Monday, May 2, 2016

Roanoke River Platform Kayak Camping

 

Paddling friends had mentioned to me over the last couple of years the remote beauty of paddling the Roanoke River and camping on the platforms recently put in by Roanoke River Partners. Each spring and fall I try to incorporate scouting trips for new awesome places to take clients. Some trips take multiple visits to work out the details and find the right spots....some are not good fits for taking women at all......but it is surely fun to spend time in the woods and on the water searching for an appropriate adventure.....I decided the Roanoke trip we did this past weekend was not a good candidate for a women's trip for several reasons I will get to....but want to share this treasure with you in the hopes you will either enjoy reading about it, or even better, decide to pack your yaks and GO! I most certainly plan to go back and paddle more of this pristine area, specifically exploring the creeks and additional platforms and paddling out into Albermarle Sound.
Our put-in, Williamston, NC: NCWRC access

"The Original Plan": (that got changed at the put-in...)Launch on Friday.....paddle from Williamston in manageable increments, end up on Sunday in Jamesville. Camp on Conine Platform Friday evening, then continuing on Saturday to Cut Cypress Creek and on to camping on Three Sisters Platform , then Sunday morning paddling a "short distance" back up Cut Cypress Creek to re-join the Roanoke and paddle down to Jamesville.
One of the few structures on the entire 27 mile stretch....

Friday night: Conine platform
Cooking dinner Friday night...homemade meatballs and my mother inlaw's red sauce, french bread with butter and grated pamesan. Who says we are roughing it???
"The Modified Plan": after spotting a Wildlife Resources Commisson officer at the put-in and asking him to look at my chart with me and review our plan, I asked him if the route we were endeavoring was the best route...he said "you do not want to paddle against Cut Cypress Creek current".....so we modified our plan to "Plan B" (always always have a Plan B and Plan C....) which was to paddle out of Three Sisters, down Broad Creek (with current) and re-join the Roanoke and take on a longer paddle down to Plymouth, NC. Much better plan.....I had been told previously that to get out of Three Sisters via Broad Creek would be paddling against the flow but that was incorrect information. This is why it is so important to do your research and ask multiple sources but the BEST sources are people that actually paddle the stretch you want to paddle. Motor boaters are also good resources but they do not grasp the work and energy we muster to paddle so it's better to get intel from actual paddlers if possible. Also remember a lot of motor boaters are fisherman from other areas and are not locals.....we paddled about 7 miles on Friday, 9 miles on Saturday and 9 miles on Sunday....
Our home for Friday night: Conine Platform. It was really nice with a screened in portion. Chris and Pete
opted to sleep with no tent....beautiful night and the bugs had not arrived for the season yet! 

So....our adventure begins with "Plan B...the Modified Plan...."
Weather forecast for the weekend: mid 70's...no rain until Sunday....66% chance, high of 80 degrees.
Actual weather: upper 50's Saturday with a high of 60, chilly nights and Sunday we realllly lucked out and had a bit of rain the last mile or so of our paddle and take out...but the tents were dry when we packed up Sunday morning....so we were A-OK with that weather, if not slightly paranoid that we didn't pack enough warm clothes but we actually did and remained toasty. I actually love paddling in the rain. Love my storm cagoule so very much.


