Been a rough couple of weeks. Once again I was in need of hydrotherapy. I did a 6.66 mile trip on Lake Robinson last Friday, and on Wednesday of this week Bennie and I had planned to make an early start for Lake Tugalo. Sadly, illness in Bennie’s family kept him at home, so I was on my own. I decided to paddle a bit closer to home. I made the drive up to Lake Blalock in Spartanburg County.
First, perhaps a bit of recap is in order…
Friday was inauguration, and there was no way I was going to watch, celebrate, or acknowledge that orange turd. I dressed in black and headed for my refuge – the water. I hadn’t been to Lake Robinson in awhile, so it would suffice.
My intent was to purchase an annual pass at the ranger station at Robinson. In the past you could purchase a day pass for $6 and an annual pass for $20. Recently they have raised their rates – $20 for a day pass and $30 for an annual pass. So, an annual pass makes more sense – I guess they were pushing folks in that direction. When I got to the station it was locked and closed. There was a sign on the door saying that if the office was closed we could go ahead and paddle as long as we had the proper safety gear (which I always have.) I drove on down to the ramp.
The day was overcast and threatening rain, but I didn’t really care. I had the proper gear, and the gloom somehow fit my mood. There were a couple of small fishing boats out, but I had the place to myself. I set out across a sullen, glassy lake, concentrating on paddling rather than scenery. I was entering a Zen state.
I reached the Farrs Bridge Road and continued further for a couple of miles before stopping for lunch in a sheltered cove.
From there I headed back pretty much the way I had come. I passed back under the bridge, and the skies began to lighten a bit.
I kept steady strokes on the way back to the ramp. Grace Potter’s “Nothing but the Water” runs through my head, and has now become me go-to work some for keeping a good paddling pace. I racked up my 6.66 miles (which seemed appropriate, given the day) in fairly short order.
I had paddled Lake Blalock once before. In 2012 (Geez, was it really five years ago?) that I participated in the Lake Blalock Paddlefest. At that event we explored the upper reaches of the Buck Creek arm of the lake, and I was impressed with the wildlife and scenery. This time I was hoping for equally astounding scenery.
It took me awhile to get to the lake, longer than I had anticipated. I stopped for breakfast in Greer, but the real time-killer was the fact that one of my straps holding the boat to my roof kept trying to come loose. I had to stop several times to adjust.
As with Lake Robinson, when I got to Lake Blalock the office was closed and I couldn’t purchase a permit. The office wasn’t scheduled to open until 2:00, and there wasn’t a friendly sign like there had been at Lake Robinson. I drove on around to the boat ramp where I spotted a DNR officer. He said to just go ahead and paddle. However, he’s state, and this is a county lake. Regardless, I took his advice and unloaded the boat at the nice launch they have developed.
It was chilly and breezy, but the sky was crystal blue. I was dressed in layers this time, including a paddling jacket. I set out and headed upstream, planning the paddle the Pacolet arm of the lake this time. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get, but my goal was to reach a point where the lake began to take on more of the characteristics of a river.
I was surprised at the number of houses in this area. These were huge. From what I could see there were no small lakeside cottages to be found. It also made me wonder about the conservation easement the lake was supposed to have. I remember all of the wild space along the Buck Creek arm of the lake and wondered if that easement applied to the whole lake, or just a part of it.
I passed under the bride for Casey Creek Road and continued upstream. The houses lining the banks were relentless, and the miles went by without any hint that this lake might eventually turn into a river. I did finally see a few wooded areas.
There were several coves that looked tempting. If one of my fellow paddlers had been with me, or if I weren’t set on getting further upstream I might have explored them a bit more.
I reached the Paris Bridge at SR 43 quicker than I expected. This had been one of my possible turnaround points. I could say that I had paddled “this far” and point to a specific location. Yet, the lake still looked like a lake, and not a river. There was a bit of current, but I couldn’t tell if that was actual current or the headwinds that were starting to pick up.
Both this bridge and the Casey Creek Bridge looked very low to the water. There were a couple of spots where even in a kayak I would have hit my head if I had tried to pass underneath at that point. The lake must be at full pool.
There were fewer houses along this stretch. As one might imagine, there were more on either side of the bridge.
I reached a point where there was a house out on a point, and beyond this the lake did narrow down quite a bit. I decided that this would be as good a point as any to turn around. I noticed one castle-like house and another massive place up own hills overlooking the lake.
Along one of the wooded areas I spotted signs, so I paddled over to check it out. This was one of the conservation areas, apparently administered by DNR.
I paddled back under the Paris Bridge and checked out the old roadway.
I had the wind at my back and was making good time on the return. At one point a deep cove confused me. I decided to check out the cove anyway. I found a couple of tributary streams, and some old dead trees at the end of the cove. As I explored the wind picked up. I moved quickly, just in case one of the old trees decided to take a tumble in the wind.
From there I paddled pretty much straight back, with the rhythms of Grace Potter running through my brain. There was som activity at the boat ramp, but I never saw the warden. I had made it back before the office opened. I once again avoided any usage fees.
The trip back was a bit more harrowing. The ratchet on my compression strap began to fail, and at one point the boat tipped back precariously. I took back roads home, constantly stopping to adjust the straps and supplement with additional supports. I made it with no damage to my car, or anyone else’s, for that matter.
On this trip I had paddled 6.8 miles.
That brings my yearly total to almost 20 miles, and January isn’t even over. At this pace I should hit 240 miles for the year with no problem. We’ll see.