Friday, April 30, 2010

Wecome New Durhamblogger Followers!

Welcome to the three newest Durhamblogger Followers!


Travis Murray


Thanks for stopping by... and staying! ;-)

Also... thanks John for some great comments!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gear Up! An Essential List of Paddling Gear

Hi everyone! I thought it would be a good time to "exchange" paddling gear lists. Here's a list of what I always pack for short 2-4 hour day paddles on flat water.

Take a look... leave some comments and let me know if I'm missing any essential gear. Let's compare lists!

Mike's Paddling Gear List

PFD (wear it always)


Sun screen (apply before paddle and carry on boat)

Paddle leash

Cell phone




Change of clothes (dry bag)

First aid kit

Water resistant paddling pants (or shorts) depending on temperature

Water resistant socks

Water shoes

2-3 water bottles

Trail mix

Will purchase and carry both an extra paddle and paddle float. I'll be installing some additional stern shock cord...waiting on some kayak hardware...and then I'll be able to lash this extra gear to my kayak's deck.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yee Haw! River Paddle Background

Howdy everyone! Rachel and I had such a great time at the recent 3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle... it got me thinking about the origins of this paddle event. So, I reached out to Brian Baker, Upper Haw River Trail Coordinator, and asked him about the background.

"I am happy to help you with the background of the paddle. It’s a long and convoluted story, so Ill give you the highlights and you can call me to talk about it whenever is convenient for you. Basically, a county employee happened upon a large paddle event on the Staunton River in Virginia. He met with me and a few other folks from the department to see if we could do something like that. For some reason- we decided to take it on as a fundraiser. We were originally planning to call it the Flotilla, or the Armada or something like that. We eventually realized no one would know what a flotilla was, so we decided on the Yee-Haw! River Paddle. The event has been a cooperative effort between Burlington, Graham, Alamance County and local business every year and we have made at least $1,000 each year." - Brian Baker

So there you have it! A good idea transformed into a great event! ;-)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Paddling at Three Rivers Area

4/23/2010 - Three Rivers Area, Durham, NC

Hey everyone! After a 3-day certification question development workshop (don't ask!), and trying to keep up with my regular "day" job, I felt pretty burned out... so I took a half day off Friday. And guess what? I decided to go paddling! ;-) Friday afternoon was cloudy, with a light breeze, and temperatures in the upper 60's to low 70's. Nice paddling conditions. I decided to explore the Three Rivers area which is named for the three rivers (Eno, Flat, and Neuse), that empty into Falls Lake. Rachel had to work the entire day and was unable to join me on this adventure.

Put in was the Eno River boat ramp. I started out paddling east on the Eno River and then north toward the Flat River.
Passed another yaker who alerted me to this heron who was standing on a tree branch that jutted out over the water.
The heron flew ahead of my boat and landed on this tree stump directly in my path. (Reminder - click on the photos to enlarge them)
Once I made the turn off the Eno River, I paddled east on the Flat River for approximately 100 yards and then entered Cut Through Creek. I spotted a turtle sunning himself on a half submerged tree stump.
Crossed under the powerlines that support the electrical grid for the Durham area. Must have been quite an undertaking to sink these massive supports into this soft and swampy area of Cut Through Creek!
Small aquatic plants that formed green "highways" on the water surface. The water level was very low and I had to guard against getting stuck in the soft mud.
Reaching the end of Cut Through Creek... and getting ready to enter...
... the Fingers area, so named because the two bodies of water in this region look like "fingers" when viewed on a map or from the air.
Massive erosion damage to the tree. It will soon topple into the water.
I paddled north-east through the Fingers area and entered the Neuse River. I traveled east for about 1/2 mile and came to what is called the Swampy Loop.
Here, the Neuse River widens with many swampy areas and...
... also with some significant wider bodies of water too. I passed a few fishermen in small boats here.
On my return leg, I spotted this huge bird's (eagle?) nest a top one of the powerline towers. I estimated the nest to be approximately 6 - 10 feet in diameter!

Another fun... and much needed paddling adventure! Hope to return to the Three Rivers area soon. There are a lot of waterways to explore here!

Welcome New Durhamblogger Followers!

Welcome to the two newest Durhamblogger Followers!



Thanks for stopping by... and staying! ;-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Tragic Reminder to Always Wear Your PFD

My heart breaks when I read this tragic news. It happened this past Saturday at High Rock Lake in North Carolina.

"This was a preventable accident by the simple fact of having life preservers on the boat," Sgt. Anthony Sharum said.

There was an off-duty officer fishing nearby... and even though he arrived on the scene in less then a minute... there was nothing he could do to help the victims.

Please... don't just "have" PFDs on the boat... "wear" them! PFDs will not help you unless you wear them!

The majority of fishermen I come across when I paddle do not wear PFDs... and most likely, don't carry them in their boats. I'll never understand this mentality. My prayers go out to this family... and the forty-odd number of folks who witnessed this tragedy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

All Loaded Up, But No Where to Go!