So about our shuttle: I called Roanoke Outdoor Adventures and the owner said there was a $100 minimum shuttle fee (this just for a few miles for one person, no boats or gear), so I called Roanoke River Partners again and asked if there were any locals who provided shuttle....and she gave me a name of a local who may shuttle me....Gary was awesome...his daughter ended up being my shuttle on Friday (we left the car/trailer at the take-out so it would be waiting for us). I was very curious as to why she would do this (and said she never charged people) and she explained that she grew up on Gardner Creek and used to help out at Roberson's Marina and there was an article in she believed Our State Magazine about the marina...she filled me in on some very interesting history and even pulled over to show me the sight of the original marina.....the Roberson's Marina had burned down, Mr. Roberson died and his family basically made his wife leave (it was his families' land) so my shuttle drivers father helped Mrs. Roberson open a new marina.......where it stayed active for many years....but now sadly is no more after her death....so, Kelly and all the kids growing up on and around these waters were named "the creek kids"...and she likes helping people on/off the river. She also showed me an old dwelling, looked like a large boarding house that has plans to be restored and was part of the underground railroad. I was enchanted with the area and hadn't even made it to the water yet! (And I did pay her well)
Chris and Pete, most excellent adventure buddies
Our set up Friday night....they opted for "open air sleeping" in the screened porch....I opted for a little privacy.
Close quarters on the platforms. One reason it would be impossible to run a trip with eight people/tents etc.
Also logistically tough trying to tie tent flys down (not a problem if no wind and no rain like we had this night)
 but otherwise on this platform there was no where to tie down a fly...no privacy that way either...and no tie down
areas outside the screened in porch...you can rig up tie off's but there's just not enough space to run a trip (we have to have a minimum of 6 guests to run a trip and then there are two female guides). 
So tickled with my "Charmin Fire"
THANK YOU Rufus for the idea, it worked FABULOUSLY! When you are that deep into the wilderness,
even a small fire is such a comfort to have. The owls vocalizing was just tremendous, I cannot even explain
 how many owls we heard.....Barred Owls mostly...LOUD, very close by. It was incredible. I did find out I
do not like Blueberry Moonshine. YUKK. I have almost a whole jar if anyone wants it. I'll be going back to
my Apple Pie. 
We pack the boats to the VERY tip of the bow and stern...getting items out is sometimes tricky LOL.
Yes, that's my head inside the hatch making sure I got everything out.
Chris going under a tree across Cut Cypress Creek
Not another living soul on this portion. In fact, we were stunned that we were the only kayakers/canoers
 the whole weekend and only saw a handful of fishing boats (there was a Striper/Rock Fish tournament)
Me, going under...love backwaters like this....there was a good flow in the creek....
A fishing shack...occupied complete with a wood burning stove on the porch....

Saturday was chilly but we were warm and dry....Loved the lilypads, Spanish Moss
and Cypress...
Cut Cypress Creek....headed for Three Sisters Platform on Saturday


Probably my favorite photo of the entire trip....this is why we do this. All the planning, all the driving,
all the WORK, all the paddling....to immerse ourselves in an environment that can only be reached by
 a kayak...
so immersed that we hear no planes, no sounds of civilization, nothing but the peace and calm of the wild....
this is what it's all about. 
So many lilypads.....




The most immersed in the wild campsite I've ever experienced. Absolutely isolated. Just like I like it.  Three Sisters
Platform
Another consideration for platform camping is you must bring your toilet. We used a collapsible toilet
with eco friendly waste bags and paddled our waste out. Well...Pete paddled our waste out. LOL THANKS 
PETE FOR CARRYING THE POOPER AND THE POOP! Hey, he's always wanting to go on our girls trips 
so we have to put him to work to pull his weight! Pete is a joy and I am grateful to have Chris and Pete to adventure 
and scout with! You do have to reserve and pay for the platforms. For three of us for the two nights was $70. 
Our boats at Three Sisters, bedded down for the night.

The signs were a lifesaver...easy to get turned around in the creeks....we carried gps, charts, compass
and SPOT satellite beacon....

I felt like I was in the bayou.....Sherry Roy you would love this! Absolutely loved the black tannin colored waters in the creeks....

Ancient Cypress....

I spotted this old building down a creek from the river so we explored (it rained a little which I love paddling in a soft rain! Glad to have my storm cagoule!) We wondered if it was the original
Weyerhaeuser paper plant...it was fairly large, long and had a dock, perhaps for floating logs to the location...I did read in my literature that Weyerhause had a plan there many many years ago before building the current plant on the river, now owned by a Canadian Co.
The curren Weyerhaeuser Paper Plant (now co-owned with Domtar), it was HUGE.


Such beauty....Spanish Moss and a light rain


Resurrection Fern perhaps?
It was a little wet taking out but we were warm and prepared...."there's no bad weather, just bad clothing choices"
 Can't wait to adventure with you again my dear friend! We already have a list of the next place(s)!

Plymouth had some interesting history....hope the town can recover more and utilize their amazing location. Our take-out was 7 miles from the Albermarle Sound
Indeed, until our "Next Adventure" my friend! We already have a couple of must paddle locations on our
 "next list" Cannot wait! 

