Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Wonderland!

Aside from my work schedule and COLD temperatures that have made for "less then ideal" paddling conditions during the past few weeks... here is a major reason I was unable to "put in" this weekend!

The Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina got hit with a big blast from Old Man Winter that translated to 6-8 inches of snow and sleet - thankfully no ice and we did not lose electricity. :-) The adverse weather necessitated that I had to bring in my kayak from its customary resting spot (concrete slab in the back yard) to a more sheltered area in my garage.

So you make due and cope with what life dishes out to you. It's nice to get a significant snow in this area that only causes a little inconvenience instead of major headaches! Here in the South, many people tend to think of snow as "white rain" and have no clue in how to safely drive in it. Best advice - stay off the roads folks and enjoy some down time! For me, I'm slowing down and relaxing during this life "pause," drinking lots of coffee and hot chocolate, and dreaming of warmer temperatures and a return to paddling soon!

Friday, January 29, 2010

An Interview with Rob Nykvist - Kayaker & Durhamblogger Follower - Part 3

And here is the final part of DUAC's 3 Part interview with Rob Nykvist, kayaker, blogger, and Durhamblogger Follower. (DUAC): " What gear is essential?

Rob Nykvist: "Depends on what kind of kayak you have and where you are paddling. For a sit-in kayak, I always use a paddle leash and PFD and carry a GPS, spare batteries, compass, knife, duck tape, water bottle(s), paddle float, pump, whistle, spray skirt, and cell phone - no exceptions. There are also essentials needed for transport, such as car roof rack, foam pads and straps. Lighting is essential on night trips. Local laws may vary. A flashlight or head lamp is usually adequate on our club trips. However, when kayaking in heavy boating or shipping areas at night, I use a 4 foot tall (above my head) 360 degree standard marine light powered by a 12 volt marine battery and carry a million candle power spot light within reach."

DUAC: "What gear is more "nice-to-have?"

Rob Nykvist: "Nice-to-have gear will vary depending on the nature of the kayaking, time of year, and length of trip. Obviously someone going on a multi-day trip into the wildness where boats can't even go might carry different gear than the person going for an hour paddle along a populated shoreline. Here are a few nice to have accessory gear items in no particular order. Rain suit, dry suit, umbrella, camera, camcorder, sunglasses, hat, garbage bag, spare paddle, towels or sponge, binoculars, map of the area, bird or wildflower field guide books, micro water purification pump, waterproof gear bag, rope, fishing pole and lures, sail or windpaddle, reflector tape on the sides of the kayak, more safety gear like spotter mirror, flares, SPOT, change of clothes, Chota Mukluk light boots for seasonal cold water, water temperature gauge, overnight shelter tarp or hammock, seasonal insect repellent, Solio solar phone charger, mp3 player or portable radio, brush to remove mud from sandals or scum ring from kayak, gloves, heat retaining blanket, gun, emergency food, lighter, etc. When it comes to kayaking, he who has the most toys does not necessarily win - he just ends up packing and unpacking more stuff each trip that will probably never be used."

DUAC: "What research should you do prior to purchasing a kayak?"

Rob Nykvist: "See tips #1 and #2 (Interview Part 2 on 1/27/2010). Again, much of the decision on what to buy will be based on how you plan to kayak. Will your trips be short? Do you plan on kayaking once a summer, once a month, every weekend, or several times a week? Will you be going over night trips with need to haul camping gear? Will you be kayaking alone or do you want a tandem kayak? Kayak weight might be an issue if you are going to carry it by yourself. A $300 dollar kayak from a local sports store may be all one needs for fun or someone may want to spend ten times that for a high performance kayak with several bulkheads for storing gear.
The best "research" a person can do prior to buying a kayak is going on one or more test trips in it. That "research" should include the transport of the kayak. If you have a kayak, but it turns out to be too heavy for you to lift, you're likely to lose interest in kayaking real quick. No one kayak will satisfy the needs of every water condition. A trip down white water requires a special kayak. If you are into speed, realize that stability will be sacrificed for a faster kayak. If you like photography, a wider kayak is best for stability but your speed will be slower. There are sit-on-top kayaks, sit-in kayaks, and pedal kayaks. The sit-on-top kayakers tend to get wet legs and feet from the dripping paddles. Pedal kayakers have to be very careful in murky and shallow waters.
Consider your reason for kayaking before buying one. Where will you use it? Rocky white water? Shallow bays? Riding the waves at the beaches? Navigating down windy rivers? Exercise? Photography? What is your passion? A 25 inch wide 14 to 16 foot long plastic (rotomolded) kayak with a rudder, and two bulkheads with hatches should provide a beginner with a high quality stable kayak suitable for a wide variety of conditions."

DUAC: "Thank you Rob for sharing your experience and love of kayaking with Durhamblogger readers!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Interview with Rob Nykvist - Kayaker & Durhamblogger Follower - Part 2

Here is Part 2 of a three part interview with Rob Nykvist, kayaker, blogger, and Durhamblogger Follower. (DUAC): "What 5 tips can you give to persons who are interested in getting started in kayaking?"

Rob Nykvist:

"Tip #1, Identify what kind of kayaking really interests you. It is better to have a wide kayak for fishing, a long narrow kayak for racing, a short kayak for narrow twisty rivers, etc. Maybe you want a pedal kayak. Maybe you want to do river camping and a canoe might be a good choice because it holds more gear. Try to go to a Kayak Demo event where you can paddle in many different kinds of kayaks for free. Another option is to go to a kayak rental place and rent a few different kayaks. Try them out and feel the differences."

"Tip #2, Why test out different kayaks? Before you buy, make sure you are comfortable in your kayak. Kayaking won't be much fun if you are not doing it in comfort. Do not buy a kayak if you haven't tried it out first."

"Tip #3, Get a kayak with a rudder. This is especially important if you plan to do any open water kayaking. Rudders help you go straight in windy conditions."

"Tip #4, Use the Buddy system. Find out if your area has a kayaking club and if so, join it. Experienced paddlers in the club can share a lot of useful information that might be helpful to you. Go on group paddles. See what kinds of kayaks people are using. Note what gear they take with them."

"Tip #5, It is essential to learn how to get back into your kayak after a capsize. Weather permitting and in the presence of experienced trainers/paddlers, capsize (turn upside down) on purpose in some deep waters (warm enough to swim in - could be a pool). First you have to learn how to exit the kayak while it is upside down - called wet exit. Now, get back in your kayak by yourself - called self rescue. It may not be as easy as you think. Different kayaks will require different strategy to get back into it. Recovering from a capsize will likely require a paddle float and a pump. How long does it take to get back into your kayak? In cold water conditions, your arms and legs may stop functioning in just 10 minutes. Knowing how to get back into a kayak quickly could be the difference between life and death in a unexpected cold water capsize."

"Bonus Tip #6, Check with your local kayak club to see if they have classified ads. You may be able to buy a used nice used kayak for a very reasonable price from a local person. Try before you buy. They may also include the paddle and other accessories in the price."

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Interview with Rob Nykvist - Kayaker & Durhamblogger Follower - Part 1

Rob Nykvist, kayaker, blogger, and Durhamblogger Follower, recently sat down with Durhamblogger to answer some questions on the great sport of kayaking. Here is Part 1 of a three part interview with Rob. (DUAC): "Give some of your paddling background and experience. When did you get started? What got you interested in paddling?"

Rob Nykvist: "My outdoor experiences have been associated with water going all the way back to childhood where we had a creek in our back yard. I rented my first canoe at about 13 years old and ended up buying one in my 20s. Sold it a few years later and started bicycling. Oddly enough, a large number of those bicycle trips always went by waterways. I tried out a kayak in 2001 and after some test rentals, bought one a few weeks later. In 2003 I bought my first pedal kayak and my bicycle has been gathering dust ever since then. Started sharing my kayaking adventures using Blogger in 2005. I still have the curiosity of a kid and stop frequently to watch the Nature Show from the kayak, some of which I try to capture with a photo or video and share with the internet audience."