Hey everyone! Saturday started out on a high note, but ended with a let down. :-( Rachel and I had planned to paddle the Eno River and travel east to explore the three rivers area (Eno, Flat, and Neuse Rivers). I loaded our kayak into the back of my pick-up truck that morning with the plan to leave right after lunch. But, the weather did not cooperate with us! The day started off partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 70's... but as the morning passed... the clouds thickened and the wind increased and started gusting. I checked the weather radar, and we had a cold front moving through the area with 15-25 mph winds! :-0 It was a "no go" in my book. So, I ended up spending the afternoon hauling stuff around in my truck... another fun pastime, but no substitute for paddling!

All loaded up, but sadly not able to put in.
Threatening weather approaching.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle

4/10/2010 - Haw River Paddle Trail, Haw River, NC.

(Red Slide Park to Swepsonville River Park - 5.5 Miles, Water level 4 feet)

Yee Haw! Saturday was a "jaw-dropping" perfect day for the 3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle! It was a sunny day with temperatures in the low 60's and a slight breeze. I was real excited about this paddle adventure for several reasons... it was my first time attending an "organized" paddling event, first time paddling the Haw River Paddle Trail, and Rachel would be occupying the front kayak seat! :-) Jennie Matkins; one of the event organizers, was kind enough to email very detailed directions on taking Highway 70 to Haw River... so we were able to avoid the I85 / I40 interstate traffic. It took us roughly 45 minutes to travel from Durham to Haw River along some scenic country roads.

Put in was at Red Slide Park. Yikes! I took one look at these "severe" riffles, and I double checked my registration form to make sure I was at the family paddle event! Staff personnel assured me that the put in was the most "demanding" point on this stretch of the river. But after watching one yaker go sideways through this riffle and another poor soul get wedged among the rocks for over 10 minutes...I did not fancy a run through it in our recreational and very "open" tandem kayak!
Thankfully, there was an alternative put in area about 75 yards down river - a small tributary off the main river with a nice sandy area among the trees. I decided that this was the "better" of the two put in areas based on our skill level.

Funniest comment heard all day... "You will get wet today!" :-O Here Rachel waits her turn for the put in area to clear. Behind her and through the trees, is the "severe" riffle put in area.

And we are off! I liked this small tributary. The trees formed a green canopy over our heads and foliage was starting to come out. There were lots of tall, green grass along the steep banks. We encountered a few shallow areas that required some "poling" with the oars, but we paddled through with no mishaps.

Here we enter into the main river and cross under both a highway bridge and railroad trestle. I took this photo after we had already passed under these structures by twisting around in my seat and shooting "backwards." I think it has a rather "dramatic" angle to it! ;-)

We encountered several flotillas of yakers as we paddled down the Haw River. We exchanged pleasantries, laughed, and joked around. What a great time on the water! I even saw one fellow in a canoe wearing a raccoon skin hat complete with tail! I greeted him with a "There is Daniel Boone" He laughed. He was certainly getting into the spirit of this river paddle! Also several yakers admired our Mainstream Escapade Tandem kayak as we paddled pass them on the river... it reminded me of those car commercials where you see a late model auto driving by and everyone stops what they are doing and stares at it! Fun stuff!
Evidence of the high water conditions. A staff organizer told me that just a day earlier, the Haw River was running at five feet because of the rains that had moved through the area on Thursday night. Thankfully; by Saturday, the water level had receded a foot and the Yee Haw! event was able to proceed. The maximum water level that paddlers are allowed to traverse the Haw River is four feet!

The Highway 54 bridge over the Haw River. We had to navigate through about a half dozen small riffle areas. The current was running very fast.

The Graham Paddle Access area served as the "hospitality station" and was located 3.5 miles from the Red Slide Park put in area. Here, Rachel and I were able to take out, stretch our legs, rehydrate, and also take a bio break.

All refreshments were complimentary and much appreciated! We; of course, always bring our own water and trail mix, but it was nice to "supplement" these supplies! It was also at the the Graham hospitality station that I witnessed an unfortunate event. The mature lady, who earlier had gotten wedged among the rocks at the Red Slide Park put in area, had arrived before us at this station and was just getting back into her kayak as we too prepared to leave. I watched as a staffer helped her push off backwards from the shore. The current was running very strong... the lady lost her balance and she flipped out! Went underwater and came up coughing and spitting out water. I immediately rushed down to the waters' edge and grabbed one of her thrashing arms. The staffer caught her other arm and we hauled her out. We had to pull her kayak ashore and tip it over to dump out all the river water. She was fine... more embarrassed then hurt. I talked with her some later as we were paddling along. I learned that she was in a rental kayak, had never paddled the Haw River, and in fact, had not paddled for a long time. She had a tough day, but stuck it out. I was glad to see her weary, but happy face at the take out area!

