For several months I’d been ruing the fact I hadn’t been in a kayak for, well, several months. I made up for my lapse over the weekend.
Saturday, Marcy and I went for a hike on the wild side of Lake Johnson. (That would be the nearly two miles of unpaved trail on the Raleigh lake’s west side.) As we crossed the footbridge toward the boathouse we took note of the $5-an-hour rental sit-on-top kayaks on the adjoining beach. A little hot right now — it was in the mid-90s at mid-afternoon — but an ideal way to spend the evening. Which we did, returning around 6:30 and taking out a tandem for an hour or so. We paddled west, checking out where we’d hiked earlier in the day. We paddled east down to the dam. We stopped occasionally, pulled our paddles and floated, watching the sky change from an oppressive haze-blue, to a muted yellow to blazing pink.
The next day was Father’s Day, and Hana and I have a long-standing tradition of going on a long paddle. Last year we did the traditional Frog Hollow Father’s Day paddle on the Eno, the year before we paddled the Neuse for about 10 miles below Poole Road. We’ve gone to Beaverdam at Falls Lake, we’ve paddled the Robeson Creek area on Jordan Lake, we’ve done Lake Crabtree. This year, in our tradition of paddling somewhere different each Father’s Day, we headed down to Brice (or “Brice’s,” depending on your reference) Creek in the coastal Croatan National Forest.
Brice Creek has been on my radar for years, but it seems every time I’ve taken the kayak to the coast I’ve had other destinations in mind: the White Oak River, the Black, island hopping in Bogue Sound, the paddle trail to Bear Island. I’d finally decided it was time to explore Brice Creek.
Before we put in, though, a quick plug for cross training. I may not bike every day, I may not run every day. But I do try to get in a daily 30-minute cross-training routine. I may just stretch and do ab work one day, I may throw strength training in every other day. At least five days a week I try to do something to benefit my core, my arms, my upper body. And when I decide to do something like paddle two days in a row after abstaining for six months, I’m glad I did. Unprepared, long stretches behind the paddle can cause a host of problems involving the shoulders, rotator cuff, upper back, wrists, elbows, lower back, hamstrings and neck. Thanks to my modest daily core routine I had no lingering effects from Saturday’s paddle. Now, back to the river.
Brice Creek proved an immediate surprise upon putting in at Craven County’s Creekside Park. This was no cozy passage shaded by Spanish moss-draped bald cypress: There were Spanish moss-draped bald cypress alright, but they were on banks 30 yards apart. Wide enough, we were to quickly discover, to accommodate jet skis and power boats (all of which cut their engines at first sight, sparing us their capsizing wake).
The boat traffic diminished significantly once we’d paddled past a wildlife resources boat ramp a mile upstream. Beyond that, a quiet set in that let us enjoy the nesting osprey above and contemplate whatever lurked in the creek’s opaque, tannic waters below. Banks lined with the aforementioned cypress, pines, red cedar and assorted bay trees passed slowly as we paddled lazily in the early afternoon heat. After two miles of paddling against a nearly negligible current we explored a half-mile-long channel that dwindled into shallows dominated by lily pads and downed trees. Here, as Marcy and I had done the evening before, Hana and I pulled our paddles and went adrift. Rocked gently by the shallow water, I vowed not to go a month, let alone several, before getting the boat wet again.
Perhaps some white water next time out?
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Cheap paddling fun: You don’t need a boat to paddle. Many local parks with lakes of consequence rent boats, from kayaks and canoes to jon boats (for fishing) and paddle boats, to Sunfish sailboats. No experience is necessary (except, at some parks, for the sailboats), and as noted above, the rates are cheap. Call your local parks district to see if and where it may have boat rentals.