Saturday, June 2, 2012

All that planning...

   So there has been a lot that has gone on over the past few weeks and I finally have a free moment to sit down and get caught up on it all.
            The biggest news first! Not only was one Charlie Holland busy planning our trip down the James he was also busy planning something else…

It could not be a more perfect ring for me. He did so well with this the sneak!

Yep it happened, I have found someone who wants to spend the rest of his life with me. It’s hard for me to believe but I could not possibly be happier.
            Oh yeah and that paddle we took. It was awesome, and did not go according to plan about 99% of the trip. But it all randomly worked out like it usually does. Here are the cliffs notes version and some of the photographic highlights of our trip.

            Day 1
            We knew that it was going to rain, and rain, and rain. And it did. I have to say trying to pack the raft in the rain and keep two dogs occupied and semi dry was not easy. While they may not be children, having two dogs on this trip, especially Seven, seemed very close to what my parents had to go through with my brothers and I while on vacation. Sit down; stop doing that, please put that down, no really put that down! What are you eating now? These were the phrases minus a few choice words that were used repeatedly throughout the trip. But on the whole the pups were good. So back to day one. There was a lot of rain, which was a good and bad thing all at the same time. We decided that we would both sit in the raft since the weather sucked and the river was up we saw no reason to blow up the ducky and have me paddle separately. I would be thankful for this, trust me. Within 25 minutes of being on the river Angus fell in. His poor little face as he slipped off the nose of the raft. I have to say that I laughed really hard and he did not find the situation amusing at all. He has this habit of walking all around the boat and refuses to be anywhere but up front. We only went about 5 miles when we had planned about 15 on our day one itinerary, but we figured that we could make it up on day two since the river was on the rise. Camp was cozy and wet, but we made it work. The rain stopped long enough for us to get camp set up and eat dinner relatively dry. We called it an early night and were in bed at about 7:45, and probably both asleep at about 8:00. While a short paddle it was a long day.

Packing up in the rain not really a lot of fun

Paddling in the rain

            Day 2
            What a day it was. We not only made up the ground we didn’t cover the first day, we doubled it. Thirty-seven miles in one day is quite impressive. And we shaved a day off the trip on day 2. The fog was a little slow to lift, but once it did the weather was perfect, and obviously the water was good too. We stopped for a lovely lunch at Horseshoe Bend and a quick call to our friend James “Dude” to see if he could possibly meet us a day early in Lynchburg. The worrying set in shortly after of where we were going to camp. Every campsite that we had planned was underwater, and every other spot that we saw was posted. We managed to find an island that we are still not sure if it is private or not, but it was a great campsite.  After being fed the pups immediately passed out and Charlie and I enjoyed our Mac and Cheese and Kielbasa for dinner. There were a few rumbles of thunder but luckily we dodged the storm. So thanks to the owner if we were trespassing, you really helped us out, and we cleaned up after ourselves I promise.

A much better start to our day today.

They really are good pups. Told you they passed out immediately.

            Day 3
            Day 3 started with worrying again about a campsite. All this planning we did was just out the window at this point. Everything was underwater. Then it happened. The beginning of the end of Seven’s PFD. She fell out well I think she jumped because she saw Charlie throw his apple core in the river, and why not jump in after it right? Then we had to get her back in the boat. If you haven’t met the Big Brown Dog, she is rather barrel shaped and heavy. This makes her very hard to get back in the boat, and by the end of the trip almost impossible to get back in. There was a handle on the backside of the PFD for this exact purpose, or so I thought. The first pull on it, and the handle came off in my hand. Luckily the rest of the thing stayed mostly intact. Well we will just have to make it work. After the struggle to get Seven back in the boat, worry started to set in again. Where in the heck were we going to camp? Luckily there was a campground that was perfect for us. Wilderness Canoe Campground. I highly recommend them. Not only were they nice but they didn’t charge us to stay since it was kind of an emergency. I was happy to be at a campsite that we didn’t have to worry if we were going to get run off or the river was going to come up and wash us out. The best part of this campsite was that we were able to get everything out hung up and dried out. While our stuff wasn’t really clean it gave the illusion of clean. Also at camp the repairs to Seven’s PFD could begin. Thank goodness for waterproof duct tape. Though I wasn’t pinning my hopes on this actually working for more than an hour.

