Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Varmint of the Night

Josh and I have concluded that it had to be the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron who, in spite of his name, could not outlast Rob for king of the night or even for dinner. 

"A nocturnal heron of the southern swamps and coasts, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron can also be found breeding along wooded streams northward to Indiana and Illinois."

Click on the link, then on "Sounds/Calls" and see if you agree:

You can also listen to "She's So Cold" from the 1980 album Emotional Rescue here:

According to the range map, the V.O.T.N. was just passing through when he stopped at Pussy Rock, so we were lucky to have him:

Great trip, everybody.  Here's the list I've got for the off-season.  Let me know if you think of more:
Short tripod chain
Dutch oven covers
Collapsible coolers (?)
Tow strap
We're likely headed for the lower Duck River to pick up where we left off in Centerville.    See you then.

Monday, April 14, 2014







Wednesday, April 09, 2014

We're Red Headed!

We are amazed and astonished that the water level never turned back up on the graphs after the rain Sunday night.  It almost makes one think Mother Nature is in charge not the United States Geological Survey.  Or the Rebel Rivers Canoe Club.  

So we are almost certainly headed for the Red River.   99.9% certainly.   Fortunately, we still have some complicated logistics to work out to keep me interested.

The main group will gather at my house at 7:30 am Friday and depart from there just as soon as we can pull out.  That will include me, Ian, Josh, Mullowney, Rob and Vernon.  Unless Vernon you want to meet us north of town.

Phil and Tim, you will be the second wave and leave Nashville a couple of hours later.  We will unload the trailer, run the shuttle and load the canoes so you should come straight to the put-in and step into your boat like the Cleopatras that you are and the Egyptian slaves that we are.  Here is how to get to the put-in:

Put Keysburg, KY in your GPS so it takes you up I-24 West (or just start that way until your GPS gets the picture)
Take I-24 West toward Clarksville
Take Exit 19 (Hwy256/"Adams") and turn right at top of ramp
Make your way to Adams, TN
Take Keysburg Road north out of Adams to Keysburg, KY

When you are in Keysburg (population 1 Ser.Sta.Gro. in a Quonset hut) go east a couple of miles on KY Hwy 102 which turns into TN Hwy 161 just before the river.  The access road is on your left after you cross the bridge, which we will be directly under. 

Third wave is....surprise addition Jim Myers on Saturday!   Cooks plan for Jim plus one more guest unless you hear otherwise.  Jim, you will meet us Saturday morning at 11:00 am.  about two miles downstream from the Friday night camp.  

The meet up place will be the the farm where we stayed Fall of 2009 the last time we tried to do the Red River (but ended up on Yellow Creek).

This farm:

 The one where the Bell Witch tugged on Josh's sock...

You need to leave $10 and a note on the back door of the farm house that says "Lawrence, Jeff gave us permission to launch our canoe.  We are leaving our car by the river until Sunday.  Thanks!"   This is important.  Put your name and mine on it.

Be waiting with your canoe down by the river at 11:00.  If you're not there by 11:30 and we haven't heard from you we're going to assume you are not coming.  If you have to go back up to your car or something, put your Stormy Kromer on a stake as a signal.  It's ok to leave your car down by the river at the end of the road. 

Here are your directions:

Put Adams, Tennessee in your GPS and take I-24 to get there.
In Adams, go east on Hwy 41 a couple of miles to the community of Cedar Hill

In Cedar Hill, turn left (north) on Buzzard Creek Rd.
Turn left on Sturgeon Creek Rd off of Buzzard Creek Rd.
Turn right on N. Barnes Rd. off of Sturgeon Creek Rd.
Barnes Rd. ends at the farm.  Leave the gate how you find it.
If you have any trouble, call Jeff at (615) 389-9167.

Ok, back to float business.  We are taking 6 canoes for 8 people, not counting Jim Myers and his canoe.   They are all on the trailer (which Vernon just delivered without incident) so no need for anyone except Mullowney to bring any more boats.

We have some key new pieces of equipment, mainly a brand new German-made crosscut saw to replace the one you guys got stuck and then brutally hacked out of a log on the Duck last fall.  And a new, second full-sized coffee pot with an ominous message.

The trip is BYOB except for the coffee that goes in the possibly crazed coffee pot and the Saturday morning Bloodies and Drivers all of which Tim is handling.  

Remember to bring your cups, plates and utensils.  Rob says if you forget your bowl for his venison bourguignon he will set your boots on fire.

Monday, April 07, 2014

More on Plan B (and Plan A)

So far it has not rained as much as expected, but it might not take much to push the Red River up.   It may be a game time decision.  If you want to play along, here are the gauges we're watching:

Red River at Port Royal:,00060

For the Red you should only  read the SECOND graph called "Gage [sic] height, feet."  We're hoping for something under 8.0 feet.  We'd consider going if it's at 10.0 feet if we have a chance to eyeball it from a bridge first.

Clear Fork near Robbins, TN:,00060

Only read the FIRST graph called "Discharge, cubic feet per second."    We're looking for something around 1,000 cfs, but there is a wide range that would be acceptable. 

I will explain why I'm looking at different gauges for different rivers when we're standing around the fire next to one.   For purposes of RELATIVE height though (i.e. whether a river is going up or going down) both graphs are always useful. 

