Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dos and Don'ts

Ok, the Fall Trip wasn't perfect. There were some beers spilled when people had to lunge for their sunscreen on Saturday. And the princess in the front of my canoe said the accordion in the Duluth pack felt like a big square pea under her mattress.

But it was pretty close: weather, water level, mollusk hunting, food, music, all of it. Even so, the best time to think about what we can improve is always right after a trip. So before we go into the off-season, here are some things we learned about what to do and not do for the next one.

DO: Keep the new personal cup system.

DON'T: Keep the small coffee pot system.

DO: Serve the hot soup for lunch. And when it's matzo ball, the Loaves and Fishes keep things ecumenical.

DON'T: Serve giant turkey legs.

DO: Use the Grizzly Spit again.

DON'T: Use the Grizzly Spit as a reason not to have a kitchen fire.

DO: Replace the wobbly-legged cooking grate.

DON'T: Replace the crosscut saw with a chainsaw. Packing an extra cooler for severed feet and fingers will just add to our space problem. And a chainsaw will be like an alarm going off for nearby landowners. Even the friendly ones won't be so friendly if they think someone is cutting down trees on their property. Plus a chainsaw is just plain cheating. By the next trip, we promise to either have the Two Man Crosscut sharpened by a real expert, or get a new one, or both. Also, it looks like we should be using a saw lubricant (they sell special cutting oils, or we could use kerosene like the old timers, or Tim's Vagisil) and a wedge, both of which sound like things that might help a lot. Remember, there have been times when the crosscut saw worked great.

Read about lubricants:


Read about wedges:


DO: Learn more gospel and cajun songs.

DON'T: Pretend you don't know "Blind Willie McTell."

DO: Bring the music stand.

DON'T: Forget the capo on the accordion songs.

DO: Appoint a special sub-committee on crap reduction to save space in the canoes.

DON'T: Save space on beer or tents. If you paddle a solo canoe, you deserve a solo tent if you want it. Consider eliminating bulky earplugs instead.

DO: Find the slow leaks in the jon boat. And a solution to the tilt release problem on the motor.

DON'T: Change a thing about the boat lights. The late night guys could see everything they needed on the ride down, and she was a gorgeous sight coming around the bend like the Electric Horseman.

DO: Use the buddy system for the jon boat. Two people is both the minimum and the maximum for the Green Mule.

DON'T: Use the buddy system for anything else.

DO: Bring the satellite radio again

DON'T: Jump off-sides on 4th and inches.

DO: Try to finish the last 100 yards without turning over.

DON'T: Bring up the construction on your street's water main just for something to say.

DO: Plan the Fall Trips the same weekend as the time change.

DON'T: Plan on going anywhere but the Duck River for awhile.

Monday, November 14, 2011

If you have receipts, get them in. If you don't, watch here for your assessment and a date we can get together and talk about how good the weather and the paddling was.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Even on a trip that good, the best part is always the beginning.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

D-parture Day

I guess nobody needed to be told to check the weather forecast after waking up to rain this morning. And you were probably happy with what you saw! If you next started worrying about the river level, we think the amount of rain we got didn't last long enough to cause any concerns about that. In fact it might be just enough to help us glide (or motor) over the shallow spots. So as long as you don't do anything stupid like mix alcohol and boating, or travel at night, you should be fine.

Last minute items:

We are looking for the Paul Bunyon sized perk coffee pot. Did anyone take it home last time? Is it an artificial reef at the bottom of Big Swan Creek? If you have it, let us know ASAP.

This is the one:

Just to clarify: all drinks including drinking water are B.Y.O.B. The only water officially being brought by the Club is for cooking. Coffee is cooking, though.

Ok, that's it. Skip, Kirk, Phil and David we meet at 8:15 tomorrow. Josh will see us off so he can get the keys to the whole Green Mule rig, then he and Jack will pick up Stuart at 8:00 pm at the airport. The morning guys will pick up Jim at the WH on Charlotte on the way out of town. Rob and Vernon will be hanging out at the put-in.


October is the good month, in a normal year at least.

With luck, though, November can be all right. . . .

Goodbye to a River, p. 10.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Fish and Whistle

The Other Jim is stuck in Cuba and won't make it back in time for the trip, so there will only be two departures now: early morning and late at night. For the morning guys, we are picking up The Other Other Jim at the Waffle House on the way down and both Rob and Vernon are meeting us at the put-in. That means there should only be four of us actually leaving with the trailer Saturday morning: Skip, David, Phil and Kirk. You guys try to get here by 8:15.

As always, virtually everything that is not considered personal camping gear will be provided or acquired by the Club: canoes, paddles, lifejackets, rain fly, lanterns, saws, shovels, kitchen equipment, plates, utensils, guitars, banjos, washtub bass and a tambourine for the hallelujahs and hare krishnas on "My Sweet Lord."

One new exception to that rule is that everyone on this trip and forever after shall now bring their own cup. We've just never been able to bring enough or the right kinds of cups for everybody so get yourself a good one and make it your personal drinking vessel every day for the entire trip. From coffee in the morning through whiskey in the evening. If you were lucky enough to hold on to one of the ribbed tin cups we got a year or two ago and it hasn't fallen apart or given you lead poisoning, you can use that. Or find one that expresses your own personal style and individual taste.

