Tuesday, December 31, 2013

AAA Carolinas good at promoting car safety - not so good with paddling safety!


First, for the record, I salute AAA Carolinas advocacy for highway safety legislation, automotive public policy, and doing their part to help make our roads safer for motorists. One of the benefits of being a AAA Carolinas member, in addition to utilizing their great road side assistance program, is receiving their bi-monthly Go Magazine. Unfortunately, AAA Carolinas fell short on safety in the cover photo of  the January - February  2014 issue, by showing a couple sea kayaking off the island of Kauai without wearing PFDs!

One of the most essential pieces of safety gear that persons should wear, at all times, while paddling, is a personal flotation device or PFD.  According to the United States Coast Guard, almost 75% of all persons killed in boating incidents drowned. Of those, 84% were not wearing a life jacket.  In my opinion, a PFD is NOT optional safety gear, but mandatory. Both Rachel and myself always wear a properly fitted PFD when paddling and I urge all my readers to do the same!

I fired off an email to the Editor-in-Chief, Angela Daley to get her side of this story and within 10 minutes of sending it, I received the following reply! Wow. Fast response!

"Hi Mike. I appreciate your input on our cover photo and agree with your endorsement of personal floatation devices for watersports. I too am an avid kayaker here in the Charlotte area and always wear a lifejacket, so it certainly was an oversight on our part. Sounds like you're doing some great things encouraging safe kayaking — I will have to read more of your blog for ideas and places to kayak! Have a great new year, Angela."

It's encouraging when organizations like AAA Carolinas step up and admit to oversights like their recent Go Magazine cover photo. I also wish Angela a great new year and safe paddling adventures in 2014!

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Thoughts for a New Year in 2014

Another year comes to an end... and with it the renewed hopes and dreams of a New Year in 2014! I always have mixed emotions at this time of year, but still have optimism for what will unfold in a new year. Plus, I'm looking forward to my paddling season resuming in a few short months!  ;-)

Here are my wishes and hopes for 2014. May they all come to pass!

Mike's 10 Wishes and Hopes for 2014

Thank God for all your blessings
Spend more time with family and friends
Say "I love you" more often
Smile and laugh more
Love yourself and then love others
Build up, don't tear down
Give more of yourself and watch it returned tenfold
Appreciate, respect, and care for nature
Help others
Take life one stroke at a time ;-)

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Durhamblogger Top 10 Posts of 2013!

Howdy everyone! It's that time again when I cautiously open the door to the dusty archives vault and pull out what my readers' chose as the top 10 most popular Durhamblogger posts of 2013! Here they are in reverse order. Enjoy!

#10. Paddling at Hickory Hill (Falls Lake) after nearly a year absence!

#9.  So you want to buy your first kayak?

#8. A Beautiful Morning Paddling at Sandling Beach, Falls Lake

#7. Installing Kayak Seat Cushions - An Easy Project

#6. Not Eddie Bauer! No PFDs on models!

#5. Before Kerr Lake - An Interesting History Lesson!

#4. Gear Review: Teva Fuse-ion Water Shoe

#3. Paddling on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway!

#2. Cockleshell canoes or going to war in a canoe - Revisited!

And the number one Durhamblogger post of 2013... drum roll please!

#1. Paddling and Cold Water Survival

Thanks to all my readers and I look forward to many more paddling adventures in 2014!

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beaver Dam Lake - Last Paddle of the Season!

 Location: Beaver Dam Lake, Wake County, NC.  Temperature: 55F Wind: Calm  Conditions: Mostly cloudy

This is the paddle that always produces mixed feelings with me - my last paddle of the season. Water temperatures are getting cold and since I do not own a dry suit, I must end my North Carolina paddling adventures until March 2014. I decided that my last seasonal paddle would be at one of my favorite spots - Beaver Dam Lake. Rachel declined to accompany me since she prefers warmer outside temperatures when she is on the water. I arrived at the Beaver Dam Lake recreational area by 9:30 AM. There were only three other vehicles in the parking lot. The beach and picnic shelters were deserted. Nobody was around the boat ramps. A quiet winter day. Click on the photos to enlarge. 

 Blue sky occasionally could be seen through the low cloud deck. Water was calm and reflected back the bare trees and foliage that lined the shore. 

A final defiant splash of "red" before the full brunt of winter is felt in these parts.

As I paddled around a bend, a startled Heron took to flight. The bird's angry honking could be heard across the lake as it flew over the open water and perched on a tree located on the far shore.

Cloud reflections on the calm waters of Beaver Dam Lake.

I encountered a fellow kayaker as I paddled. We stopped and compared notes of the wildlife each had seen during our lake paddles. 

Two beavers were spotted in a small cove. Both were slapping the water with their tails while keeping their eyes on a yellow kayak. I was trying my best to get a close up photo, but both rodents kept their distance. This photo was taken with the extreme zoom on. You can clearly see the beaver's head and wake in the calm water. Click on the photo to enlarge.

A beautiful morning on Beaver Dam Lake!

This Cormorant looks to be walking on water, but in reality is perched on a submerged tree trunk.