Gear is so essential to make a trip or break a trip. We are minimalists of course because we are 
kayak camping but you can take a few items to ensure comfort and joy on a trip....here are a few 
of my favorite items that I feel "made" the trip: 

Boat: Wilderness Systems Tempest 170, gear hauler, great for straight tracking, comfortable to
 paddle for long periods

Kokatat Storm Cagoule: absolutely love it. I can keep it nearby and slip it on while 
paddling without having to stop and take off my pfd....goes right over my pfd, cockpit, 
everything. Has hand warmer in front and hood and pockets...

Charmin Paper Fire: That was awesome, so thankful my friend Rufus Ward told me about it. 
If you want details, let me know. Super easy.

Thermacell Unit: the bugs were not bad but they did get a little more pronounced as the weekend progressed. With this handy unit, we didn't even need bug spray. Again, an awesome camping hack
 taught to me by my friend and fellow adventurer Rufus! 

Ice Mule: It's nice to pull in to camp and have a fresh, hot real meal at night and the Ice Mule
 allows you to do that. I freeze gatorade and small bottles of water to keep my food cool and 
can have cool food up until lunch the next night or longer....it's AWESOME. 

GPS unit: crucial for tracking mileage so we can start looking for our turns etc. although they 
did a good job of signage

Chart: absolute necessity for reading the river bends and creeks etc. 

Buff: because the weather forecast was warm (but incorrect!) we did not pack beanie hats 
(shame on us)...but we had our Buffs (I actually  had three of them) and they were absolute lifesavers.
 One around my neck and one on my head at night  and on Saturday for warmth. Was grateful to 
have this very versatile piece of gear. Also great to keep bugs and sun off your face/neck...
and cooling in warm weather to wet them and put around your neck and carotid arery....

Creature comforts that help me sleep like the dead: silicone formative earplugs that I can mold 
into my ears, a comfy small blow up pillow, a really comfy sleeping bag (compression). I have 
my comfort items down to a science. Ibuprofen and a melatonin help can also help for a great nights 
sleep. Chris had to wake me up Sunday morning...LOL.  It's a lot easier and more enjoyable to 
paddle and adventure the next day when you've had good rest. I can still hear with the earplugs 
but it does muffle all the little noises that can wake you up all night long. They are a game changer. 

Crazy Creek type camp chair...having no chair is just a real drag. This one I can also put in my 
tent so I can read and write comfortably. 

Binoculars (waterproof): I love them for wildlife viewing and looking for turns, creeks, signs, 
places to get out etc. 

Any other questions on gear I am happy to share with you, these are just some that are my 
"go to" gear items.

A list of wildlife we saw: 
Bald Eagle
Snakes
Turtles
Catfish
Osprey
River Otter
Muskrat 
Cormorants
Pileated Woodpecker
Smaller woodpecker
Owls and many many many owl vocalizations
Squirrel
Gray Heron
Great White Egret


                                                          Video above is of a muskrat swimming past our boats....

I can't wait to return and explore more of the platforms and then the Cashie River nearby...
the Roanoke is a treasure for sure! 
For more information, contact the Roanoake River Partners. They have done a wonderful 
job of getting people access to the river! 
SYITWS! (See you in the wild soon)
Jo





New Name, More Content

Every time I thought to update my blog, I was met with internal resistance. Now I know why. The name of the blog no longer reflected what the content would be about. When I started this blog I was just starting to re-discover my wildness for the outdoors and over the past 9 or so years, my approach and experiences in the outdoors has changed. They have morphed from tentative and ignorant to educated and bold. So...new name...new content and more often. Now that the name doesn't sound girlish and is a truer refllection of my outdoor life as a woman of the wild.
My next blog post will be of a recent scouting trip to the pristine Roanoke River, a new experience camping on the platforms.....an ecological treasure in our beautiful state!  
I hope you find your wild today! 
Jo

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hanging Rock; Our Local Treasure

After not being able to get out in nature for almost two weeks, options of what my day (the first since last week where the kids were back in school!) would consist of weighed on my mind and looked like this:
1. laundry
2. office work
3. oil change/tires rotated etc.
4. work on my book
5. organize and clean my office (it looks like Katrina hit it and vomited everywhere)

