Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

The paddle that went wrong

Crooked River State Park
Site #6
St. Mary's, Georgia

39 degrees again this morning.  We have two electric space heaters that we use to help the furnace out in this kind of weather.  I really dislike heat pumps since they never seem to actually warm anything up in my experience.   When this  heat pump furnace comes on it blows lukewarm air which feels cool on the face and is noisy to the point that it is hard to talk to each other more than 10 feet away if it’s on.  It takes forever to raise the temperature 10 degrees in this small space so we use the much quieter electric space heaters to get to within 5 degrees of what we want and then the furnace can handle it.  I’d really like to hear from other folks about their RV furnace experience.  Guess I’d better post that on the RV-Dreams Forum.  Reading Howard and Linda Payne’s blog they talk about nights in the 20’s where they have been.  I can’t imagine that with this set up.  It’s really the only thing I’ve found that wasn’t pretty much perfect with Winona.

Maybe I’d better hurry this trip back to take care of the farmhouse into high gear since we are going north and that means colder temperatures.  I’d made reservations in a couple of campgrounds which we were not able to stay in on the way down because we didn’t have reservations.  And I made them for the leisurely pace of a week but that was before the temperatures really started to drop.  So I think I’ll look into cancelling some of those days and getting more of a move on.  The sooner home, the sooner back on the road.   BTW some folks have asked me about the farmhouse whose furnace is motivating this turn around so here is a picture of her and perhaps you'll see why she's beloved.

Feeling cold always makes it hard to get up and get going but I did.   Had a very nice scrambled egg and rye toast breakfast and then packed some snacks so we could get out on the river to take one of the three kayak trails that are mapped from the park.  We had taken the 6.5 mile trail on our last visit here.  We didn’t think we could fit the 8.5 mile in given the tide troubles so we opted for the 4.3 mile trail.

The boat launch is connected to the park and so we took the car out there, got the boats in the water and set off. 

The tide was going out and we rode along with it on the way out.   

Passing the park's seawall

A very considerate other boater dropped to idle as he passed us.

This is the back of our favorite site #11 from the water.

The completely inconsiderate boater who just zoomed by and waved while tossing us around in his wake.

The back of one of Crooked River State Park Cabins

Soon we were in the marsh

We passed markers 401, 402 and came upon 403 for this water trail

Here are some other folks also enjoying the day.  The grasses were simply lovely.

Beware of the shellfish beds.  Not a good place for a SeaEagle.  Glad we had the hard bottomed kayaks.  This was the first point at which I wondered whether the tide was really coming in as my captain had said.

Trail marker 405 is the spot where we read that some folks have seen dolphins.  It is also the point at which you make a U turn and begin going the other direction.   Wonder if this falling marker was an omen?

Around we went.  Things got a little more difficult but still I didn't suspect anything

At this point the problem is becoming clear.  An incoming tide???

 The increasing shore line was just what this fisherman was looking for but then he wasn't in a kayak and could fly off if things got rough.

This is the last shot taken on this paddle.  David's description of the day follows it so you'll know what he's doing when you read that.

Well folks, this did not turn out quite as I had envisioned.  Since we could not go out at the optimal time to take advantage of the tides both coming and going, I considered what would be the consequence of not paddling at the optimal time but rather the convenient time for us.  The optimal strategy would have been embarking 90 minutes before high tide which today meant on the water at 9 AM.  I thought that was not only too early, but is was also too chilly this morning, so I determined we could also go later if we were willing to paddle one half of the journey against the tide.  We had paddled against this tide the last time we were here so it did not seem unreasonable we could do it again.  Unfortunately I did not take the tide chart with me and as it turned out the tide was going out as opposed to coming in as I thought it would be.  As a result on our return we found sand bars where we weren’t expecting any, and for some reason a very significantly swifter current and much harder paddle against the tide on our return. 