Summary of your packing list: camping gear, sharp knife, B.Y.O.B. and B.Y.O.Something-to-Pour-It-Into.

All of the food, of course, is in the "will be provided" category. The last unplanned menu, Saturday lunch, is also set now: specially ordered giant smoked turkey legs that until now could only be found at NASCAR races and renaissance faires.

Because they weigh in at 2 lbs. per leg, our only side item for Saturday lunch will be mustard.

Summary of menu: smoked whitefish and champagne for Friday lunch; brats and buns Friday night; cold breakfast and hot coffee Saturday morning; mutant turkey drumsticks Saturday lunch and Grizzly Spit prime rib for dinner. Sunday breakfast is all-night dutch oven coffee cake, bacon and more hot coffee.

Finally, this is optional, but you may also want to give serious consideration to bringing the fishing gear along. We are going to be on a river that has more species of fish (151) than all of Europe. More importantly, for just about the first trip ever we'll actually have time both days to try to catch them. And a real fishing boat for goodness sake. There's a whole episode of Tennessee Wildside called "Duck River Smallies" so that should tell you something.

We don't want to jinx it or anything, but we're bringing some oil and cornmeal this time just in case.

For no good reason I went down to the canoe and took out the spinning rod and made one cast, reeling the lure in fast as it swept down the quick smooth water. As I was lifting it out, a good bass took it with a splash and a twist and tore fifty feet of thin line off the reel before it slowed him. Then he gave up and came to a quiet backwater where I beached him - a black of about three pounds, long and slim as the river fish are likely to be.

Since the afternoon's two whites were still flapping strong on the clip chain, I turned them loose and fileted the black for supper, and it was dark. The lantern's gas was exhausted, but its hissing would have been harsh against the calm starry night anyhow; I cooked and ate by the fire's flicker and used the flashlight to put out a throwline and to get myself to bed. It was warm; the pup, finding me too efficient a heater, went off to sleep on my wadded pants.

Goodbye to a River, p. 105.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Group I (Friday Morning). Departure is 8:30 am. Currently that includes the following seven people: Skip, Rob, Vernon, Phil, Kirly, Jim and D. Fox. I will provide canoes for the first five. Jim and David, bring your canoes over sometime this week if you can and leave them beside the trailer.

Group II (Friday Afternoon). The other Jim plans to leave Nashville early afternoon in time to get to the campsite before dark and will get to the put-in by himself with his own canoe. If anyone in Group I can't make the morning launch, we can leave a canoe for you on the trailer at the put-in.

Group III (Friday Night). Jack and Josh will pick up Stuart at 8:00 pm and will drive straight from the airport to the put-in with the trailer and the truck. They should be at our camp site by midnight. Both Jack and Josh have now been fully trained on how to ride the Mule. They passed the driver's portion of the test this afternoon which requires trailering the boat to Cleece's Ferry boat ramp on the Cumberland, motoring one mile upstream to Rock Harbor Marina and successfully returning with a 12-pack of Bud Light. They also learned how to raise and lower the motor during the shallow sections and how to safely smoke a ready-roll sitting on a 6-gallon tank of gas.

Saturday Mule Riders. The advance kitchen team of Rob, Kirk and Phil will take the jon boat Saturday. The rest of us will float all day and arrive at our second campsite to find a roaring fire, stacks of firewood and the prime rib turning on the spit. Or all three of them passed out on the gravel bar.

Which reminds me: this trip is strictly B.Y.O.B. Plan accordingly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Duck Season

Turns out Vernon's ancestors have history here too, so this Duck River trip is going to be like one big family reunion. In the meantime, everybody who doesn't give a crap about our personal genealogies still needs to get oriented - because it looks like there will be at least three different put-in times. There's no guarantee you'll be paddling with one of us natives.

We're on the middle part of the Duck River.

We will be paddling all the way around Greenfield Bend (et tu, Jeff?) from Williamsport, Tennessee to just below the Natchez Trace Parkway which is a total of about 17 miles.

Our put-in is a first class, honest to goodness public boat ramp at the Williamsport bridge. It is exactly 3.0 road miles east of the Natchez Trace on Highway 50. It is open 24/7 which is important for our multi-stage launch, and true luxury for a club that is one trip removed from 24/7 trespassing.

Our take-out under the Natchez Trace bridge would have required a lot more effort - and a lot more trespassing - until Vernon secured our alternate spot a mile downstream. We don't know if there will be trailer access there, but that's no problem because there is another public boat ramp at Littlot Bridge a mere 8 miles farther. Which is nothing for a Mule.

Meanwhile Josh, a diligent map gazer, noticed we will be paddling right past Jackson Falls in Greenfield Bend.

As previously mentioned, the falls are named after Andy Jackson when he took a little bacon and he took a little beans, and fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans. However, every single thing ever published about Jackson Falls uses the word "intermittent" in the description which means on a November canoe trip it's probably not going to look like that picture. Plus, it's not visible from the river.

So, Josh, it still might be worth setting your beer down to hike up the outlet stream to see it, but it's not like you'll be doing this again: