Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Return to the Eno River

12/30/09 - Eno River, Durham, NC

Howdy again from the kayak cockpit! ;-) Wednesday's weather was partly sunny, highs in the mid 40's, and southeast winds around 5mph. Good conditions for paddling! Put in was again at Eno River Boat Ramp at Falls Lake.

I headed west on the Eno River under partly cloudy conditions.
Temperatures were in the low 30's at the start of my paddle... and yep, that's ice floating in the water. Water temperature was in the low 40's. Burr!

Spotted this Blue Heron on my out bound leg. I think he was so cold that he did not bother to fly away. ;-) He allowed me to get quite close.

Conditions were rather "gloomy" during the first quarter of my paddling trip. The forecast was for "partly sunny" skies, but it was more like "partly cloudy" skies instead! 6 of one... half a dozen of another?

About halfway into the trip, it did become "partly sunny." The sun was a great relief because temperatures then quickly climbed into the mid 40's. Cloud formations were impressive and beautiful!

I love these tree silhouette shots against the deep blue sky and cloud formations! I don't get tired of taking these photos! :-)

Here an old growth dead tree's massive root system is exposed, a victim of water and wind erosion. It will soon topple into the Eno River.

Actually, the cloud formations were some of the more impressive sights during my Eno River paddling adventure.

And, so with this paddling trip on the Eno River, my 2009 paddling season comes to an end! :-( But I'm looking forward to new and exciting paddling adventures in 2010! :-)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Paddling on the Eno River - Yes!

12/28/09 - Eno River, Durham, NC

Hi everyone! Well, the second time must be the charm! Monday's weather was partly sunny with highs in the the mid 40's, winds increasing to northwest around 15mph with gusts up to 25mph. It was not ideal paddling conditions. I like the temperatures to be above 50 and less wind, but the long range forecast was not looking better, so... I returned to the Eno River and this time had a great 3 hour paddling trip!

Put in area at the Eno River Boat Ramp at Falls Lake. Note that the water is lower from two days ago (dock is no longer half submerged) and more importantly, the current was running much slower!
I headed west on the Eno River. I wanted to avoid the majority of motor boats that usually head east to the fishing spots. The river way is very narrow - some areas no more then 20 feet separate the banks.
Large tree trunks and debris that were washed up on the shore following the flooding from a few days ago. Many of these trees were over 20 feet with trunk diameters nearly 2 feet.
In some river bends, the wind gusts were more of a paddling factor. I had to dig hard to make this turn and keep my kayak's bow pointed into the wind. Majority of the paddle trip, the thick woods and foliage kept the wind down making for an enjoyable time! :-)
Approaching a highway bridge over the Eno River.
On the far side of the bridge, there was a huge field of wood and trash debris jammed up against the bridge pilings. I even saw a basketball floating in this "log jam." Hopefully, the high water levels will aid in allowing this debris field to move down river without damaging the bridge supports.

I met a fellow kayaker who was also named "Mike." ;-) He was a pleasant fellow and we had a good chat as we paddled and drifted down the river. Hopefully we will meet again on the Eno.

Mike was "escorting" a young couple who were visiting him from Florida. Unfortunately, the young couple was intoxicated and not wearing life jackets. At one point, the young man lost his balance and went "duck." Thankfully, he had brought a change of clothing. I was glad that Mike was with this couple or they could have gotten into a lot more trouble. Brilliant blue sky and good looking cloud formations.
A day paddling sure beats a day at the office! :-)
The white tree bark contrasted nicely with the blue sky. I love it!
Recent flooding has "bent over" some old growth trees.
"Beauty shot" - enjoy!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Paddling on the Eno River - Not!

12/26/09 - Lake Holt, Butner, NC

Hi everyone! Christmas morning dawned overcast, temperatures in the low 40's F, and a stiff breeze that drove rain swollen clouds east. By mid morning, the rains came. All day it rained, sometimes very heavy down pours that reduced driving visibility to less then 50 yards. It was a total washout for any paddling. :-( However, on Saturday (12/26/09), weather conditions greatly improved - temperatures in the the mid 50's, partly sunny, and a light breeze less then 5 mph. I decided to paddle on the Eno River having scouted out the Eno River Boat Ramp at Falls Lake put in area a few days prior. However, when I arrived at my planned put in area about mid morning (12/26/09), it was not to be! The Eno River was over its banks from all the rainfall on Christmas Day and the current was running fast! This was beyond my kayaking ability and I wisely decided to NOT put in at the Eno River. Paddling safety tip - ALWAYS understand and know your paddling abilities and limitations... and never exceed them!