Angus is very happy that we have a campsite
Notice the Perfect condition of the PFD she is wearing.

The handle you apparently aren't supposed to pull.
Duct tape repairs.
This is called Busted! I can't believe that it made it through the trip
            Day 4
            No real issues today and our campsite at Balcony Falls was perfect and out of the water. We got there at about lunchtime so we hung out for the day. I think we needed that. It was nice to slow things down a little. For the most part we had not really seen any other people except at Wilderness and when we stopped in Buchanan for a coke and some drinking water. Today though we were entertained. During the summer months Balcony Falls is a pretty happening spot so we were surprised to see anyone there with the water as cold as it was. There was a group of probably high school aged kids in tubes, and the girls had on rather small bathing suits that went by. I give them credit I would not have been out there in that water in a tube and a bikini in the first place, not to mention would I go through a pretty big class 3 rapid in a tube. But they did. I think the beers they were trying to save might have helped their endeavor. Then later that evening we saw two kayakers paddle through. It was a nice relaxing day.
Crazy tubers

Angus as holding the beer  

            Day 5
             So up until Day 4 Charlie had been doing all the paddling. Well I told him that I wanted a turn, and quite honest I needed to be doing more work on this trip. So after we got through Balcony and made it to the flat water I took the helm, and almost killed Angus. Getting used to paddling an oar rig is not easy or a quick process. I think I hit every rock within 4 miles of us. At one point Angus fell out and ended up under the raft. So the “worst mommy in the world” guilt set in immediately. He’s ok and no worse for the wear but I was getting the eye from him the rest of the day. Luckily no other issues or incidents and James met us at the Snowden boat ramp to pick us up to take us to the other side of Lynchburg. There are like 7 dams there so we decided to forgo the portaging and in fact you can’t even portage some of them so we caught a ride. James was kind enough to entertain a trip to the grocery store so that we could get the second half of the trip’s food and then he took us back to his house where we had a great lunch and visited with his family for a bit. Such an amazing group of people those Bourdons. After much anxiety about getting repacked and making sure we had everything we were off again. At this point Charlie had blown up the ducky and the pups and me were cozy in the raft. It was about an hour into the trip when I spotted something that didn’t look right on the side of the river. Well turns out there was a kayak stuck in a root ball on the bank. Needless to say we have a new kayak. And all I can think is how the heck are we getting this back to Richmond? We managed to find a gravel bar that was a great spot for me to collect river glass. In fact it had been the first place that I could really look for any. While I don’t condone throwing anything in the river, especially glass; I still like to collect it. The land wasn’t posted so we stayed and hoped for the best. I of course was paranoid the whole time. Nothing happened of course until breakfast the next morning when the cows that inhabited the field wanted to come down to the water. Dogs went nuts and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Me in charge. Look out!
He didn't want to get out of the tent
The cows that invaded the campsite
River glass I collected along the way
River jewelry! It started off as a joke but I ended up wearing it for the rest of the trip. Charlie's comment was he could have just found that for my engagement ring instead. I told him I would consider keeping the one he already got me.
            Day 6
            It was bound to catch up with us. If anything was going to go wrong it did on day 6. Once we got near Feagan’s Island the water go deep and slow. It was the hardest day of paddling so far, and of course no campsites. The saving grace of this was that this section of river we have done many times before. So we had a pretty good idea of where we would need to go if we found no campsites. Since we were a day early we decided to call my brother who was supposed to meet us on day 7 and see if he could come pick us up from Bent Creek and then we would all stay at the state park for the night and get back on the water first thing the next morning. Thankfully he could but he didn’t get there until 9pm. So we were a little grumpy and slightly snippy at each other. Not how I wanted Charlie’s birthday to go, but by the time that we settled down in the tent all was well again. We both knew we really weren’t mad at each other just frustrated. All this planning, and nothing had gone according to plan since day 1.