As it went, we put in at 1:20 and going with the tide were at the halfway point by 2:10 PM.  That was easy.  Better than two miles in less than an hour.  It was beautiful, warm and totally blue skies, another perfect day.  Then we started our return, against the tide. Progress was slow and Sherry was lagging behind.  This is not unusual – she loves the water and will often sit and watch birds or take pictures in one spot for a while.   I never know for sure because I can’t turn my head that far around when she is behind me, so I stopped a couple of times to wait for her and make sure she wasn’t having any trouble.  While stopped the first time, she pulled up along the bank beside me and we watched the birds for a while.  When we went to continue it appeared the water was going down meaning tide going out – the opposite of what I was expecting.  So after a while of watching birds, we found we were stuck in the mud due to the tide drop.  After struggling to get free of the muddy bank, it wasn’t long until it happened again.  This time I pulled up to wait by a shallow sandy beach with a quick current I thought would be helpful when Sherry caught up and it was time to move on.   By the time Sherry pulled up behind me, the water was down more and soon we were both stuck in shallow water on a wide sand bar that seemed to get wider by the minute.  We tried using our paddles to get back out into the current, but there was just more sand on this bar and we were getting no where.   From the time I had paddled over to this edge, suddenly we had a sand bar under us extending 30 to 40 feet out!  Finally I decided I had to get out and pull Sherry free while she held my boat, then catch up with her.  To my surprise the water was not cold, very pleasant, but fast moving.  I was easily able to get Sherry out and then get myself back in my boat without capsizing.  Small wonder, moment of Grace.  From there the tide seemed to strengthen and progress was really slow.  Suddenly at one point it felt like someone had opened the flood gates and more water was rushing at us.  I noticed I was not making any progress up stream at all.  At this rate we would tire out and not make it back to our put-in and have a serious problem recovering our kayaks.   So I decided to move out to mid stream to see if the current was less there.  Still did not seem to be making any progress for all the effort.  I knew this would be harder for Sherry than for me and that was really worrisome. 

We were trying to come up to the boat landing and getting no where, struggling just not to lose ground while paddling with all of our strength when I heard a voice calling behind me from the shore.  A fisherman was shouting and I stopped paddling to listen.  He was calling to us “move to the other side, the current is less there”.  Again the voice of Grace, he was right.  Moving all the way to the opposite shore, the other side from the dock we were aiming at,  we finally could pull ourselves up against the tide though this was not easy by any stretch of the imagination and I continued to worry how Sherry would manage.  She hung in there and we made it in about 5 PM, roughly the point the tide was to turn (low tide) and the water reverse.  Although the tide should have slowed or even stopped in at this tidal shift, we were just glad to be back and safe.

Sherry said she wasn’t sure she could lift the kayaks for loading on top of the car, but she did, with effort.  We made a short stop to see the McIntosh Tabby Ruins before heading home for dinner.  We walked among the ruins for probably 30 minutes, flat, quiet, cooling temperatures while we were there, but relaxing.   On the way back to the car, probably 5:45 now, Sherry asked it I was cold.  She was, her hands were even cold to my touch, which is almost never the case, always the other way around.  Sherry will continue here.

 I am sure I have never been so totally exhausted in my life.  My body temperature dropped dramatically and my mind just shut down.  I was on automatic and felt like an automatron.  I pretty much wasn't able to think.  So I'm afraid I didn't enjoy these ruins and the really beautiful tabby structure as much as I might have under other circumstances.  But even in that state, I could recognize that the tabby we had seen on the building in St. Mary's was, in fact, faux tabby.   This was the real thing.

These are the ruins of the sugar mill built by John McIntosh.  As I mentioned in a previous blog on St. Mary's, Tabby is a building material unique to the area and made of complete oyster and other shells. The mill was built in 1825 and is the largest and best preserved of all tabby remains in the Southeast. The ruins are one of the oldest industrial sites of Georgia. The building burned in the mid-1800's and was never rebuilt. Picnic areas are located on the grounds. In this shot, I'm reading, or trying to read, the information sign.

Here is a closer look at the exterior wall. 

As you can see, it is largely made of oyster shell

We stepped in and walked around the ruins.

Here is one of the archways.

And my favorite detail.  I love spirals and thought how much fun it might have been to have a house made of tabby.  It certainly seems to be durable having stood for nearly 200 years.

The ruins were 3 rooms deep.  I think you can see that better if you click this picture to enlarge it.

Interior walls

Looking out the window back toward the parking lot as we left to go home for dinner.

By this point, I was beyond exhausted and couldn’t use my right arm very well.  I have a recurring back/shoulder and neck problem from an automobile accident which I keep under control with yoga and stretching but this was too much for it.

We had leftovers for dinner when we got back.  I took a tablet of Ibuprofen and made an early night of it.  Definitely not the greatest paddle I’ve ever done although the first half was very nice.  The moral here is be absolutely sure you know what you are doing on tidal rivers.  And be careful of them any time around this ridiculous time change lest you get your times mixed up.  Part of the problem here was that you had to add 1:23 min to the tidal times in order to get the specific one for the park AND include the fall back business. 

David says what he learned is if at all possible talk to paddlers familiar with the waters you are about to enter.  They can tell you things like which side will have the stronger current and where the sand bars and oyster beds are if you are paddling at low tide.

Cumberland Island National Seashore is planned for tomorrow.  But we aren’t kayaking out there for sure.  We’re taking their 9:00 ferry.  So check back to see how that goes. 

1 comment:

  1. Sorry you had troubles, but glad you are both back safe and sound.

    Also, you have taught us to be very careful and ask questions before heading off in tidal waters!!

    But keep up the paddle trips.....we love them :0)


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