Nice close up photo of a Blue Heron perched on a dead tree branch.

So, with that all so brief paddle at Beaver Dam Lake, my 2013 paddling season comes to an end. Each year I vow to paddle more than the previous one, but it just does not seem to work out that way. Instead, I need to savor more those special moments in those paddling adventures that I am able to enjoy. A deer coming down to the water's edge to drink. An owl silently flying among the shadowy trees. An early morning mist drifting across a lake. A beautiful sunset. A quietness in nature that calms and soothes me. That's what paddling is all about for me.

But don't worry. I will not be going anywhere! I'll be posting kayaking articles, and checking out gear here in the months to come. So stay tuned! And as always, keep taking life one stroke at a time! - Mike, the Durhamblogger. 

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Paddling the Eno River on a Fall day!

  Location: Eno River, Durham, NC Temperature: 67F Wind: Light Conditions: Cloudy

It was a Tuesday work day... but my thoughts were not on my tasks, but instead somewhere paddling out on a river! So, when the "siren call" of paddling beckons... I must follow it!  ;-)  It was a few minutes after 3 PM, and I found myself at the Eno River boat ramp. I "thought" the put in area would be fairly deserted mid-afternoon on a work day, but there were a number of trucks with trailers in the parking lot - fishermen taking advantage of the mild temperatures. A couple of "good old boys" were hanging out at the boat ramp and chuckled and nudged each other as I unloaded my kayak and prepared to put in. One of them asked me; "Are you fishing or exercising?" I replied; "Exercising, I need to be good at something." They laughed and watched as I put in, most likely wanting to see if I would flip out of the cockpit. I disappointed them as I climbed in and paddled SW on the Eno River. Click on the photos to enlarge.

 The Eno River water levels were low due to local dry conditions for the past week.

Red Mill Road bridge that spans the Eno River. Two fishing boats can be seen near the left bridge support. I had to paddle around (at least) 6 fishing boats with multiple fishing lines out, during my paddle. Always communicate with stationary or trolling fishing boats, as to your paddling intentions. For example, ask the fishermen what direction or side of their boats you may paddle, so that you do not unintentionally get fouled in their fishing lines.

A solitary and empty chair waits for its owner to return.

A close up photo of a half submerged tree trunk floating in the river.

Rachel's "Ent Person" shaking free of its summer foliage. On one of our earlier paddles on the Eno River, Rachel spotted this dead tree and thought it resembled one of the Ent tree creatures in Tolkien's fantasy world Middle-Earth.

The embodiment of Fall - fallen leaves drift in the sluggish river current.

Fall and a fitting quote. "“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”- Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Strange and twisted tree roots, victims of water and wind erosion.

I spotted a couple of small turtles during my paddle, but because of the boat motor noise and activity on the river today, wild life made itself scarce.

This turtle got "camera shy" as I paddled closer!

The scenery was not spectacular during my paddle this Fall day on the Eno River, but the trip was definitely necessary! Paddlers will understand my sentiments. I hope to get in several more paddling adventures before my season ends in late November. Remember, to always take life one stroke at a time! I do!  :-) - Mike, the Durhamblogger.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Return to St. Joseph Sound, Dunedin Florida!

Location: St. Joseph Sound, FL. Temperature: 82F Wind: Moderate Conditions: Partly cloudy

 Howdy everyone! It's been a long time between paddles, but I managed to get out for a morning excursion during a visit with family in Palm Harbor, Florida! Regular Durhamblogger readers may remember that my first visit to St. Joseph Sound in Dunedin, FL was back in March 2013. I was staying only 1 mile from a local kayak outfitter located on the Dunedin causeway (not by accident!) so... a short stroll over the causeway and the obligatory "exchange of money" and I was the proud "temporary" owner of a rental Expedition sit-in kayak! Click on the photos to enlarge.

 The local kayak outfitter had lots of sit-in, sit-on-top, SUPs, and sailboats for rent. The month of October is off season in Florida and I was his only customer that morning!

Preparing to put in at St. Joseph Sound. The launch area was sand with little to no waves or current - ideal for kayaks, sail boats and other small water craft. The kayak rental shop was located within 50 yards of the sound. My immediate destination was an island located approximately 1 mile from the put in area - that distant smug on the horizon.

I spotted this hawk enjoying a fish snack while perched on a mast top of a beached sail boat. Click on the photo to enlarge.

There was a slight chop and at times the breeze was stiff as I paddled out into St. Joseph Sound.

Always glad to see these types of signs! The water was also too shallow for deep draft boats this close in to the island.

These fishermen were chumming for large fish. The fellow on the flying bridge, with the binoculars, was on the lookout for fish schools while his buddy piloted the boat and threw chum into the water. I know that chum will attract large fish, including sharks, so I paddled away from this activity quickly. 

I encountered few large water craft during my paddle, unlike the heavy boat traffic during my March 2013 "in-season" adventure. It was nice to have most of St. Joseph Sound to myself.

Returning my rental kayak, I set out over the causeway on my return walk to the condo. Florida is built for outdoor adventures with lots of pedestrian walkways, parks, and nature trails.