Eno River information and regulations posting at the boat ramp.

Flooding aftermath from the Christmas Day heavy rainfall. Note that the dock is half submerged and the Eno River has flooded over its banks into the woods.
The extensive flooding and swift current of the Eno River. I asked two hunters who were loading their boat onto a trailer about the water conditions. One of them pointed to the 10 horsepower motor attached to their boat, and told me that they had difficulty getting back up the river with the current running so fast. My kayak stayed firmly lashed to my truck bed - it never got wet here! ;-)

Instead, I travelled to Lake Holt, about 15 minutes up the road from my planned Eno River put in area. Lake water levels were high here also and the lake had a much different appearance from the last time I paddled on its waters back in late October!

Another beautiful paddling day on Lake Holt! Partly sunny with temperatures in the mid 50's and a light breeze.

Winter has set in and many of the trees on the shoreline are bare and grey. Wall and small spillway on the Holt Dam.
I landed on the shore and scrambled up the steep banks to get a view of the moss-covered walls. I estimate the concrete walls to be two feet thick.
I was also curious what lay on the "other" side of the Holt Dam walls... now both you and I know the answer! ;-)
Here is the "handiwork" of a beaver.
I heard running water and went up this cove to discover this stream emptying into Lake Holt. Nice "calendar" photo here.
Also found this smaller stream that flowed into a quiet cove. Saw two snapping turtles sunning themselves on a half submerged tree trunk, but they crawled back into the water before I could extract my camera from the dry bag.
Approaching the Robert Chapel Road bridge.
On the other side of the bridge, the land belongs to the Camp Butner National Guard Training Center. Boaters are safe as long as they remain in their boats and don't venture on shore. This was one area that I did NOT land to stretch my legs!
I hate to see this pollution. Someone decided that the correct disposal of a 50 gallon rusting drum (with unknown contents) is along the Lake Holt shoreline.
Back at the Lake Holt attendant station and dock area. Another fun paddling adventure! :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Durhamblogger Readers!

Here is my Christmas card to all my readers! Blessings to all!

Merry Christmas !!!!!

(Click on the link and turn the volume up on your speakers.)

Click here: The Christmas Tree - animated Flash ecard by Jacquie Lawson

Monday, December 21, 2009

True Meaning of Christmas!

Celtic Woman live from the Helix Center in Dublin, Ireland performing A Christmas Celebration O Holy Night. "Angels" singing about the true meaning of Christmas! Merry Christmas! :-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kayak Care - Off Season

As "Old Man Winter" makes his presence known in December and the next several months here in the Southeast, it is time to prepare your kayak for off season storage. :-( Personally, I will continue to search for those weather "windows" that offer moderate temperatures and low breezes... but know that nastier (non-friendly kayaking weather) will be more the norm then the exception in North Carolina for the next several months. So maybe I'll consider my "at rest" kayak to be more "in season" then "off season" storage! ;-)

I discovered this Website to offer good tips and advice on kayak storage.

Currently, I store my tandem Mainstream Escapade kayak upside down and raised off the ground (use bricks) to allow air to flow into the cockpit area. It is currently stored on a concrete slab so it is off the immediate ground. I'll drape a waterproof tarp over it when weather conditions really start to deteriorate and that should do it. The hull is hard plastic and pretty resistent.

Weather Alert! However, in the Triangle area this afternoon and evening, we are forecast to get up to 2 inches of snow... so I hooked up the dolly to my kayak... and wheeled it into the garage! Not taking any chances with the weather. And that means no kayaking this weekend! :-(

Any kayak storage tips to share?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Photo Contest - And the Readers have Voted!

