Thursday September 11, 2003
In addition to remembering the places I've been years ago, I'm also seeing places I've never been and making new memories.
Rob could not use his kayak for health reasons and, knowing that Im shopping for one, let me use his for a trip with DEAN and Bryce. Fridays fun, relaxation and excitement would not have been possible without Robs generous act. Describing the days events and showing the pictures will be my thanks to him. I hope we all float together soon.
A late bloomer at personal water sports, I trusted my friends to pick a float appropriate to my lack of experience on moving streams. They, the weather, Cagles Mill Dam outlet operator and the wildlife combined to make this a memorable day.
Entry onto Big Walnut Creek upstream from the covered bridge was a picturesque back drop for my maiden float. There's a shallow gravel bottom there and I quickly learned the importance of finding water (i.e. water deep enough to float you and your boat). If there are ripples on the water, chances are that is too shallow. Sometimes there are ripples bank to bank and you have to power paddle to try to get over the shallow spots and if that doesnt work youre walking in the water with your vessel on a rope like an amphibious pet.
We had barely enough water to float under the I-70 Bridge and then some deeper water allowed a breather and gave me time to consider the things that live in and on the streams, unnoticed from the roads and bridges.
The weatherman called Friday partly cloudy and that means partly sunny and the trees that line the creek bank make it partly shady as well.
One of the first things that I noticed on the still water was what looked like rain drops. I held my hand out palm up to check for sprinkles even though I knew there would be none. I thought I was seeing tiny flying insects land with invisible splashes causing tiny rings. (further research has not revealed the species but it is likely that these are floating to the surface, hatching and leaving rings on the surface.) These covered all the still water, but the kayak, only inches above the surface of the water, was bug free except for the occasional mated pair of dragon flies.
It would be like this all day. We soon were out of ear shot from the highways and we did not see another human outside our party from launch to take out. There would be quick water (I cant call it rapids nor did I want to experience rapids on my first time out) and then peace. Float and then paddle hard and fast to maintain control.
The Eel River begins at the confluence of Big Walnut and Mill Creeks. Big Walnut runs free but Mill Creek is controlled. Water is let out from Cagles Mill Lake and Mill Creek and Eel River rise and fall accordingly. Large fallen trees are tangled in the trees that stand on the banks giving visual evidence of the power that can be unleashed down this waterway.
A half mile down the Eel, an Eagle flew in front of us and down stream. A Bald. I couldnt believe my eyes. In fact I was doubtful because it was a little small but it had the white head and tail and was, in fact, a bald eagle. DEAN has been on this river on a regular basis since he was a small boy 50 years ago and had not seen an eagle here but it was unmistakable.
I saw a pair of Belted Kingfishers (at first I thought they were Blue Jays) fly upstream within spitting distance and I have never seen one in flight at such close range. The colors were brilliant. A pair of buzzards circled at one point in our trip, apparently on notice that there was a large 64-year-old first time kayaker on the stream.
Some of the early shedding trees dropped yellow leaves into the Eel River. We saw a muskrat and I thought that god could have done better. Who knows what the muskrat thought?
Later, we saw another, larger, bald eagle rise from a tree directly above Dean. I called for him to look up. He must have had a good view... I was 40 yards behind. This larger bald eagle was probably the female.
I was amazed that some of the trees could grow at almost 45 degrees without falling into the creek. But in time, they often do. Until then, they form a canopy and offer shade over their entire stretch of river.
Lunch was without ceremony everyone wanted to get back to the fun of the water.
As we got closer to the IN 42, the takeout place, and my unpracticed muscles began to ache from short bursts of fast paddling, the Eel became easier to navigate. There were fewer shallow shallows. It seemed to give me a break.
Still I was happy to see the bridge that marked the end of the day on the water. I had about all the fun I could stand.
The take out looked easy on the surface but under the thin sand veneer of the steep slope was river mud. It was going to be a hard, slippery climb. But I had a chance to rest up for it while DEAN and Bryce retrieved the truck. I took a couple of pictures and then tied the kayak to a stationary log and slept face up like a water lily on my borrowed pad.
The climb up the mud bank was not a pretty sight but Bryce and Dean helped get me and Robs kayak up to the truck. The mud washed off easily.
I awoke the next morning with sore muscles and joints but feel very happy to have had this experience.
There's a picture album that covers this trip:Maiden Voyage.