Kayaking in July

The month of July started off with a drive to Maryland for the memorial service for a friend, then onward to Friends General Conference, an annual gathering of Quakers from the US and Canada, held this year at Niagara U. in New York. I spent the night in between at a Pennsylvania St. Forest campsite, flat, dark, quiet, and continued on in the morning. There was a steam train near Bigler:

Steam train near Bigler

I didn’t take a kayak this time – I had Holly and Bill riding with me down to Maryland, and two people traveling with me to northern Vermont on the return – and putting a kayak in the middle of the camper makes it a little crowded! And I knew time would be short. I returned to Vermont, had one day to reorganize, shop and cook, and headed off to New Hampshire to spend a week cooking for a group hiking 70 miles across the southern part of the state to bring attention to the last two coal fired plants in New England. I’m not up for walking an average of 10 miles a day, but I can provide food! I originally thought that I’d have plenty of time to sit and knit, to kayak on good days, maybe read some – but most days had no free time. By the time I put breakfast out, cleaned up after it, met them on the road to put lunch out, packed the remains of that up, and either made supper or made something to contribute to a pot luck, the day was over! We were joined at lunch one day by this not very shy domestic goose:

CP curious goose

We stayed at churches along the way, and I learned a lot about church kitchens – some very well equipped, one with ONE pot!! Glad to have the camper, and it’s meager collection of pots and pans, and a couple of decent knives…

July 12, Beaver Lake: It was HOT! and sticky. I pried out a couple of hours to kayak and swim at Beaver Lake Wednesday afternoon. This would not be my first choice – except it was close, and wet. It did have a beaver:

Beaver Lk beaver

It’s pretty common for people to put out fake owls to scare critters or geese or ducks or birds from their gardens or lakefronts. This is the first time I’ve seen a dog!

Beaver Lk dog

It was real enough that I had to stop and make sure it wasn’t moving, before I was close enough to see the cord wrapped around it. The lake is heavily populated; there were houses solidly around the edge except where the road is too close or where the town beach is. There was a small marshy area with a great blue heron:

Beaver Lk GBH

Other sights around the edge worthy of photographs: boat sized rubber ducky

Beaver LK rubber ducky

and kayak reflections

Beaver Lk kayak reflection

July 14, Merrimack River, Hooksett, NH: Encouraged by the pastor of the last church hosting us, I went just a bit upriver to a launch by the Amoskeag Rowing Club boathouse. This put me above a dam, with a long stretch of relatively calm water and not a whole lot of current. Aside from a couple of women in a rowing shell, I had the river to myself. Except for about a million belted kingfishers! They were everywhere – swooping, chittering at me, rarely sitting, but this one was –

kingfisher

I went up between an island and the east shore, where it was very quiet.Merrimack R view

Canada lilies and water lilies are very different!

There is a lot of industry here – on both sides of the river, new and old. The cement plant:

cement plant

Once a paper mill, with the telltale residual odor, the locals say it’s now doing textiles:

Suncook paper mill

I paddled up not much further; the stream that once powered this factory (and apparently others) gets rocky fast.

And on the other side of the river, the Bow Station coal fired plant, the objective of the Climate Pilgrimage, and the last coal plant in New England with no shut down date. In this day and age, knowing what we now know about the pollution from this plant and the greenhouse gasses from coal, greed is the only thing keeping it operating. And boy, do the locals hate it! People complain about the noise from wind turbines, but this is A LOT louder, a constant hum – and it’s not fired up right now! Apparently it’s even louder when generating power.

Bow coal station

The village of Suncook was clearly centered on the river – I believe this is the old ferry road, or it lead to the canal system and shipping that used to come through here. Looking up the road, it’s a clear shot to the church.

Suncook ferry road

As I was heading back, the wind was picking up – this float, which marked the 1K mark for the rowing crews, was really showing it!

Merrimack R windy

That night the Hooksett Congregational Church fed us – and it was an amazing potluck. There was so much food – good food – with a lot of food (and some really nice people, too.) Feeding people seems to be what they do – and not just our group. If I lived locally, I’d be tempted to spend more time with them, maybe persuade them to be Quakers… (just kidding!) Seriously, they were great, the pastor was great, the kitchen was well equipped and great – and in the morning, at 7AM, there were fresh baked scones and fruit to see us off, to which I added scrambled eggs.

July 17, Merrimack River, Boscawen: After the Pilgrimage wrapped up with Quaker worship Sunday, I spent the rest of the day knitting with another Quaker Knitting Goddess. Then Monday morning I put in on the Merrimack River in Boscawen, and had a delightful paddle up the river and back. Looking north, over moderate current:Merrimack R north

It lures you in – just around one more corner, one more bend in the river. And then you realize how tired your arms are getting, working against the current! But it was a glorious day, with the clouds reflected in the still waters.

Merrmack R reflecting clouds

There were fewer kingfishers on this stretch of river, but there was a great blue heron strutting his stuff:

Merrimack R GBH struts

The ice really takes its toll on the bark of trees along the water.

Merrimack R ice damage

I went on the back side of one island.

Merrimack R back of island

And then back to the launch – a lot less work downstream, and faster! And home again, trading the camper for the now repaired car, so they can do the brakes on the camper.

 

Kayaking and Citizen Science

June 16, on the road again: I headed up to Holly and Bill’s, for a gathering of their fellow retired professors. Yes, kayak along – but raining, and I didn’t leave early enough to play on the way north anyway. This group does a lot of kayaking, and eating good food, and drinking good wine. And other things. One of the guests was Teddy:

Teddy on porch

Most of them went off hiking the next day; I kayaked on the Winooski River near the house, paddling against a brisk current going upstream, then flying back – and not taking the camera.

June 18, Waterbury Reservoir: Most of the group went to hike Mt. Mansfield; I went to Waterbury Reservoir, the launch near Little River State Park. As I was launching, the mountain tops were in the clouds, and I thought of the hikers.

Waterbury Res. launch

It was a beautiful day – sunny and warm, a good breeze to keep bugs away, with enough clouds to make it interesting and provide some shade. There are unreservable campsites along the lake shore; I stopped at one for lunch

Waterbury res. lunch

and another for a swim.

Waterbury Res swim

I’m not sure how long that birch can cling to the shore – there wasn’t a lot holding on! As I left, I put my hand on this log, and something moved – I then realized that it was covered with spiders! The largest was about two inches across, and at least half had left when I got this shot:

Waterbury Res spiders

Nature builds miniature gardens in some very marginal places.

The irises were blooming:

Waterbury Res iris

As I was returning to the launch, I noticed that the beavers are clearing out all the trees on this bluff – at first I thought the state park was doing the clearing, but the stumps are shaped by rodent teeth, not chainsaws!

Waterbury Res beaver clearing

Back to the house, for more good food and company, and a couple of days of hanging out with them – and a stunning sunset!

H & B Pond

H & B Sunset

June 21, back to Waterbury Reservoir: Most of the group dispersed; Teddy’s parents, Chris and Jean, wanted to introduce him to kayaking. Holly and Bill loaded up the canoe, Chris and Jean their inflatable kayak, and I my kayak, and we headed for Waterbury State Park in the southeast corner of the lake. Here’s the view of the group in front of me:

Watervury reservoir group

Teddy did not seem particularly concerned about this new mode of transportation.

Chris, Ted, Jean

There was a good breeze as we headed downwind, and Holly improvised a sail:

W'bury res w/sail

Teddy was really, really not concerned – by the time we returned he was napping!

Teddy napping

That wrapped up that party. I headed home again,

June 24, Citizen science at Muckross Pond: Kelly, who heads up the Black River Action Team, invited me to help her monitor Muckross Pond, in Springfield, VT.  She measures clarity, PH, solids, etc. in this newest of Vermont’s state parks. It’s not open to the public yet, as they have some infrastructure work to do first. I didn’t get photos of us actually working – but one has to get out in the middle somehow, right? So kayaking it is! Here’s where we put in:

Muckross Pond put in

Kelly taking photos of dragonflies:

Muckross Pond Kelly

We paddled up to the far end – not very far; it’s a pristine, but not very large, pond.

Muckross Pond upper end

A fern and then a turtle caught my eye.

Muckross Pond fernsMuckross Pond turtle

Back to where we started; loaded up the kayaks, and got a photo of the overflow on the dam before departing.

Muckross Pond dam

 

 

Kayaking VT & NH

Ct River view north

June 7, Connecticut River: As I rarely travel without at least one kayak, I was able to stop on my way home from a workday at Woolman Hill, in MA, and put in on the Connecticut River at Herrick’s Cove. It was a calm evening, and I paddled up river until I figured I should return – they threaten to lock the gate at 8PM. There was cottonwood fluff everywhere – in drifts on the river, and anywhere it could find to cluster.

Ct river drifts of cottonwood fluff

 

There were cormorants adorning driftwood:

Ct River three fishermen

I’m not sure I believe that there’s 24 hour surveillance here, on this marshy island! Without even solar panels…

Ct River 24 hr

There was a not so shy sandpiper:

Ct River sandpiper 2

Across to the other side of the river, the nearly full moon was rising.

Ct River marsh w/moonrising

Back to the launch, loaded up and out of the parking lot at 7:59 – didn’t stick around to see if the sunset was glorious, not wanting to get caught on the wrong side of a locked gate!

 

Monday, June 12: Echo Lake, Plymouth, VT   A glorious day, and too hot to not be on the water! Echo Lake is one of the string of lakes along the upper reaches of the Black River. To the north, and the dam to Lake Amherst:

Echo Lk Blk R upstream

and exiting to the south:

Echo Lk Black River

The lupines are just hitting their stride.

Echo Lk lupine

I guess this McMansion has to have rooms for all these geese:

Echo Lk goose mansion

There were mallards (and also a bufflehead, but those photos were too blurry) –

Echo Lk mallards

and the daylilies are just starting to bloom:

Echo Lk daylillies

This is where I usually stop to swim – the gravel bar where the stream comes in gets deep quite quickly, and if one wants colder water, this stream is COLD!

Echo Lk sm brook

Up by Plymouth State Park, this loon was having a wonderful time, diving and splashing and making a big show of itself – for no apparent reason, just bathing, I guess. The display lasted for at least five minutes.

Along the west side, there was a house with landscaping all the way from house to lake, and I saw something very slinky moving very quickly. It turned out to be a small weasel, a mink, maybe, or a fisher? with a chipmunk in its mouth. The homeowner was watching me taking lots of photos of his waterfront, probably wondering what I was doing. He’s no fan of chipmunks, and was not unhappy to know one had been eliminated! But all the weasel family moves very quickly, so the documentation is a little blurry.

Echo Lk weasle

One last swim, and back to the camper, cooler and well exercised.

Tuesday, June 13: Connecticut and Ompompanoosuc Rivers – This was another Tuesday with the ORFS. They were planning to paddle the Ompompanoosuc. I chose to put in about a mile south on the Connecticut River, where there is more parking – and Porta-Potties. It was a glorious day – again!

This green heron was not very shy; he was more focused on food than on the people paddling past, although he did start going for the grass.

 

This was as far upstream as I was willing to push the new kayak – it got rocky about here!Ompompanoosuc upstream

Back downstream, and the ORFS pulled out for lunch (note the crowded parking lot!)

Ompompanoosuc ORFS

while I continued back out to the Connecticut. The view downstream:

Omp. Ct R view

Back to the launch, loaded the kayak into the camper, and I headed for Maine, by way of Boscowen, NH. Hey, if a friend offers me seafood salad for lunch, I’m going to show up, even if it’s off the most direct route. Because I was headed for a couple of days in Maine. I delivered six boxes of books, and visited friends, and started back on

Thursday, June 15: Stonehouse Pond, NH –  I’ve noticed the sign for this carry-in launch, and even stopped to check it out once before – but I’d never put a boat on it. This was my opportunity. It is a gem of a place, with clear water, and no motors. It is also a very small gem! The view from the launch:

Stonehouse Pnd launch

The view from the west:

Stonehouse pnd view from W

And the east:

Stonehouse pnd view from E

You have now seen the entire pond! Now for some details: the root, hanging down below that cliff face:

Stonehouse pnd root

The spider that crawled out of the waterlily only when I bumped it taking a photo:

Stonehouse pnd lily w/spider

And the mountain laurel – more pink than what I’m used to, and just opening:

Stonehouse pnd mountain laurel

This is really a smaller body of water than what I generally paddle. I probably won’t feel I have to stop here again – unless it’s to go for a swim; it’s just too small to be worth carrying in the boat! In any case, it was about an hour to go around once, and then zig-zag back and forth some before heading back to the camper and continuing home. But yes, what a glorious day – again!

Kayaking, VT, the first week of June

I was thinking I’d only post every few weeks, or once a month. But I’ve been having too much kayaking fun – and it’s only the 3rd!

June 2, Amherst Lake: Heading up to Holly and Bill’s, I left early enough so I could cruise up Route 100, and pick a lake to get a little exercise and see what was out there. I stopped at Amherst Lake. It was a gloomy day, again, and sprinkled on me, again – but I still had fun. There were the geese:

Amherst Lk geese

and ducks in various states of wakefulness.

The ones on the dock glanced up as I approached, and decided they didn’t want to show their faces for the camera. Or that I was no threat. Or that it was too rainy to move…

On up the Black River, which feeds this string of lakes. There was this frog:

Amherst Lk frog

The canopy closes in as you go up, and one side becomes a small cliff.

Amherst Lk Blk River

I went as far as I could go – one used to be able to go a bit further, until stopped by a beaver dam, but these trees came down a couple of years ago. There was little enough space under the downed tree so that I could belly up to it, and wedge the kayak in place against the current to get this shot.

Amherst Lk no further!

Back to the camper, as the raindrops gently fell, and on up Route 100. Granville Gulf is one of my favorite places to drive, and this time I stopped – with all the recent rain, the waterfalls are as vigorous as I’ve ever seen. This is one of those divides – the water here goes into the White River, south and east; a couple of miles further it goes into the Mad River, north and west.

These two falls tumble down the mountains very close to each other, and join the stream that comes down along the side of the road. And of course, there was also water coming from the sky!

Winooski River, Saturday, June 3: The Nature Conservancy sponsored a paddle from the Colchester Point access out to the mouth of the Winooski, and back in to a swamp. It didn’t ever rain hard, and sometimes it was hardly raining – but it was damp! Three canoes and two kayaks (8 people) started out; we were joined by another kayaker later. As we started downstream:WR flotilla starts out

This common egret got our attention by flying in front of us:

WR Common Egret, feathers fluttering

There were lots of geese, many probably protecting young up in the shrubbery where we couldn’t see the young – but these were close along the shore.

WR geese

We went out under the old rail trail bridge, looking across at upstate New York:WR Bridge span, H&B, CollieWR Flotilla, Collie, Gus and allysia, shane and family, h&b

It was more calm than it’s been other times when I’ve been on Lake Champlain – but we just stuck our noses out, and went back to smaller waters. There were more egrets:

I couldn’t figure out whether this was a bird – great blue heron in camo!

WR GBH as tree

We had to portage to get into the swampy area in the middle of the oxbow – this is the second portage.

WR first portage

Our trip leader/naturalists were very helpful with all the portages – and with the more informative stuff. Here part of the group is identifying an aquatic buttercup:

WR yellow aquatic buttercup id

We abandoned the boats to wander through the meander scrolls caused by oxbows of the river depositing soil and gravel in successive events. Note the very slightly higher parts, where it’s gotten a little dryer a little sooner, and the ferns are all growing. There were also a lot of Jack-in-the-Pulpits – but I didn’t think to take a picture.

WR meander scrolls

It was, of course, raining – and I think we were all getting hungry, so we went back to boats and ate lunch, continuing the conversation about rivers meandering, and the effect clearing forests and reforestation has on the river flow. We reversed our path, and admired this beaver enhanced hole in the tree: WR beaver chewed hole

And portaging a couple of times on the way back to the river. I rarely get out with people so knowledgeable about the terrain, and so well prepared with maps showing different details of the oxbow we explored. If you have a chance to join The Nature Conservancy for a hike or paddle – or any other educational event – I highly recommend it!

Kayaking in CT, VT and NH, May 2017

Knapp Pond, 5/11: The first opportunity to get out on the water was the Thursday after my return from the trip west. The Knapp Ponds 1 and 2 are close to  home, and small enough so the howling wind is generally not an issue. And May is WINDY! At least this year… It was a beautiful, if windy, day. I usually go to the upper pond; it’s a little more interesting. Knapp Pond 2

The  trees were just starting to leaf out. And there were turtles everywhere! Single, in groups, with ducks:

There was a stunning pair of wood ducks:

Knapp pair of wood ducks

And a merganser – look at that bill!:Knapp merganser

Exploring the edges, going as far as one can go, one comes to the head of navigation,

Knapp head of navigation

and a breached beaver dam:

Knapp breached beaver dam

And this great blue heron thought it too windy to bother to fly off. He wasn’t going to stick his neck out!

Knapp GBH

Rainbow Reservoir, CT  5/20: As I was getting my act together in the morning, the rising sun hit the bird’s nest overhead, glowing in the early light.

Simsbury nest at sunrise

Then it was off to Rainbow Reservoir. At first I saw no wildlife – lots of fisher people, but no birds, no turtles, no fish. This was the only thing flying I saw:Rainbow wildlife, SouthwestThe foliage was beautiful, though – new oak leaves and colorful maple seeds.

The dogwood was just finishing blooming.

And I always like paddling around the old bridge abutment.

Rainbow bridge abutment

Connecticut River, 5/21: The next day I was on a walk with the local historical society, then went out on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire. I did not get a photo of the many inches of mud I had to slog through to launch and return! I spotted what looked like a green egg in a nest, from a distance –Ct River "egg" in nestThe light was getting dim, and it was starting to rain – you can see it on the water with the spotted sandpiper (I think). And I paddled briskly to haul out through the mud!Ct River spotted sandpiper (?)

Connecticut River, 5/23: A couple of days later I stopped after a Conservation Commission workshop down in Brattleboro. This time I chose a real, paved boat launch – no mud! I paddled briskly upstream, saw a bald eagle but was not able to get a decent photo. This being the tail end of the day, when the sun started to set I headed back to the launch. I can’t decide which photo of the bridge I like better, so you get both –

and the sky just kept getting better. I decided not to follow where this arrow seemed to point.

Ct River, sunset arrow

And after I had the kayak on the roof of the car, I walked down for one last shot –Sfld sunset

Brown University, 5/26 – 29: Next it was off to Providence, to see my cousin’s kid graduate from Brown. (And get my car rear-ended, but that’s another story! With the help of friends, I made it anyway.) It was two full days of celebration. Saturday, the march was lead by lion dancers, and their drummers.

I think Henry Moore would have gotten a kick out of the use to which his “Bridge Prop” was being put!

Henry Moore

Our proud graduate:

S graduates

Saturday evening we all went down to Providence’s Waterfire:

Waterfire emblem

There are fire dancers, and people in boats, and gondolas (one of which apparently got itself stuck too close the fire, and started burning; they put it out), and lots of firewood in these braziers.

And Sunday was more ceremony, and the actual handing out of diplomas by each individual department, so we went to Computer Science to see that. She was to far away for a good photo, though. And home again.

Kezar Lake, NH 5/30: There’s a group in New Hampshire called ORFS – Outdoor Recreation for Seniors. They get out most Tuesdays, weather permitting, and split into hikers and kayakers. This past week was the first kayaking of the season for them, and we gathered at Kezar Lake. And were greeted by loons. And bid goodbye by loons. And kayaked with loons. So here is a series of loon pics:

This was as far upstream as we could go, without getting out of the boats.

Kezar Lk beaver dam

And winding our way back out –

Kezar Lk ORFS

The rain mostly held off until we were nearly back at the vehicles, and it didn’t rain hard until I stopped to check out the Sutton Mills dams:

Sutton Mills

Knapp Pond again, 5/31: And, between rain storms, I fit in one more paddle for the month, returning to Knapp Pond. There were fewer turtles – no sun to sun in. And the herons and ducks were more shy, so the photos are not as many or as good. Heron:

I did like the reflection of the grasses.

Knapp pond reflection

It was a shorter paddle, too, as it started thundering, and then raining, and I sprinted for the camper. Good exercise, though!

Maryland to Vermont – Home Again!

Sunday, May 7: I left Theo’s, driving up to Media, Pennsylvania to connect with friend Mac, and we walked from their house to Providence Friends Meeting for worship. Lunch with Mac back at the house, and I headed north. The route I chose is one I’ve not taken before, going up the east side of the Delaware River, through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. One stop was Millbrook Village, a recreation of a farming village of the area. The buildings are only open weekends.

DWG Millbrook church

DWG Millbrook Mill

The lilacs were lovely, and smelled good, too.

DWG lilac

Then on up the road to Peters Valley, which has become a center for crafts, and that’s obvious as soon as you drive up.

DWG Peters valley mailbox

And on up the road, to the top of New Jersey and on into New York, and darkness. I entered Vermont on Rte. 9, in darkness and light rain – and as i started over the Green Mountains, it turned to heavy snow, making driving even slower, and visibility slight. This photo was taken the next day, but here’s the proof!

GMNF snow

I spent the night in Green Mountain National Forest, and part of the next day at Somerset Reservoir. There was water everywhere underfoot – I forded one brook, slogged through puddles, and went over a bridge on another brook.

Somerset Res. water

Note how much less green the trees are here! The trillium are starting to bloom:

And driving up the forest roads had plenty to look at.

GMNF pond

It was still overcast, and Somerset Reservoir was too cold and windy to temp the kayak out. Home again, with just enough time to say hi to the cats and get to my afternoon meeting. I haven’t missed the daffodils in the yard, though!

It may be a while before I post again, so hit the “follow” button in the lower right corner if you want to know when that happens! I don’t have any kayaking adventures planned, the weather is crummy for the foreseeable future, and the next big trip isn’t likely to happen until July, so I’ll only post if I have pictures to tell a story.

Maryland and Urban Kayaking

Friday, May 5: I spent the morning organizing photos and getting the blog through Tennessee. Then I went looking for accessible water, and found

Bladensburg Waterfront Park

The sign by the boat ramp had more character, though –

Welcome to BWP

The place was swarming with crew teams – do you call them teams? – preparing to go out for practice. Multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-age, all milling around, fixing shells and oars, carrying boats to the water or to the boathouse – and filling the parking lot, so I had to drop off my kayak and leave the camper at an upper lot. Kenilworth Marsh, part of Kenilworth Park and Gardens, was my destination – it’s a national park along the Anacostia River, right next to Washington, DC. As I paddled downstream on the Anacostia, I stayed out of the way of the crews rowing up and down over what was probably a one mile course.

Anacostia 2 crew

Then I went in to the marsh. There were mallards:

Anacostia mallard

And lots of yellow flag iris:

Anacostia yellow flag

A few nesting boxes:

Anacostia duck box

And what I believe was a baby beaver!! It let me get within about 6 feet before sliding into the water. Behind was a lodge made of cattail reeds.

Anacostia beaver

As I was paddling out of sight of the river, I could hear geese announcing approaching crew boats, and in one case, someone on one of the boats telling them to shut up! Sure, that’s going to be effective! I went back out to the Anacostia, and in to another part of the marsh. As I went in, this pair of geese honked loudly, protesting my presence.

Anacostia goose pair

I meandered around that part of the marsh for a while. While I was there, apparently the geese decided they needed to keep an eye on me; as I started out again, they were coming in after me. I continued to slowly paddle back to the river, and the drake kept up a steady string of epithets while his mate headed around the corner.

Anacostia rear guard

There was a noticeable current; I don’t know how much here is tidal. There was no problem paddling against it, though. There also wind, but again, not enough to make paddling difficult. Going back, the urban setting was much more evident:Urban Anacostia

The view of the waterfront park and its boathouses on the right:

Bladensburg W.P.

They were great clouds, though! There is a lot more trash in the river than there should be, even in the marsh. I wonder if it gets cleaner as people get out on the river and do organized clean up.

