Category: Boating


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By Trent Tibbitts

Growing up on the banks of the Raccoon Creek,  I had often wondered where the waters went. I knew that they flowed north and entered the Etowah River some 10 miles away.  But how did they get there and what was it like along the way.  From a young age I wanted to make this trip.  I have made it a goal to travel the entire length of the Raccoon Creek and to eventually follow the waterway to the Gulf of Mexico.  But one step at a time.  I have covered most of Raccoon Creek, only needing to complete the uper most section of  a few miles.  However, I was able to complete a large portion of Raccoon Creek with a canoe trip from our property at the Ford, all the way to the Etowah River.

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It was Saturday  May 28, 2016, Memorial day weekend. We had a party at the creek  for Wyatt who had just graduated from North Paulding High School. Being a three day weekend,  I wanted to take advantage of the time I had. John had been at the party all day and had helped setup.  His wife and kids had plans for the night so he was free to do whatever. I told John that I wanted to canoe down the creek to the Etowah.  He was up for it. The party wrapped up around 7 PM. It took about an hour to get everything together and in the boat. We both keep our backpacks packed and ready.  John gathered his supplies, emergency food and clothing. I took an extra MRE. We weren’t sure how long we would be gone. I then loaded a cooler with leftover ice, drinks, uncooked  hamburgers and hotdogs. I had the bread, pop tarts for breakfast, candy and a few ofher things in grocery bags under the seats. I put my portable gas grill in the back of the boat. I was sitting in the back with the cooler between my  legs.  Both packs were in the middle and John was in the front seat. I was trying to video document the trip,  so after a short video, we were off.

We launched at the camper right below the Ford.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have my sunglasses. We stopped at John’s Pavilion and I ran back to get them. Good thing, I had left the camper door open. I ran back to the waiting boat and we were off again. The creek water level was down some. One indicator of how much water is flowing is if any water is running over the road or not. There wasn’t any water flowing over the road, all of it was going through the pipes. This made the shoals difficult to navigate.  We were able to push our way through some if the waters were to one side of the creek. Often this ment we were right next to the bank and the low hanging tree limbs. John cleared the spider webs out for me.  If the waters were wide going over the shoals,  it would only be a few inches deep and we would have to get out and pull the boat along. Most of the time we would keep walking until the water got up to our knees. Just below John’s Pavilion is a small stream flowing into the creek from papa Hollis Tibbitts original Lake.  The stream forms the land line between John and Carlton. We paddled past Carlton’s place and to the Poky hole.  A favorite swimming hole of my youth.  It is a small rock ledge named after a female slave of the McGregor’s who were the first white settlers to live here. Papa Hollis Tibbitts was baptised here. A few hundred feet on down is the remnants of a cable Crossing.  The inspiration for my zip line across the creek at the camper.  Only a few dozen feet on down is the Mill Branch.  It is a good size branch with lots of water. You can read about it in my other post. It does drain a large area of the Sheffield WMA. The old Tall Pine road comes down the ridge here. It comes from Dent Myers Camp. Dent owns Wildman’s in downtown Kennesaw Ga. I’m not 100 percent sure of how the story goes but I believe he bought that land from Alton Cates, or papa who bought it from Alton.

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Poky Hole

 

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Mill Branch

 

Side note about Dent,  he was hired to be in a commercial for Canon Ball Tobacco. The seen was Dent and other Confederate reenacters charging across a field and a Canon being fired. This was in the 1960 and was being filmed in the pasture where the sub station is now on Tibbitts road. A lot of people gathered to watch the filming. When the canon was fired, it blew off the wheels. Dad said Papa got a big kick out of that and would tell the story often and laugh about it.

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The Tall Pine road used to follow the creek down stream before crossing it just before where the power lines cross now. The creek has washed away the bank and the is no longer room to walk in some places, much less have a road. Once across the creek, the road is the same one that comes up by Carlton’s and then on by Fed’s house. When Papa bought this land it was a public road. He had to put a fence on each side.  During  WW2 War years, when Papa and his three oldest sons and his brother Maston with his sons were cutting lumber, they would haul lumber out of the mountains on this road.

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Below the Mill Branch,  the creek makes a hard right against a big Boulder and travels East. Then in a few hundred yards goes under the power lines for the first time for this trip. One of only two times it travels on the east side of the lines before Crossing a final time in Taylorsville.  As we cross under the power lines we are on the lookout for deer and jump one on the North shore.  A King Fisher then flys by. We didn’t go five minutes the whole trip without seeing a King Fisher.

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Cliffs

 

Just past the power lines is the area known as the cliffs.  Not sure how tall they are, maybe 70 feet or more. On top of the cliff is the Copper mine.  A shaft that goes into the mountain about 30 feet and then has a shaft that goes down who knows how deep. The well part stays full of water.

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Copper mine

A little ways down is some bottom land, the old Charlie Burt farm.  The farm was bought by Jim Grant, he operated Lama’s of Atlanta from this farm.  Jim keep exotic animals on the farm.  He would have several types of deer, Elk, ostrich, zebra, I’m not sure what all he had. The watershead from my land ends up in the stream that flows through his farm. Along with everything between mountain Road, the top of the mountains at the water tower and Burt road. The creek makes a U turn at the Grant house that is on a bluff just above the creek.  We are now going in a northwest direction.  It is starting to get noticeably dark. We spook Wood Ducks a few times.  Once being right in here.

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Camp

We pass our last home sight before going into the WMA section of the creek.  We get right to the edge of the power lines before the creek U turns back to the northeast. It makes a big upside down S shape here and as we enter the top of the upside-down  S,  on the left is a flat area about a 3rd of an acer. The creek is on three sides and a large hillside is to the back. It is truly dark now. We have been using flashlights while padding for the past 15 minutes.  We beach the boat. A good bit of water is in the boat and several of our items are wet, including what we are waring.  We pick out our campsite and start a fire. John gathered most of the wood while I started the fire. Once we had a good fire going, we hung our hammocks. Luckily none of our sleeping gear got wet. One of my pads did but no big deal.  We got out the grill and cooked up two hamburgers each. While the burgers cooked we stripped off our wet clothes and dried them by the fire. I had a pair of dry pant and a long sleeve shirt to sleep in. We had a armadillo come through camp. John has a crank radio and we enjoyed country gold to midnight, then went to sleep shorty afterwards.  I had set out a crayfish trap that night and in the morning had caught, with out any bait, 3 crayfish,  two small fish, and a small turtle. No bigger than a 50 cent peace. We keep the turtle for a collection to the Aquarium. It made the trip to the end, not sure from there what happened to it. Packing up was uneventful.

