I have failed. I came up 4.86 miles short of the 2017 Challenge proposed by the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle. Between a bum foot, a Christmas head cold, and cold weather I just couldn’t get those last five miles done. Oh well. However, I believe in quality over quantity. I’ve hit some old favorites as well as covered some new territory. Despite not making my goal, I still think it was a successful paddling year.
This year I paddled quite a few of my favorite venues. These included Sparkleberry Swamp, Lake Marion, Lake Jocassee, the Indian River, and the Edisto River. We also explored new territory, including Lynches River, Lake Moultrie, Long Cane Creek, and the Oconee River. I had a chance to return to Juniper Springs in Florida and to once again explore the Landsford Canal section of the Catawba River. That doesn’t even cover all of the new venues in Washington State.
I always enjoy paddling with my long-time friends, but it’s also fun meeting new friends. I started making trips with the Tri-County Paddlers down in Berkeley County. New folks would join us on our Lowcountry trips, as well. I also made paddling connections with long-time friends from other settings – Gregg Davis, Jeff Holland, and Bennie Waddell. Bennie and I started “Water Wednesday” just so that we would make kayaking a regular thing. I hope we can continue that when I get back home.
I can’t pick a favorite trip, but there were some standouts among the new venues. Long Cane Creek let us explore some historical areas of McCormick County, but it provided some challenges in terms of water levels and strainers.
We haven’t done much paddling in the eastern waters of South Carolina. Rivers such as the PeeDee and Waccamaw have been intriguing, but we just have haven’t gotten to them. That changed this year as we took on a section of the Lynches River. It was very remote, but beautiful.
I spent Easter Weekend with Houston and we explored some areas near his home. These were new to me. The Oconee River flows into Lake Oconee and we explored those venues. We did our own Easter Sunrise Service on Lake Oconee.
I did quite a bit of paddling in Florida. It was a coping mechanism, as we dealt with the last stages of my mother-in-law’s Alzheimers. Mostly I kayaked on the Indian River since it was right out the back door, literally. However, I did get the chance to paddle Juniper Springs with Craig Lee. I’d paddled it ten years earlier, but had forgotten much of it. Water levels were low, but it was a good trip.
I made two trips to the Old Santee Canal at the upper end of Lake Moultrie. The first was with Lowcountry Unfiltered and the second was with the Tri-County Paddlers. The old canal goes back a couple of miles to a railroad track.
As for Washington, that was a different experience completely. I finally got up to Baker Lake to do some paddling. I also got out into the bays close to the islands.
Since I was participating in the 2017 Challenge I kept meticulous records of my trips. I paddled a total of 197.06 miles. That compares to 213.7 for last year. I also broke down the numbers according to state, venue, and the boat I used. By far and away I paddled the most miles on the Indian River in Florida at 40.7 miles. However, South Carolina tops the state list at 115.96 miles. I paddled more miles in my Tsunami, at 71.29 miles. I put 55.48 miles in on the Pungo, and 40.37 miles in my Pamlico Tandem, which is the boat I leave in Florida. The longest single trip this year was 13.37 miles on the Lynches River.
Laura says that I can claim to have reached the 2017 Challenge because there is some GPS variance and a margin of error. I also drove 3186 miles across country with two kayaks on top of the car. She says that should count for something.
Next year’s challenge will be 201.8 miles, but I kind of doubt I’ll make it. Since we’re in Washington we won’t be spending as much time in Florida where I have ready access to water. Yet, Washington provides some unique opportunities. I definitely want to get out to the San Juan Islands and do some paddling. I also want to get up to Diablo Lake and maybe paddle part of the Skagit River.
Regardless, I think it has been a good paddling year. I’m just grateful for any opportunity to be out on the water.