Driving to the trailhead I wondered if we’d packed enough cold gear. Snow had been reported at Wilburn Ridge with an overnight low in the 20’s. My buddy and I have a crew of eight high school kids with a collective playlist of nearly 10K songs but did they pack enough insulation?
My concerns are dismissed once we reach Grayson Highlands. Our midnight arrival stirs a Park Ranger who provides an adequate shake-down of the party. She’s impressed to see a group of young people, 4 girls, 4 guys and two dads, out in the woods. She also cautions us to be careful – “Deer season opens tomorrow at sunrise.”
After finding gloves, hats and headlamps we hoist our packs and head north to connect with the Appalachian Spur Trail and over Wilburn Ridge. Our party carries a variety of packs – the majority being Osprey Packs. Two boys lead the way as they’ve hiked this area with their Scout Troop. The girls help with reading the map. Everyone is excited to get on the trail and enjoys the night hike experience. Jokes are passed down the line as we discuss who brought along a blaze orange vest and who brought the antlers.
I kid you not, a rifle shot awakens me just before dawn. Unable to return to sleep I decide to crawl out of a cozy MSR Carbon Reflex 2 and explore the area where we’d chosen to camp. The shelter was occupied when we passed it at 1am so we hiked a bit further before pitching our tents. The babbling of Big Wilson Creek has me digging out the Platypus Gravity Works (video demo here) as I do my best to appear non-deer-like making my way to the creek. Water filters as I fire up the MSR Pocket Rocket and take in the sunrise with a cup of coffee.
The next two days with the crew were great. These young people share a profound connection with this wilderness and each other. Away from our busy city life we can live in the moment – present and connected to the beauty all around. We talk about how the most difficult part of the trip is returning home. They want to do this again – soon – and bring along more friends. We all have a new sense of adventure – maybe it comes from the from the night hike, or stream crossing, or maybe from meeting the hunter who shared his story – but that sense of adventure remains with us long after we return home. Kids these days are eager to get outside and share that adventure with others. They are the next generation of conservationists and it was a privilege to join them on this trip.
Thanks to the folks at Outdoor Sports Marketing and my skillet carrying friend, Blake, who help to make this and many other Scout and Youth adventures possible.
The WaterTribe NC Challenge started off on a beautiful morning with a picturesque sunrise and calm, flat waters. The scene was set: racers were readying their boats with last-minute items, on-lookers were anxiously awaiting the Le Mans style start, and the mosquitoes were feasting on the adrenaline-filled veins of all the beach goers. Cedar Island was a-buzz with excitement for sure. It began with a single exclamation: GO!
The course started at Cedar Island, turned up the Neuse River, then down the Harlowe Canal into the Newport River and into Taylor Creek to Beaufort. From Beaufort, the course headed behind Harkers Island and up the Core Sound back to Cedar Island. There were two races running concurrently – the North Carolina Challenge (100 miles) and the North Carolina Ultra Marathon (50 miles). The weather forecast was quite foreboding with 15-20 mph headwinds slated for the majority of the race, changing direction at the approximate times racers would reach the scheduled heading changes. There was a cold front moving in at the exact time no one would want it.
While some tore off into the water with the speed of an Olympic bobsled team, others took to the water with ease making sure they didn’t get caught up in the rush. With a few paddle strokes, we all rounded the jetty for the Cedar Island ferry terminal, and we were in open water right away. Dave and I found ourselves paddling at a speed faster than we anticipated starting. It was going well. We even remarked to each other that perhaps we should pace ourselves a bit more since we knew the winds weren’t favorable for the majority of the race course.