I actually did find my notes on the Clear Fork.   Was not made for publication but here you go.  Note that I have only paddled the second half from Peters Ford to Brewster Bridge, so the first section (including the first night camping) will be completley new to me too:

Clear Fork (Fentress/Morgan Counties)
April 2009

Note: there are only three section to float on the Clear Fork.

Section I: Gatewood Bridge to Peters Ford (6 miles; second most difficult)
Section II: Peters Ford to Brewster Bridge (6 miles; least difficult)
Section III:   Brewster Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge (10 miles; most difficult)

Section II:   Peters Ford (AB@) to Brewster Bridge (AC@), April 23, 2009.  Solo.  (6.0 miles).

Water level 800 cfs (3.6 ft?) at Anear Robbins@ gauge and falling.  This is a good level.  Never touched and moved quickly.  Riffles fun and exciting but no problem.   Decided (guessed) that ideal range is 800 - 1,000 with 600 - 1,200 acceptable but pushing it.  1,000 would be best case.   For upstream (Section I/Gatewood Ford) probably need 1,000.   Two hours and fifteen minutes from Nashville.

This river is gorgeous. Scenery and flora more like a Canadian river than middle Tennessee (rock outcroppings, boulders in river, spruce, cedar, mountain laurel).   Just beautiful.   Plus really fun, low-risk rapids.   Requires a little maneuvering but not hard at all and mostly standing waves at this water level.  Float time 2.5 hours with a lunch stop. 
Accesses are 100% public and easy (developed and marked by Park Service).  With backcountry permit could camp along river legally.  Camping opportunities not obvious but several spots worth exploring on next trip around Still Camp Branch and Short Creek (highly scenic) and second half of float (more open spaces).  Also big cave on river right above Indian Creek.   No real gravel bars though. 

Note: several Ser/Sta/Gro in the area.  AGlade=s Grocery/Willie Mart@ at Gatewood Ford Rd and Burrville Rd. has deli and general store.   Also good one with porch on the shuttle of this section (Hwy. 52) with deli sandwiches.  Monterey is a neat town.  Old railroad hotel, plus a great diner AThe Cup and Saucer@ on Main Street, a good BBQ across from the high school, and a classic road house bar just east of town called the Monterey Sports Bar with a drive thru beer window. 

I also found a good write-up on-line of the exact trip we would do (12 miles Gatewood Bridge - Peter's Ford - Brewster Bridge):

And a couple more pictures of Clear Fork:

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Clear Choice?

We had a lot of rain last week, and the river is high which would normally not be a problem because its on its way back down and would look good for Friday.  But the forecast says 100% chance of rain the first half of this week.  Like there's 100% chance of anything, but still that does not bode well.   I am 99% sure that the Red will be at peak flood stage right about the time we are supposed to get on it. 

So I'm going to introduce Plan B.  We'll still watch the Red River gauges carefully and maybe even do some visuals from the bridges, but everyone needs to read this because we probably won't be on it and my proposed Plan B is very different.  

I say we go to the Big South Fork area and float the Clear Fork river.  It has been on the RRCC bucket list for a long time and requires wet weather, which is good, but that also means its not a big slow river like we've grown accustomed to.  In fact, it would be the most technical river we've ever done.   I'm not going to use the word "whitewater" because real kayakers would be bored on the Clear Fork.  Let's just say there will be times you're going to have to set your drink down.

I have floated it solo and did not think it was bad at all, but just so you can reach your own conclusions, here are descriptions from three different float books in the RRCC library:


I don't know why that last one is sideways.  Turn your head.

We would do the first two sections:  the twelve miles from Gatewood Bridge, past Peters Ford Bridge and take out at Brewseter Bridge.   We would NOT do Brewster Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge so you don't have to lay in your tent the first night wondering how you're going to "keep your skull intact" on "Decapitation Rock" the next day. 

Here are the reasons I think we should do it (assuming the Red is too high).   Number one is it's gorgeous.  It's got the classic east Tennessee look with mountain laurels and big boulders and bluffs that we have never seen by canoe and never will unless we do a river like this.  Remember how the drive to the Current River was really long but we all recognized afterward that if we never did the drive we'd never have paddled in a cave?   And the Clear Fork is just about the only one like this we ever will do, because the rest of them really are whitewater.  

There aren't many pictures on the internet (which is itself a good sign) but here are a couple:


Number two reason:  at the same time the water level is going to be just right on the Clear Fork, we happen to have a small but solid group of 8 men instead of our usual Mardi Gras parade of 15 canoes.

Number 3:  the daytime temperatures are supposed to be unseasonably warm.  That really lowers the stakes in case somebody gets wet, which I honestly don't expect.

We can also take some easy precautions without cramping our style:   just make sure everything's bagged up, leave behind some of the frivolous things (like accordions and kegs of beer) and lash down the important ones.   We could put two people in each canoe if we want, but I don't think that's necessary for everyone.  Personally I'm excited about the idea and while it might be a little more bold adventure than lazy float, you know I will never take us down a river where there is any unreasonable risk or I think it's not safe.  

All of the literature says the Clear Fork is a good canoe-camping stream.  I did not scout it for that purpose the one time I was on it, so I have no notes and don't really remember gravel bars at all.  It's in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area so they may say that because camping is legal (and scenic).   We will find a cozy campsite, even if Phil has to hack one out of the rhododendrons. 


Editor's Note:   by the time I finished writing this it started raining.  So there's your 100%.