All posts by Diana

Diana has been an avid kayaker since 2004. She started out as a dedicated swamp rat, flatwater, contemplative paddler, and slowly added other aspects to her kayaking primarily in regards to white water and year-round adventuring.

On the Road Again – Heading South

It was finally time to hit the road again. With rising expectations and a fistful of maps, we turned our attention to the deep south. On the course were North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  Our RV, Vinny, seemed up for the trip.

Leaving for the South 11-14-18

Peter had driven out to NY, while I flew from Portland. On the drive out, Vinny had a couple of reduced power episodes – a built in on our Mercedes diesel chassis – to protect the engine. The protocol is to pull over, turn off the engine and start back up. This resets the engine and if it’s a fluke, than all is well. Calls to Oregon revealed a laid back attitude of if it doesn’t happen too often, bring it in when you get back.

The cold morning of our push off from NY, Vinny went into low power mode even before we got onto the highway! Then all quiet for a while until we hit Pennsylvania when there were a series of episodes all going uphill, the last eliciting an engine check light. This was not good. Our goal for the day was Charlottesville, VA to meet up with a friend, five hours away.

It was clear we at least needed to know what was wrong. Many calls later we found ourselves in Wilkes Barre’s Motorworld – an amazing complex of dealerships and repair stations that employs 430 people.

Wilkes Barre

The good news was that it was a manageable hose replacement, bad news was that the part needed to be over-nighted. Hopefully, back on the road by noon the next day.

Fortunately for us, Peter has many friends who have a quirky love for insulators. In a short time, we had a place to stay, but had four hours to kill. Seven Bowls State Park just ten minutes away, had a river running through it that stepped down in a series. I however, spent most of my time sleeping and trying to stay warm while sneezing and feeling generally miserable. Peter and Nellie (his dog) went hiking around and up to old railroad grades on either side of the river.

We made our way to the friend’s home in the dark. It was packed with insulators as well as many other collectibles. I was semi-miserable in the clutter and cool temps. It didn’t help that I locked myself out of the house at 10:00 pm when I went to get some things out of Vinny! Peter and friend had gone to the pub without me so that I could be suffer on my own. Fortunately, I didn’t have to shiver for long before seeing the headlights.

Insulator garden

We were all set to make our way to the dealership at 10 am. Optimistically, we ventured forth in our ignorance! The part was changed by about 3:00 pm just as the snow began to fall. Not more than a handful of miles onto the highway, our check engine light came on. With nothing much left to do, we turned around. This led to another diagnostic that indicted that we now needed another  part that had been recalled. We booked a hotel after finding out that the part we needed was an hour and a half south of us with no hope of getting it in the now increasing snow storm.

My misery was beginning to increase with dashes to the bathroom. Stomach virus, I’m thinkin’, usually lasts 24 hours. Good thing we’re in the hotel. The next day, after many runs to the bathroom in the night, we decide I should stay in the hotel while Peter heads to the repair shop. Or at least that’s what we thought until they call saying that no one is going any where in this weather. We consider going to get the part ourselves, when we get another call saying it should be available by 2 o’clock today. I continue to be sick, eating only broth and toast when I could tolerate it, while Peter attends to Vinny. He comes back with Imodium since my situation is getting truly dire, so we decide to stay yet again and either get an early start, or more likely go to Urgent Care.

Well, the Imodium makes things much worse. After I take it that evening, I start also heaving. This goes on through the endless night…needless to say, we head to Urgent Care. There we are told to go to the ER, I’m dehydrated and could use a diagnosis. I can’t wait to get fluids. After a mere 5 or 6 tries, blood is drawn and IV is started. I had mentioned that a hot pack on my arm would be super helpful and by the way, Memorial Sloan Kettering does it that way for me, hint, hint…when the head nurse tells me that this is Wilkes-Barre and it’s backward – no heat packs, no heating pads, nada!

Lucky for me, I actually find out what’s wrong with me – Giardia. Giardia is an intestinal parasite that is often found in streams contaminated by human or animal feces that are infected, but can live outside the body for up to seven weeks! It also “ferments” for a week or two before the symptoms show up in full force. This had been true for me as my stomach had been queasy for about a week leading up to the Wilkes-Barre meltdown. I bemoaned how I had endured all that pain and discomfort for nothing! I could have been on the mend long ago.