Then we turned up the Neuse River. The winds hit us in the face from the beginning. Everyone immediately slowed. The 1-2 foot waves were interspersed with occasional 3 footers, and it immediately became apparent that maintaining the prescribed pace was not going to be easy. But we tried. Hard. Really hard. In fact, we found that paddling too hard put us in a position where we would surf over the first wave and punch through the next one. We realized that slowing down a bit actually allowed us to cruise over the waves generally, but that detracted further from the original plan. We were already behind our “schedule”. Check out the video posted by fellow WaterTriber, Jollyroger of the winds on the Neuse
After about 6 hours of non-stop paddling, and about 19 miles into the race (a considerably slower pace than previously anticipated), we were able to beach the boats and take a break. We were hardly able to get out of our boats. We rolled out of our boats and laid on the beach trying to regain some strength and ease the pain. As we took our first break a fellow WaterTribe racer pulled up on the same beach. His name was Captain Jack Otter. He also was visibly tired and rolled out of his boat. As we all commiserated, time wore on and the winds were slowly increasing. So, back to the water we returned. We played a game of leapfrog with Captain Jack Otter for the remained of the day, meeting him in similar resting locations, all telling the same story of hard winds, rogue waves, and sore muscles.
As we crossed the mouth of Core Creek we watched a storm cell begin to form over Minnesott Beach that was sending lightning strikes well outside the cell. This was the beginning of cold front we were dreading. We decided to beach and get a better feel for the cell before we continued on. We were close to the Harlowe Canal, and our anticipation was that we would finally gain cover from the wind once we got into the canal. We had about 4 miles to go and we were still paddling against 15 mph headwinds. As we entered the mouth of the canal we soon realized that the respite we once counted on was still a long way off. It was here we figured out that at every turn, the wind began to change direction. As we paddled our counterclockwise course, we realized that we were paddling against clockwise headwinds.
It was on the first beach we reached along the Harlowe Canal that I turned to Dave and told him that given the current state of my body and the forecast of continuing headwinds for the next 24 hours, I didn’t think I would be able to make it to the finish in Cedar Island. I had blisters in places on my hands that I’ve never had blisters. I had blisters on my feet. On my feet. I had been pushing on my foot pegs so hard for so long while wearing paddling booties (instead of hard sole shoes) that I turned my foot pegs into meat grinders. My back and shoulders had also suffered enough from my over-zealous ambitions, and Dave was feeling the same. He agreed that given the forecast and our state of pain, the idea of paddling the unprotected waters of the Core Sound did not sound like it was going to be fun at all. It was time to find an out. We called our families and they mobilized to get our car to the first Check Point in Beaufort – the ending of the North Carolina Ultra Marathon and the 50 mile mark. But we still had almost 20 miles to go.
The last “Hurrah”
As we exited the Harlowe Canal we paddled into the open waters of the Newport River. A lighter 10 mph wind kept the beam seas large enough to be a pain, but not unmanageable. Then, out of nowhere a cold front with a vengeance came up from our rear and turned the winds 110 degrees and the temp dropped 15 degrees in a matter of seconds. All I remember was turning around and yelling at Dave over the winds to follow me. We changed course 90 degrees and made a beeline paddling with everything we had toward a small island in the middle of the river with which I was somewhat familiar. The wind and the waves were frantic. We took several waves over our shoulders and it was almost impossible to hold our course. Capsizing was not an option, but it was so dark we couldn’t see the waves or brace ourselves. When we finally made it to the island we ran our boats into the marsh grass as far as possible and held on. The island was flooded and high ground was nowhere to be found. Dave grabbed handfuls of marsh grass and hunkered down. I shoved my paddle into the mud and wrapped my arms around it and hunkered down as well. We were in the thick of the single nastiest storm in which I had ever been fully exposed. Lightning strikes all around, 30 mph winds with recorded 38 mph gusts, and waves now coming out of the North. We used the marsh grass on the flooded island to break the waves, but we were still fully exposed. For 30-45 minutes we held on. Half way through the storm we looked up and saw a boat with full running lights heading straight at us. At first we thought we were about to get hit, but then we realized it was a fellow WaterTriber – Yakmandu. The three of us weathered the remainder of the storm together holding on dearly to the marsh for protection. (Check out a local weather station recording of the storm on weatherunderground.com)
Once the storm passed we decided to get the heck out of our exposed location and chart a course to Check Point 1 which was only a mile or two away. We crossed the ICW, paddled under the Beaufort Bridge, and into Taylor Creek to CP1. The wind had already begun to change direction and was now coming out of the North West as was previously forecast. The landing was bittersweet. There were paddlers that were continuing despite the conditions (Captain Jack Otter was there and was continuing) and others who had finished by choice or otherwise. We knew we had made the right choice, but still questioned whether we could make it to the end. We made it in 16 hours and 8 minutes.
