know where the secret cut back to the channel was. The first camper I approached was vacant. So was the second and the third. Then I spotted a car down the row, went to one of the campers nearby and knocked… no answer.
That’s when Larry Waldrop stuck his head out next door and asked if he could help. After I explained my predicament, Larry invited me in, sat me by the heater to warm up, and invited me to stay in his nice, warm, cozy camper. Larry was leaving for home soon, but he assured me that I was welcome to stay the night or wait out the bad weather as long as I needed to. He showed me how everything worked, gave me a key, and, after a delightful hour or so of conversation, Larry headed for home back in Georgia. What a fine gentleman and very reminiscent of Charlie Pettis down in Wewahitchka.
As I write, it is Tuesday morning and getting light enough to paddle. I am packed and ready to follow Larry’s suggestion of the best place to get across the mudflat. If that doesn’t pan out, then I’ll paddle the 8-mile round trip to correct my mistake and chalk it up to experience. My clothes, which were wet in spite of my rain suit, are now dry, and the rain has quit.