There is something great about a weekend away from it all. Of course its even better when its with the guys camping and paddling on the river. Jake, John, Jason, and [J]Hogan (cause I guess I needed a J in front of my name to fit in) were the players for this event. I was supplying two boats for the paddle. My Kruger Cruiser, FHL, and my Hobie Adventure, Breakdown. With the long drive ahead of me, I spent extra time strapping the boats to the top of my van and ensuring that the straps were not twisted. Ready to go, I headed out.
I picked Jake up from his house early on Friday and went to the church to meet John and Jason. Jake and I were the first ones there and were anxious to get going. The plan was to meet at 5pm sharp and caravan in two cars. We would stop at Jimmy John’s for dinner and some loaves of old bread to supplement dinner Saturday. John was a few minutes late and we were quite ready to hit the road! In anticipation of bad weather, I took out the middle seats of my van to make tons of room to sleep inside if necessary. This proved to be a good idea!
We did the ‘ole tripod photo at Jimmy Johns to commemorate our trip! As we got there a bit late, we decided to pre-shuttle the cars so we would save time in the morning. John and I left Jake and Jason to set up camp while we drove our cars to the take out at Round Spring. John and I got there late at night and spent some time finding the ramp and a safe place to park my van. I’m always nervous to park for a night or two where I normally don’t park. I left a detailed note on the dash of my van with names, phone numbers, and expected return date. On the drive back to the campsite, I had a fantastic time talking with John and learning about him. We were more alike than I realized and had plenty of stories to share!
When we arrived at the campsite, it was ready for us with a fire. I was quite tired and turned in early to get much needed rest while the guys enjoyed the campfire and some beer.
The air was crisp in the morning. Jackets were recommended as well as pants. Breakfast was our solo meal, so we all fended for ourselves. One of the guys fired up their stove for some warm water/coffee. I setlled for the classic donuts and pop tarts.
With camp broke down, we moved the gear to the river about 300 yards away. Being lazy, we made a few trips in John’s car, and it saved us having to carry heavy boats down to the river. John parked his car somewhere safe and walked back down to the start (Cedargrove Access). John was in his 12ish foot solo canoe. Jake and Jason were in my Kruger Cruiser and I was in Breakdown. Paranoid about tipping in the cold water and not trusting my boat, I wore my dry suit for the paddle. Breakdown is a very wet boat in the best conditions and would not be good for staying warm without the dry suit.
It didn’t take long for us to get into a rhythim. John would generally lead followed by Jake/Jason with me in the back. The current river had lots of places where you had to pay attention if you wanted to stay dry. When these places came up, I would hang back and follow the route the others took trying to stay drama free. At one corner that turned sharp left, John went right to an inlet and the three of us followed.
It turned out to be a spring that helped feed the river. We stopped to get photos and enjoy its beauty.
We decided to push on. We had a total of 26 miles to complete and we were not that far into our paddle. Exiting was going to be interesting. The water was pushing towards a large rock, so we had to go out on the left side fast as we were going to be pushed right. John went first and had little trouble. He is quite good in his small solo canoe. Jake and Jason went next. They used the conbination of the high freeboard and rudder to stay out of trouble. When them out of the way, I took off taking the same path. Before I realized what happened, my boat had flipped over towards the upstream side and I was swimming next to my boat. Luckily for me, I was wearing the dry suite and only my head was wet. I swam a short distance with the boat to shallow water. There, I flipped the boat back over, only loosing a Gatorade bottle in the process.
After I realized that I was dry except for my head, I relaxed and laughed at the situation. I was in pretty good shape! Thinking back on the situation, I realized that because I didn’t have any freeboard on Breakdown, when i entered the current sideways (trying to avoid the large rock), water came over the top of the boat and pushed the boat over. If I had been leaning downstream, it may not have happened.
I had larger confidence in my skills after a tip that didn’t have much for concequences in the cold water! We stopped at another spring that was the spot of an old hospital. There we went a bit mental! The sign at the hospital was hard to read, but John gave it his best orator’s voice! It was good for many laughs!
I was more than ready to stop for lunch! My dry suit was cutting off the circulation of my right hand. My hand was grey and cold to the touch, but was not numb, as I had full control over it. Ohh, and it was bloated significantly! I was worried that I would damage to it if I kept wearing the suit. When we stopped for lunch, I pulled my head/arms out of the dry suit, but left the rest on to protect me from the wetness of the boat.
One of the highlights of the trip was paddling into a cave! We got all three boats into the cave and hung out for a few minutes before continuing on our way. It was amazing how clear the water was inside the cave!
The weather was forecasted to be very bad winter storms on Sunday. We decided to make the full 26 mile paddle on Saturday and go back to our original campsite till Sunday morning. When we got to the take out, I was relieved to see my van parked where I left it. We pulled out all of the boats an relaxed. I put the dry suit back on completely and took a swim to prove it works and enjoy the river. Jake decided to follow suite and tested his chest waders far out into the river.
We didn’t want to have to drive all the way back for John’s car to get the boats back, so i worked my magic and put all three boats on top of my van and drove very slow back to the start.
We feasted that night on reheated Turkey Chili, bread for Jimmy John’s and Cobbler. Like all camping trips, we had more food than we could eat. We all went to bed shortly after dark to get sleep after a marathon paddling day.
When I woke up in the morning, it was raining and the inside of the tent was wet. Jake and I took the contents of the tent and shoved them into my van and then the tent as well. I didn’t bring any rain gear as I figured I could wear the dry suit, except that my right hand would have none of it. John/Jason broke camp quickly and packed John’s car. We met at a Casey’s gas station in town for coffee, breakfast, and gas.
After breakfast, I told John I knew how to get home and he could go faster if he wanted. A few moments outside of the gas station, was all the longer that I got to see John’s car. Jake and I continued on at a slower speed for the boats towards home. The weather got worse the whole drive. We stopped three times to knock ice off the antenna and windshield wipers so it was safe to drive!