We watched the remainder of the race on the web. We tracked those who were similar in pace to ourselves. There was approximately 40 miles remaining for the NCC. Captain Jack Otter, our most similar comparison, took almost another 24 hours to complete the remainder of the Challenge. We made the right choice.
Ready. Set. Again?
We didn’t paddle this challenge for pride or proof that we could do it. But we really wanted to finish it nonetheless. Dave and I still talk daily and ask each other if we should have continued on. The reality is that between our timing with wind changes and overzealous ambitions we ended up in a situation where we were not going to be able to finish. I still have blisters on my hands and feet. The memories are still fresh, Dave still can’t feel two of his toes, and yet somehow we still question. And already we are planning our return for next year.
This is an adventure. I think we may be hooked.
R4 and Fishpoo stats
Total distance paddled: 47.7 miles
Average moving speed: 3.0 mph
Area covered: 296 square miles
Total time: 16.1 hours
Fishpoo and R4 C1K rank at CP1 (NCUM): 7/8 (landed at the same time)
Total boats entered and started: 42
Total boats DNF: 14
Class 1 Kayak entered and started: 24
Class 1 Kayak DNF: 9
C1K Average time to complete CP1 (NCUM – 50 miles): 20.7 hours
C1K Average time to complete NCC: 32.9 hours
I’m not sure if it started as a dare or a joke, but when Dave and I decided it was time to sink our teeth into the WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge event there was no turning back. 100 miles of paddling in 2.5 days or less.
We’ve paddled much of the area covered in the race in the past. In fact, in 2008 we set a course to paddle the entire length of the Core Banks in 4 days. We did it in 3. What did we learn? We learned that we could have walked over 75% of our trip as charted due to the ridiculously shallow depth on the sound side. What we took away from that trip will most certainly be applied to our next.
Dave paddling Falls Lake during hurricane Irene.
Let the training begin
Paddle paddle paddle. Paddling the lakes. Paddling at the coast. If we could put our boat in it, we paddled it. I mean, how else do you train for something like this? Collectively we have paddled this race many times over. We have paddled Falls Lake so many times the local bass fisherman may actually know us by name. We’ve hit the waters around Harker’s Island at the peak of the tide change, paddling with everything we have against a 15 mph wind and tide and barely making forward movement. We even paddled Falls Lake during hurricane Irene’s visit and practiced our assisted rescue skills. And still we paddle. But, to some there should be more. Well, Dave (WaterTribe name: R4) stepped it up even moreso with trail races individually and with his daughter. He is a machine. He is a trail running machine that runs on dedication. Me, well, I stuck with the paddling. And less exciting exercise means such as carpentry, landscaping, and writing a dissertation. As it turns out, my wife and I have decided to put our years of hard work earning our doctorates to use and take a new job, sell our house, and move to New Orleans. In 6 months or less. In a way, the NCC is my last NC paddling hurrah for a while. But, the show must go on! We are now in the final stages of readying ourselves for this race. And it’s going to be an adventure.
Of course, with any organized event there is a list of required items. We’ve got it. But, it’s been a while since either of us have been on a self-supported adventure. So we needed to get some new gear and update our existing stuff. And for that, Great Outdoor Provision Company has been our source for almost everything we needed. Now, the trick is fitting it all into the kayaks. Let the practice packing begin. It begins with a huge pile of gear. You turn it into manageable bundles. You then add it to the numerous, different colored dry bags. Then you figure out where everything fits best, and where it makes sense to stuff or keep things accessible. Then you try to remember where you put everything in your boat and in which bag.