Clutching my meds in gratitude, we finally restarted our trip south the following morning, three days later than planned with Vinny in great shape and me steadily improving for our southern adventures!

 

State 31 of 50: Washington – Yakima River

Relaxing Paddle on a River Oasis
Date Paddled:  September 12, 2018
Nearest City:  Ellensburg, WA
Put-In: Umtanum
Take-Out: Roza Dam
Duration: 4 hrs
River Miles: ~14
Shuttle: Lady adventurer
Weather: Sunny, warm 73, light winds, some clouds
Difficulty: Class I, I+
Cfs: 1200

As is easy to see from the image below, the Yakima is a ribbon of relief in an otherwise dry canyon-y land. This made for a day filled with wildlife – especially mom deer and one or more young ones eating or drinking with only slight concern for paddlers. Many herons, hawks, bald eagle, mergansers, and other diving ducks with song birds, magpies, and woodpeckers filled out our day.YakimaAfter the restless and rapid meandering of many western rivers, the Yakima displayed a more gentle character. The meanders were more rounded and long, the rapids easy and fun.  Even the camping was convenient with shuttle provided by a brave  woman adventurer who had been living out of her van for the past year.

The put in was by a lovely pedestrian bridge, the take out conveniently at the campground. We understand that this river sees lots of action in the summer months, especially near Ellensburg, but we were happy to have it to ourselves except for a few picturesque fly fisherman.DSCN7427The surrounding cliffs were made from a variety of stone and topped with basalt columns that formed during the last major geologic event about 7,000 years ago. The Deschutes formation created amazing hexagonal basalt columns throughout Washington and Oregon.DSCN7476

After paddling through deep canyon, we came to the beginnings of caves. They were adorned with swallow nests and covered by spider webs and dragonfly and mayfly exoskeletons. So many in fact that it had us wondering whether it had rained in the past ten years! DSCN7467
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Days like this one on the Yakima make me feel abundantly blessed – great river, perfect weather, amazing cliffs and wildlife…it’s easy to spend the whole day filled with gratitude. Some people like to sit and meditate, I prefer floating and active meditation. If I find my mind wandering to problems or To Do’s, I simply watch the reflection of the sunlight on the water, bouncing and changing, deeper and lighter and easily slip back into the moment, grateful, present, filled with love for this incredible journey…the literal as well as the metaphoric one…DSCN9747

 

 

Kayak 50 Update

The scurrying began weeks before the moving truck made its way to the driveway. A multitude of decisions were made to keep or to toss. Children’s progress was found in names scratched in crayons, numbers changing from single digits to mathematical Greek letters, and multi-page essays double-spaced. Maps, books, and well-used paddling guides each found their way into the keep, donate, give-to-a-friend, or take along piles.DSCN8122Moving was even more tangible when the truck pulled up, at the ready to bring all of our stuff to  Oregon, our new community of Sisters.

Our Kayak 50 quest has taken an interesting turn. Peter and son, Parker, are working on land we purchased last year. They are building the first outbuilding to house the water, electric, shower, and septic hook-up, and facilitating the process that that entails.

I’m continuing to kayak solo for now, having packed up from my six decades of life as a New Yorker and  heading west. My parents came to the United States from northern Italy in the post-war years west about 4,000 miles across the ocean and now I going west yet again about 3,000 miles of continent. My parents came for similar reasons that motivate me: to be productive, contribute, look for opportunity.DSCN8191 (2)First, I go south, to paddle the deep southern states, and continue to add to my own personal Kayak 50. Time for reflection and solitude pulls at me from deep, inter realms.

State 30 of 50: Maryland – Antietam Creek

Of battles and rivers
Date Paddled: November 17, 2017
Nearest City: Harper’s Ferrry
Put-In: Boonesboro – Antietam Canoe and Kayak
Take-Out: Route 38 Bridge
Duration: 4.5 hours
River Miles: 8.25
Shuttle: Gary from Antietam Canoe and Kayak, 12 miles
Weather: Sunny 48
Difficulty: quickwater, class I-II
Cfs: 180

The Antietam Creek played a significant role in the Civil War where Major General George McClellan launched attacks on General Robert E. Lee from defensive positions behind the creek. With 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing this was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. McClellan was relieved of his command and many speculate that the war would have been won with more decisive leadership.

