Monthly Archives: August 2017

Chicks.

Yeah, yeah – I know what you’re thinking. So, no, not those kinds of “chicks”. I’m referring to Chickamauga Creek, or more specifically, West Chick and South Chick. No one is more disappointed that I am, trust me.

However, the paddling wasn’t disappointing. I undertook a new, long somewhat tricky paddle on Saturday, which began at the Camp Jordan put-in on West Chick Creek, just north of the Georgia state line. That was, of course, after a couple of hours at the gym, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and other parts of my former Stomping Grounds (which was, yes, a little nostalgic). See, I took the long way around, via FO, because I wanted to take a look at the put-in I visited a few weeks ago, to see if it was any better. It wasn’t.

But Camp Jordan, that was a good put-in. However, the deep, slow conditions at the put-in didn’t last – West Chick quickly gave way to fast, shallow water, just littered with rocks and downed trees. Lots of back-and-forth, running aground (arock?), and portaging. After about 2 miles of this, I made it to where West Chick empties into South Chick, and headed for the area I paddled last weekend (although this time, I was coming downstream; I came upstream last time).

West Chick, right before the pedestrian walkway into Camp Jordan, and the confluence of West and South Chick - click for larger

West Chick, right before the pedestrian walkway into Camp Jordan, and the confluence of West and South Chick – click for larger

This part of South Chick was much better, and I made it quickly under I-75, Brainerd Road, and to the airport, just about 100 yards short of where I made it to last weekend. Unfortunately, there are two big pipes (of some sort) that cross the creek here, and there was no way around them, just like last weekend. If I had some rope with me, I might have been able to lug the boat up the shore (it was about 6′ – 8′ feet up the wall of the man-made canal along the levy), but it was no big deal – lots of creek left to explore. So, back upstream, through the West Chick/South Chick confluence again, and into the tricky waters heading south on South Chick.

And here, my first real challenge. There’s a fast-moving waterfall here I tried to get over, but coming from downstream, it just wasn’t happening. So, portaging the boat maybe 50 or 60 yards through the adjacent marsh and rocks to get above the waterfall. Not easy, but doable. A couple miles up and back South Chick to thee confluence, and with time remaining in the day, I decided to get out here (there’s a put-in here) and carry the boat about 1/4 mile across Camp Jordan to the original put-in. Paddling the 2 miles back up West Chick just wasn’t an option – the shallow, fast water and debris were challenging enough downstream; upstream would have taken hours. And, of course, the increased likelihood of having an accident – although in the shallow waters, the risk of drowning is pretty low, but still, never underestimate.

click for larger

click for larger

So, I walked across Camp Jordan, and put back in, and then headed upstream on West Chick, towards Georgia. The creek here wasn’t as bad as the other sections, but there were still obstacles and debris. Nonetheless, about 2 miles up the creek, I crossed the state line into Georgia, my second interstate paddle. I didn’t go far into Georgia, but I made it – that was my goal. Following that, a speedy downstream paddle back, done and done.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

Of course, that wasn’t all for the weekend. Sunday morning – early – I saddled up the motorbike to head over to Ketner’s Mill. I’ve heard you can paddle here, so I wanted to go check it out to see if that was so (spoiler alert: it is). That, and I just wanted to ride the bike – I’ve been riding it more lately, and a dry, early Sunday morning is the perfect time to do so.

Ketner's Mill - click for larger

Ketner’s Mill – click for larger

Ketner’s Mill itself was very cool, and I’m excited about paddling here. I’m going to put in below the dam (that was built to operate the old mill) which should make for compelling scenery. The trick will be to get close to dam for good photos, without getting pulled under. This will actually be pretty dangerous, but I can do it. From there, I’ll just explore the Sequatchie River as far as I can – should be a good trip.

So, I looked around the Mill for a bit, then headed back – still early. Not a long ride; but good for the soul. Of course, I’m still thinking of selling the bike, but on days like today, I really don’t want to. We’ll see. Granted, riding a motorbike these days is dangerous – car drivers are way too distracted. But getting out on a twisty road first thing in the morning can’t be beat, and hey, danger is my business.

Link:
Camp Jordan Paddle Photo Album on Facebook

Dark Side of the Moon. Or Sun. Whatever.

click for larger

click for larger

August 21st. Eclipse Day. They’ve been talking about it for well over a year, and it finally arrived. And, of course, I decided to paddle during it.

the moment of totality - click for larger

the moment of totality – click for larger

I really don’t have much to say about it that hasn’t been said already. It was an eclipse. It got dark. Although, even at 99.6% totality where I was, it wasn’t as dark as I expected. Still, I’m glad I paddled during it – it beat just sitting on the porch watching it. Really, though, with all the chatter about it, it was a little anticlimactic. Of course, getting to have a paddle is always a plus, so I’m not complaining.

