As we suspected, after our long haul we were not going to be up for a late-night trip. Our nephew, Chip, joined us after work, and we set about the task of putting together dinner. It seems that each of us had brought enough snacks for all of us. There was more food than the four of us could possibly eat. Stephen had prepared venison spaghetti for us, and we followed that up sitting out on the deck of the villa telling family tales and enjoying the evening in general.
The next morning we took our time getting started. We fixed a huge breakfast with grits, eggs, bacon, toast, and more venison, this time in sausage format. It looked a little off-putting, but tasted fine.
With such a gluttonous start, it was hard to imagine another paddling trip, but we headed out anyway. Stephen, Houston, and I walked down to where our boats were chained and set out. We would meet Chip at the boat ramp, where he would have his boat and the rest of our gear for the day.
Chip brought two of his nice new Perception touring boats. He was able to paddle circles around us, often quite literally.
The weather was very different from yesterday. There were still some thick clouds, but lots of blue was coming through. A thunderstorm had come through while we were having breakfast, but now no rain was threatening. The loons were back out on the lake, and it seemed like there were more of them. I guess it was a Saturday, after all.
I’ve always stayed on the western arms of the lake, and had never paddled up toward the Horse Pasture or Toxaway Rivers. I have hiked that area, and have camped at the top of Laurel Fork Falls, but had never paddled those arms of the lake. I had suggested that we might do those this trip. Unfortunately, those areas are quite remote, and both Chip and Stephen had to leave this evening. Instead, we decided to retrace part of our trip from yesterday. However, this time we would head up toward the Whitewater River and the Bad Creek Project. Chip had paddled up to Wright Creek Falls with us recently, so we wouldn’t revisit that location.
While still relatively calm, the water wasn’t as glassy as it had been yesterday. There also seemed to be a bit more breeze, and it seemed cooler in general. Still, conditions were great for kayaking, and we made good time across the lake.
Whitewater Mountain separates the Thompson River arm from the Whitewater River arm of the lake. We paused for a minute where the base of the mountain enters the lake. There a rocky outcrop was embedded with gneiss and huge pieces of mica.
The skies had cleared, and the shoreline was once again reflecting into the still lake water.
Having stuffed ourselves at breakfast, we weren’t quite ready for lunch, so we continued on our way. We headed up the Whitewater arm toward the Bad Creek Project, despite signs warning of Unsafe Water. We were hoping for a siren or some indication of a water release from the project. Given how low the lake was right now, we didn’t think that was imminent, and we figured we were safe.
Just past the Bad Creek Project the Whitewater River tumbles into the lake. Again, it was lower than the last time I had visited, but not by much. The falls, though, seemed even more dramatic with the lower water levels.
Once again, I tried surfing a few of the standing waves radiating out into the lake. These were larger than the ones from the Thompson River Falls yesterday, so surfing was a bit easier. My paddling partners all wanted to pose in front of the rapids, as if they had just run them.
These falls are the lowest portion of Whitewater Falls. The Upper Falls are accessible from a paved walkway and trail in North Carolina. Lower Whitewater Falls can only be accessed via the Foothills Trail. This little section is the tail end, and pales in comparison to its larger cousins. Even so, it’s impressive to see that much water fall into the lake.
We stayed in the area a bit longer admiring the rock formations and scenery, but didn’t get out of the boats. The beach where I had landed last time was about five feet higher with a sharp drop – not a good place to get out.
On the way back out Houston found a huge rock with a split, forming a cave. At high water levels this wouldn’t be accessible, but he was able to paddle inside. Of course, we ALL had to try it out. Chip could barely fit his boat inside.
As we paddled out of the Whitewater we were hit by a head wind. We were going to be in for a long battle. We decided it was time for lunch, as we pulled into another little cove. This one was covered in flat rocks, perfect for constructing a makeshift table.
Houston wasn’t satisfied with just building a table. He wanted a monument. Each of us set about stacking rocks.
Just as we set out the wind picked up. It was strong enough this time to knock over Houston’s and Chip’s stacks. Mine, though precarious, still seemed to be standing, as was Stephen’s.
Rock stacks didn’t worry me, though. What did worry me was that we would be paddling back with the stiff wind. We had planned to paddle up to an unnamed waterfall up the Corbin Creek arm of the lake, but abandoned that idea as we saw how late it was getting and how hard the paddling already was. We made our way as quickly as possible across from Whitewater Mountain to Fisher Mountain, where we paused for a bit.
All day we had heard a massive party going on at one of the few houses that line the lake. This one sounded like fun, and we were tempted to stop and join in. However, we kept going. The breeze and waves alternated, but the sky was still blue with white fluffy clouds.
As we approached the remote boat ramp Stephen and I decided we’d had enough. My kayak seat was still broken, and it had been digging into my back all day. Steve’s back was faring no better. Chip and Houston paddled on ahead to pick up the truck, giving Houston’s ego a much needed boost that his younger brothers couldn’t keep up. I explored the little cove around the ramp, along with its “Hobbit hole” erosion caves.
As we waited for Chip and Houston another rain storm came up over the mountains. This one, however, left us with a rainbow that fell right into the lake. They say there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This time I had to agree.
This time we had paddled about 14 miles, according to the GPS. Combined with yesterday’s paddle, that comes to 30 miles in two days, quite a haul.
Stephen loaded up and headed on back, but Chip stayed long enough to have bratwurst and sauerkraut with us. It was another great day, and we decided to make the Brothers Retreat an annual, if not more frequent, event.