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Hill Climb at Forsyth Shoals

We may have gotten on the water around 930 or 10. John was now in the back seat. Just above our camp was a small stream coming in on the left. It drains a small Valley in the WMA. There is a old home place there but I am not sure who lived there. Could have be a Forsyth because not far from there is a shoals on the creek called Forsyth Shoals. It is just below our camp and is under the next power line crossing. The creek has a good rock bottom here and was used as a place to ford the creek for many years.  On the North side of the creek is what was once a hill climb for motorcycles in the 60′ and 70’s. Several organized races where held here and covered in dirt bike magazines of the time. At the shoals,  the creek turns a little and is running west. As we go over the falls, John sets up his camera and gets a good action shot of us.

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Forsyth Shoals

Past the Shoals,  the creek stays straight for 1/8 of a mile and then turns North and to the right. At this point is where the wildcat den is supposed to be.  I have yet to find it. It may have be filled in with debris over the years.  I think Joe built a box and put down in it an caught a bobcat.  Just a few more yards down is the stone fence / rock wall that no on knows who built.  We believe it was built by Indians. Papa Hollis Tibbitts said he played on it as a boy and no one at that time knew who built it. It serves no purpose that I can tell. It runs up the side of a steep embankment about 100 feet. It would have been 3 or 4 feet tall when first built.

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Stone fence

We saw a lot of different types of fish in the water as we went. The water was clean and clear.  Very little man made trash was in the water. We only saw a few cans and a few tires the whole trip, and most of that was closer to Taylorsville.  We saw lots of big turtles fallin off log as we would turn a bend in the creek.  We only saw 3 snakes.  We also saw a Blue Heron and a few Red Tail Halks. The health of the creek is very good. The best part of the trip for me, was to know how well the creek is doing and how natural it is.

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About a 1/4 mile on down from the Stone fence, is the Murray branch coming in on the right.  This is the largest amount of water to enter the creek below the Ford.  It has a larger watershed;  From Blue hole road to Burt road to Braswell  Mountain, to HWY 61 to the north end of Narroway Church Cr., to Clay root Rd. The branch was once know as Gold Creek and a few gold mines we operated at its headwaters.  I have seen gold come out of it before and one good nugget.  Narroway once conducted baptisms in the branch below the Church.  Many of my family,  including myself was baptised there.

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Not to far on down the creek is where Clay Root Rd cross the creek.  The road one ran the ridge top from the city of Braswell,  through the Braswell Mountains,  past Iron Stob, past Clay Root,  past Pine mountain,  crossed the creek,  crossed the power lines and ended on Narroway Church Cr.

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We then passed several cabins along the creek belonging to the Cochran family.  The Grindstone Branch enters the creek in this area on the left. The last large branch to do so while in the mountains. The branch gets it name from a mill that once was on this branch.  From the top of Pine mountain there was a road that turned south off of Clay Root Rd and followed a ridge down to Grindstone Branch.  The mill site was just upstream from where the road crossed the branch in a small Valley.  When I was young,  beavers damed up the branch and a good size pond filled the valley.  Dad and I counted 17 dams in that area at that time. The road was blocked by several piles of dirt dumped between the high road banks. This made great four wheeler jumps and mud holes for me to play on. Brandon and I spent a lot of time there. He and I hiked there not to long ago.

Just before the creek exits the mountains there is one more noted area. Harris Bottoms or Sand Bottoms is another area we used to ride four wheelets. There was a large sand bar that had a bowl in it from all the four wheeler that had done donuts in the same spot. It was always a fun destination.  Once I rolled my four wheeler in the creek there. It took several hours to get it running again after getting the water out of the engine.  Another time I came up on Jason Tibbitts walking out. He had run out of gas. That is a long walk so I gave him a ride home. John and I hiked this area last year. Part of the  Union army crossed Raccoon Creek here on their way to Burnt Hickory then onto New Hope and Dallas.  It has a hard rocky bottom for a good long ways.  We decided to stop here for lunch. We grilled the last 3 hamburgers and 2 hotdogs.  We had a nice lunch on the gravel bar. Up to this point we had a tough time with shoals . A lot of dragging the boat. I was hoping that from here on we would be in deeper water.

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I was right about having deeper water but the number of logjams exploded. Up to this point we had only gone under 3 trees. From here to the river, must have been 20 or more. Two of them we cut our what thru,  two we carried the boat around, several we lifted the boat over and some we got out and floated the boat under. The rest we navigated. If the log looked like we could clear under it, no matter how small the space,  John though it fun to gain as much speed as possible and see if I could duck to the bottom of the boad before being decapitated.

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Last Crossing of the Power lines.

We were now in the Etowah River Valley and out of the Braswell Mountains.  The creek travels through hay fields,  cow pastures,  cotton fields and small patches of woods. We cross a few field roads and got out at one to make contact with the rest of the world, having been cut off in the wilderness for atleast 18 hours. John made plans for Linsey to pick us up and we were off again. This was the toughest part of the trip. The logjams really wore us down.  We only saw two other people while on Raccoon Creek and it was a man and woman hanging out on a sand bar in this area. We said hello and kept moving

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Not much to report in this area. We did see one more deer in the creek. About the only history I know is that about half of the Union army crossed Raccoon Creek in this area also on their way to Dallas. (Different from the aboved units)  I read just yesterday about the men bathing in the creek and watering livestock.  May of 1864. We did travel about a mile or more along a farm where the owner had lined the banks with old concrete. We did pass one more cabin and just before the 113 bridge there was a house on the right.

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Once at the bridge we called Linsey again to give her a up date. From Harris Bottoms to the bridge was a longer distance that I thought it would be.  From the bridge to the rive is about a half a mile. We only had one difficult log to cross. We went under the old Railroad bridge for the line that travel from Cartersville to Rockmart.  People used to take the train out to Rockmart and the on over to Van Wert to hear Sam Jone Preach at Van Wert Methodist Church. It later became a Baptist Church. I have direct ancestors buried there on the Johnson side.  We went under the Railroad bridges that supplies plant Bowen. Coal is delivered via train. It is one of the largest Coal fired plants in the country.  Just passed the last Railroad bridge is the Etowah River.  Several people were taking a break from kayaking and on on the left shore.

We enter the Etowah River feeling a real sense of accomplishment. I don’t know of anyone else who has made this same trip.

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Confluence of the Raccoon Creek and Etowah River

From Raccoon Creek at river mile 128 to the Euharlee road bridge at river mile 132 it is an easy 4 miles. The river looked to be up but did not seam to be moving that fast. We quickly pass by the Etowah Cliffs, an antebellum plantation.  At the base of the bluff is a spring coing out of the rock face.

At mile 129.8 is one of dozens of fishing weirs along the river. This one is a little more impressive. It is in a very wide part of the river and is a double V. Lots of nice homes are on this section of the river.

At mile 130.8 is the water intake and discharge for Georgia Powers plant Bowen. The plant takes out 40 million gallons a day and returns half.  The rest is evaporated.  The returning flow is the size of Raccoon Creek and is hot to the touch.  The plant produces 20 percent of the power Georgia Power sells.

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Milam Bridge

At mile 131.2 is Milam bridge. Only the iron skeleton remains.  This is where in 1955, Grady Cochran, who was working for Green Tibbitts at the time sawmilling,  dumped the body of Patricia Cook, a 13 year old girl who he had murdered.  He used chains belonging to Green to weigh the body down. Grady was arrested at the job site. A relative who was a GBI agent was able to get a confession and the location of the body.  He was coveted and died in the Georgia Electric Chair. During the War of Northern Aggression, and before the iron bridge was biilt, half of the Union army crossed the river here. The Confederate Soldiers burned the wood bridge but the Union built a pontoon bridge in its place.

At mile 131.5 is the Euharlee creek. Only a half mile up the creek is the old covered bridge and the old mill. The sisters who ran the mill last had some type of dealings with papa Hollis Tibbitts about timber they owned. I believe he gave them advice on its value. Euharlee is rich in history and has a good little Museum. Well worth the trip.  You can tube the creek down to the river from the town.

Only a half mile more is the Euharlee road bridge at river mile 132. We ended our trip here. Linsey came and picked us up in my truck with in 10 minutes of our arrival.

Very tough adventure.  A little tougher than I thought that it would be.  But very rewarding also. I am very happy with the health of the creek and the amount of wild life we encountered. This completed a live long goal and a bucket list item for me. Raccoon Creek is a channel that I can take to my past, my history,  my family history, history of the land but it is always flowing.

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Fort McAllister to Edisto Island Via the ICW.

By, Trent Tibbitts

It had been a dream of mine for years to cruse the Intercostal Water Way. I first had the idea when I was 15 years old. A friend of mine had sailed down with his uncle from Savanna on his uncle’s boat. His story always stuck with me. Something about it resonated with me. Over the years I would think on it and how free I would feel if I could make this dissent trip that seamed over the horizon. At that time I had a very rudimentary knowledge of the water way. It truly was a dream, without any thought of how to make it happen. Someday I would get older and do it. That was my plan.

I have always loved the Ocean. Each summer for my whole life, we had taken trips to the beach. Later on, dad would take me with him on day deep-sea fishing trips. We would sail on large 60 foot plus party fishing boats. We would stay out 6 hours or so. I guess that was my first time out to sea. I never was interested in fishing, I just loved being out on the boat. In my early teen years, dad, some men from his work and men from around the community would charter a 40 foot boat for a two-day trip. We would board at night, sleep on the  boat as the captain took us out and wake up 100 miles from shore. We would fish all day, sleep on board again, then fish half a day before the three-hour trip back to shore. We did that trip at least three times. What I loved was being out passed the sight of land at night, I would get on the roof of the wheel house above the boats lights and gaze at the stars. From horizon to horizon, 360 degrees nothing but stars. It was like being in a huge dome. One morning we woke up and the sea was as smooth as glass, not a ripple could be seen. We had been out when the swells were big enough to hide that 40 foot boat. At the bottom of the swell all you could see was a wall of water all around you. Then it would take the boat up to the top and the water would disappear from under the boat and we would come crashing down. The deck in front of the wheel house was covered and was supported with one inch round steel poles. I would hold on to one of them while the boat rose and fell with each swell, and I would slide up and down the pole.  Another time we were out, a sea hawk roosted on the boat. We seen a sea turtle bigger than a Volkswagen Bug swim by on one trip. Dolphins would ride the waves on the bow of the boat. We would catch a lot of interesting sea creachers; Amber Jacks as big as I was, sharks, octopus, and ells to go along with the more normal sport fish. When we stopped for the night we would anchor over some type of wreak to have better fishing through out the night. On one particular morning when weighing anchor, the anchor got stuck. The captain tried everthing to pull the anchor off the wreck. We would be right over it and the bow of the boat would sink down into the water with the force of the winch pulling on the rope. After some time the anchor rope was cut. By the time we took the last of those trips I was 16 and driving. My parents had given me their Red Ford Thunder Bird. We drove it down and back up. Only problem was the fish we brought back not only stunk up the trunk but the whole car and I had a date waiting on me at home. My first date to be exactly. We raced home the same afternoon after getting off the boat so I could go on this date. I spent most of the next day cleaning and washing my car. Using everything I could think of to get the smell out. Then I got the call. Wendy has called off the date. We would eventual have that date, date through 11th and 12th grade and married two years after graduating.

I guess the next time I was on the ocean was with Wendy, We had gone to her Grandmothers in Fort Lauderdale for our Graduation trip. I proposed to Wendy on her home beach during a full moon night. She said yes and lighting filled the sky from one end to the other. While there we took a cruse to nowhere. It was the first of several cruises we have done and Wendy’s first time out to sea. At some point in time early in our relationship, Wendy gave me a Seaman’s Cross medallion to wear on a necklace. It is a crucifix of Jesus on an anchor with a ship’s wheel behind the body of Christ. It symbolizes my belief in Jesus and my love for the sea. I have worn it for 20 years now. At one point in my early 20s, I was considering joining the Navy. I was wanting to fly F-18 off carriers. The Navy was more interested in me joining the silent service on a nuclear sub because of my high ASVAB scores in nuclear engineering. They even offered to take me to Kings Bay to tour the sub base. I didn’t do either and I don’t think I would have married if I had. So I am glad it turned how it did. Though I never went to sea for our country, I did go when I could. A cruse here or a fishing trip there, I always loved to be on the ocean.

A few years ago my dream took a big steep forward, Wendy and I bought our first boat. After weeks of searching, we chose a 25 foot, 1996 Bayliner cabin cruiser. It was built to be ocean worthy. The previous own would take it on deep-sea fishing tournaments. We do a lot of camping and liked the idea of being able to sleep onboard. The hard top gives us shade and a diving platform for the kids. We can pull a tube or fish from the stern. It fits in with all the things we want to do. Lake Altoona is our home waters. We can be on the water with in 30 minutes of leaving the house. It does have some draw backs. The lake is very close to Atlanta and gets a lot of use on summer weekends. By summers end the drain on the lake from drought and the drinking water being pulled from the lake makes it lose a lot of water. We don’t go very much from midsummer on.

Not to far from us is the Tennessee River around Chattanooga. We can be there in two hours or so. We have made several overnight trips on the Tennessee in several places. One of the beast trips was the cruse through the george. We put in on Nickajack lake and went all the way to the base of Chickamauga dam on the other side of Chattanooga and back. It is very strange piloting a boat in a current. At the base of the dam the river is very strong. It’s not til you are out of the george that the still waters of NickaJack Lake are felt. The TVA has built a series of dams along the river for power and flood control. Each lake is connected by locks and the river is navigable from Knoxville down. You could go from the mountains of east Tennessee all the was to the Gulf of Mexico or to the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes in a boat if you want.  We have not been in the locks yet but it’s on the list. All of these one and two night stays were gearing us up for our big trip on the intercostal.

As I do with each trip I stared my research. I ordered a guide book, bought maps and charts. I read blogs and web pages. I had each Mile planed out. We did a dry run of sorts a month or so before the big trip. We took the camper down to Fort McAllister state park and checked out areas to launch the boat from. We toured Savanna and all the sites around while we were there. We also attended a sunrise Easter service on Type Island beach.

After packing the boat with supplies we started our journey. Lucky our only troubles happened on dry ground. It started on the drive down. We were running low on gas but there were no stations for miles and miles on I-16 just before I-95 outside of Savanna. We nearly made it but ran out of gas just two or three miles from the first station. We made a call to roadside assistants and in short order we had help and gas. We the drove to the nearest station and filled the truck and boat. We then went back to Fort McAllister State Park where we had decided to launch. There is a marina just outside of the park that can launch boats with a sling but our boat and trailer is not set up to launch this way. We drove on to the Park but it had closed for the day so we could not use its ramp. The day was getting late a we decided to lunch at the small public ramp just outside the parks gate. After lunching and last-minute packing of supplies, we cruised up the Ogeechee river just to check things out. This was the first time we had to deal with river current and incoming tides. We tied up at the Marina and ate dinner at the on site restraint. We stayed our first night tied up here.

The next morning started our voyage. It was 5.1 nautical miles cruse from the Marina to the ICW at Statute Mile 605.5. The river was privately marked by the Marina. We took the ICW to the Ossabaw Sound and to our first chalagen, Hells Gate, just 2.5 miles North at Raccon Key. The cut is very shallow but we only draw about 2.5 feet, so hitting it at mid tide we had no trouble. It’s also only 20 yards wide and maybe 1/4 mile long. Once through the gate, we headed toward the open sea down Ossabaw Sound to Wassau Island, an uninhabited barrier island. We really did know where we were going, we were just following other boats. Once we seen the beach we knew where we were going. We beached the boat on the sound side of the island and dropped an anchor off the back. We walked around the island to the ocean side. It was amazon to see this huge beach and be the only people in sight. When we got back to the boat there we a lot more boats and people, plus the tide was in more and our boat was bobbing about. Our mud anchors for lakes were not holding in the sand. We tried to reposition the boat but other smaller boats were to close for my liking. It took some maneuvering but we got out without incident. It was mid-day and we headed back to the ICW. Like I said we were just following other boats and did not realise we missed the channel on the way down. Using our map we found our way back to Skidaway island and the ICW.

We cruse the waterway pass The Isle of Hope and a lot of nice homes. We took a left at the Savannah Yacht Club and cruse pass Thunderbolt Marina. Where we seen a lot of very big and very nice yachts. There are a ton of no wake zones and it is slow going. We make it to the Savannah River and look both ways for Oceangoing vessels before crossing to Fields Cut. This area of the ICW is very desolate and winding. At statute mile 570 we took a left up a creek called New River. It has several hairpin turns and a mile or so up has a good protection anchorage. We dropped our hook and made preparations to stay the night here. We had a small propane grille that worked more like a hot plate. We could grill buggers, chicken and chops and cook caned vegetables. Open a can of fruit and you got a meal. Breakfast was cereal and lunch was sandwiches. Up the river was a sand bar in the middle of the river with a small boat on it high and dry. The tide came back in and the owners came back to clam the boat. With shifting tides it’s hard to keep the boat in one location.So we tie up to the shore with one rope to the stern and use the anchor off the bow.

Our goal at the beginning of the trip was Charleston South Carolina. We love the charm and history of Charleston. Wendy and I spent our first year anniversary in Charleston. I belive the first time I ever went to Charleston was a company reward trip. We stayed on the Isle of Palms. We all liked it so much we would come back year after year. The first year we flew but after that we would drive. On that first trip was the only time I have been in a Hot Air Balloon. We visited Carolina Nursery and they provided us with a BBQ and gave rides to us in a tethered balloon. We went up maybe 80 feet. Same trip we visited Milton Plantation and the USS Yorktown. Again I went on a deep-sea fishing trip. This time it was on a 20, maybe 25 foot sports fishing boat. I didn’t fish, just took the boat ride. A few of the guys did a night shark fishing trip in the harbor with the same caption. They caught a big Bull Shark. To big to land. They got it to the boat a took some photos. The next trip and all to follow, we rented a three-story, beach front manshtion. I made this trip about 5 or 6 times. The house has a big back porch overlooking the ocean with a soft couch and a fire-place. I would build a fire and sleep most nights on the couch listening to the waves roll in. What a way to sleep. On the second trip we setup a kayaking trip on Wambaw Creek in Francis 20140125_154333Marion National Forest. We paddled up the creek, seen a few alligator and had a lot of fun. That got us hooked on kayaking. The next year we took a guided tour down the Wambaw Creek, to the Santee River, around an Island that holds Hampton Plantation State Park and back up Wambaw Creek. The idea was to use the tide so paddling would be easy. That did not happen. The guide must have misread the tidal charts because we had to paddle against the tide all day. When we got to the river a seen logs floating up-stream the guide keep saying “I never seen the tide this high before”. We were five miles in land. We got a little relief when we turned the corner to go to Hampton Plantation but we stopped for lunch and a tour of the Plantation. During that time the tide started to turn and now all that water that had been pushed inland was draining out. We again had to paddle against the tide to get back up the Creek to our truck.

I experienced the force of the tide a few years later. We had a few Sea Kayaks dropped at the house so we could play in the surf. I decided to take the opportunity to do a solo tour of the estuary on the inland side of our island. I loaded up on drinks and snacks and pushed out into the surf. I paddled out passed the breakers to open sea and turned south down the beach to the inlet between Isle of Palm and Sullivan’s Island about a mile away. Once I was even with the inlet, I turned and headed inland. The tide was coming out so the estuary was draining and the inlet was like a river running into the ocean. I was where these two forces were colliding. Water was trying to go in all directions, waves were coming in, tide was going out, a flood of water was coming out of the inlet and rip currents going down the beach. When I hit this sitting in my sea kayak it was hard to keep it pointed inland and soon I was overturned. When I hit the water I knew I was in trouble if not dead because I was a few hundred yards from shore. To my surprise and delight when I swam out of the boat and stood up I was in water no higher than my wast. I waded in to the inlet, pulling the kayak behind me. Once in tamer water I got back into the boat and paddled to the bridge where I watched a paire a of dolphins fishing in the narrows of the inlet. I spent the next several hours exploring the back channel of the estuary. I was so tired, I knew I would not make the paddle out the inlet and down the beach to the house so I beached the kayak at the bridge over the inlet and walked back to the house to get a truck to pick up the boat.

We had several other adventures on our trips to Charleston. One group that I was not a part of took a guided Kayaking trip in the Charlton Harbor and paddled around the Yorktown. I was on at least two other guided tours that I can think of. One was in the estuary around Folly Island and the other was a round Bull Bay where we visited shell mounds created by native Americans and seen Bald Eagle on nest. One year we chartered a dinner crews on a privet yacht around the harbor and around Fort Sumner. There are lots to see and do around Charlton.

Next morning we headed back to the ICW and on the way passed a very nice sail boat anchored on the other side of the hairpin turn from us. At statute mile 560 we took a left and went up the May River to the little town of Bluffton and pass Brighton Beach. We had to turn back at Bluffton and head back to Caibogue Sound. Then a right on Skull Creek and  passed Hilton Head to Port Royal Sound at statute mile 548. The sound is vast and is the biggest body of water we have been on as of yet. Where we crossed it is about 5 miles wide. There were some fairly big waves in the open water. Once across we went up the Beaufort River and passed Parris Island on our left, I mean our Port side. We made our first stop for gas at Port Royal Landing Marina at statute Mile 540. So that’s 68.5 miles from Fort McAllister. From there it was just a few miles up river to the riverfront city of Beaufort South Carolina. We will make a stop here on the way back. At the end of Brickyard Creek we cruised down the Coosaw River into the ACE basin (Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers) and St. Helena Sound. The sound is huge and to keep from having to be in open seas we snake our way through back waters and man-made cuts to the Edisto River.

I had been on this river a few times before. We made the State Park on Edisto Island  a summer beach destination several times over the past few years. Often camping a week at a time. Edisto is a great island in the low country, there are no hotels, one Piggly Wiggly, one gas station and few small restraints. The one we love is the Sea Cow. We go there for breakfast mainly and it is very good. It’s a small place, just seats 30 or so. The State park takes up about half the island, the rest is small privet homes on the beach and there is one back street. There is a golf course and a marina. That is about it. Wendy and I don’t like crowds or crowded beaches. Edisto’s slow pace fits us perfectly. But if we do want more, Charlton is about 40 minutes away. We have visited the aquarium, walked the Battery, seen Rainbow Row, toured old Homes of signers of The Declaration of Independent, walked gardens of Plantations, looked inside elaborate Churches, shopped the open Market, stroll cobble stone lanes, stood on old fort walls, took in history in museums and fount it in the streets, visited backyard gardens and ventured the deck of an aircraft Carrier. Between Edisto and Charleston is  Folly Island. On the north end of the island is Charlton harbor and an old light house. The island has eroded over the years and now during high tide the light house is surrounded by sea water. We visited it on one of out trips. The road ends close to the tip of the island and it is a mile or so walk to the pointe. It is state-owned property so there is no development in sight. The beach is covered in drift wood and dead trees from where the sea is eating the island. Very Cool.

Back in my days Kayaking around Charlton, I bought a map of the low country by Coastal Expeditions. It was made for sea kayakers but has so much information and is so accurate that I find it very, very useful. In fact it is my primary navigational tool on our ICW cruse. I can find old plantations that are not on any tourist maps. It is fun to drive out and see some of these historical homes. I used the Map to find Wyatt and I a kayaking trip down the Edisto River on one of our camping trips on the island. I brought my kayak and borrowed one from a friend. Wendy’s mom spent a few days with us so we had two cars and was able to drop one at the down stream end of our kayaking trip at Long Creek. I had a GPS with me and made a waypoint. It was strange to me why the “river” was so small here. We then drove to Good Hope landing where Wyatt and I put into the river. The river was much bigger here than at Long creek. That was very confusing to me. The river is flat water with a little bit of current. We paddle down without incident. The river is big enough for smaller bower boats. It is very remote and not many homes are along the section. After going the two miles that should have been our total trip length, the river is wider than when we started and does not look like where we dropped the truck. We stopped to check the GPS and the waypoint I had made earlier at Long Creek. The GPS shows the point to be about a quarter-mile to our right, not down river. That is when I discovered that Long Creek is a Creek that flows into the river and we have to go up it to get to the truck. We soon find the creek marked with a home-made sign that we would have missed if we had not stopped and checked the GPS. We made it back to the truck just a few hundred yards up the creek. The next day I used my map again to find a creek to paddle. I chose Penny creek that flows into the Edisto. It was the craziest thing, the road that leads to the creek goes straight into the creek. The road is the ramp. Not much to it, it was a small creek and I did about 1 or 1.5 miles down and then noticed the tide was really going out so I turned back before the creek got to shallow to paddle. There were a few log jams I had crossed that I need to get back across. I did see a few 5 foot Gators sunning on sand bars on my trip down. Most of our time on Edisto was spent on the beach.

We followed the channel markers down the Edisto River to the Marina. We docked and inquired about an overnight slip. We were unable to get the boat in the first slot they gave us. We asked for another location and was able to back into the slip. This is where we decided to make this our turning point. We had come over 100 miles on the ICW and add a few more when you count the side trips. We were familiar with the island and wanted some beach time, plus we wanted to eat ate the Sea Cow. We ordered pizza and took advantage of the marina’s showers while we waited. Wyatt finished up early and went back to the boat. While waiting on the pizza at the entry of the marina, I set up some bikes to be delivered the next morning. Once we had our pizza, Wendy, Sarah and I walked together back to the boat. When we got to our dock, Wyatt was sitting on the neighboring boat eating with them. They had a big sport fishing boat with the big fly bridge. We are talking about a $400,000.00 boat. The family of three lived aboard and were having friends over for a catered dinner. They were very nice and invited Wyatt over and he took them up on it. They offered us some also but we declined. While we were out a big 60 foot yacht docked at the end of our dock. It looked like wood but was steel hull. It looked kinda like the boats on Disney Worlds jungle Cruse ride, but supper sized and nicer. We found out later it was built-in England in 1880.

The next morning we started riding our bikes to the Sea Cow for breakfast. One off the bikes had a flat tire so we went by the golf course were the bikes were rented from and made the repairs. After eating we went back to the boat and retrieved our beach supplies. We loaded ourselves down with what we could carry on our backs. We spent most the day on the beach until we were forced back to the boat by a rain storm. After the rain storm and dinner the nice boat people told us about a secluded bay for tubbing and told us about Monkey Island. We spent one more night on Edisto Island.

The next day we tried to find the area to go tubbing but it is a narrow unmarked channel to get into and out of the bay. Without a depth finder, I don’t trust going through the shoals. We did make it out pass the point where the sound turns to ocean. This is as far into the true ocean as we go in the boat. We turned back up river and head to the ICW and cut over to the Ashepoo River and the St. Helena Sound via the Coosaw River. The ICW goes up river but we turn and go down river in search for Morgan Island, KAK monkey Island. Using the Coastal Expeditions Map we find the creek that leads inland on Monkey island. There is a half sunken ship at the mouth of the creek. It is a small creek and we have to watch our depth, so its ideal speed. Not to far up is what we were looking for. We had no idea this place excited 24 hours payor. Now we are just a few yards away from a colony of hundreds or Reece Monkeys. The island has a dock but you are not allowed to inter the island. There are a few tin roofed out buildings and Monkeys everywhere. On the dock, jumping on the buildings, jumping tree to tree and on the shore. I throw out the anchor and say this is where we are staying the night. Wendy is a nervous wreck. She don’t like the idea of all these monkeys surrounding her. We grilled dinner on the back of the boat and light our tiki torches as it gets darker. A flock of Egrets roost in a few trees close to the boat and make a lot of noise with their wings. Wendy can stand it any longer and goes to bed. The kids and I break out the spot light and shine it around and see a few night critters, Raccoons, deer, sharks and monkeys. We then get out on the front deck of the boat for some star-gazing. There is no light pollution and I have not see stares this bright sence those overnight deep-sea fishing trips. We see the Milky Way, satellites fly over and shooting stares. There is a lot that goes on in the night sky that we can’t see at home. The tide was going out when we anchored but during the night it started to come back in and the boat came off anchor. I felt us moving a little too much and got up to cheek. Sure enough we were floating up-stream. I got us re-secured and went back to bed.

We leave Monkey Island and go back up river to Brickyard Creek and the Beaufort River. Sarah did some morning tubing in the wide river before we got to the Town of Beaufort. Then we spotted some dolphins fishing in the area. Docking at the Beaufort Marina was difficult with the strong tide and river current. We rented a slip here for the night at filled up on gas. It is mid-day and we toured the city on foot. One of the shops we liked was a Butterfly shop. The owner was so nice to us and the kids. He showed us all around the shop and told us all about everything in the shop. We ate lunch at a little fish shack. We did so more shopping and sight-seeing. Once again we took advantage of the Marina showers and the shore power. The down side of sleeping on the boat is no air conditioning! To conserve power from the boat battery we only used small fans during the night. Having shore power allowed us to run the big box fans and stay cool all night. Before leaving we ate breakfast in town and visited the Butterfly shop one more time. The owner gave the kids a giant moth cocoon. When we got home we put it in between the kitchen window and the screen. When it opened it was trapped inside where we could watch it.

Back on the water way and down to Port Royal Sound passing Parris Island. We didn’t see any Marines. We then crossed the open water of the sound to the back water of Hilton Head Island. The channels were very well marked the whole trip. We didn’t have a chart plotter or even a good depth finder. We did have a common GPS unit but did not use it very much. We used maps and charts to navigate. All the channel markers are numbered so pin pointing our location was easy. Just keep it between the buoys. Most of the small back water channels are no wake zones with short sections of full throttle. From Hilton Head Island and Calibogue Sound we cruse toward the Savannah River. We met our only commercial traffic in this section. It was a tug pushing two barges. We had seen much lager rafts of barges on the Tennessee river, upwards of six or eight at a time. The Tennessee is much bigger than the small channel we were on and there was a lot of room to navigate around the big tug and barges. Here we are in tight quarters. The tug was navigating a tight passing under a draw bridge as we came around round a bend. We monitored channel 16 on our radio and could hear the communication between the tug and the bridge. Very professional, yet very personable. When we were getting gas on the Beaufort river, were heard another bridge master get all over a boat for speeding through a no wake zone where they were doing bridge construction. We pull to the side and let the tug pass. Bigger boat has the right of way.

Before getting to the Savannah River we travel the Fields cut where we got attacked by Horse Flys. By the time we got to the river we had a pile of dead Horse Flys. They got in some bits, but we won the day. Or at least got out with a tactical retreat. The kids did a little tubing in the no wake zone around Thunderbolt. When we got to the Isle of Hope and Skidaway Island we saw more dolphins. We hung out here for a while just watching them fish. Wyatt had gone on a school field trip a few years earlier to the UGA marine research center on Skidaway. They spent two nights on the island and learned about marine live and how the estuary system works. We were just off shore from its campus. Down from the Isle of Hope marina we passed the Wormwood Plantation that we had visited during our Easter trip. It was built by one of the first settlers who came with James Oglethorpe. In fact he was the surveyor who laid out the city of Savannah. This plantation has the longest Live Oak lined drive in the world. That alone is worth a trip. Only a few walls are left of the original Tabby house made from a mixture of shells and mud. The plantation is a Georgia State Park and has a great little museum that does a good job of telling the story of early Georgia.

From the Isle of Hope is a cruse down Moon River, yes the Moon River to Ossabaw Sound and Wassaw Island. We explore Wassaw creek and get stuck on a sand bar. This was about the third time this has happened on this trip. The other times we were able to get off with a push with a pole or just the engine. This time we were stuck good. The boat will float in two feet of water so water depth is not usually an issue. I jumped out to push us off the bar. Once off the bar I climbed back in the boat. One word of advice, make sure the bottom is sand and not mud. If it is mud you can get your feet stuck and not be able to climb back in the boat. With rasing tidal water that could be a problem. During one visit to Edisto Island, I read about a man having to be rescued by the Coast Guard who jumped out of his boat into mud to push it off a bar.  Wassaw is a National Wildlife Refuge, so it is 2,000 acres of federal land. All but a few hundred acres of private property in the center of the island. After getting off the sand bar we cruised back to the rangers dock and waited out a rain storm. While docked I checked out the rangers station and meet the  Ranger. Strang man, he told me that we could not stay tidied up to the dock. He said that it had to remain open for emergencies. There were five of us on the whole island, what emergency would need this whole dock in the time it would take us to move our boat. He told me how he would come out to stay on the island two or three days at a time and then home two or three days. I told him once the storm passed we would move and we did, about hundred yards down stream. More dolphins showed up. We tried to play with them but they acted like they had never seen a rubber ball before. With the engines off, they would come up to the boat and want food but we did not have anything to feed them. Soon we saw the ranger leave and we went back to the dock to fish. We anchored for the night below the dock. Just incase there was an emergency. We seen a few alligator so no one wanted to go swimming. It was another great night under the stars.

Last full day on the boat we promised the kids a beach day. It didn’t take but a few minutes to motor from out anchorage to the beach on the sound side of the island where we had been on our first day. This time it was a weekday and there was no one else there. I had also bought another sand anchor. We had learned a lot over this week about boating. This time we did not beach the boat, we anchored it off the shore and used the tube as a raft back and forth. Most of the day was spent enjoying each other and our privet island. When man does not spoiled it, Gods nature is amazing. So real and relaxing. After a long day at the beach we cruised back through Hells Gate and up the Ogeechee River and to Fort McAlester. We camped here on our Easter trip and explored the fort then. It is an earthen fort built-in 1861 to protect commercial ships on the Ogeechee. During the war of northern aggression,  the fort repulsed at least seven attacks by Union warships with rifled cannons before falling to ground forces during the march to the sea. We docked at the marina and had dinner at their restraint. It is a very nice place. Like I said we learned a lot on this trip. Wyatt became an expert on tieing off the boat at the docks and was a major help with the everything. After dinner we anchored across the river a watched a thunder-storm move across Savannah. Oh how I love the low country. The rain final pushed us inside for the night.

Next morning was moving day, back to Dallas Georgia. We cursed across the river to our dock at the boat ramp. I had learned how to use the river current to help with docking. First rule, face the current. I got the truck and trailer in place and stated to load the boat. This is where the day from the under world began. I am sure you have seen boat trailers with the tall poles on the back that stick up above the boat. Well, I don’t have those. They keep the boat on the trailer in moving water. With Wyatt’s help we got the boat hooked to the winch but while witching the boat gets turned sideways. The winch handle got wedged against the boat and we can’t turn it. I wade out into the river and push the boat strate with the trailer and Wyatt winches it on into place. We pull the boat out of the salt water and need to wash it out with fresh water. The boat is not on the trailer all that well so we need to do something. We drive to the fort and use their boat ramp that is in the back waters of the river and there is no current. We get the boat on strate and use their fresh water to flush the system. It’s now time to hit the road. There is a graduation party we want to get back home to. All is doing well, we are making good time. I am traveling in the right lane and come up on a slow-moving truck. We start-up a long hill and I pull into the left lane to pass. As I get around the truck, it happens. All heck breaks loss and I get the truck and trailer to the inside emergency lane. everyone is okay and I can still see the boat. I get out expecting to see a flat tire, if I could have been so lucky. The trailer has two axle and the first one had come off the trailer on the passenger side and the two tires rubbed agents one another. I had a flat tire and a tire with a bald spot. I was missing the U-bolts and plate that holds the axle onto the trailer. I walked back to the area where it happened and found the plat but the bolts were bent beyond repair and no nuts if they were useable. What to do. I had a spar but not two. We were far from any exit. Only thing I could do was un hook the boat and find what I need to make the repair.