Many thanks to all the readership who participated and voted in the recent contest to pick the "new" 2010 photo header! :-) And here is your winning photo:

It looks remarkably like the current photo! ;-) Thanks again for your vote... and remember to take life one stroke at a time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's on Your Mind?

Hi everyone! :-) I started this blog to share my kayak adventures and thoughts on this wonderful sport. I also wanted it to serve as a platform to encourage on going dialog with readers. So far, I believe it has been a mixed bag? I enjoy recording my paddling trips, interviewing key folks in the sport, and commenting on kayak gear, magazines and books. But what is missing is your "voice!" Do you like the current mix of postings? What can be done better in your opinion? What is working for you now? How to make this blog more inviting? Any constructive comments and suggestions are much appreciated! I also set-up a forum section on the right nav bar where you can "check in" with quick comments & smileys.

I love comments on! They are as important as anything I write myself. Comments add to the knowledge and community that we have here. If you want to comment then you’re more than welcome – whether you feel you are a beginner or an expert – feel free to have your say. Let's get a dialog going! :-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Interview With Ward Swan - Great Outdoor Provision Company

Ward Swan, a paddlesport expert with Great Outdoor Provision Company, recently sat down with Durhamblogger to answer some paddling questions. (DUAC): "Give some of your paddling background and experience. When did you get started? What got you interested in paddling?"

Ward Swan: "Thank you for the opportunity to talk about boating in North Carolina. Interacting with water has been a long term obsession of mine. As a kid, when my family went to the lake house the canoe was my source of freedom. When in college I became a raft guide on the Chattooga Ocoee and Nantahala rivers and I saw that there was MUCH more that this sport can bring. Later while reading Tim Cahill’s, Jaguars Ripped My Flesh my eyes opened wider. In this book he has several stories. One story described a paddling trip in Alaska among seals and orca. This was done in a boat that was new to me; a sea kayak. I knew that I had to get involved with this. I have been active in pursuing paddling in all its forms from that time (1989) to the present.
My path has taken me through special interest of Greenland style kayaking and sprint kayaking. I still like whitewater but I don’t have the interest in running hard rapids. Surf kayaking was addictive to me when I lived in Charleston. My current paddling obsession is freestyle canoe. Look it up on In most of the above mentioned aspects I have been through instruction, instruction training and instructing. I like teaching. This led me to work on the side for H2Outfitters, a sea kayak school in Maine. Not only do we teach basic and advanced skills of kayak touring we guide trips of various difficulties up and down the eastern seaboard and beyond.

For me, advanced paddling does not involve outward expressions of bravery in the face of adversary. Instead, the inward trajectory of discovery fortifies the competence that allows for successful exploration. Put another way, the Zen of paddling provides more satisfaction then the machismo of paddling."

DUAC: "What are some recommended paddling areas in North Carolina?"

Ward Swan: "North Carolina has so much water to enjoy. Each time you go out it will be a different experience. I can go on a hiking trail that I traveled as a kid and see the same rocks at the same places each time. Paddling offers few opportunities with concrete reminders. Each time you go out the water is different. A spot that was out of the wind one time may now be bouncing one foot waves. The very “trail” that you are on is alive with shifting activity. The warm water of summer ripples easily where the sober winter water resists such frivolous activity. With the diversity of the North Carolina seasons even the local pond will provide an adventure. I live in Winston-Salem and take advantage of the unnaturally warm waters of Belews Creek Lake in the cooler seasons when I need a work out.

Our local paddlers (of the Winston-Salem area) enjoy the Dan, New and Yadkin Rivers. All are easily done in most types of boats. In the Durham area boaters have long enjoyed the lakes of Macintosh and Jordan (at Farington boat ramp) and the diverse challenges of the Haw.

When I want to do some overnight activities I usually look further to the coast. My favorite paddling in the world is on Core Sound. This is a stretch of water is in between Ocracoke and Beaufort, NC. While not wilderness, there is a glorious lack of people. While the sound is pretty far across, it is not deep. In fact there are usually many opportunities to get up and stretch when your kayak runs aground a half a mile away from “land.” The clear water here makes it more like a touch tank where the shells, crabs Horseshoe crabs and clams are within reach of the adventurous. Word of advice for winter time paddling here; don’t try to sneak up on ducks that are sitting on the water. Not only are they plastic, there’s usually a guy with a gun nearby. Steer clear.