As of right now, we have just over a week to go until the race begins. There is little to do at this point other than paddle to maintain the calluses on our hands and get our last minute items in order. I have a solar panel I am thinking about using to recharge my GPS. Dave and I both are fretting about where and how to attach our self-rescue gear to our boats in an accessible place. We still need to set up our SPOTs for tracking purposes (required by the race organizers). And there is still the question of weather, where (and *if*) to stop and camp, and determining the best routes. The planning never ends. This is an adventure.
Todd Guerdat (aka fishpoo)
I’ve been paddling for 15+ years. I’ve been sea kayaking ever since I realized that it was too much effort to bring two cars to a river. I have a wonderfully supportive wife, Kate, and a 2 year old daughter, Cadence, that tells me how it is every chance she gets. I work at the Raleigh Great Outdoor Provision Co. to feed “the habit”. I am soon to have a PhD in fish poop courtesy of NC State. >> Find Me on SPOT
David Woodard (aka R4)
Compared to Todd, I’m a relative newcomer to the kayaking world, having been sea kayaking for about 7 years. I grew up on the coast and have been boating most of my life. It just took me a while to figure out that it’s a lot more fun and rewarding in a human powered craft. I’m an employment attorney in Raleigh, currently living my second childhood with my two kids of 7 and 9, both of whom are obsessed backpackers and campers and make sure I never forget how much fun it is to sleep on the ground and get really dirty. I have an extremely indulgent wife who is amused by the whole thing, but sometimes wonders how she ended up with three kids. >> Find Me on SPOT
Raleigh received a precious gift today. Our first Nature Preserve. The benefactress was accustomed to making special deliveries such as the Park dedicated in her honor today. As a pioneer in medicine Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD delivered over 8,000 babies. Dr. Annie was the first female doctor of obstetrics and gynecology in Raleigh and the first woman to serve as chief of staff at Rex Hospital and at Wake Med. She always put her patients first and the gift of this park provides a haven for generations to come.
View across the prairie at the Wilkerson Preserve
Dr. Annie passed away in 2005 at the age of 91 and in her will gave the City of Raleigh a 157-acre farm. The terms of the gift include: “That the property herein conveyed shall be maintained as a nature preserve park, and used for the primary purpose of nature and wildlife education, the study of research into methods of conservation, and shall not be used for general recreation or any other purpose inconsistent with the primary purposes set forth above.
The park shall be name the Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preseve Park.”
Located in at 11408 Raven Ridge Road, this park, as Raleigh Parks & Recreation Manager Stephen Bentley put it, “gives Raleigh a new sense of place.” A great lover of nature, Dr. Annie outlined specific themes in her will as goals for the park. Just walking from the Park Office (former family home) down to the pond you recognize that Mr. Bentley and the team at City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation have honored the wishes of Dr. Annie and the Wilkerson Family.
View of Wilkerson Preserve Pond
The preserve includes trails, prairie areas, picnic areas and thick forest to help visitors find their own sense of place. The preserve was designed using Low Impact Development (LID) and Sustainable principles. Permeable pavers are used as an alternative to more traditional hardscapes. The wastewater treatment and water reclamation system is unique and provides a model for future park projects. The system treats the wastewater from the Park Office and restrooms into recycled water used to flush the toilets and urinals in the restrooms. This is the first small scale Membrane Bio-Reactor reuse system of this type and application in the State of North Carolina. Visitors will also find a car charging station provided for electric vehicles.
But this is just the beginning. Phase 2 will bring additional features to the Wilkerson Nature Preserve as the park compliments and connects with the other services of the North district boundaries within the Falls Lake watershed. Discover the park yourself and take along a friend. Dr. Annie would like that.