Fortunately, thoughts of battles past were not in our heads as we headed out from Antietam Canoe and Kayak. We had spent some wonderful time exploring the Americana and antiquities in the old power generating structure with Gary, our gracious host and shuttle driver. He regaled us with stories of days when this was a hub of electrical production, the solid wooden beams and floor witness to the weight of both equipment and responsibility.DSCN6942The river was flowing at its near low, but still at a surprising rate for only 180 cfs. Sycamores of all shapes filled the shores in true bottom-land tradition.

Sycamores
Sycamores

Birds were still very much in evidence with ducks, geese, herons, kingfisher, pilated woodpeckers, and songbirds.

Beautiful, dark red-tailed hawk
Red-tailed hawk

One of my great pleasures while paddling is finding old railway or road bridges. The quality of these old structures is a real testimony to the care with which they were built. My dad did all the stonework on our house, while instilling a love of stone and appreciation for the difficulties of working with such a substantial  material.  
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DSCN7674Bridges also fire my imagination – What places did it connect? Who built it? What were the people day-dreaming about as they crossed the river? Perhaps the deer we saw had similar thoughts as we scooted past.

Curious deer
Curious deer

Paddlers get hungry. In the warmer weather, we’ll often find someplace to stretch our legs for lunch or we’ll eat moored someplace pleasant, other times like on the Antietam, we eat on-the-wing.

Today's menu- cheese and crackers
Today’s menu- cheese and crackers

This adventure to kayak Delaware and Maryland came on the heels of my breast cancer reconstructive surgery and by mile six or so, I was up to 14.5 miles with the previous Broad River paddle. I started fading with the sun as it hid behind the ridge and the temperature dropped. I was getting a bit panicky thinking of the next couple of miles. While I saw the need to keep warm with paddling, one of the surgery sites was complaining.

After a while of trying to tough it out, I popped some Ibuprofens and resigned myself to being towed and clipping/unclipping through the rapids- a tedious process. While no one would fault me for being towed under the circumstances, it’s still a humiliation! Peter cheerfully helped me out.
Not even exhaustion, cold or humiliation could dampen my appreciation of the Antietam Bridge (in the park by the same name).

Note the bungee with clip ends. We always bring these along  for this and portaging/lining purposes.
Note the bungee with clip ends. We always bring these along for this purpose as well as for portaging/lining.

Since our blog focuses on paddling, I won’t elaborate on Harper’s Ferry – all the history, restored village, great restaurants in historical buildings, the Potomac River and the Appalachian Trail Headquarters. All I’ll say is – go there – paddle and enjoy!

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State 29 of 50: Delaware – Broad River

Windy day and falling leaves
Date Paddled: November 16, 2017
Nearest City: Milton
Put-In: Milton City Park
Take-Out: Route 1 – old highway bridge
Duration: 4 hours
River Miles: ~7.5
Shuttle: car shuttle – 8 miles with Anita and John
Weather: sunny 58 and windy
Difficulty: quickwater, tide favorable
Cfs: tidal

At first, Delaware looks like a piece of cake for finding good paddling. There are a number of swampy areas that extend well inland, with tidal marshes in green parkland. Furthering my research, I discovered that Delaware seems to be the hunter’s paradise, each one of those red areas along the coast are filled with deer and duck blinds that are constructed by the state to promote their economy.

deUnfortunately for us, we were in Delaware at the height of the hunting season. So we moved onto plan B. I found the Broad River which seemed  just the ticket, with little or no rapids and tidal assist. Since my major surgery two months earlier, I had only paddled locally and was a bit apprehensive of this longer paddle followed by more paddling the next day.

Since I needed a bit of pampering, we decided to stay at an Airbnb with Anita and John at The Missing Link Hideaway near Rehoboth Beach. They were great hosts and even gave us a shuttle the next day from the Town Park in Milton. Thank you!DSCN7613We quickly kayaked away from civilization and heading down the, ah hum, broad river…DSCN6879We happened to be putting in at the right time to go with the slack and out-going tide. Even more importantly, for most of the paddle the wind was behind us, making for a pleasant pace. We enjoyed spotting a number of basking turtles as well as seeing the largest collection of turkey vultures (25 or so) hunting in the areas vacated by the outgoing tide.DSCN6901As we neared the ocean, the wind picked up and the magic happened –  floating leaves and abstract patterns. This is a good example of the surprising and spontaneous meditations one is treated to while kayaking. A major reason we’re so hooked on it!
The last part of the paddle was very different with marsh grasses and open, exposed, windy areas. This time the wind was against us and the last mile was a challenge. DSCN7641I was glad to get back to Vinny, our trusty RV, waiting to whisk us away to our next paddle in Maryland.

 

Taking a Break

Had to take a time out from Kayak 50 to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis. I had a mastectomy on August 2nd, a small revision surgery about five weeks later, and then finally on December 19th, I had the last reconstructive surgery.  It was a painful, long and weary time, yet also filled with many blessings.

The good news was plentiful: no chemotherapy, no genetic disposition (especially great for my kids), super-quick recovery, and a 16 percent chance of recurrence which is very low, even lower with dietary changes and supplements. Needless to say, much time was out of the kayak, however some enjoyably spent in my garden – a place of happiness and healing.DSCN7153It was a blessing to have friends and family visit me and everyone was such an encouragement!

Peter took good care of me especially in the first weeks when there was a lot to do medically speaking.DSCN7201 (2)While I was recovering, Peter made a trip to Oregon to buy land for our new home! We will be moving to Sisters in February. I moved my sister, Linda, into an assisted living facility in Bend from San Diego, good friend and kayaking buddy, Christian and his mom, Diane will join us, and I hope to convince my mom to move out too! Here’s a preview:

Nellie in our seasonal pond
Nellie in our seasonal pond
Yellow spring flowers
Yellow spring flowers
Tons of morels!
Tons of morels!
36 inch diameter juniper near the home-site
36 inch diameter juniper near the home-site
Views of Sisters Mountains
Views of Sisters Mountains

We will build as “green” as possible with passive and active solar design, building materials that are sustainable, and low impact on the land itself. We are very blessed and looking forward to 2018!

State 28 of 50: Connecticut – Housatonic River

Lovely recovery of free-flowing beauty
Date Paddled: June 28, 2017
Nearest City: Cornwall Bridge
Put-In: Push ‘Em Up – 1/2 mile north of Covered Bridge
Take-Out: River Road/North Road AT Trailhead
Duration: 4 hours
River Miles: ~8
Shuttle: Easy shuttle with car 11 miles
Weather: Mostly sunny 73 degrees
Difficulty: Mostly quick water, class I, II
Cfs: 580cfs

It’s always a pleasure kayaking the various reaches of the Housatonic River, a 30-60 minute trip from our home in New York. On this particular paddle, we were joined by good friends, Christian and Jen.

Depending on the water levels and ambient temperatures, there are a number of runs possible starting from the dam at Falls River which has water all year, but gets iced in first, to another possible put in at the 112 bridge, steep and slippery, but doable, to the one we chose at Push’Em Up, about a half mile from the class II+ to IV rapids under Covered Bridge.  The colorful name is from the fisherman who love this spot where the big’uns get pushed up by the rapids.DSCN6492 (2)Just before the covered bridge are another set of large rapids. If you don’t want to run them, you can pull out river left. This is a play spot in the spring with a nice pull out/parking area at the end of the rapids for quick transport back up to the top. It’s filled with large boulders which makes it exciting or terrifying depending on your skill level. At 580 cfs the rapids were about a II+ so that splashing on a warmish day was very respectable. Overall, the guys in our group were dragging a bit too much for their taste while the women found it very acceptable.

Just down from the rapids, we spotted this beautiful eagle. There are nesting pairs along the river and it’s rare not to see them!DSCN6518We were also treated to a merganser family caught in an eddy. They also are residents that you can expect to see. While there is the occasional house along the river and Route 7 that runs along much of the paddle, the Housy still feels wild and free! DSCN6490 - CopyThe bridge at Route 128 in Cornwall Bridge is a favorite and not just of this paddle. It is beautifully designed and has just enough rapids to make it interesting without being too distracting!DSCN6538The Housatonic has been the recipient of mucho dinero from GE who polluted it with PCB’s.  So, while it’s not advisable to eat fish out of the river with any regularity, there are has many more access points for putting in as a result of this environmental fiasco. Like most things in life, it’s a mixed bag of cursing and blessing! One thing for sure is that the views weren’t touched and they continue to astound in their verdant beauty!DSCN6511 (2)

 

 

