Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roadblocks to Vacation

            When most people plan their vacation they think of things like the beach, the mountains, visiting family, or even Disney World. When Charlie and I plan a vacation we try to see how far from civilization we can get and for how long. And for those of you who know me (those of you who don’t will quickly figure this out) most of our vacations involve paddling in some form. Last year our big trip was to the boundary waters of Canada with a few of our fellow firefighters. Ten days in the middle of nowhere, and at least a two-day paddle for help at our farthest point. It was awesome.
            This year we decided to stay a little closer to home. The two-day drive to Canada was just not appealing this year. So naturally we turned to the river that we love the most, the James. The James has two other rivers; the Cow pasture and the Jackson River, and several streams that come together to then form the headwaters of the James. We figured that we had two options; the Jackson or the Cow pasture. So we did what any good paddler and steward of the river does and we started doing our research. We started with our home library of paddling books and searched some trip reports. It was looking like either river was going to be a great trip. Then we ran into our first roadblock. It turns out that much of the Cow pasture as been deemed un-navigable and that the land owners have ownership of the river. Now I thought how is this possible? Or even legal. But with some more research turns out it’s true. We would have to cross the Cow pasture off our list. So next was the Jackson River. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful paddles in Va. Now I was really excited. Well again we researched (Ok mostly Charlie researched I was still bummed about the Cow pasture). Well there was the next roadblock. So the Jackson is going through a similar situation that the Cow pasture has been through. There is currently a lawsuit pending with the landowners and the fishermen. The landowners want the same thing to be done for the Jackson as the Cow pasture, and have it deemed un-navigable. Sigh… This whole thing got a lot more complicated then we had ever imagined it would. Well in doing some more searching we figured out that we could still potentially paddle the Jackson, but we would have nowhere to camp. While there is a lot of national forest land, just not where we needed it to be. Back to square one. Iron Gate became our next viable option. There is still limited camping, and we have had to plan this to a rather tight schedule to make it to the campsites that we won’t get run off from. The funny thing about the whole thing is once we get to Lynchburg the rest of the trip is a breeze. Well as far as knowing where we can and can’t be, and everyone that we have ever met on this stretch of river has been nothing but nice to us. One man even let us camp in his driveway when we were unexpectedly flooded out of a campsite several years back.
            Now I would just like to say that I can see where the landowners are coming from. If I was lucky enough to have land on the river I wouldn’t want anyone messing it up, but I would also never want to deny someone the pleasure of being able to paddle or fish the river. How is it that someone can own the water? I feel like there could be a compromise somewhere in all of this. It is just very hard for me to not get a little bit angry about the whole thing. I guess it’s just a case of a few bad apples ruining the bunch, and knowing that I am not one of the bad apples. The most disturbing part of this whole situation is that this could potentially place all of the rivers in Va. at risk.
            Now that we had all that figured out the next discussion became what boats do we take. We have a variety to choose from. The first thought was that we would take our smaller raft with the oar rig attached. Charlie and the pups in the raft then I would take a ducky (inflatable kayak). Like much of the east coast our weather lately has been freakishly warm and dry. The dry part is what worries me. On a trip to Balcony falls in the small raft to get Seven used to the boat, it was decided that all the gear and the dogs just weren’t going to fit in the small raft. So the 16ft raft with the oar rig it is, but the river levels have been on the bubble of us being able to take a raft at all. So canoes may be our mode of transportation, which should be pretty interesting with Seven. Her love of chasing geese might become a problem. Luckily we have had several days of rain, and we are keeping our fingers crossed.
            Despite all of this, I think that Charlie, the pups and any other of the rag tag group that may join us along the way and I, will still have a wonderful time. I can’t think of a better way to spend two weeks off.

Some pictures of our trip to Balcony Falls with our friend "Dude" (James) who by the way runs a really amazing organization called Urban Mountain Adventures http://urbanmountainadventures.org/   You should check it out!
Angus is an old pro at this

James and a hitchhiker 
Seven is not sure about this at all

She got the hang of it by the end

Should you want to help the cause of the Jackson River here is the link to the defense fund


  1. Thanks for reposting the link for the fund!
    Rant away about this. The more people we get talking about this the better!!! You go girl!

  2. I am the angler in the Jackson River case. Unfortunately our case impacts more than just the Jackson. VDGIF officials are terrified that if this breaks the wrong way, the commonwealth will lose hundreds of miles of fisheries. We have to win this case, and to do so, we can't run out of money. Please send our link far and wide and encourage folks to take a stand. Claiming a public river as your own is lunacy..or greed.