You get the picture. Each of these choices depressed me and made me sad. I briefly thought of hiding from life and crawling under the covers. That thought jolted me because I hadn't had a dark thought like that in a long time. Thankfully, my morning meditation routine produced an image. A clear, clear image.....one of mountain vistas and huge boulders overlooking a valley. An image of me, sitting there with my trusted canine and hiking companion, soaking up the sun and recharging my soul in complete solitude. The image was strong and just imagining being there gave me strength. I weighed what would not get done, I weighed how much effort it would be to assemble a day pack (if you've read any of my previous harrowing adventures outdoors, you know I now do not go out without certain "supplies")....how much effort to fill a water bladder, put on the synthetic layers etc. All of the preparations couldn't dim my deep desire and quiet the very real calling of the mountains, the rocks, the dirt and the water. Yes, the rocks, dirt and water were calling me, do they call you? There are many times that the call must go unanswered....but today I answered the call...it's more like a beckoning though.....
What unfolded was a nature quenching day of adventure and discovery, peace and solitude and the again experienced realization that we have such a treasure less than an hour away in Hanging Rock State Park. At over 7,000 acres, it is a literal treasure trove of nature's gifts to us and I resolved to immediately purchase (finally) a State Parks license plate to show support and gratefulness for these great places set aside for us to enjoy. I did go into the visitor's center to check on the trail conditions and saw two things of interest.
1. Hanging Rock State Park is hiring. A full time naturalist (40 hrs. week), and three other positions!
2. Ken Bridle of Piedmont Land Conservancy had an art display of his nature watercolors (I am a big fan of PLC and one of my good friends/former roommates works there). It was fun to see a side of their Stewardship Director I had never seen before!
 Here are my pictures and thoughts on them from the day. The laundry, office work, disaster zone office still awaits attention and they will always be there, but more importantly, my soul is replenished, my body has produced Vitamin D from the unexpectedly sunny and gorgeous day, my ears have heard the wind in the trees and my eyes have gazed upon the tremendous quartzite rocks. I hope you can find some time to unplug and recharge in nature soon, even if it is just a walk in some nearby woods or a quick stroll through your yard. Any time in nature is time well spent.

One of my favorite views....at the top of Hanging Rock Trail. Ravens were cawing,
woodpeckers
were drilling in the distance, and the wind was blowing through the trees....sometimes so
 loudly
it sounded like a car was driving up. Sunny about 39 degrees with a slight breeze. After the arctic blast
of late it felt gloriously warm!



Moore's Knob, looks like an ape profile, actually named "Indian Face" (thanks Dale Swanson)....Moore's Wall below it.

Wild Turkey tracks. I saw two or three turkeys walking as I was hiking up to the top.....and then came
 across their telltale tracks....do you like to identify animal tracks? 




What would I do without Jack? My buddy, my pal. Gotta take a selfie with my bud!

He loves to hike.

Jack enjoying the scenery and the wind in his hair

Must find out what kind of scat this is. I hope it's black bear. Update:
according to almighty Google it is Wild Turkey scat. :( 

On the way to Tory's Den, this gorgeous horse farm, I believe called Harrison Farm.

Passed this quaint this log church...I'd like to attend this church.....I wonder if it takes you back in
 time to services in olden days, simpler times.



Moore's Wall...makes me want to take up climbing. According to local Dale Swanson, the best technical climbing on the East Coast!


The history here is interesting. Hard to believe 100 men hid in the cave! Have you been there?
 Today was my first time.



I really was after information on the bridle trails. Sauratown Trail is 22 miles of equestrian paths. Must bring Rocky here!

One day Rocky will be tied to this hitching post. LOL

Leftover snow amongst the mountain laurel....I get so frustrated with my brain. Why can't I remember the difference between mountain laurel and rhododendron? And crows vs. ravens? Short leaf pine vs. loblolly pines? I learn it then I forget it. FRUSTRATING. 

Tory's Falls....unexpectedly GORGEOUS



Tory's den...as we walked into it, a squirrel was scampering towards us and the opening...he leapt back, turned and ran back deep into the cave. Didn't see him again!


Driving along Moore's Springs Rd., came across what must be the old Moores homestead. I had to turn around and take a photo of the awesome house. Obviously the family and farm that Moore's Wall/Knob etc. was named after...would love to know more history of them.

Bridge to their homestead

Moore's Homestead.....could it have been built in the 1700's? 1800's maybe?

Saw some Stokes Co. Cycling Club signs and trails....mountain bike trails I need to re-visit with Luke and our bikes!

The end of my exploring and adventuring for today. I had to keep the 4Runner in 4 wheel drive today to get out of a couple of spots, so it was a really good day.

SYINS (See You in Nature Soon),
Jo

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