I put in a couple of hours before totality, so I ended up doing more than 7.5 miles, and explored the shoreline on the far side of the river, including the cave below the Art District, Citgo Creek, and other sports I’ve not been to. And, of course, a visit to Maclellan Island – always a favorite spot. I guess it was a good way to spend a rare event.

click for larger, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Movescount data

1000-check-ins-smIn other cosmically-significant news, prior to the paddle, I hit my 1000th check-in at the gym. I’ve actually been quite a bit more than that; I didn’t start checking in until after I had been going for about a year. Regardless, this is how you do it. You can’t just go every now and then – well, not if you want to see the kind of results I’m getting. It’s a lifestyle commitment, and now, it’s probably the biggest part of my life (which is either awesome or sad, depending on your perspective). Sure there are days I just don’t feel it, but most of those days, I go anyway.

Link:
Eclipse Paddle Photo Album on Facebook

Won’t Get Fooled Again.

I don’t like to lose. Or more specifically, be beat. Back at the first of the year, a trail beat me, but I went back, and beat it (the mountain lion notwithstanding). Back in June, a creek beat me. So, this weekend, I went back and beat it. Soundly.

heading downstream, approaching Lightfoot Mill Road - click for larger

heading downstream, approaching Lightfoot Mill Road – click for larger

South Chick Creek was by far the most challenging paddle I’ve undertaken. Not just the distance, but the water. As in, fast moving water. Fast moving water, and lots of obstacles, in the form of rocks, downed trees and other debris. The last time I tried this paddle, I had to turn back at Lightfoot Mill Road, because the water was just too fast and too rough to go upstream through.

parked under Lightfoot Mill Road - click for larger

parked under Lightfoot Mill Road – click for larger

The area around Lightfoot Mill Road is just a mess. There are 5 bridge trestles right next to each other, and a sixth just upstream. These trestles funnel the water, and create fast, completely unpredictable currents, as well as catch all sorts of debris (which further disturbs the water). Downstream, different problems getting through the rapids; but upstream – that’s tough paddling, which is why I had to turn back last time. The water this time was only slightly less turbulent, but I found a place to land right at the rapids, where I could portage the boat upstream past the first trestle, where the water was the worst. Surprisingly, this worked out quite well.

the mess that is South Chick at Lightfoot Mill - click for larger

the mess that is South Chick at Lightfoot Mill – click for larger

This wasn’t the only place the water was rough – there was turbulent water many places along the creek, caused mostly by rocks. However, as I’ve become more experienced, I’ve learned to “read” the waters, and know where to go, and where not to go. But the upstream paddle was extremely tough – there were several places that I had to get out and drag the boat through the water due to the conditions. I just made the decision that this was the best the waters were going to be (since it hasn’t rained much lately) so it was either now, or never. It was a slow slog upstream, taking 5 hours to go about 11 miles.

click for larger

click for larger

Nonetheless, I made it as far as I wanted, to the airport. This was pretty cool, being right at the end of the runway – the roar from the jets taking off was tremendous. Here, I had to turn around; there’s a levy across the creek with a waterfall, rapids, and no real spot to portage. Even if there was, after struggling to get upstream, I was just too tired to try to find a way around, and knowing that the downstream paddle was going to be just as treacherous (because of the rapids), I headed back. I did explore a side fork which may have led around; I’m just not sure, and I didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to find out. However, I made it farther than I expected to – all that was left was to fight the rapids back downstream.

And it was a fight, although downstream was significantly faster that upstream – just a matter of not turning the boat over (which I very nearly did, at 2:30 in the video). I decided to portage around Lightfoot Mill downstream, as well (4:15 in the video) – just too dangerous to try to do this solo. Fast water, even if it’s only a couple feet deep, can absolutely drown you if things go south, especially if the water is littered with the debris.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data


Despite the dangerous waters, rocks and debris, I made it successfully back downstream to the put-in at Sterchi Farms, but by the time I got back, I was shredded. 19 miles round-trip – my second farthest paddle. But it took almost 8 hours, the majority of which was the upstream slog. Still, very gratifying. To me, there’s nothing worse than giving up on anything. I’m just not a quitter. You may beat me once, but you won’t beat me twice.

Of course, this was Saturday, so there was still Sunday to find a little adventure. However, I was still completely exhausted and sore; so much so, I didn’t even make it to the gym. But I did get out firs thing Sunday morning – on the motorbike. Not a long ride, but enough to remind me how much I like to ride. Riding early in the morning is great – practically no traffic to contend with, which is the worst part of riding. Drivers in cars just don’t pay attention. Seems like everyone speeds, and they’re distracted by their phones, GPS, other gadgets. Riding is just perilous. I’m still planning on selling the bike, but I’m going to enjoy it a little bit before I do. I’ll either sell it, or wrap it around a tree, but one way or the other, I’m officially going to hang up my helmet very soon.

Who am I kidding? I’ll keep my helmet. You never know.

40-million
Even with all that excitement, there was one more significant event – I rolled over 40 million steps on my Fitbit. That’s in just over 4 years’ time. I’ve pretty much decided I’ll quit counting at 5 years, or 50 million steps, whichever comes first. Of course, I’ve said that before…

Link:
South Chick/Airport Paddle Photo Album on Facebook

Love-Hate Relationship.

Mother Nature and I clearly have a love-hate relationship, and this weekend, she came at me with both barrels. Some awesome adventures, new milestones and personal-bests, and – as usual – she reminded me that she’s got me squarely in her crosshairs.

click for larger

click for larger

First, the elephant in the room. Or. more specifically, the snake in the driveway. That, kids, is a Timber Rattlesnake – the biggest one I’ve ever seen. At least 4 feet long, but I think closer to 5′ (I erred on the side of caution and didn’t get my tape measure out). This was in. My. Driveway. Where I walk. For the past two weeks, BJ has been acting very uneasy; almost scared. He’s been hiding, not wanting to go outside. Well, I guess I know why – he must have encountered this guy out in the yard; luckily, he didn’t get bitten. As for me, I’ll never mow the grass again. And I need to buy some stilts. So, let’s recap: a mountain lion, a bear, a pack of wild dogs, a copperhead, scorpions, bees and now 2 rattlesnakes. It’s amazing I ever go outside.

Williams Island - click for larger

Williams Island – click for larger

But I do. A lot. And this weekend, it paid off. Saturday, I decided to paddle the last little section of the river I needed to do to complete the Blueway. I was only lacking about a mile or two, but getting to it – because there are no put-ins nearby – meant a long paddle. So, I put in before sunrise at the Suck Creek boat ramp, and headed upstream to Moccasin Bend and Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain - click for larger

Lookout Mountain – click for larger

This was a pretty uneventful paddle – good weather, but hot. No problem, I can deal with that. It did get a little hairy around Moccasin Bend – the currents here are totally unpredictable, so I had to fight with the boat quite a bit, especially on the upstream leg. Not terribly hard, but makes for slow going, especially with the winds coming down off Lookout Mountain. My turnaround point was Lookout Creek, where I paddled a few weeks ago, then back upriver. I also stopped at Williams Island, as I always do in this area (and there’s a great article covering the history of the island right here); there’s a new dock on the island, so landing is much easier now.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

So, with this 16.5 mile paddle, I’ve now completed, officially, the Tennessee River Blueway. Technically, the Blueway is the entire 50-mile stretch of river from Chickamauga Dam to Nickajack Dam, so I’ve done all that, and so much more, exploring the various tributaries, creeks and other features. I’ve also paddled the North Shore dozens of times, and done a significant portion of the lake above the dam, including going through the lock. I’ve seen some amazing things – lots of wildlife, the old Hales Bar Dam, the ruins of old Harrison, Nickajack Cave, Williams and Maclellan Island, the Art District, and lots more. It’s like having a vacation every weekend – plus, it’s been amazing exercise. Paddling is a great upper-body workout, and it adds significantly to the work I’m doing at the gym.

This paddle also had a little personal significance. When I first started paddling, heading to Williams Island was the first solo, somewhat dangerous trip I took. In hindsight, it’s a little amusing how intimidated I was by being out on the open river with the tugboats, barges, speedboats and other watercraft. The boat wakes actually kinda scared me a little bit, so I stayed close to the shore. Now that my skills have (dramatically) improved, I look for the wakes, so I can bounce over them. I realize now it’s practically impossible to capsize a kayak on open water, and my newer, bigger boat is remarkably stable, although I have hit a few waves – mostly weather-related – that at least quelled my complacency. For a bit. So, if you’re thinking about paddling, but feel intimidated, don’t be. It’s awesome. Best money I ever spent.

