I have a consistent dream. In this dream, I arrive at a small town somewhere in the mountains of North Carolina. A beautiful whitewater river flows next to the town, and artisan shops line the streets. As this dream has repeated, I have added more and more detail to the town. The main highway curves away from the town to the west, then turns northward to cross the river on an old trestle bridge as it flows through a gorge. On the east side of town is a small community college with public river access, making it a perfect place for take-out.
There is always one consistent feature of this dream. I can cross the river, I have been down to its banks, but for some reason I am always foiled in my attemps to paddle the river. As the vision repeated this morning before I awoke, I was attempting to use my kayak paddle as a pole vault, and was almost achieving free flight. Apart from the pole-vaulting/free flight bit, this dream was an amazing accurate prediction of the day’s events.
I wanted to do some flat-water paddling on a mountain lake. My target for the day would be one of several lakes in the Dupont State Forest . I wasn’t sure if there would actually be lake access, so I dressed for hiking with capilene and a wet suit in my gear bag, just in case.
The weirdness began on the drive up Highway 276 to Caesar’s Head. I got behind a Honda Goldwing tricycle, and knew almost immediately that it was my sister and her husband out for a ride. I followed them for several miles, and they pulled into Caeser’s Head State Park, with me close behind. They were obviously surprised. After a brief chat, we parted ways and I headed to Dupont.
Actual sign on the trail to Lake Julia
My first target was either Fawn Lake, or Lake Julia, called Summit Lake on some maps. I turned onto Reasoner Road, and drove several miles through some fantastic farmland. I got to a sign for lake access. Unfortunately, access to either lake included at least a mile hike. While I was prepared for a walk, I wasn’t prepared to haul a heavy boat with me that far. Oh well, on to the next target.
Dam @ Cascade Lake
My next stop was to be Cascade Lake. I backtracked to Cascade Lake road, which quickly became dirt and followed a lively stream with several nice cascades. The lower end of the looked very promising. However, as in my dream, I could only view from the road, with no access in sight. This is a finger lake, winding back into the hills. Even at its widest, it was only about a hundred yards across. Soon I was at the dam, and I stopped in the middle of the road to view the fantastic cascade over the structure. The lake is aptly named.
I once again hit pavement, and decided to seek access to this lake on the east shore. The road ended at a campground, and the lady tending the gate told me there was no day access – I would have to rent a campsite. I asked if there was any public access, and was rudely told that it was all private. Oh well. I guess that lake would remain as tantalyzing as the river in my dreams.
I turned toward Brevard and made my way parallel to the Davidson River. I was almost tempted just to paddle the river, and attempt to either paddle back upstream, or catch a ride back to my car. I wasn’t quite that brave.
In Brevard, I looked for lunch. Seeing that Lake Toxaway was only 16 miles away, I decided to skip food for the time being, and try it. 16 miles on twisting mountain roads take quiet a bit longer than flatland. When I finally got to the lake, I found the same problem – all private access with no way to get to the lake. The mountains around the lake were carved up with huge homes – not I sight I found particularly appealing. I tried to find a route to the northern end of the lake, but wound up twisting over a mountain pass, then making my way back on yet another dirt road.
By this time I had just about given up on paddling, hiking, or any other activity other than driving home, so I decided to find food. Sergio’s Bistro in Sapphire looked like a nice place. However all they would sell me was a grilled pork chop with rice and beans, and they made me pay the $6 for lunch "up front". Did I really look that scruffy? I pulled out my Palm with its keyboard to start the first part of this entry, if for no other reason than to make a point that I had the means to afford my meal. The food was good, but the whole experience was just weird.
I called Laura and relayed the day’s disappointments, and she gave me an update on the weather, which didn’t look too good. It was already 2:00, and I didn’t think I would be able to do anything but head home before the storms started. I almost stopped at Whitewater Falls, but decided to keep going. More twisting mountain roads, which took me by Lake Jocassee. I should have gone there first. Oh well, even though it’s only a few miles from my route, I don’t have the time to invest in a paddle of this magnitude. Jocassee really needs a whole day.
On "scenic" Highway 11, I remembered that there was a small lake at the entrance to Table Rock State Park. The highway crossed Lake Oolenoy, and there was easy acess with a boat ramp. At least I was going to get to paddle a bit. The lake was only slightly larger than the one behind my house, but my house doesn’t have a fabulous view of Table Rock. I spend an hour on the water, and the only drawback was the constant sound of traffic from Highway 11.