Tales from the Tail End
- The Tale End
I joined the LRCC for my first significant paddling trip on the July
30 Upper Little River trip. The group was very kind to me,
extending me courtesy, hospitality, friendship and advice. As a 260
pound, top heavy novice in a poke boat, I paid my dues that day.
The others may tell you different, but the Upper Little River is
a dry, waterless, boulder strewn gully straight out of an old
western movie. At least, that's what the bottom of my boat kept
telling me. Poke Boat literature says that I should only be drawing
3 inches of water; if that's true, then the Upper Little is 2 inches
deep, or was before I went down it. If the Corps of Engineers
learns of my illegal dredging I may go to jail.
After capsizing my poke boat trying to get in and positively
identifying myself as a complete rookie, I immediately fell behind,
hitting every rock, limb, tree, shelf, ledge, beer can and minnow in
the river and a few tributaries besides. My perspective from the
tail end of the group was of everybody effortlessly disappearing
quietly and serenely around the bends. The only way I could have
made more noise would have been to use a chain saw. I paddled like
a Mississippi side wheeler to catch up to the group, only to be
trapped by the next ripple, drop, ledge or submerged limb, poling
myself through the rocks as my boat bottom screamed.
It really hurt to see Charles West ahead of me, making slow,
lazy, easy strokes with his paddle as I wind milled so hard I
created whitecaps in the river. Kayaks floated like leaves on a
still pond, canoes painted a serene picture of ease and contentment;
I thrashed like a harpooned whale.
Somewhere along the process of paddling and portage, I blew out
the side of my cheap Wal-Mart sandals, which made future walking a
much more interesting challenge. Going down one ledge that had a
technical difficulty that would bring fear to an Olympic kayaker, I
broke one end of my paddle, making my continued trip much more
interesting than the others.
Fortunately, kind members would lag behind to give me advice and
encouragement, but I think it was out of a sense of self
preservation. Faced with the thought that they would have to get me
out if I got injured or ruined my boat, they made the wise decision
to help me get through on my own.
The final joy was the takeout from the Cape Fear River. A 70
foot clay hillside, wet from rain and shoes, covered in briars and
vines, makes a joyful end to a great day. Halfway up the hill I
decided to try out karate and attempted to break a 4 inch fallen
tree with my face; I earned a brown belt, body, shoes, hands and
boat, but it was really clay and carries no honor.
All I can say is that you folks sure know how to show a new guy
a great time.