It was great to visit with my younger brother again... and also to get in a much needed paddle! I hope to get in several more paddles closer to home in North Carolina before my paddling season ends in late November. Happy paddles everyone!  :-)

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Paddling Kerr Lake and a "water rescue" of sorts!

  Location: Kerr Lake, Clarksville, VA. Temperature: 80F Wind: Light  Conditions: Mostly sunny

Rachel and I were visiting family this past weekend in Clarksville, VA. I "just happened" to also take our tandem kayak in case an opportunity presented itself for a kayaking adventure! The town of Clarksville sits on Kerr Lake, a reservoir created lake that boasts over 850 miles of shoreline and covers nearly 50,000 acres. Was there ever a doubt we would NOT go paddling?  ;-)  Click on the photos to enlarge.     

 We decided to launch from the Occoneeche State Park located across the lake from Clarksville. After paying a very reasonable $3.00 (USD) for park admission, we drove a short distance and put in at boat ramp #2.

We heard laughter as we paddled into the main body of water, and spotted these two kids doing what kids have done for centuries at the lake shore, looking for rocks and assorted treasure in the shallow waters.

The building tops and smoke stack of the Mecklenburg Cogeneration Facility poke above the treeline. The cogeneration plant is a two-unit, 130-megawatt coal-fired facility that supplies electricity to the surrounding area.

One of several cottages that visitors may rent during their stay at Occoneechee State Park. The obligatory rope swing dangles from a tree by the water's edge.

The Swamp Rose Mallow or Hibiscus Moscheutos growing near the lake shore.

A solitary bush with a precarious foothold.

The Occoneechee State Park side of Kerr Lake was littered with huge tree debris and rocky shorelines.

Striking reflections of tree trunks in a quiet and still cove.

Rounding a point, you can see both the new by-pass bridge (foreground) and the original business Highway 58 bridge (background). Click on the photo to enlarge.

We spotted this 20 foot + tree trunk floating in Kerr Lake. The current was drifting it out to the main channel, where in the distance, boats were racing past our position at high speeds. The tree was an extreme navigation hazard and had to be removed.

Thankfully, I carried a tow line in my dry bag. We maneuvered our kayak along side the floating tree trunk. I was able to wrap and secure the line around the approximately 1 foot diameter trunk. Than, with Rachel paddling from her front seat, I was able to hold onto the tow line and we slowly paddled for the shoreline.  

Here, you can see the length of tree trunk compared to the kayak. Our kayak is 13 feet long and the  tree extended several feet beyond our boat. It took both of us to wrestle the water-logged tree onto the shore and out of the water line. Our good deed for the day!

Rachel and I had a great time paddling on Kerr Lake. The temperatures were mild, the humidity was low, and it was an all around gorgeous time to be on the lake! Hope to return often to explore Kerr Lake!

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Paddling at Hickory Hill (Falls Lake) after nearly a year absence!

 Location: Hickory Hill (Falls Lake), Durham, NC. Temperature: 80F Wind: Light  Conditions: Mostly sunny

Saturday found me with a paddling "itch" and the need to really "scratch" it!  ;-) Rachel was tied up with some work at our house, so it would be a solo adventure for me. I decided to put in at the Hickory Hill boat ramp on Falls Lake. It had been nearly a year since I had last paddled this section of Falls Lake and it was time for a return visit! Click on the photos to enlarge.

I spotted a couple of trucks with trailers in the Hickory Hill parking lot, but I essentially had this area of Falls Lake to myself. Humidity levels were high, but a constant breeze keep me cooled off and was much welcomed!

A short time into my paddle and I spied this lone anhinga or "snake bird" perched on a dead stump.

A short time later, I came across this colony of anhinga, on a small island in Falls Lake. I counted (at least) nine birds in this photo.

A lone heron keeping an eye on a small yellow kayak approaching.  I am always amazed how large fowls are able to cling to the smallest of perches. The diameter of that dead tree is only a few inches.

The remains of a concrete retaining wall or dock? Metal re bar juts out of the broken concrete, that is also splattered with bird droppings.

A serene view overlooking a quiet and still Falls Lake.

The remains of a tree, little more than "skeleton" remains, hollowed out by erosion and insects.

Falls Lake on a summer morning.

The Red Mill Road bridge crossing Falls Lake.

Recent heavy rains have submerged entire rows of trees.

I landed on a small island for a bio break and to stretch my legs.

The small island, no more than 50 feet in diameter, was swampy and water logged.

Small minnows swam in the couple inches of lake water that covered much of the island.

A "no wake" buoy lays discarded among the reeds at the water's edge.

This area of the island was covered with sticky mud that bubbled and "squished" when I walked across it - in my water shoes of course. I also encountered a few swarms of biting flies. Not the most pleasant place to linger. 

However, even here, on this swampy island, I was able to find beauty!

A monarch butterfly in all its glory!

It was a fun and relaxing paddle at the Hickory Hills area of Falls Lake. I am always thankful for my paddles since I am able to see and experience nature up close and personal - something that folks who venture out on our lakes and waterways in motor boats will never see. Until next time!  :-)

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