DUAC: "What are some recommended paddling areas in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta?"

Rob Nykvist: "The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta encompasses a vast area about 400 square miles in size. Kayaking adventures in this area can range from clear waters along sandy coastal barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, to open waters of Mobile Bay which harbors Gilliard Island, home to tens of thousands of pelicans, to grassy saltwater marshes and bays, from residential creeks to a busy shipping port, from wide flowing rivers with strong current to narrow streams in which the water doesn't move in hardwood forests that are so dense that you can't see the sun on a sunny day. There are over a hundred places to launch a kayak from in a 60 mile radius from Mobile. I recommend paddling the whole Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. After 9 years, I'm still exploring new waterways in the Delta. Recommended paddling areas? The Causeway (U.S. Highway 90), also called Battleship Parkway, is a favorite place that many kayakers launch from and for the upper Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Rice Creek tends to be a favorite place to launch from. You can learn more about launch sites in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta by clicking here. Click on individual thumb tacks for more info. Some launch sites even have downloadable tracks that you can transfer to your GPS."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paddling at West Point on the Eno

1/16/2010 - West Point on the Eno, Durham, NC

Hello from the kayak cockpit! :-) Yes! Back on the water again! All week the temperatures have been steadily climbing as this latest round of arctic weather retreats back North. Saturday was mostly cloudy, temperatures in the mid 50's, and SSW winds at 3mph - another great day for paddling! My put in was at the West Point on the Eno, City of Durham park and take out was at Penny's Bend, a distance of 4.54 miles. It took me about 2 hours to complete this paddling trip.

My wife Rachel dropped me off at West Point on the Eno and took a few pictures of me at the put in area. In the shaded and still areas of the Eno River, some ice lingered.
My put in area was just down from West Point Mill. This mill functioned longer (1778-1942) then any other mill on the river. At one time there was a community of about 300 families centered here with a general store, cotton gin, saw mill, and still! ;-)

Spied this egret as I started my paddle run. He allowed me to get quite close and then flew off down the river. Lots of tree debris clogged the Eno River

Here I approach a pedestrian bridge that is part of an extensive trail system within the Eno Park.
I really hate to see this pollution. That's about $1,000 dollars worth of shopping carts that have been dumped unceremoniously into the river to rust.

Between West Point on the Eno and Penny's Bend, there are a dozen or so Class I riffles. These usually are fun to navigate through, but water levels were low and I got "stuck" a few times among the rocks. However, in about the 10th Class I riffle I crossed, my kayak went sideways and I got wedged between two large rocks. The kayak lunged dangerously and at one point I thought I was going "duck." Fortunately, I managed to swing the stern around, so I scooted "backwards" through the riffle!

Lots of erosion along the river banks.
The Eno River narrowed several times during my paddling trip and sometimes it was no wider then 10 feet from each bank.

The forecast was for "partly sunny," but it was more like "partly cloudy." ;-)
I came across this abandoned structure. I have no idea what purpose it may have served at one time.
This was a stairway that led up to a small industrial park situated on the banks of the Eno River.

More Class I riffles.

Here I approach the Old Oxford Highway bridge at Penny's Bend.

Take out at Penny's Bend. You have to traverse a pretty severe Class I riffle right before you enter the calm waters of Penny's Bend. You can see the riffle in the background of this photo.

Another fun kayak adventure comes to an end!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Next gear purchase - a PFD. It can save your life!

Hi everyone! One of my first kayak gear purchases in 2010 is going to be a new personal flotation device (PFD). My current PFD fits me fine, but I miss not having pockets. When I paddle, my digital camera, cell phone, and emergency whistle are all hung around my neck. I also keep both my camera and cell phone in dry gear bags. So at times, all that "neck gear" can get heavy and cumbersome!

But let me climb upon my safety "soap box" for a minute...

