NOTE: It’s been a crazy week. We’ve had family and friends in town, it’s Furman Homecoming, and it’s the week of the fall Greenville Chorale concert. I’m just now catching up on blogging.
I’ve been wanting to get back on track with our “Water Wednesday” outings. This past Wednesday was inundated with Hurricane/Tropical Storm Michael, which dumped tons of water and brought winds to our area Wednesday into Thursday. By Thursday afternoon, though, skies had cleared, so we were good to go for an outing on Friday. This time Jeff Holland and I headed down to Laurens county to the Boyd’s Mill Pond on the Reedy River. While any day on the water is a good day, this one presented some unique challenges.
Jeff had selected today’s paddling venue because of family connections. His grandfather had a large farm near Hickory Tavern and not far from where we would be paddling. His father now lives on that land. The plan was to put in at the new park and access point and see how far we could paddle up the Reedy River. If it worked out, he wanted to swing by his father’s place, and possibly explore the old cemetery located on the land.
As bad as the weather had been the day before, this particular Thursday was spectacular, with clear skies and light clouds. I already had the boats loaded, so Jeff and I set off early. Our route took us down to Simpsonville where we connected to Fairview Road. We stayed on that road until we got to the turn off for Boyd’s Mill Pond. All along the way we reminisced about our childhoods in this area. I hadn’t realized that Jeff and I had so many common connections.
I had paddled Boyd’s Mill once before. On that trip I ran into low water and problems with siltation. with the recent rains I didn’t think that would be a problem this time, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, friends were posting photos of Reedy Falls in Greenville like this just the day before:
I wasn’t too worried about rushing waters since we were on a lake, but I knew water conditions wouldn’t be ideal.
We pulled into the Karl Dixon Park and surveyed our venue. There was a swift current, but it was manageable. As I feared, the water was muddy and loaded with debris washed down from the high waters. There were bottles, limbs, and all manor of flotsam. We were wondering if we should have brought hazmat suits.
We decided to launch anyway. As we offloaded the boats and gather gear I discovered a HUGE problem. My favorite Werner paddle has yellow blades. I grabbed two yellow blades from my paddle holder, but only one was the Werner paddle. The other was a plastic oar from a toy inflatable raft. I only had half of my paddle.
I kicked mentally myself for my stupid mistake and for the fact that I hadn’t brought a spare as I usually do. However, we were here and I wasn’t going to waste a day. I jammed the two halves together to create a “Frankenpaddle”, hoping that they would hold in the swift current.
It did not hold. As we paddled out into the swift current the Frankenpaddle kept coming about. I tried paddling with only the Werner part, using it like a canoe paddle. It was too short, especially in such swift current. I was losing the battle fast, and was now worried that I might not even make it back to the ramp.
I managed to ferry over to the opposite bank where there were some low hanging limbs. I used the machete/saw that I keep in my boat to cut a small limb to use as a splint. The plan was to use paracord to tie it all together.
Yeah, I keep a machete and paracord in my kayak. I also have a first aid kit, fire starting materials, a way to built temporary shelter, rope, a grappling hook, a hammock, bilge pump, and at least one musical instrument, usually a harmonica. So the fact that I didn’t have a spare paddle was even more distressing. I also need to add duct tape to my paddling check list, because that would work much better than my paracord.
The limb didn’t work too well. We found that the toy paddle would come apart, making it shorter and easier to manage, as well as creating a more stable joint. The unused portion became my splint.
Not ideal, but at least it was better than nothing. At the very least I could safely make it back to the ramp.
Actually, I made it much further. It was difficult, but I was able to paddle against the current as we tried to head upstream on the Reedy River. We weren’t just paddling against the current, but also against all of the trash coming downstream. There were several basketballs and at least one football. Jeff carried one along for awhile until it got bumped off and decided to head downstream without him. I added a large trash bag to the list of things I wish I’d brought along.
The siltation I’d encountered on my first visit wasn’t a problem, but the current certainly was. We made it to a major bend in the river and I finally gave up. I was just barely making headway. My biggest concern was that I couldn’t control the boat like I wanted and found myself drifting toward strainers. The last thing I wanted was to get hung up in nasty water in a boat I could barely control. We turned around.
Riding the current back was certainly easier. The current was about as swift as the Edisto in places. However, we were supposed to be on a lake, and the current seemed to be just as strong on the open water.
We rounded a spit that separates the Reedy from a sheltered cove. There we found respite from the relentless current. We paddled on back into the cove, stopping to watch herons, ducks, and other water birds.
We explored several deep coves that were probably not accessible under normal conditions. The rising flood waters let us push deep into these spaces.
I admired the nice fishing spots I’d seen on my previous trip. It looks like one of these areas is actually part of the Karl Dixon Park. It was on a point just upstream from our ramp.
We had a bit of a surprise when we got back to the boat ramp. Apparently the flood waters were just now reaching this point on the Reedy River and the waters were still rising. The water had been high, but was still below the dock. Now the water was creeping up over the dock.
As we loaded our boats we watch another struggling kayaker paddle from further down the lake. He was really having a slow go of it, but when we saw that he actually was making headway, we continued our tasks so that we would be out of the way.
We were going to drop by Jeff’s father’s place, but he wasn’t available. Plan B was to ride down to the dam for the pond. We checked out the west side of the lake first, and found it locked with no river access. We got down to where we could see the dam and high river waters.
The other side of the river provided better views of the dam. Here we could really experience how much water was rushing downstream.
We still weren’t quite done. We were close enough to the old Martin’s Store that we headed that way. Thinking that it was an old country story, our intent was to get a couple of cold drinks and perhaps a candy bar.
Rather than a store, we found The Beehive Cafe. We decided to sit and have lunch anyway.
Jane was the waitress and part owner. She took our meat-n-three order of pork chops and vegetables. Jeff noticed a sign that read, “Life is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First.” True to that saying, Jane brought out a wonderful coconut-pineapple cake before anything else arrived.
I stole one bite, but did save the rest for dessert. Up next was grilled pork chops with butter beans, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and cornbread. It was all excellent, and made up for the difficult day of paddling.
We didn’t get as far up the Reedy River as we might have liked, but perhaps having a Frankenpaddle saved our hides. We would have been tempted to go further with decent paddles, and might have gotten into trouble with the rising waters. As it was, we kept our trip fairly short and had a great meal at the end. We’ll have to come back with the water is high, but not flooding.