New paddle in hand!

My replacement paddle has arrived, and the floodwaters have receded over around Rome, so Richard Grove and I are heading to Lock and Dam Park in the morning to paddle the sections that the recent heavy rains forced me to bypass. Rough weather is forecast for Wednesday, so that may be a good day to stay in camp, but then I am hoping to finish up all of the remaining bypassed river sections.

Categories: Equipment, The Trip, Zero Days: R&R | 2 Comments

What a mess!

The day started good, though cold. It went from 26 all the way up to 34 during the afternoon. Three to five inch icicles hung from branches at every rapid or limb in the river generating splashes.

Just after I passed I-575 in Canton, my beloved ZRE carbon fiber paddle broke. This is no reflection on the paddle, but it is a reflection on the incredible abuse that I have given the paddle over many years. I had long ago worn the epoxy coating off the edge of the blade—had even resurfaced it with epoxy once, just not recently enough. The paddle blade delaminated, ending up looking like a duck with its mouth open. It was worse than useless since I got splashed when this happened right in the middle of paddling up a small rapid. I had brought Kathy’s kayak paddle as a spare, but I learned today just how wet you can get paddling with too short a kayak paddle. My clothes were soaked and I was getting a bit hypothermic before it was all over. I will paddle upriver a few miles in the morning and be met by my good friend, Richard Grove. I will spend a few days re-equipping and then finish up the trip.

Categories: Equipment, The Trip | 7 Comments

Across Lake Allatoona

Today: 22.7 miles
Trip: 1393.2 miles

I hit the lake at 8:00 this morning, paddled from my campsite in Red Top Mountain State Park to the Allatoona
Dam, up the lake to Knox Bridge, which is generally considered the upper end of the lake, and then went another 1.8 miles. With the exception of about 3 miles, I had the strong winds on my back or flank, which made paddling easier today than what I have been growing accustomed to—nice!

It’s going to be quite cold tonight, in the 20’s, so I will not likely get out and about until it warms up just a bit.

Categories: The Trip | 5 Comments

Long shuttle

The Corps is still releasing at high flow from Allatoona, so I had to admit that I simply could not paddle against that current without undo danger. I paddled about 3 1/2 miles downriver to Johnny and Michelle’s weekend river home and had a delicious breakfast and enjoyable conversation with them. A half mile downriver, I met friends Mike Saunders and Joe Smith, who shuttled me around the stretch below the dam to Red Top Mountain State Park. I am going to paddle on from here and come back in a month or two when these rivers are not in flood to paddle the roughly 56 miles that I have had to bypass.

I will set out from here on Lake Allatoona in the morning, with an estimated 100.7 miles to reach Pine Valley, slightly less if I end the trip at Elvin and Nancy Hilyer’s house. That remains undecided at the moment.

Categories: People, The Trip | 2 Comments

On the Etowah at last

Today: 10.2 miles
Trip: 1376.7

Joe Cook took me to an access point for the Oostanaula River this morning. I pulled away at 8:30, paddled a very short way, a couple hundred yards, perhaps, and then headed upriver on the Etowah. At last! Although I had heard from the Corps of Engineers that they were releasing a lot of water and would continue to do so, I made great progress for the first six or seven miles. The farther I went upriver, though, the faster the current became. I finally reached a point at which it was too fast to be safe, so I went back downriver a quarter mile to a nice campsite. Mike Saunders and Joe Smith are coming tomorrow to shuttle me around Allatoona Dam.

Nice campsite

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Categories: The Trip | 7 Comments

Getting underway again

When I got off the river Tuesday, a few miles below Rome, the river stage was at 20′. It looked like it might drop back down to a manageable level by Saturday or Sunday, but that clearly is not the case. I’ve about had all the sitting around a hotel that I can stand, so I am launching this morning right at the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers, where the Coosa begins. Almost all of these flood waters are coming from the Oostanaula, so paddling up the Etowah should be relatively straightforward. I did some scouting of the river yesterday, and it’s looking good. On the other hand, here’s the Coosa gage at Rome this morning. Note that 20′ was right at my limits to paddle up and, in retrospect, was more dangerous than I care to tackle again.

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Categories: The Trip, Zero Days: R&R | 3 Comments

Right on , Larry

Today: 22.0 miles
Trip: 1366.5 miles

I was pretty down yesterday because of of my mistake in getting out of the channel, but meeting Larry Waldrop turned that around. First thing this morning, I paddled over to the mud flat/sandbar right where he had suggested, and there was the lowest and narrowest point of the bar, as he had said it would be. In only twenty minutes, I was able to drag the loaded boat across the bar and was on my way.

Paddling was not difficult for the first few hours, with only moderate current. After lunch, though, I could clearly see that the water level and the river velocity were increasing rapidly. The last two hours that I was on the river were tougher than any I have ever endured. The two big dangers were fast-moving logs in the channel and the difficulty of staying at river’s edge where river velocity is lowest. I normally stay right at the edge of the channel, back under the trees. Quite often, velocity is zero here, allowing rapid progress upriver. This was impossible this afternoon with flood waters rising to and above the trees’ branches. Every flooded tree required a detour out into the faster moving mid-channel flow. As soon as I had passed a tree, I would cut back toward the bank, being careful not to get swept back into the tree that I had just gotten around.

Amos Tuck, with Coosa River Basin Initiative, picked me up at River Road boat ramp, and I am now comfortably housed at the Rome Days Inn.

Categories: People, The Trip | 8 Comments

Wet and cold… then a warm heart

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.

Categories: People, The Trip | 6 Comments

Racing the rain

Today: 17.6 miles
Trip: 1329.9

I hit the river at 5:50 in full darkness, with no moon. It was really pretty. A lot of beavers were out, slapping the water to make certain that I knew that I was trespassing. The weather forecast had called for thunderstorms to begin by 9:00 a.m. and continue all day. One did rumble by but did not hit where I was. The threat of storms kept me moving along at a good pace, though: 3.7 mph average speed. Richard met me at 10:10. He will shuttle me around Weiss Dam in the morning.

Categories: The Trip | 2 Comments

Racing the rain

Today: 17.6 miles
Trip: 1329.9

I hit the river at 5:50 in full darkness, with no moon. It was really pretty. A lot of beavers were out, slapping the water to make certain that I knew that I was trespassing. The weather forecast had called for thunderstorms to begin by 9:00 a.m. and continue all day. One did rumble by but did not hit where I was. The threat of storms kept me moving along at a good pace, though: 3.7 mph average speed. Richard met me at 10:10. He will shuttle me around Weiss Dam in the morning.

Categories: The Trip | 1 Comment