Wear a PFD at all times!

Lots of unforseen things can happen while you are on the water. Weather and water conditions can change rapidly. You can accidently hit your head during a "going duck" incident. You can meet up with intoxicated fellow paddlers ;-) , or slip into very cold water where hypothermia becomes a real danger. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) recommends that anyone operating a human-powered watercraft wear a PFD and all children under 13 wear one at all times while in a vessel.

Wear a PFD at all times!

Climbing down off my soap box now.

Okay, now for the PFDs. Here are some models under consideration:

What do you think of these models? Has anyone purchased a PFD recently? What did you look for in a PFD?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Durhamblogger Visitors - Thank You!

On December 30, 2009, Durhamblogger registered the 500th visitor to drop by! Then, just 12 days later, on January 11, 2010, Durhamblogger registered the 600th visitor! Wow! Thank you! :-) In just five months since starting my blog, 600+ visitors from 22 countries have come to this "virtual oasis" where kayak adventures are told and interesting and fun kayak information is shared.

Some of the visitors who stopped by recently were from Hawaii, China, and New Zealand!

Aloha! Nyob zoo! Gidday!

I am humbled and grateful for all these wonderful visits... and look forward to welcoming more folks here in 2010!

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Interview With Arthur Kelley - Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail (FMST)

Arthur Kelley, a volunteer with the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail (FMST), recently sat down with Durhamblogger to answer some questions. (DUAC): "Give some of your background and experience with the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST). How did you get involved with this organization? What interested you the most about MST?"

Arthur Kelley: "In about 2002, at about age 45, after doing a variety of other things for exercise, I decided to start taking long walks. I started on the Raleigh Greenway system, but found it to be too crowded and it wasn't the relaxing experience I was looking for. Besides, long walks on asphalt hurt my feet. I had always heard of the Falls Lake Trail (FLT) and had seen a couple of the trail heads at various locations. Since it was on dirt (what I've since learned to call a "natural surface footpath") and out in the woods I gave it a try.

One section I hiked had a sign about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and a website address So I found out that the Falls Lake Trail is one component of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) which is supported by the nonprofit Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail (FMST). FMST holds regularly scheduled trail maintenance workdays and I showed up for one of those and that started my involvement.

I found out that the MST is a long-distance hiking trail similar in concept to its more famous older sibling the Appalachian Trail (AT). The MST runs about 1000 miles through the entire length of the state with its western end at Clingman's Dome on the NC/TN border in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its eastern end at Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Atlantic Ocean. More trail is being constructed all the time, but at the present the MST is about half finished. Footpath sections like the FLT are stitched together with road sections to form the complete MST.

The Falls Lake Trail runs in a government-owned corridor on the south bank of Falls Lake which is just north of Raleigh and serves as Raleigh's water supply and flood control for those downstream on the Neuse River. When I started hiking, the FLT ran about 25 miles from NC-50 at Falls Lake to the Falls Dam Tailrace on Falls of the Neuse Road. I hiked it almost every weekend for several months and then began exploring other hiking opportunities in the region. There's Umstead State Park in Raleigh, Eno River State Park and West Point on the Eno in Durham (also part of the MST), and further away, there's the Neusiok Trail in Croatan National Forest (also part of the MST) and the Uwharrie Trail in Uwharrie National Forest.

Then I began to look for other hiking opportunities. I've hiked some of the Appalachian Trail but it's hard to get to from Raleigh so I decided to try and find some more of the MST. At that time, there were various print resources but the website didn't have much specific information on the trail itself, so I volunteered to take on a project to address that need. Aside from the exercise, this gave me a reason to explore the entire trail. Being an electrical engineer, it came naturally to hike the MST carrying a GPS to take coordinates of the trail route and trail heads. I figured putting these on the website would make it easier for people to find the trail. My unofficial motto was "Getting Lost So You Don't Have To". I did do some getting lost.