Back to land, retrieved the camper and loaded the kayak, and headed off to Baltimore and Cousin Theo. Saturday I spent visiting with her, having lunch with Theo and Aunt Anne, and having a couple of hours to visit with nephew Ben.

May Day – Tennessee, Virginia, and on to Maryland

Somehow the forecast for heavy rain and strong winds didn’t happen at midnight! About 7:30, after breakfast, I loaded up as it started to sprinkle, and went looking for scenery. This is a local representation of what the road I found looked like:

snake road

I have yet another note in my book about the dismal state of labeling of Tennessee roads! And, of course, when you are following winding, twisting roads, you are generally also following streams. I stopped often to check out the water, sometimes on one side of the road, sometimes the other.

Often the places to pull over were a little sketchy, but in some places they were great –

Tn creek and RT

By 10:25 I was in Damascus, Virginia, still following winding twisting roads, with rare sun, and frequent light rain – the windshield was finally clean! I walked some along the Virginia Creeper rail trail (partly contiguous with the AT) and kept stopping at more water tumbling over ledges.

VA waterfall

The Tennessee and Virginia woods were dotted with white flowers – magnolia (?)

TN magnolia?

and dogwood:

Virginia dogwood

At 2:30 I stopped at Lover’s Leap, and again it was howling wind and driving rain. I sat in the camper and made myself some lunch – and the rain let up to a gentle mist. I walked along some of the picnic area overlook, and the overlook along the road, but what is generally a stunning view was all cloud/fog, and not worth a picture. Oh, well. On through Richmond, and across most of the rest of Virginia. I got to Tim and Maria’s in Sandy Point on the Northern Neck at 9:35, and was promptly smothered by dogs! If Maria is able to get them to me, I’ll later insert a photo of them swarming me – but I didn’t think of that at the time. I spent the next two days with Maria and Tim, hanging out, helping, going down to Irvington where their new apartment is, letting Tim feed me seafood. I probably should have taken the kayak out Tuesday but didn’t, and Wednesday was much too windy for it to have been any fun –  but if you go back in the blog you can see what it’s like to kayak in this area. Thursday, May 4th, I drove up to visit Mark, in Tacoma Park, Maryland, and spent the night there.

Kayaking and Exploring Tennessee

Sunday, April 30: Up at 7:00, I prepared for departure, then took the kayak out for about an hour. There are islands to go around; the only one for which I’ve seen a name is Bear. And there is clearly camping permitted on at least some of them. I was impressed by the cypress that it looks like the TVA or someone is trying to establish. I’d assume that before the area was dammed and flooded, it was not a local plant.

Jackson's Is cypress

Jackson's Is/Duck Is cypress

There was less in the way of wildlife than I’ve been seeing. This is my campsite, as I return with time to change and get dried kayaks loaded up before departing at 8:45.

Jackson Is return to RT

Again, the Tennessee idea of labeling highways was misleading; I opted for I-40 up to Knoxville, where I easily made it in time to join West Knoxville Friends Meeting for worship, and lunch afterwards. My destination for the day was Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountain Nat. Park. I was to have met friends there, but they were delayed by a death in the family, so I didn’t spend the night. I met the campground hosts and visited with them for a while, walked down to the bridge over the creek and took photos downstream and upstream to prove to Andy and Dinata that I’d been there:

I left Big Creek about 5, with plenty of daylight to get further east before dark. I was aiming for Paint Creek, in Cherokee NF – and I found it, after touring more of TN than I’d intended. But the regular campground was closed! There was camping indicated a little further down the valley on one map, so I went there, and no one questioned my presence. This was the creek behind me:

Paint Creek

And it was a pretty quiet place to spend the night.