State 27 of 50: New Jersey – Wallkill River NWR

A surprisingly beautiful flyway in New Jersey
Date Paddled: June 2, 2017
Nearest City: Sussex
Put-In:  Glenwood Road
Take-Out: Bassett’s Bridge
Duration: 3.5
River Miles: ~7
Shuttle: ~7 on country roads
Weather: 65 sunny becoming partly cloudy, breezy
Difficulty: flatwater, quickwater, minor riffles
Cfs: not available, medium-high water

The Walkill is one of few National Wildlife Refuges in the northeast. It’s importance is to migratory birds as well as more stationary threatened  species like the bog turtle. We were treated to the always welcome sight of a duckling skedaddling across the water – a sure sign of the transition from spring to summer:Along with the ducklings, three bald eagles as well as hawks and kingfishers were trolling for a tasty lunch. Finches, cardinals, tree swallows, warblers, and red-winged blackbirds among others, were part of the aural and visual choir.

The Walkill River reveals a number of faces based on different color schemes. The variety of vegetation, depth of the water, and stream-bed composition play a roll.

green
green
blue
blue
brown
brown
orange
orange

I’ve paddled the Walkill perhaps ten or twelve times as it’s not too far from home. Most of the year, it’s filled with birds but especially in the early spring when huge flocks of geese and ducks use this area to rest and replenish. Always present are the great blue herons who have a rookery of 25-30 active nests. I’ve never encountered any other paddlers and seen only the occasional fisherman at the take out. When one thinks of New Jersey, it tends to be in derogatory terms, but the Walkill easily dispenses the images of smelly oil refineries and congested toll-filled roads.

Most of the river corridor is lined with mature silver maples. A lovely site any time, but especially as the wind reveals the leaves silvery side:It’s fascinating to watching the wind combing through the fresh leaves on it’s way upstream – perhaps heading all the way up the Hudson to the Adirondacks…..

State 26 of 50: West Virginia – South Branch Potomac River

Called “The Trough,” hugged by mountains, filled with wildlife
Date Paddled: May 24, 2017
Nearest City: Moorefield
Put-In: Clover Road
Take-Out: Trough General Store
Duration: 2.5 hours
River Miles: ~8
Shuttle: 6 miles, 2 of them gravel
Weather: cloudy, low ceiling, 63
Difficulty: some class I rapids, calm stretches
Cfs: 120

Somehow a name like “The Trough” doesn’t inspire me with much enthusiasm. Images of mud-filled waters and breeding mosquitoes filled my mind even as the verdant hills rose in protest. Slipping our kayaks into the water dispelled any disparaging thoughts.
The gentle current allowed for lots of time to see and hear the many birds, fish, turtles, and deer that made this paradise their home.  Four eagles, two pileated woodpeckers, mergansers, four heron, kingfisher, cormorant, many sandpiper-types, cardinals, blue jays, grackles, yellow throat,  to name a few of the bird family!

We also came across a deer enjoying a mid-day snack who seemed quite undisturbed at our presence.DSCN5882Interestingly, we saw no signs of beaver here. This is quite unusual and left us puzzled as this seemed a wonderful habitat for them.
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DSCN6573No muddy thoughts left in this Eden of beauty!

 

State 25 of 50: Tennessee – Little River

 

Sweet smell of the Little
Date Paddled: May 20, 2017
Nearest City: Maryville
Put-In: Route 411
Take-Out: Alcoa City water facility
Duration: 4 hours
River Miles: 8.5
Shuttle: easy roads ~ 6 miles
Weather: sunny to partly cloudy 80+
Difficulty: quickwater, steady current, class I
Cfs: 274

The sweet smell of privet lined the Little River. While an invasive plant, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that wonderful smell. As we paddled along, the Little was a cornucopia of live with osprey, bluebird, kingfisher, wood ducks, mallards, cardinals, robins, swallows, herons, three types of turtles, and a water snake all enlivening the journey.DSCN6536Beautiful outcroppings of rock provided sharp contrast to the dreamy green of trees and water.DSCN5807 The great blue heron had nested above the river – unusual for a bird that generally builds in community. Our presence kept off the parent, but not for long as we slid under and downstream.DSCN5793Sometimes a paddle is wonderful for so many reasons, the color of the water, the fun rapids, the cliffs, remoteness, and so many others. The Little was a paddle filled with small details that added up to a big paddle!DSCN6514