DUAC: "How did your interest in GPS mapping come about? How do you technically translate GPS coordinates into a detailed topographical map? Do you have any GPS device (brands / models) recommendations for folks who like to hike and paddle?"

Arthur Kelley: "I got a Garmin GPSmap 76CSx for Christmas in 2006 and it's what I've used ever since. It's worked pretty well for me and seems to do a reasonably good job even when it's cloudy or I'm under the trees. I haven't really shopped around since I got it so I can't give too much comparative advice about the newer units. All I can say is I've found no reason to replace it. Newer models have touch screens, wireless connectivity and cameras. We may be at the point where they've stopped adding useful features and are well into featuritis but I don't know.

You connect the GPS to your computer using a USB cable and upload the data. My main program for making maps was MacGPS Pro. It uses the USGS 7.5' topo maps which are familiar to most hikers and not subject to copyright which is important since I wanted to publish the maps. Unfortunately, all MacGPS Pro can do is draw a line on a topo map representing the location of the trail. From there it turned out to be really time consuming to turn out usable maps. I naively thought that hiking and taking the data would be the physically challenging but fun part. It turns out that I can hike about 2 mph and I can map about 2 mph. I won't bore you with the technical details but to get everything divided up into by 8.5"x11" sheets with labels and annotated road names, mileages, etc., etc. turned out to be a big job that I finally finished in June of 2009.

Locally, new trail is being constructed all the time. In Raleigh, a team I'm on is extending the FLT westbound along the south shore of Falls Lake and the Eno River from the previous western end at NC-50 all the way to Penny's Bend on the Eno River downstream from Durham. At this point the new trail extends almost to Red Mill Road and will reach Penny's Bend in late 2010 or early 2011. In late 2006, a team constructed trail about 1.5 miles from West Point on the Eno River at NC-501 downstream to River Forest Park. In the not too distant future, the trail at River Forest Park will link up to Penny's Bend and you'll be able to walk from Durham to Raleigh without ever getting on the road except to cross it.

Going west in Durham, you can already walk from West Point on the Eno to the Pump Station Section of Eno River State Park. In 2009, trail construction started to link the Pump Station Section to the Cabe Lands section. Eventually, you'll be able to walk the entire length of the Eno River State Park and then westward up the Eno to Hillsborough. Similar trail planing and building is taking place all over the state. Building the trail often turns out to be the easy part. Finding a corridor on public lands and then getting approval often turns out to be the more difficult part."

DUAC: Finally, what do you want folks to remember about MST?"

Arthur Kelley: "What do I want people to remember? Here are my maps of the MST.

The trail is now easy to find. I want people to remember it's there and to go use this incredible resource. A disused trail disappears. Sections 25 and 26 are closest to Raleigh and Durham.

All the trail construction is done by volunteers. I want people to remember we need their help. Here is a list of the statewide workdays

Not only do we need help building new trail, but we need help maintaining existing trail. Mother Nature tries to take it back pretty quickly. Here are some photos of what a November rainstorm and high water did to one of our bridges. are now formulating plans for its replacement.

As we work to finish the trail, I also want people to remember that we need their help when the subject of the trail comes up for consideration in their community especially when it comes to approving new corridor. Finally, whether hiking or volunteering, I want people to have great memories of participating with the MST. I do and I plan to make more."

DUAC: "MST is an important project to help preserve and raise awareness of protecting our green space. Thank you again Arthur for sharing this information with Durhamblogger readers."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to Work - Ugh!

Hi Everyone. Yes, the dreaded "back-to-work" syndrome has struck which means much less time for paddling. :-( But I can take some comfort that the weather has really deteriorated in the past week - bitter cold temperatures and windy conditions - that would make any paddling adventure less feasible or enjoyable.

But I did get a subscription to "Sea Kayaker" magazine for Christmas and will enjoy reading the great expedition articles and drool over the new gear reviews! :-)

I'll also be hunting around for some of the latest kayaking gadgets during the off season and see what I can't live without in 2010! Stay tuned... more to come.

What is some of your favorite kayak gear?