Paddling the Black River

Its been ten long years.

The last time I went paddling in any kind of boat was in 2006 when I last lived in Raleigh. Back then, Laura (of whitewater wedding fame) took a few of us out to paddle at midnight in the cooling pool of the nuclear power plant close to Raleigh.

Paddling around in the dark with little LEDs strapped to our heads seemed surreal enough, but feeling that the water beneath you was at an unnaturally high temperature had me checking from time to time if any part of me was starting to glow!!   Fortunately not.

Fast forward ten years to 2016; I’ve only been back in Raleigh for a few months and already Laura has me out with friends on a new boating trip — this time in canoes!

Now, it’s not that I’ve never paddled a canoe. I have, but about 25 years ago.  My one and only canoe lesson was on Meach Lake in the Gatineaus in Canada. Now, faced with 10 or so miles of canoe paddling, I didn’t know if I’d remember ANYTHING about it.

It actually didn’t take long for most of it to come back.  I soon remembered the C-stroke, sculling, and I even managed a bit of a J-stroke. Although I could keep the canoe straight by myself, I couldn’t get up a good head of steam. So more lessons may be required…

I tried paddling from the back of the canoe as well.  Laura taught us that the person in the front is the sail.  In other words, the person in front doesn’t try to steer — they provide the power.  It’s the guy in back that steers.  Once I got it, it worked really well and we were off to the races.

But Laura said I SHOULD be a natural canoeist simply because of all the time I spent in Canada. I just don’t know how many Scotsmen I’ve seen paddling a canoe that well!

Anyway, this time Laura took us to the Black River, just south of Raleigh, and home of some of the OLDEST trees on earth, perhaps up to 2,600 years old!

The trip started once we got to the put-in, unloaded, and stationed the Honda and trailer where we planned to exit.  After some safety instruction from Laura, we got in the water about 10:30.  Including a stop on a nice riverbank sandbar for lunch (reminded me of lunching on the Millport beaches with SANDwiches for lunch…) we paddled till about 8:30 and got home by 10pm — a little longer than we thought it would be, but lots of fun.

Laura brought along young Katelyn, a photographer from Raleigh, and Patty, whom I’d met all those years ago at Laura’s whitewater wedding.  Patty paddled in the canoe with me and Katelyn was in Laura’s boat.

Patty is an enthusiastic birder.  She was thrilled to see some kind of a woodpecker with a red head — don’t remember the name — and this was when I got to try paddling by myself.  Patty was quite focused on the bird!  We paddled around it and it put on a pecking show for her and then flew away.

We also saw what Laura called an otter — I think it might have been a beaver — swimming in the river. There are two pics in the gallery of it so you can decide for yourself. It swam and watched us for a few minutes and then quickly submerged and disappeared.

The scenery all along the river was just created for cameras and you can see the full gallery I posted here. We kept the camera gear in dry bags and, fortunately, I did manage to not drop my gear in the river, although I DID lose my sunglasses.  There’s a very cool-looking fish swimming in the bottom of that river if you’d like to try and find them.

I discovered that, ten years later, I can still paddle and once I’d remembered how to do it properly, it really didn’t take much effort at all.  But I did start to understand why it took Lewis and Clarke three years to travel across the USA.

Oh, and one more… this one of me letting the ladies do all the work… 🙂 — Photo by Patty McQuillan

(Laura and her husband Terry also took us out on an ocean kayak paddle and overnight stay on Bear Island back in 2004 .. I’ll post that adventure sometime soon)

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