Missouri to Tennessee

Friday, 4/28: I got a slow start – sleeping in, walking the concrete (stroller and wheelchair friendly) path along the lake, breakfast. I didn’t pull out until 11:15 – which I lived to regret, given how late it was when I reached my destination! And it’s not because there were a lot of miles to cover. Missouri has become a lot less crinkled, and here it’s rolling hills. A photo of a Monarda along the lake trail:

Missouri monarda

Onward – I crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois (1:35), and stopped at the roadside info area; I was unable to drive down and explore the lower area as they were in the process of chasing people out and closing it, preparing for heavy rains and flooding. And immediately over the Ohio River into Kentucky (1:45) – and suddenly I’m in Kudzu Land! It is swarming over everything; between kudzu and honeysuckle, everything not cared for is draped! Here’s a barn being overtaken:

Kentucky barn

You can see the gray drippiness of the day. Onward, stopping at Land Between the Lakes at the park Welcome Center, walking around some, getting damp but it wasn’t real rain. This is a place to which I’d like to return – lots of water to explore! And out the south end, in to Tennessee. Tennessee has the worst road signage in the United States, as far as I can tell! As I use paper maps, I expect to see road signs that have some relationship to what I see on the map. I was aiming for the Cordell Lake Horse Camp, free camping with a boat ramp – I finally found it – and a level place to park – at 10:20!! This is much later than I like to pull in, being well after dark. And it was only 388 miles, but that included a fair amount of fumbling around the poorly marked TN highways. Unloaded the kayaks, got a snack, hit the sack.

Saturday, April 29: But what a beautiful place to be! And the weather had improved, being sunny again. It was an easy carry down to the water; the horse camp is that solid tent shape in the upper left.

Cordell Lk map

I was parked not too far a carry from that inlet just to the right of the camp symbol, and paddled out, across Cordell Hull Lake – or maybe the Tennessee River, as it’s hard to tell where one stops and the other begins! Let’s say it’s the river, as there was noticeable current. On across to the left of the open tent symbol; it’s a large campground, full mostly of bigger rigs. But full it was, as far as I could see, this beautiful sunny weekend. The islands don’t show on this map, but I went around a couple of them. Then across the south end of the big campground, watching small children racing into the water on their beach, and just as quickly out again. The longish piece of water east of the big, developed campground isCordell Lk Salt Lick Creek sign

and I paddled up it; this is where the wildlife is.

Cordell Lk turtles - many

This row was missing one – or maybe two – turtles that were photo shy. This pair of ducks were fun to watch; the drake would drop into the water, swim to the other side of his mate, and climb out again – then do the same in the other direction. I guess he couldn’t decide which side of her looked better? was friendlier? He kept doing that until I drifted too close, and they both went into the grasses.

There were the usual great blue herons:

I continued up the creek something over a mile, I would guess, then back on the other side and out across the river. It looked like this nav marker was mostly there to catch drifting downed trees:

Cordell Lk nav mark

The south side of the river was defined by limestone cliffs:

Cordell Lk/TN river cliffs

With about 2 1/2 hours paddling and admiring wildlife, I was back at the campground, ready to load up and hit the road. On through Cookville (where I stopped to use the library’s wi-fi, and watch some kind of festival filling the park) and Crossville,  and on to Spring City, once again muttering about the poor labeling even of state highways – you’d think they’d know how to do that! Coming in, I stopped for a view of where I hoped to be:

view of Watts Bar Lk

That distant blue is either Watts Bar Lake, or Piney River, depending on what you read or which map you look at! Hazy, hot, humid. I’d thought to camp at Rhea Springs, and it does have a couple of places to launch – but is now only a day use area, and the wind was blowing whitecaps on shore, so I went around to the other side of Watts Bar Lake (or Piney River) to Jackson’s Island. This is clearly the place to be for locals – and I know they were locals because while I was pulling kayaks out, one truck drove off and returned while I was still organizing with the lawn chairs they’d forgotten! The place was packed, swarming with children and youth, mostly tents and small campers. Campsites are not well defined, and the only amenities are porta-potties (paper free), but this was the view from my campsite, at 5:30 and again at 6:30, as I sat with my knitting in my lounge chair:

I spent a little too much time with my knitting, though – when I did take the kayak out I was only out about 10 minutes before the thunder began. I went the rest of the way down to the point, got this shot, and raced back to the campsite as thunder continued.

Jacson Is. point w/thunder 7:15

The only downsides of this crowded and unregulated camping area are that no one seems to feel they should pick up trash – and there are no quiet hours! If I’d not had such great access to the water, and already had the kayaks out for the night, I would have picked up and moved, as the neighbors played music at a variable volume, and talked at variable volume, until about midnight. Sigh.