On Saturday, April 2, I loaded up my Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 13 fishing kayak and headed to the Catawba River just above the Hwy 27 bridge in Mt. Holly, NC. My purpose on the water was to compete in the Charlotte area 2011 RiverBassin Tournament Trail. While there are a lot of kayak fishing tournaments around the world, this one is unique because anglers are restricted to fishing creeks and rivers; no lakes or ponds allowed. Just like most kayak fishing tournaments, boaters are restricted to people power only. No motors or amped up bass boats here. The format is also a bit unique because we had a 90-mile radius from the Charlotte area headquarters at Bass Pro Shop in Concord. In addition to the boat rules and fishing area, the tournament rules required anglers to record their catches on digital camera and submit their virtual stringer at the “weigh-in” station by 4:30pm local time on Saturday. Anglers competed to see who could get the best virtual stringer of 3 black bass (largemouth, spotted bass, or smallmouth). There is also a team division and a nod to the overall big fish of the day. Normally I don’t do a lot of kayak fishing. In fact, the last two times I’ve fished from my kayak were both tournament events. So I am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to competing with other kayak anglers. But, I enjoy it and find myself looking for more local tournaments to enter.
So, yesterday I get started around 9am, a bit late, but I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed that extra hour or so of sleep. I will also admit I didn’t really think getting on the water at the butt crack of dawn in colder weather would pay off for me anyway. Remember, I’m not very good at kayak fishing and I don’t need to be on the water a few extra hours NOT catching anything. It really messes with my psyche. Anyway, I get out there, take the required photo of me at the launch to prove that I’m setting off in safe light conditions and then I head off upstream from the boat launch. The weather wasn’t too bad, a little cooler and windier than I would have liked, but a good day regardless.
I paddled and fished my way up to the dam below Mountain Island Lake and only had one or two light strikes on the way up to the dam. I really am convinced that one of the strikes was a hook-up, but I didn’t get the alleged fish close enough to the boat to confirm that suspicion. So, I’m at the dam and decide to drop anchor and pound away at the water in hopes that some magic might happen. Nope, nothing, not even a hint of a strike or a fish anywhere. So, getting discouraged and beginning to think that my 2nd tournament might end with an empty score sheet, I pulled anchor and started to paddle to one of the flats area just downstream. At this point, the wind is starting to kick up and one minute it’s at my back pushing me downstream, the other it’s in my face making life miserable as I fight the wind to even make small progress downstream.
So, I get to the flats around the bend of the river and set up a slow drift with the wind. I’m starting to get a little encouragement because I’m starting to see some activity on my fishfinder. As I drift downstream, I huck my line out and begin a slow retrieve of my chatterbait. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I feel a hard strike and set the hook. This fish feels good and I’m fairly certain it is a “keeper”. My thoughts are confirmed when I get the fish to the boat. It is a keeper. Now my mind’s racing. I’ve got to make sure I don’t loose what may be my only fish of the day while I’m getting my camera, my marker to prove I caught the fish on the day of the tournament, and my official tournament measuring device. I boat the fish and grab my awesome Hobie Fish Grip pliers to secure the fish along side my kayak while I paddle to the shore to take my photo before I release the fish. After I get to the shore, I snap two quick photos making sure to include my tournament required Gorilla Glue sticker in the photo. After I’m satisfied with my photos I release my fish back into the river and jump back into the kayak to try for 2 more fish to complete my three fish stringer.
Unfortunately, the rest of the day was horrible. The winds picked up and made paddling difficult to say the least. I didn’t boat any more fish and as I loaded up and headed to the weigh-in, I knew that while not a total failure, my one fish would probably not even get me into the top 10. At the weigh-in location, everyone said the day was tough. I felt a little better after finding out that some of the anglers didn’t even get a fish to the boat. And considering this was only my 2nd tournament, I’m more than pleased with my one catch which checked in at 14.75″.
I want to thank Drew Gregory and all the folks with the RiverBassin Tournament Trail for hosting a great event. Stay tuned for my next tournament report after I fish my next tournament in Greensboro, NC on April 30.
