We’ve recently started kayaking as a bit of a change from hiking. Hiking is my passion but sometimes you just need to pursue a new hobby. Rivers are much like trails, with a beginning and an end. There is a little more equipment involved, different parts of your body ache when you’re done, but overall the experience in nature is similar.
Last Sunday we paddled near Asheville on the French Broad. This section started at Highway 64 Cummings Road and ended at Westfeldt Park. The parking is good in both places and, although I did not actually execute the car shuttle, the shuttle was reasonable. The day was supposed to be sunny and warm although we started with overcast skies. Unfortunately the promise of sunny skies did not make its appearance and we paddled under cloudy skies for the balance of the trip. That meant it was much cooler than we had anticipated. I had brought a light windbreaker and was wearing long sleeves so I had something to loan to one of the other paddlers. But some had worn only short sleeves and so remained cold for much of the trip. Lesson learned there.
This has been a cooler than normal summer so far in the western Carolinas with what I perceive as more rain. In fact, the last three hikes we’ve done all ended with rain showers! Last week’s hike back to the trailhead was down a trail flowing with water, hikers trying, without much luck, to keep their boots dry!
Back to the river. The water was flowing pretty quickly due to the higher levels and we made the trip of about 11 miles in about 3 plus hours. Much of the way the river banks are covered with a thin screen of trees while on the other side are fields, roads, homes, and all the elements of civilization. Life still finds a way as we saw a thin shelled turtle perched on a watery branch, herons disturbed by our passing flying overhead, and the sound of abundant bird life could be heard around us. The river itself was flanked by tree hazards both above and below the water line so paying attention was important. Our friend, Tracker, spotted a life jacket in a strainer but thank goodness no one was in it!
We explored a few of the side channels, one which I thought was more of a ditch and one which appeared to be river-like. We could not get past a large tree on that one blocking access so we turned around and ate a quick lunch on a black, muddy riverbank, trying to stay warm. Even a plain peanut butter sandwich is satisfying after a little bit of paddling.
As we paddled, conversations floated lightly across the air, discussions about kayaking safety, future trips, nothing important just passing the time on a lazy day down the river.
All river trips must come to an end, and we knew we were getting closer as we began to see airplanes flying overhead as we neared the Asheville airport, the sound of jet engines breaking the peace of our otherwise bucolic day on the river.
Another day, another paddle!