Thursday, June 28, 2018

Flint River: Ryland to Hays

 Woke up early with the intent to get on the water early.  Then I managed to make a 20 minute drive last nearly an hour since I needed gas and I passed the turn twice...then we decided to eat.  Anyway, the sunrise was nice.

The put in is just past an abandoned church (Flint Primitive Baptist) off Ryland Pike on Everett Road.  There's room to park there as well.  Go PAST the church, the lot and put in are on the other side of the fence.  I have read reports that sound like people are parking at the church itself. 

We only got to the top end of Hays before we had to take out, making it a 13 mile trip instead of a 15 mile trip.

A storm came up out of nowhere-it wasn't on the radar at all and even after we heard thunder, there was nothing.
About 20 minutes later, it was POURING and still thundering.  We were paddling SO hard, we were 10 miles in before the weather turned.  We did the first 5 miles in 2 hours, we did the last 3 in less than one hour.
The lightning didn't start until the very end, but the water flow had picked up and it made navigation trickier. I was glad to get off the water, I hit that take out, jumped out of the yak and dragged it up the half tube and was standing on my thick rubber mat away from trees before Matt was even off the water.  I was not keen on being zapped!  Or on saving my husband, it appears.  hahahaha! 

(he's fine)

Still, until the weather changed, it was a great trip!
My one major complaint is that there is a split in the river at the NACK.  One way-the way we went-goes to a log jam we had to get out and drag the boats over.  The other way I assume goes around the jam, but the signs are AT the junction.  As fast as the water was going, we were past it before we read them and even then we assumed it was to sign the take out, like 'turn here if you parked at the NACK'.

So just be aware of that and look on the map if that stretch is in your plans.

It's well worth the trip, check water levels, you want that "gage height, feet" chart to be between 8 and 9 feet.  Anything lower and you will drag.  Anything higher and you need to have some real whitewater experience.  Below the NACK, there's zero maintenance, so there's the risk of being pulled sideways along a submerged tree and then the force of the water pushing your boat UNDER the tree and sometimes keeping it there.  This is called a strainer and they can be deadly.

Another hazard along the way were trees across the width of the river, but 3 or so feet above the water level, allowing for ducking under.  In very fast water, this is a good way to knock the upper portion of your own head off or just get a really good scrape along exposed areas.

Another thing to watch for is a dimple in the moving water that indicates a rock in shallow water and more likely a stob (the end of a poky branch) in deeper water.  Hitting this head-on can flip your boat, or turn it sharply and veer you off course and into the bank or a pile of trees or another paddler.  Avoid.  It won't take long to be able to read the water and figure out what's an obstacle just under the surface and what's fun and fast water.

A final hazard to watch for are trees dangling in the water, trunks up and visible, limbs hanging in the water.  These are called sifters.  One of these we went under turned out to be COVERED in poison ivy and it raked us across the arms and face.  Others can have branches that reach the bottom of the water and come up covered in mud, or that get trapped and don't come free at all and slamming into a web of leaves isn't fun.  Any time it can be avoided, paddle away.  If it can't, paddle backward until your boat is slowed down enough to have some control.  Plus, spiders and ticks hang out on these branches.  :/

The Flint in this stretch is a series of mostly mild riffles, a few faster drops, a TON of downed trees, long stretches of flat paddling, and lots of gravel bars.  Toward the end of this run are islands galore and picking your way around can be tedious if it's pouring rain.  Otherwise, I am sure it's really fun.

For anyone hesitant to take on the full distance, put in a Ryland and take out at the NACK.  Call them and find out the details.  They keep that stretch pretty clear of obstacles and it's a fun stretch, too.

Next time, I will put in above Ryland and paddle to that take out, and I want to finish the Flint and go all the way to Ditto Landing.  There are 4-5 full day trips to be had on this river and overnight camping is allowed along the stretch we did.   I am unsure about the rest of it.  Maybe if you put on in the afternoon and then got out before noon the next day.  Even with stops, it's a 6-hour stretch.  Not really overnight territory.