It's really hard on both of them being raft dogs

            Day 7
            It was a long day, but only because we made it long. We had the luxury of knowing that our next campsite on Cunningham’s Island was out of water so we took the day to enjoy the river. We stopped on a gravel bar for a long time to just sit and have lunch. Seven enjoyed splashing around in the water and barking at any other paddlers that came by. Angus napped in the boat for the most part. We made it to Cunningham’s at about 5 and I was able to wash clothes (that is a relative term mind you) and we had a great dinner of pita pocket pizzas. The highlight had to have been when my brother rolled the “found kayak” over in an eddy line right in front of the campsite. I swear it was the slowest roll ever, and of course I didn’t have my camera at the ready to capture it.

Even on the ducky he doesn't want to be anywhere but up front.
This got to be tricky to say the least.
His River Runs Through It shot

Seven lounging

            Day 8
            The theme of today was slow flat water. I had a hard day of paddling, but I love being in the oar rig. It does get tricky when the pups get fussy. It’s hard for then to sit in the boat for that long. At times I felt like I was driving a minivan of misbehaved children. Again campsites were a problem (noticing a theme here too?) We ended up staying at the Howardsville boat landing, which the owner is apparently trying to turn into a campground, but was not willing to let us stay there unless we paid $12 a head. Not sure if that meant the dogs too or not, but either way ridiculous. At this point it was about 7pm and all we had was a $20. It’s not like we had been anywhere near an ATM in the past 36 hours. The guy finally said ok to the $20 and we begrudgingly handed it over. Sad when someone takes advantage of someone else’s misfortune. That $20 bucks wasn’t going to make or break his business, and he will never get our business or anyone else’s I know. Yuck I don’t even want to go further into the whole situation. The bottom line was we had a place to stay and then we would be gone first thing in the morning. Then the drunk guys got there. While entertaining as drunken adolescents can be they were also annoying. We were tired and they were loud. Thankfully they were not there long.

She's trying to be good. And she was for about 5 minutes
Deep in thought or pouting not sure which
Last minute decision to break out the ducky.
All my Canada buddies will recognize the bungee; but this is how you
 keep your Jack and Coke at the ready on the oar rig

            Day 9
            We are way ahead of schedule by about 2 days almost. We were expecting to take 10-11 days for this trip and we only used 9 of them. While part of me was sad we would be getting off the water today part of me missed my bed and shower and not to get too gross but toilet too. The paddle from Howardsville to Scottsville was delightful. We had plenty of time so Charlie fly-fished a lot. The pups and I stopped where we could collected glass and just ran around. Charlie’s step mom Debbie was kind enough to meet us at the boat landing, and she got there with perfect timing. Just as we had finished packing up all the gear and pulled off the skies opened. I was so happy not to be spending the night in those thunderstorms and spending it in my bed (eventually). Once back in his truck Charlie noticed it not acting right and getting worse. There were moments that we didn’t think that we were going to make it back to Richmond. I had my fingers crossed the whole time.

Her spot on the boat most of the trip
My favorite shot of the boys

Fly fishing from the ducky. He makes it look easy.
I think she looks like a brown bear more than a dog.
One of my favorite spots on the river

            Day 10
            I include a day 10 only because the trip lingers and probably will for a few days as we clean up all this stuff. Luckily there wasn’t anything major wrong with the truck, it was just spark plugs and wires that needed replacing. So a big sighs of relief there. Then the clean up begins. The laundry is gross to say the least, and there is a lot of it. The worst part is that much of it has to be washed twice to really get the smoke and stink out of it. Slowly but surely it’s getting done. Most of the gear is cleaned up, and our porch looks like a livery since we had some rain here and had to move it all off the clothesline. The pups have refused to be outside for most of the day. We have had to force them out at times. They almost refuse to move off of their beds really. They have both decided that air conditioning is the way to go. We have a few more days off that we are filling with clean up and some jobs around the house.
            All in all it was a great trip despite some of the things that happened. I think we both appreciate being home, but we are already planning what we are going to do for our next trip. Oh yeah and a wedding.
Being a slacker and sleeping while we clean up

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