The reason for the failure was my fault. Months earlier I was towing the boat home from a long three-day weekend at the lake. We had my whole family camping and boating together on lake Altoona. We rented three camp sits on a little pinnacle. We had our camper, my brother’s camper and had borrowed one other one. We also had my boat and rented a pontoon boat. We had lots of fun. When scouting for the camp sits weeks before I seen a black bear. A very rare sight for this area but becoming more common. I was able to get a lot of good photos. He had killed a young deer and was eating on it. While I was about to cross a tight bridge over the lake, I was met by a large truck that forced me too close to the bridge. Both right side tires blow out. I only have one spare. I replace one and remove the other one thinking I can get home. I made it about half way, then that tire blows. I am on the side of the road again. I decide to remove the first tire on the left and put it on the back right. This did not work because the front axle is now dragging. So I decide to remove the axle. After much labor it comes off. It is very late on Sunday night so we get the boat down the road just a little and park it for the night at a church. The next day I get all new tires and put the axle back on. I’m sure the bolts I put on that day became loss and caused my troubles on the way home from Savanna.

We went to a few stores and found what parts we needed and bought a spar tire. remember the tires that were on the boat were new from the last blow out. I didn’t think I would have ant trouble out of them. We ate lunch and headed back to the boat on the side of the road. With some time and labor we were back on the road thinking we left our troubles behind us. Think again, coming into down town Atlanta on I-75, eight lanes of traffic, one of the spares blow. There is no space. I pull off to the right against a wall and change that tire out with the tire with the bald spot. I was NasCar fast. Time to get off the interstates with that tire. We find a used tire place on the side of the road and buy another tire. using our GPS we find our way home on back roads. Once home we discover the windshield has been broken out. We made the party though.

We had some troubles on the way down and a lot on the way back but what a trip, it was everything I wanted: The freedom, the nature, the family time, the Sea. I would do it again tomorrow!

You wont find the Raccoon Creek on any Kayaking guide-book. In fact, I belive I am one of three people who have ever paddled the Creek. Out of the three of us, I have paddled it the most. The creek runs on family land and is a mile from my house. Most of the time the creek runs slow and low with large pools good for swimming. It is not a white water river by no stretch of the imagination. However, after a lot of rain the creek can rise and be come a raging river that overflows its 10 foot high banks and spread to 50 plus yards wide in its flood plain. Other times during periods of drought, the creek will completely stop running.

The first time I ever paddled a kayak was in Raccoon Creek after a small amount of rain. The creek was up a foot or two from normal summer pool. There once was a concrete road that crossed the creek and formed a one foot water fall when it came across. We call this are the Ford. With the water level up and the flow fast, a two foot wave was formed at this fall. I was around 22 years old and had a buddy a few years younger than me who had his kayak there playing in the wave. After watching for several minutes, he offered to let me try. He gave me a few quick instructions and off I go. I took to it very easily and was hooked. In just a few weeks I had bought my own.

He and I paddled quite a bit and I got more comfortable with my boat. I started paddling a three-mile section regularly. I would drop my mountain bike at the Ford and drive up to a bridge where I would put into the creek. Paddle the three miles and ride my bike back to my truck. It was a good work out. I knew this section very well. In the spring the creek flow was enough that it was a nice trip. As the summer went on the creek would get lower and spots would be to low and I would have to get out and drag my boat over the rocks. Between the bridge and the Ford there are two rock out crops that forms small rapids and there are two concrete coverts to go through.

One day we got a good amount of rain during the morning, so I called my buddy, Ben, to see if he wanted to paddle the creek that afternoon. We got our stuff together and dropped a truck a the Ford. While there we checked the level of the creek and it was up maybe three feet. Not to bad and it was flowing good but not crazy. So it was a go. We put in at the upper bridge and went through its culvert with no problem. It had a little wave where it dropped off like the road at the ford. The creek had a lot of water and was flowing good. We were having a good time playing at different spots down the creek. At the first rock out cropping we hit the little rapid two or three times. On down the creek, it splits and forms a three acre island. We take the larger section that is the longer route. The shorter section enters the main channel in a curve. When we get to this area, I try to go up the smaller channel so I can play in a rapid. My boat hits the cross current and flips. I have never mastered rolling my boat so I pullout. I have a paddle in one hand and an upside down boat in the other. The water fills the banks. I put my feet down to stand up and to my total surprise, I can’t touch the bottom. I know where the sand and gravel bars are and I swim to those areas and still can’t touch. The second culvert is coming up fast. Ben is hollering to get on top of my boat to rid it through the culvert and its rapids. I make it through to the other side and find an area that it is only wast deep. I know this area and I know the creek has risen sence we started. No more playing around, time to get home. We were about halfway there. It wasn’t much further down the creek that we came to a large Oak tree thar had fallen across the creek. The tree was about half in the water and half out. It would have made a good foot log. To the left was just enough water flowing that I could wedge my boat through and I would not have to get out of my boat. I was trying to get through this area and the log stretched across the creek to my right. Ben is a lot better paddler than me and was playing around with the log. I stopped and was looking to my right watching him. His boat got turned horizontal with the creek and hit the log parallel with it. When that happened, he flipped. Ben is good and can roll. He tries several times but the water is to fast and has him pined against the tree. Once I see that he has stopped trying, I pop my skirt and start to get out of my boat. I am thinking that I am going to have to walk out the log and pull him out. I was also thing, that we were at the most remote part of the trip and getting help would be tough. God was watching over us that day. By the time I was getting out, Ben popped up down the creek and some how his boat made it over the tree. He recovered his boat and got back in. We keep it safe as we finish the rest of the trip and had no other encounters.

The next week, I paddled the same sections again, when the water had receded. When I came to the tree that had given Ben so much trouble, the magnitude to our situation was evident. When I went under the tree, I could not touch the bottom of it. On each side of me were tons of limbs and debris. In kayaker terms they are called strainers. Because they will strain you out of the water or drown you. They are very deadly. Where Ben went through there was about a ten foot hole. He had a guardian Angel with him that day.

Ben went on to be accomplished river guide and I am sure has had more adventures than me.

Leason: Never paddle a rain swollen creek or river.

 

This is where I can talk about things I like and that are important to me. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.Image

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