I went for a paddle today. For a change, I put in at Browncroft Avenue and went upstream. I was hoping to get up to the place where the Elison Park shuttle puts in, but I actually fell short by about 20 feet.
I chose this put-in, because that part of the creek is more interesting than the lower bit – it’s narrow, it’s twisty, it gets shallow and then deeper, fast and then slow, and most of it is covered with trees. There is more wild-life, but paradoxically enough, there is also more human activity – these pleasant tree lined banks go through the middle of picnic areas that seem to be in constant use in the summer. Some of them are family picnics and private groups, but there was also this gigantic party with large barbeque grills set up and loud blaring rap music.
Last week those trees had made it impossible to use my GPS with the “built-in” antenna, but today I decided to try the external antenna. It made a bit difference – I didn’t see the GPS complain about lost signal at all, except under the bridge over Browncroft Avenue. The strange thing is that when it lost the signal that early in the paddle, it decided I must be driving and suddenly I saw it showing me having an average speed of around 80 mph. I reset everything as soon as I came out from under the bridge. It worked great. It shows that I paddled a distance of 4.7 miles (as opposed to Google Maps Pedometer, which says 4.6) at an average of 3.3 mph. On the way upstream, I found that on the sections where I could paddle fast, I could get it up to around 3.9 mph, but my average speed was around 3.0 mph. When I turned around, I was disappointed to find that if I pushed it hard, I could only get up to around 5.4mph, but I was so tired that most of the time I was only paddling around 3.5 or 4.0. I think that means the stream goes about 1.5mph, or maybe it goes faster and I was just more tired than I think.
On the way up, I bottomed out several times, and one time I got stuck so bad that after backing up and retrying 3 or 4 different routes, I ended up getting out of the boat, walking forward about half a boat length, and getting back in. Also, there was a tree across most of the stream fairly early on and I had to paddle as fast as I could and I just barely got through it. And when I was within sight of the place where the shuttle puts in, I could see some people in white water boats playing, but I got into a bit of fast moving water that I just couldn’t seem to paddle faster than. Since I was almost where I’d planned to turn around anyway, and the presence of the white water boats made me think the next rapid would be even faster, I turned around.
There was a fair amount of wildlife around – I saw lots of ducks, including some who were pure white. One duck kept flying down river and landing right in front of me, until I got close enough and then it would fly down river again. After a few times, I found a bit of river that was wide enough that I could pass him without activating his flight reflex. I saw several Little Green Herons, including two together in a tree. And there was a Kingfisher heading downstream, but I couldn’t find that Bruce Cockburn song that reminds me of on the iPod Shuffle. Also saw a couple of American Goldfinches.
Paddling downstream is a lot more fun than paddling upstream. On the way upstream, I tried different depths of skeg – I thought that with more skeg the kayak wouldn’t get caught by the current and turned. Great in theory, but I found that unless I was paddling pretty fast, the current got the front turned quite a bit before the skeg got into the fast water and stopped the turn. I actually had to do a back sweep in a few places to get around corners. Coming downstream is a lot more fun that way – you can use the way the current catches the upstream part of the kayak to kick you around corners, and that’s cool.