Last week my wife and I participated in the “Week of Rivers” run by Kirk Eddlemon in Tennessee. I learned a number of valuable lessons during that week. Here are some of them.
YOU CANNOT SKIP PADDLING WHITEWATER FOR SIX MONTHS AND EXPECT TO DO WELL
We had last paddled in September of last year on the Nantahala River. That’s a long time ago. I barely remembered how to get into a kayak, no less paddle one. In my case, I was tentative. For example, when paddling up to a big wave to ferry across a river, I would stop short of getting into the wave. That did not yield good results.
Also, I forgot one of the basic rules of paddling – never stop paddling. I’d get into an eddy, for example, cruise up against a rock (there were lots of them) and hang out. Not a good idea when the current is pushing you into the rock!
YOU CAN GO FOR A SWIM AND THEN HIT A COMBAT ROLL
Because (here comes and excuse) I was not fitted in my kayak properly, I swam the first time I flipped upside down. After getting fittet properly, I managed my combat rolls effectively. Normally, if you swim, your confidence level in your roll is way down. Mine was, but you just gotta do it. Of course, not having to roll is the ideal situation.
THE RIVERS IN TENNESSEE ARE NOT THE SAME AS OTHER RIVERS WE HAVE KAYAKED
We have kayaked the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers while living in Texas. There really isn’t much in the way of rapids on those rivers, except after major storms. We have also kayaked out west, like on the Salmon river, where the water has large waves (sometimes the top of the next wave is higher than your head) but little in the way of obstacles. This is a photo of the Main Salmon river that we kayaked last year. The rocks in this section are easily avoided.
We also kayaked the Cossatot River (a Native American word for “skull crusher”) in Arkansas once. It was clearly the “boniest” river we had ever paddled, meaning the water flow was low and the number of rocks high.
This was a run that required a lot of maneuvering, and you could get hung up on a rock, but getting off a rock was not a big deal.
The rivers in Tennessee were not only rocky, but also had a pretty good flow. Get stuck on a rock, though, and you could have a hard time getting off (or flipping).
You can see that there is one path through these rocks, so being able to maneuver is an essential skill. I go back to my first point – you cannot take six months off and expect to be able to paddle as well as you had in the past.
THE SMALLEST OPENING IN A DRY SUIT WILL LET IN LOTS OF WATER
I found that out the hard way. On the first day of kayaking, I used the “relief zipper” at lunch time. I thought I had zipped it up all the way, but later discovered that I had left a ¼ inch opening (at most). Here is a picture of me at the end of the day waiting for the van. Do I look cold? I was freezing, especially with the cold water in my boots.
I would have gotten out of the dry suit had I worn something warm enough under it. Unfortunately, my layer was ONE Columbia “make your own heat” shirt. That would have been fine in 60 degree weather, but in 50 degree weather with no sun – uh uh.
ACCESS TO RIVERS IN TENNESSEE IS NOT THE SAME AS IN OTHER PLACES WE HAVE BEEN
Nope. No short, easy walk to the put in or take out.
THERE IS SOME WEIRD STUFF IN TENNESSEE
But, we are talking about kayakers, right?
THERE ARE SOME GREAT HIKING PLACES IN TENNESSEE
This is a picture of one of the “Twin Arches” in Tennessee. These arches form the largest natural bridge complex in Tennessee and one of the largest known in the world. The two sandstone arches are situated end-to-end, and are commonly referred to as the North and South Arches. The South Arch is the tallest at 103 feet high. It has a clearance inside the arch of 70 feet and its span is 135 feet between the inside base of the feet. The North Arch is 62 feet high with a clearance of 51 feet and a span of 93 feet. (From TN.GOV)
AND…DRUM ROLL…YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD
There were several times that I thought “I’m too old for this shit.” However, I had someone to look up to. This is Juanita Guinn, whose husband Roy (along with three others) formed Dagger Canoe Company. She is 80! So, I gotta keep on keeping on. It’s like I say – you’re never too old.
That’s all for now. Maybe a video later on.
All photos taken by Donna Hansen