Another overnight destination is the Roanoke River. This paddle trail is managed by the Roanoke River Partners and consists of platforms that one can reserve. The black water river is beautiful all year but especially in the fall and winter. The owls of the swamp really change the meaning of “night life.”

DUAC: "What are 5 tips can you give to persons who are interested in getting started in kayaking? What gear is essential? What gear is more "nice-to-have?" What research you should do prior to purchasing a kayak?"

Ward Swan: " 1. Get rid of that “starter boat” mentality and understand what it is about paddling that interests you. I can really help a person who has a clear idea of how they are going to use the boat. When someone says they want a “starter boat” I then ask what their next boat will be. If they want to get into whitewater for example, then the $400. Rec Boat that they are looking at will not help in their interest, just delay. There is nothing about the “starter boat” that will carry over to white water or touring/sea kayaking. If you want to use a kayak to fish, then there are special tricks and shapes that will increase your enjoyment. If you have kids that have short attention spans then there are boats that will make swimming much easier. Understand elements of your interest and activity and your boat choice will be easier.

2. Unless you are going for a high performance boat in either touring/sea or whitewater kayaking, don’t over think your boat. The vast majority of the boats sold today are for the “Recreation market.” (That’s short for all those people who are not “serious” enough for white water and feel frustrated in a longer boat.) Because “Rec.” is the largest market out there, manufactures invest in producing a confusing amount of boat designs, all aimed to the same person. For me the major rec. boat performance design choices are length and width. I’ve had people agonize over two boats, one with a crease in the hull design (chine) and the other did not. In the end, the more relevant decision was how comfortable the seat was or the color. Rec. boats are supposed to be an easy way to get into paddling with the least amount of skills. If you over think the choices then you are going against the intent. Besides, if you think you will only have one boat in your paddling career then you are probably mistaken. It is the nature of paddlers to pursue better boats. The nice thing about boats is that most people I know would say that the value of enjoyment they bring quickly equals the cost of the boat.

3. Budget for Boat, Paddle and PFD (lifejacket). There are three things that ALWAYS are with you every time you go paddling; Boat, Paddle, and PFD. You don’t pick up your boat with every paddle stroke. And few people wear their boats. I always recommend to get the lightest paddle you can reasonable afford. A heavy paddle can wear you out just in the activity of changing paddle stroke sides. You can usually tell a significant difference between an $89 and $150 paddle with out having to go to the $400 area. But I will tell you that there is an added enjoyment to the stiffer lighter paddle. I also recommend a PFD that you can forget about when wearing. If you are having to futz with your jacket all day long to be “comfortable” then you are no longer paddling, you are “lifejacketing.”

4. Don’t become dazzled by dollars. Craigslist and ebay are great places to learn about the boats. There are many “great deals” out there. But after seeing what people have bought in a “great deal,” I feel that many (dare I say most) of the boats in this category are inappropriate for the person or use that that person wants. I don’t begrudge a customer who truly found a good deal. But when they come in talking about the Whitewater C-1 that they just picked up to go fishing on a lake I can’t hide the disappointment that I feel. And I can’t hide the horror to someone who wants turn their super cheap rec. boat into a heavy duty whitewater boat. There is a lot of safety built into the design of a whitewater boat. On a different note but similar thought; there is a friend of my wife’s that found a GREAT deal on a Wood and canvas Oldtown canoe. She used it on the Eno River to cart her dogs. I offered a trade to a new boat that would be more appropriate and more costly by far then what she paid just to save her antique boat. She refused. Then, frustrated in paddling a dedicated lake boat on a river, she cut holes in the bottom and turned it into a planter. I cried.

5. Consider instruction. If you have a whitewater bug or a sea kayak interest then getting instruction BEFORE you buy can change dramatically what boat you end up with. This costs money but it often gives you a season’s worth of education and experience in a pretty short amount of time. In whitewater it can bring you up to being a functional paddler before you have to go out on the club trips. Private business, public recreation, colleges, and clubs are great places to get some education. Great Outdoor Provision Co’s staff is a source to get some pointers in the store, on the water or at the pool.