Update: results are in – I placed 10th. I’ll take it!
Circa 1975. GOPC founder Tom Valone in his Chuck Taylors at the Haw Rivers steel bridge take out.
Notes on the back of this photo indicate that it was mid June, and that the river was running about 21/2 ft on the old US 64 Gauge, which meant that there were a few class 4’s and lots of 2’s and 3’s. The boats are nylon/glass Phoenix Cascades, the paddles are Kobers, the cartoppers are Quick N Easy’s, life vests are Seda, the helmets are hockey helmets that make one look like he has an outsized frontal lobe, and the old river car is a ’59 “219” with about 220,000 miles on it. Note the high tech tee shirt stretched over the massive chest, the forever-to-dry cut-off shorts and Chuck Taylor river shoes.
This thing called “kayaking” was developing in all sorts of ways, with guys like Walt Blackadar and Royal Robbins pushing “first descents” out west, while the rest of us just kind of ran rivers. Point A to B was about as complicated as it got, at least here in NC. We had yet to get bored and start putting our boat noses in places that might prudently be avoided. This trip was different, the beginning of playing in individual rapids and holes to probe our limits and those of the boats.
The Haw was an interesting run. The water at 21/2’ was a mix of Triassic red mud and USDA red dye from the Cone Mills polyester plant upstream, guaranteeing that this clean guy photo was taken at the beginning of the shuttle, not after the take out. And, the boats have no holes visible, and I know for a fact that there were holes in the Cascades after the trip. There was even 6” of bow missing from my boat, chomped off by a demonic ledge under which I put the nose trying to get air in a maneuver called an “ender.”
If memory serves, since we did only a bit of surfing and playing at the bottom of Gabriel’s Bend, at Smooth Ledge and Finders Keepers (too much boat damage, wet exits and long swims!) the real challenge was avoiding the 100’ poison ivy vines bouncing in the current and copper mouthed rattle moccasins sunning themselves on low limbs and on exposed rocks. That and keeping clear of likkered up BUBBAS (North Carolina acronym for “Boys unburdened by BMW’s, Briefcases and Ambition”) some of whom were body surfing the bigger holes and others pissed off at recent college grads oogling their nekkid womenfolk. Seems like there was also some rusty re-bar and a few old cars in the river as well, but that could be an exaggeration. I really hate to exaggerate.
Joe and I did get to yelling “hey y’all, watch this” as we dropped into holes or punched thru high standing waves, or knocked serpents out of trees and into the water. We got real tickled by that, but some of the Bubbas thought we were making fun of them and ended up chasing us and throwing rocks and half empty beer cans at us as we turboed away.
At the take out we surveyed the smashed boats and made a corporate decision to buy the minimum order of 6 Hollowform kayaks roto-moulded out of cross linked polyethelene from a company in California; one for each of us and 4 for sale. These only came in yellow, weighed about 65#, and the brilliant design elements moulded into the hull relaxed out in our southern sun. They were a bit hard to paddle, but because ya couldn’t break them, the rivers were soon “yellow with boats.”
Whitewater paddling and play boats have come a long way since ’75, with the best designs being made here in the southeast. They come in lots of colors, and there is a design for just about any paddling niche one can imagine. The lower Haw, including all the great rapids and holes are now under Jordan Lake, but the big oak tree in the background of the photo is still there shading folks fishing for catfish. And, on weekends in the summer, one can still hear “hey y’all, watch this.”
Usually, you can find me at the Greenville shop, swapping stories, selling cool gear, or drooling over the new sea kayak models and climbing ropes. But, his summer I’m spending my time working at Pamlico Sea Base working as a sea kayaking guide. I fell in love with it last summer so I decided to spend another summer here. Pamlico Sea Base is right on the waterfront of the Pamlico River. Our little staff cabin looks out over the water and the views are always awesome. Our sea kayaking trips take place out at the outer banks. Every night I watch the sunset over the Pamlico River, or over the Atlantic Ocean while sitting on a beach. Its a pretty beautiful life.
When I’m out guiding, I lead groups of Boy Scouts and Venture Crews on multi-day sea kayaking trips out at Cape Lookout National Seashore. The national seashore consists of three islands in a chain that together equal more than 75 miles of unspoiled, protected beaches. If you’ve ever wanted to stand on a beach and see nothing but waves, sand and sea oats, this is the place for you. No houses or hotels or piers. Over on the sound sides, the wetlands teeming with life while ocean side is open, empty beach for as far as you can see. With the Boy Scouts, we paddle from island to island or campsite to campsite, sleeping on the beach every night. Everything we need we fit into our sea kayaks. Sometimes we’re stuck hiding in marsh grass during bad storms, and sometimes the bugs are a nightmare, but when you paddle with a pod of dolphins, or watch the sunrise over the ocean all the irritations and troubles fade away. When my summer ends I’ll be right back at the Greenville shop. Oh, and if you ever go sea kayaking, or beach camping, take baby powder with you. It’s a lifesaver!
Update: James and his teammate Steve summited Everest North Side safely on May 23 at 5:30 a.m. He wrote “It was the craziest weather season, causing a very short window and thus a night time summit (we climbed early to avoid the lines on the second step – the strategy which really allowed us to succeed).” Pictures coming soon.
When we first met James Wilde he had completed 5 of the Seven Summits. This Raleigh native had us riveted to our seats at Cameron Village as he shared stories from the climbs. Now only Everest awaits as he sits in Base Camp North. Follow the adventure tonight on WRAL and learn how you can support his clean water initiative GlobalH20 that helps supply clean water throughout the world.
Wilmington Staff member, Robert Smith, has embarked on a paddle excursion to Charleston, SC. (He had planned a 200 mile trip starting at Lake Waccamaw, but had a change of plans due a death in his family.) Robert’s mission is to raise awareness in the region about the human impact on the Waccamaw River, Winyah Bay and the salt marshes and barrier islands of NC and SC. He is an ACA certified instructor at the Open Water (L4) level and owns Watersmyth Kayaking. Here are a few entries from his blog:
Due to the delay I must shorten the trip and begin in Georgetown SC on Monday the 12th. This new starting point will allow me to paddle the second half of the original route, from Winyah Bay to James Island County Park in Charleston and still attend the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival.
Melissa reporting in:
Mother Nature has reminded Robert just how much he doesn’t know!
He had high reviews for the staff at East Bay Park in Georgetown, SC. But tonight on Cedar Island is another story. He said he’d not see another boat or soul for hours. And as he landed and started setting up camp huge mosquitos descended. He was very nearly sucked to a dry husk before he managed to put on a storm cag to try and gain some protection as he got the tent up. At our last phone conversation he feared they would realize they could all team up and pick up the tent and carry him off like a giant burrito. He said there were so many hitting the tent that it sounded like rain! He pulled as many supplies as he could near the zipper so he could just dart a hand out for what he needed. Not sure this in the man alone communing with nature that he’d hoped for!
Last position: Latitude:33.13423 Longitude:-79.2472
He said yesterday morning when breaking down his camp, he had to shake the bug parts out of his tent and there were blood splatters everywhere from smacking the beasts! All around his stove there was singed mosquito carnage.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
After a cool foggy morning and a day of wind, Robert’s position tonight:
Trip report from long time Cameron Village customer, Bob High. He is a good friend of GOPC and is one heck of a kayaker and an animal on a mountain bike.
In June, I flew out to Whitefish, MT with a great friend of mine, Ashley, from Asheville, NC. He is a Great Divide Mt. Bike Race finisher from 2007, and the most solid of bike travelers. We were heading to do a self-supported mt. bike-packing trip on the Tour Divide Race Route. Our plan was to ride this section backwards, north; while the racers were coming south from the race start in Banff, AB. We wanted to see them; and check them out as they headed to the finish line at the New Mexico/Mexico border at Antelope Wells, NM. For some of them that would be 26 days later! Check these crazy riders out at tourdivide.org, the longest mt. bike race in the world!