With the 8 miles we did Saturday and 13 on Monday, that puts me at 62 miles of paddling in a month.  Not bad for a fairly sedentary summer.  It's HOT! 

Conasauga River Snorkel Trip

This started as a camping trip, we headed up and swam and snorkeled.
The water is VERY cold and since it rained just the day before, it was swift and not super clear.
We still saw a bajillion fish.

We were only in the water about 40 minutes, it was SO cold that we were actually getting concerned about our core temp!

We warmed back up with a short hike on the 6-mile loop trail that begins and ends in the same parking area.  We walked by the river a good ways, then turned back and headed to the car to get changed.
There were people in and out while we were there, 4-5 other families.  But we managed to have the lot to ourselves when we got there and when we left so we could change both times!  That was nice because we were in Matt's tiny car.

We took the LONG (don't DO IT) gravel road away from the snorkeling area.  It was over 20 miles long and not in great shape.
It popped out at the Thunder Rock campground on the Ocoee.
We went on up 64 through Ducktown and got on 68 to go into Tellico Plains.

I am moments away from cutting ALL OF THIS off.  It reaches my lower back now and is in the way, it's hot, it's heavy, it's baby fine, it wraps around things and tears loose from my scalp or breaks off.  The stain is all out, the bleached streaks are a steely blonde color now.  Trying to wear a mask and keep my hair out of my way and not rip it all out taking the mask off and on...ugh.

We got to Tellico and the clouds started piling up from the east.
We pulled money from the ATM to eat at The Beach and drove up there and it was packed, with the wind blowing so hard that branches were snapping.
We went back to Papa's Pizza and got a BBQ pizza.
We ate in the store and the storm got worse and worse.  At one point, shopping buggies were tumbling past like tumbleweeds.
After the worst of the wind was passed, the rains started.
We opted to drive back to Katy's instead of trying to set up hammocks in the downpour-and that's assuming we could get up the road to our campsite without a tree down in the road.

We drove back via Etowah

The sky put on a show the whole way.
We got in around 10 and crashed.

So while not a great camping trip, the snorkeling was amazing.  We are so glad we went, even if it did pop up storm on us.  That's just part of summer in the south-any afternoon can be a gullywasher and it does not matter what the weather calls for.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sharp Ford and Limestone Bay

Wednesday, Ben and I went back to Sharp Ford and headed out to circumnavigate the big island there.  To get to it, go under the bridge from the ramp, around the bend the channel splits 3 ways.  The far right is Cotaco Creek and you can paddle up that for miles.  The left two channels are the ends of a 3.5-mile loop around one large and some small islands.  If you keep the 'land' to the left (going in the first channel) you'll loop the whole thing without any trouble.  We did this in a couple of hours but given more time (oh, the blazing sun!, it was too hot by 10!) there are lots of little coves and islands to skirt around and explore.
The area that forms the loop is called Grindle Hole.

Paddle back to the junction, take the way you came in back to the bridge.  Easy Peasy.  

The water in here was not QUITE deep enough to cover one paddle blade.  I let him have his jacket off for a bit.

See the decals Matt put on his boat?  Monster teeth! 

A surprisingly open and grassy island.  Most of them are so jammed with trees, you can't see past the shoreline.


Wednesday evening, I went back out for a 5.5 miler with Matt, Gina, Kimberly, and Al

We were at Limestone Bay, launched from Arrowhead Landing at Moorseville

Well.  Kind of a group shot.

Pectinatella magnifica

More water beetles shooting around!

Cephalanthus occidentalis

It's SO FAR across the bay, a full mile of paddling to cross it!

We went, planning for sunset, but it was one of those very cloudy days where it just got dark instead.

It stormed overnight and rained off and on the next day, which was needed-the river may be up, but the ground is dry!