Of course, that was Saturday, so there was more adventure to be had. Sunday, a paddle I’ve been planning for a while, just waiting for a day where there was no threat of rain. I drove all the way over to South Pittsburg, and put in well south of Nickajack Dam. It was an amazing morning – really, really foggy, no winds at all, and zero traffic on the water because of the very limited visibility.

click for larger

click for larger

The fog was so thick, I could barely see the Rhinehart bridge at the put-in – it was somewhat creepy, like something out of a (good) Stephen King book. And quiet – no traffic, no birds, no nothing. But after hours in the sun Saturday, having the fog and clouds was nice – in fact, the lack of sun helped considerably with my distance, although it would appear later in the day, and I have the sunburn to prove it.

The paddle upriver was easy and compelling. I just took my time and explored the shoreline, and well as Burns Island in the middle of the river about halfway to the dam. This island is nothing like Williams Island – very few places to land, and no real opportunity to head inland and explore. Plus, I didn’t bring my boots, and after the rattlesnake on Saturday, I didn’t feel like stomping around in the brush in watershoes.

Nickajack Dam lock - click for larger

Nickajack Dam lock – click for larger

After a few hours paddling, I arrived at the dam. As expected, the water became unpredictable around the dam – this is where it gets dangerous, kids. Not only are the currents all over the place, the spillways can be opened at any time, which could be disastrous. So, I didn’t spend a great deal of time below the dam; just enough to get some photos, and then I headed into the lock. I had no plan to lock though on this trip. Because I did that at Chickamauga a few weeks ago, it’s no longer intimidating; it’s just time-consuming. It can take as much as an hour to go through each way (filling up and emptying the massive lock chamber is a slow process), and I didn’t want to spent time just sitting in the chamber. I will go back and do this some day, though.

Following the dam, back downriver, with another stop on Burns Island. By the time I got back to the put-in, I was at 14 miles, but feeling pretty good. So, I decided to push on to my ultimate goal; to go downriver and cross the Tennessee/Alabama state line. This was mostly symbolic; I’ve never paddled across a state boundary, although I did hike to the Tennessee-Georgia-Alabama intersection as part of the 2nd Batcave paddle. There are no markers or anything to indicate where the state line is; luckily, my GPS confirmed when I crossed the line. I landed briefly on Long Island; an island that straddles the border. Then I paddled back upstream and around the other side of the island to the old ferry landing. The island is privately-farmed, and the ferry is used to move equipment and material back and forth to the island. It is private property, so I really didn’t explore it like I would have liked to have, but I did walk up the trail far enough to get a look at the interior. At some point, I’ll paddle around the entire island, but it’s really big, and I didn’t have that much fuel left in the tank, especially since the sun was coming out and it was getting hot.

So, I headed back upstream to the put-in, and hit 20 miles right as I landed. This is by far my best distance (my previous was 17.3 miles, just last weekend). That’s a record that will probably stand for awhile – 20 miles in a kayak is a lot, especially when half of that is upstream. I’m thinking about entering the Chattajack race next year – it’s 31 miles, but it’s all downstream. If I can do 20 miles upstream/downstream, I can definitely do 31 miles all with the current.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

With that, I’ve now paddled the entire river/lake from Soddy Creek to the Alabama state line. In navigational miles, that’s about 75 miles point-to-point. Of course, all my paddles were round-trip, and there was quite a bit of overlap on some trips, and lots of side-exploring. The paddles I’ve documented total right at 280 miles; throw in the many North Shore paddles, multiple Williams Island paddles, etc, and it’s probably closer to 400 miles. That’s a lot of paddling. Add in a new personal best, my first interstate paddle, and more that 12000 calories burned, and I guess that makes for a pretty good weekend.

Links:
Brown’s Ferry Paddle Photo Album on Facebook
South Pittsburg Paddle Photo Album on Facebook

Groundhog Day.

sunrise on the river - click for larger

sunrise on the river – click for larger

Busy weekend. Busy weekend, and two significant accomplishments.

Saturday, following the gym (do I even need to say that anymore?), I headed out to an area of the Tennessee River Gorge known as The Narrows, or more colloquially, as Sullivans. Before TVA’s dams tamed the river, The Narrows was a particularly dangerous section to navigate, because of fast moving water through the canyon. Now, it’s still faster than many other sections of the river, and the wind can whip down the canyon, as I experienced firsthand. Anyway, I made the 30ish-mile drive to Sullivan’s Landing (presumably named for the little Sullivan’s Market across from the ramp – although it could be vice-versa), and got in the water right at 6:30. Lofty goals today – upriver to Cummings Lake (which was my turn-around point a few weeks ago), then back downriver as far as Mullen’s Cove, where I paddled in April and hiked the bluffs above in February. If it went as planned, there was a good chance I’d set a new personal-best paddling distance record.