Thanks so much to our friends Tim and Megan in Columbia Falls, MT. for putting us up, feeding us, and setting us up for a great trip. Rolling out on the bikes the first day with Tim ,on his way to work at Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish, was very special! He is the man! Killer bike shop too!
We went north on the Great Divide Mt. Bike Trail from Whitefish, MT. to Eureka, MT. There was a good amount of snow through the Red Meadow Lake section, but it was hike-able; and we made it through before dark. Just before dark we saw our first GDR Racer heading south. It was Mathew Lee! A North Carolina boy, and five time winner of the GDR! He had already put a huge gap on the rest of the field ;and was pushing hard to make Whitfish on just the second day of the race! He is one incredible rider; and proved that he is the master of this 2800 mile race, by winning it again this year! Yea Dog!!! We would see the the rest of the racers over the next two days. Incredible bunch of people! My hat is off to all the riders who lined up in Banff with hopes and dreams of making it to Mexico. Very inspirational!
We rode across the international border into British Columbia at Roosville, MT. and then we turned east on Phillips Cr. Road, and crossed over the Galton Range into the wilderness of the North Fork of the Flathead River. This is the most remote area I have ever seen!! Crazy out there. Nooooooobody anywhere, but lots and lots of bears and moose.
It was in this wilderness on day three that we had some serious bike trouble. My Rear XT Hub had a major melt down. I thought I was going to be walking for days and days to get out of there. Ashley decided to try and pump chain lube down in the hub to get the wheel rolling; and it started working!!! That was a very scary two days of riding not knowing if my rear hub was going to make it; all the while we were working our way through avalanche debris, seeing lots of bears up close, and hoping for some luck! Ashley’s fix worked and we make it to a town called Fernie. WOW!!!!
We hit Fernie, BC. and celebrated with beers/burgers at The Bulldog Saloon. Everyone there was so great to us! What a great bar! I got a new rear wheel from the guys at Straight Line Cycles. They were awesome as well and had my bike rolling the next morning. Fernie is a sicko little ski town. They have some great riding as well. Can’t wait to go back there to ride it up!
The next day we rode off into the abyss through Coal Creek Rd. and got back on the GDR route. That is another very remote area east of Fernie. The maps we found in town were very detailed for that section; but there were unmarked trails and roads going everywhere once we got into it…and it rain like crazy all day.
The mud was so thick we had to cary our gear and mud packed bikes for long stretches! That was tough. When we finally hit pavement towards the end of the day, we missed a crucial turn, and went about 30 miles the wrong way. We crossed the border into Alberta and ended up in a small community. We were looking for some help. I was to exhausted to make the trip back that day; so to keep us on schedule we caught a ride with some super nice folks back into BC. and spent the night in Sparwood, BC. Super brutal day..toughest of the trip.
From Sparwood BC., fired up with a huge breakfast and tons of fresh coffee, we started the last two day trek by climbing up through Elkford; and then over Elk Pass, across the Great Divide and into Alberta…the right side of Alberta this time!!!! The glaciers above Upper and Lower Elk lakes on the BC side; and above Kananaskis Lakes in Banff National Park on the Alberta side were just spectacular. This was the most beautiful section of the trip. Amazing place to be bike-packing and camping through!
Another day of wide-eyed, rubber-necked riding through Banff National Park and we landed in the town of Banff. We were pretty tired and ready for some food and beers; and there was a criterium going on! What a great race!. The town went all out and we did too! Awesome night to finish this trip on!
All in all, 8 days of riding, 445 miles, one major mechanical, a ton of bear and moose, one coyote that really liked us; and a bunch of cool folks….when we saw folks!
Incredible Trip! The Great Divide Mt. Trail is a true treasure for cyclist everywhere. To learn more about it, maps, and other great trips check out the Adventure Cycling Association.