Take out area at Swepsonville River Park. There were more t-shirts to buy... a fellow was selling wine... and two enterprising guys had set-up a bar-b-que stand and were selling sandwiches for $3.00 each. And yes, I ordered two complete with coleslaw! Yum! And no... I did not eat two since I shared one with Rachel! ;-) I also had the pleasure to meet Brian Baker, who is the Project Coordinator for the Haw River Trail. He commented that he is a reader of Durhamblogger... smart fellow ;-)... and offered to give me a future guided tour of the Haw River Trail. I plan to take him up on his kind offer.

There was one other mishap I witnessed. Spied these two yakers "escorting" a kayak gone "turtle" toward the take out area. I yelled down to them and inquired as to the previous occupant. They told me he had flipped out under the bridge about two hundred yards upriver and was wading to shore. I saw a couple of staffers hustle off through the woods toward the bridge, but did not learn any more about this event. Hopefully, he was fine.

And so ended a fantastic day at the 3rd Annual Yee Haw! River Paddle! Hats off to all the event organizers, shuttle bus drivers and sponsors! What a fun event and I had the chance to meet some great folks. This yaker is "sold" and plans to go "country" every April. Yee Haw! ;-)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two to Paddle. Going Tandem on the Eno River

4/3/2010 - Eno River, Durham, NC

Rachel and I returned to the Eno River on Saturday. It was another beautiful day with temperatures in the low 80's with a slight breeze. Put in was at the Eno River boat ramp at the end of Red Mill Road. Surprisingly, there were fewer vehicles in the parking lot then Friday. I guess folks were out of town for the Easter weekend.

We paddled north on the Eno River and then east up the Flat River.

Dead tree that looked to be home to woodpeckers judging by the numerous holes in the upper trunk area.

A "splash" of green foliage. It was great to see trees and bushes starting to bud with the warmer weather we are now experiencing. I've had enough of winter!

Huge, dead tree that had fallen over a small tributary of the Flat River. I estimate that it was over 30 feet in length.

Met this flotilla of "yakers" on our return leg. Some of these folks were renting their boats from Banks Dixon who I wrote about in my Tandem Paddling on the Eno River post.

I was pleased to see that "most" of the kayakers wore PFDs... smart ladies indeed!

One fellow yaker was kind enough to snap me and the missus!

Nice "shooting" there partner!

The end of another pleasant day on the water.
Rachel and I found our paddling "rhythm" on this trip. We had few; if any, paddle hits and with both of us paddling in synchronization... we were really scooting over the water! We also worked out some verbal commands to make turns easier. Ready for the Yee Haw! River Paddle next week! Stay tuned.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tandem Paddling on the Eno River

4/2/2010 - Eno River, Durham, NC

Good Friday turned out to be "great" Friday for me! ;-) My boss gave me a half day off... and with my wife Rachel off from work until next Wednesday... we decided to do a little paddling and get into better shape for the Yee Haw! River Paddle that will be held on April 10th. Friday was a gorgeous day - sunny, with temperatures in the mid 80's. Yee Haw!

Put in was at the Eno River boat ramp off of Red Mill Road. Parking lot was pretty full. It looked like many other boaters and fishermen had the day off too!
It was exciting to see fellow paddlers at the put in area.

I had the pleasure to meet Banks Dixon, a Durham river guide who was featured in the March 2010 issue of Our State magazine. He is a real pleasant fellow... and I had a chance to ask him why on page 110 of Our State magazine there is a picture of him paddling a canoe without a PFD! He laughed and told me he wondered when someone would ask him about that "little" oversight! Turns out, the Our State photographer wanted photos of Banks paddling the red canoe, but did not like the color of his PFD because it "clashed" with the other colors in the frame! Artistic license over safety?

Anyway, Banks owns and operates Frog Hollow Outdoors, a local provision company for paddling. The folks in the earlier photo at the put in area were renting some of Banks canoes. I gave Banks one of my Durhamblogger cards and told him to look me up here! Hope to see him on the water again.

And yes... my wife Rachel occupied the front seat on this paddling adventure! It was great to have her along again... but we need to work some on our "paddling rhythm!" Our paddles hit a few times and we suffered through a few missed strokes... but it is all good! :-)

The nicer weather also brought out the fishermen in abundance. At least four fishing boats passed us... and thankfully "most" know to slow down to reduce their wakes before over taking and passing smaller water craft like kayaks. There was one knucklehead who did not slow down... but we paddled directly into the wake and stayed upright through the swells.

We also saw approximately six turtles at various points along our route. This fellow was one of the larger ones.

There were several groups of folks fishing from the river banks. We had to give their lines a wide berth while keeping eyes and ears peeled for any approaching motor boats. Again, a busy day on the Eno River!

Nice silhouette shot of a bare tree against the vivid blue sky.

A peaceful bend on the river.

Interesting sandy "beach" along a small tributary we followed off the main channel of the Eno River.

Met a group of fellow "yakers" who had put in at Penny's Bend and were paddling in the opposite direction of us... back to the Eno River boat ramp.

I want to try the Penny's Bend to Eno River boat ramp route one day soon.
It was a wonderful and special paddling adventure today... made all the more better to be able to share it with Rachel!