See more of my YouTube video adventures here.

Sullivan’s Landing is directly across the river from Insurance Bluffs, where (you guessed it), I hiked back in March, on a snowy, cold day. Seeing the same view from below and above is interesting, and certainly adds perspective to the mad scientist that is Mother Nature.

Insurance Bluffs - click for larger

Insurance Bluffs – click for larger

Unlike some of the other paddles I’ve been on, there wasn’t really any “gee whiz” scenery. It was certainly nice, but there was nothing unexpected, although I did see 3 bald eagles during the course of the paddle. The first two, my camera was stowed and I couldn’t get too it quickly enough. The third was too far away. Still, pretty cool to see wild eagles – that’s a first for me. So, add those in with the bear, the mountain lion, the osprey, many deer and my little otter friend, and I’ve seen quite the menagerie in my adventures.

the view from above back in March; Sullivan's Landing is on the right, on the far side of the river - click for larger

the view from above back in March; Sullivan’s Landing is on the right, on the far side of the river – click for larger


And I did make it all the way to Mullen’s Cove, although the fast current, chop and wind really slowed down the return leg. Still, as expected, a new record of 17.3 miles round-trip; beat my previous personal best by a mile. Not a bad way to spend 7 hours on a Saturday.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

On a semi-related note, I came back to town via River Canyon Road, which winds around the base of the mountain. I’ve always wanted to ride my motorbike on this twisty road, and I wanted to get the mileage on it, so I can maybe take my mountain bike on it once the weather cools. After driving it – 21 miles, one-way, FYI – a mountain bike would be appropriate. It is, without a doubt, the worst road I’ve ever driven on; in fact, calling it a road is a bit of a stretch. So, a round trip ride on it would be 42 miles – I can do that, no problem. But I’ll wait until it’s a little cooler out.

Somebody had a good time of the river. It wasn't me - well, not this kind of good time, anyway.

Somebody had a good time of the river. It wasn’t me – well, not this kind of good time, anyway.

Sunday, Groundhog Day. A recurring theme in my life. No, not the rodent-infested holiday; the film. That is, Sunday started exactly as Saturday: gym, and in the water at 6:30. This time, however, at the Suck Creek boat ramp, to knock out the last section of the river I needed to paddle to complete the Tennessee River Blueway. While the distance wasn’t going to be as long as Saturday, this was going to be on a historically dangerous section of the river. I mean, “Dead Man’s Eddy”? That can’t be a good sign. This entire section of the river was notoriously dangerous before the dams – sandbars, massive rocks, and the infamous “Suck”; a giant whirlpool created where Suck Creek entered the river. Many other hazards have been mostly quashed, including “Tumbling Shoals”, “The Pot” (where Pot Point gets it’s name), “The Skillet” and “The Pan”. In the early days of river navigation, all these hazards were well-known to river travelers – now, these are mostly just historical footnotes of a bygone era.

Lusk Point - click for larger

Lusk Point – click for larger

However, today anyway, Mother Nature was in a good mood, and the river was mostly calm throughout the entire paddle. I made really good time downstream to the turnaround point, which was the Pot Point campsite I paddled to on the Cummings Lake paddle a few weeks ago. Upstream, a little slower, but because of the anticipated-lesser distance, I was just taking my time and enjoying it. Like Saturday, no real surprises scenery-wise, but still a nice paddle, and great views of Snooper’s Rock, Lusk Point and Edward’s Point, all of which I’ve hiked many times in the past.

Edward's Point, with the river I paddled in the background - click for larger

Edward’s Point, with the river I paddled in the background – click for larger

So, with this 13-mile segment complete, I’ve now paddled the entire river, with the exception of a short, mile-or-so section upstream of Williams Island. This is a somewhat isolated section – there are no put-ins close. So, to get to it, I’ll have to put in at the same point as today, then paddle a good 7 miles just to get there. That’ll make it a good 15 – 16 mile paddle, which is certainly doable, but because I’ve done most of it already, I’ll probably save that for a day I have nothing better to do. As it is, following yesterday’s paddle, I scouted a new location, and I already have my next two trips planned, which should take me further down the river into Alabama. Stay tuned. As for this weekend, more than 30 miles paddled over 2 days. Not bad.

click for larger, or Endomondo data, or Movescount data

click for larger, or , or Movescount data

Links:
Sullivans Paddle Photo Album on Facebook
Tennessee River Gorge Paddle Photo Album on Facebook