DUAC: "How can the Great Outdoor Provision Company help both novice and expert paddlers?"

Ward Swan: "Great Outdoor Provision Co. seeks to facilitate the process by understanding the above issues and interact between the consumer’s wants and the available products. Like my fellow staff I ask several questions to help sharpen the focus of use for the boat. I pride myself in making the right match regardless of the type of paddling. The only way to know if it was correct is to maintain a relationship to see how it is going. Through this relationship we (the customer and I) can tweak the understanding of what’s needed and fine tune the next step.

Some of the practices of Great Outdoor Provision Co. that promote this include:

Some “demo days” where one can get out and sample some of the boats that are serious contenders to take up residence in your garage. And one should take the opportunity to try out boats that you may have no business being in at all. Have fun and explore.

Also Great Outdoor Provision Co. gives the customer the ability to return boats if, after a trial period, the boat proves insufficient to the customer’s intention. Sometimes the boat that felt great for 15 minutes at a demo day doesn’t feel good for four or more hours. If you paddle the boat like you might return it then you can, easily. Take care of it for the first few times. There is some small print on this so come by the shop for details. But it is our intent to get you in the right boat so you can have fun.

Great Outdoor Provision Co offers 10% off paddling accessories for the a YEAR after the boat purchase. This gives you a chance to try the boat and then figure out the doo dads that will match your interest. We don’t offer too many “package deals.” Instead, this program allows you to make your own, over time.

The above are universal to all Great Outdoor Provision Co. locations. Each shop, however, will offer a little different types of programming. The best ways to find these schedules are to visit our Web site. Check out our blog too to find thoughts and trips from our staff and customers."

DUAC: "Thank you Ward for taking time out to share your expertise on the sport of paddling!"

Ward Swan: "Once again, thank you for allowing me the space to talk about paddling."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Photo Contest - Time to Vote!

The time has come to cast your vote for your favorite paddling photo! I'll list the photo choices here. Please vote once (and only once) for your favorite. No stuffing the ballet box! ;-) See the survey on the right nav bar. The winning photo will be used for the new 2010 header photo! Help make your favorite kayak blog even better! Poll will remain open until Dec 14th.

Photo A

Photo B

Photo C

Photo D

Monday, November 30, 2009

Return to Flat Creek

11/29/09 - Flat Creek, Henderson, NC

Howdy! :-) I had a choice to make this past Sunday - either rake leaves or paddle. I contemplated that decision for an entire micro-second and decided to... paddle! Imagine that! ;-) I returned to Flat Creek (scene of my paddling adventure 9 days ago) and decided to paddle east up the waterway. It was an "extra" beautiful day, sunny with temperatures in the upper 60's F and a light (less then 5mph) breeze - one of those "jaw-dropping" and rare gorgeous days in November!

Parking lot at Williamsboro Wayside. Note that the water levels have receded from 9 days ago. Now, all the posts are "high and dry." It also appears that Henderson town maintenance workers have built a low rock barrier at the end of the parking lot.

My put in area. I had to scramble over the rock barrier carrying the 65lb kayak. It was a little more difficult then last time to launch!

Paddling east up the creek I saw a number of floating docks with nice "sitting areas" at the dock ends.

While water levels were lower, I still encountered numerous forest areas that had been reclaimed by the creek. I was able to paddle between the trunks.

Again, many floating docks were "islands" that required owners to use boats to reach them! Here is a dock ramp that leads underwater!

I saw elaborate docks that could accommodate several large boats...

... and more modest ones too.

There were many large and impressive vacation / year-round homes on Flat Creek.A nice 30ish footer sailboat moored to a boat house.

Note the elaborate cradle gear to put in / take out boats.

I paddled down a small cove and discovered these "at rest" kayaks. How sad! :-(

Upon closer inspection, I spied my friends - the "Great Outdoor Provision Company" logo on the bow!

As I moved farther eastward, hugging the north shoreline, I saw erosion on the "weatherside" of the creek.
The cloud formations were spectacular!

It was also a great day for flying! Note the single engine airplane (lower right). You can click on the photo to enlarge it.

A couple of "beauty" shots! Enjoy! :-)