Pattison on Wheels

Saturday, April 19, 2008

4-19-08: Happy In General

As I left that little slough where I camped last night there were some other paddlers on the river. First I’ve seen. I have seen a few motorboats with overweight fishermen smoking cigars and hoisting a beer but no paddlers. Mom is in a kayak and dad and daughter in a canoe.

When asked for a weather report they said rain is expected tonight and clear tomorrow. I went on by them as they were just drifting and chatting. I said they would see me again because I checked out all the side trips.

Having said that I began to see myself from their viewpoint and considered gong into places I didn’t really want to. No wonder I like being alone. What a lot of social freight I carry.

The river was wide and lovely. I tried the style of the family behind me and drifted some. Since the river is mostly going south the best light for photography is behind me. I’m getting pretty good at paddling backwards down the river. We leapfrogged for the ten miles to the little tree house cabin where they were to stay. The cabins are provided by Carolina Heritage Outfitters and cost $125 a night. The family invited me up to see it. Very elegant with a little gas range, a loft, and two futons. It will sleep six and there are others cabins that are a bit larger.

I paddled only a short way downstream when I found a lovely inlet leading to other channels. A large fish flopped and I pulled in there gliding between the cedar knees and into a little hideaway beach where I could flip the canoe upside down in case of rain.

I emptied it out, sponged out the mud and sticks from the last four days. Then I set up the tripod and took some photos of the canoe—some with me in it. The canoe is quite interesting. A worker for the Carolina Heritage Outfitters asked: “What kind of canoe is that?” I told him: "It is an Old Town canoe that my dad bought used more than fifty years ago." Together we are a period piece.

Happy to get dinner and everything squared away by 5:30. Happy to get these old bones horizontal. Happy with life on the Edisto River. Happy in general. The weather has been perfect. The canoe hasn’t leaked a drop since my repair at launch. I am in awe that I am privileged to have this experience. I am ever so grateful to myself for letting it happen.

Friday, April 18, 2008

4-18-08: Miles To Go

I slept for twelve hours. I think this is good. I noticed yesterday afternoon that my hand seemed steadier than usual when taking photos. Maybe the exercise, the peace, or tiredness. Maybe all three.

As you might expect there are biting insects in these swamps. I use lots of repellent and soon learn any spots I’ve missed. They are not bad on the river at all but they favor certain times and conditions on the backwaters I love to explore. I got the place and time perfectly during this mornings’s toilet. I never thought to spray my butt though I will in future.

A human in a little motor boat came into the slough where I’m camped. He seemed to be getting something from the banks. Traps?

I got moving on the river by eleven. I stopped for lunch around noon and took this photo which somewhat suggests the tea colored water that is called black water and it does look black in the shade. Then I paddled for five more hours. There was one place with fast water that was beautiful and challenging and the rest was just beautiful. I wouldn’t have pushed myself quite so much but I wanted to get past the Highway 21 bridge (where most people start this trip) and into the stretch below which is reputed to be some of the best. I also wanted to know where I was and how fast I was going. The map I have for the river starts at Highway 21 and the guidebook gives vague information. Below the bridge there are wood duck houses with big numbers indicating miles from the sea. They start at 103.

I stopped at the bridge to buy eggs and bread from the convenience store there. Then I went two miles downstream at, it turns out, three miles per hour. I soon found a little inlet and ducked in and ate six scrambled eggs with toast. Tired.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

4-17-08: Harmless Alligators—Dangerous Mosquitoes

I slept thirteen hours. I may have overdone the paddling yesterday. Ego. I felt OK though and took my time making fried eggs and toast and then disassembling the camp and putting it all into the waterproof bags and loading the canoe. I must have misread my watch when I shoved off because when I got back to the confluence of the North and South Forks it was earlier than when I thought I’d left. Probably about an hour coming downstream what took five hours up. More challenging down because of the speed you approach hazards.

From here the Edisto River became quite wide and after a while I felt OK to unpack the camera from the dry bag and keep it at hand.

The number of cabins increased. Some were missing roofs from an apparent tornado. There was a cabin with some one working on it. First people I’ve seen since yesterday morning. Lots of birds though, and turtles too, and one sizable alligator.

I drifted as slowly as the fast current would allow and kept exploring every possible side swamp and inlet. I kept weeping slightly. Maybe I’m happy.

I camped in an inlet around three. I unloaded the gear, inflated the air mattress, and rested my weary back. Well, I asked for some upper body exercise.

It was warm. I had rice and black eyed peas and retired to the tent to call a friend and then read safely out of reach of the mosquitoes which are plentiful in these little backwaters I like to nest in.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

4-16-08: Rolling On The River

I got up at 6 AM and by 9 I was at the North Fork put-in: Kill Kare Landing. With help from Mickey, my shuttle driver, we put the canoe in the water. I said goodbye to Mickey, loaded my gear, and tied it in when I noticed a small leak. I turned the canoe over, wiped the suspicious area with paper towels and put my new duct tape over the rough spot. Loaded up and donned a life jacket because I had no idea what to expect. All the gear is in waterproof bags and tied into the canoe in case of the worst. I pushed off at 9:30.

I am a fair canoeist and the river turned out to be quite friendly. I soon took off the flotation and enjoyed the ride. A few wood ducks, a deer, turtles, and one nice view of the giant pileated woodpecker flying across the river right in front of me.

By eleven I reached the confluence of the the North and South forks. It seemed too early so I paddled upstream on the South Fork just to get the full experience.

I paddled upstream against the strong current until afternoon when I stopped for lunch. I considered camping there but there were two trees rubbing and I knew they would say strange things to me in the night. So further up I explored sloughs and small river channels. Some went nowhere.

I looked for campsites that would be out of the way. Nothing seemed quite right and it was so pleasant moving slowly upstream through the beautiful woods and swampland I just kept going. I promised myself I’d stop at 4 PM but cheated and waited until 4:30. I have not seen one human since I put in. More close encounters with pileated woodpeckers, more deer, a few habitations, but no people.

I camped on a tiny island 100 feet by 45 feet. So? I don’t quite know how to explain the amazing peace available here. I guess I had some idea it was here or I wouldn’t have braved my fears.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

4-15-08: Launch Postponed

Last night, having made the commitment to go canoeing, I was very aware of my fear. I kept waking up and thinking of things that could go wrong. Will the canoe stay on the top of the car? Will it leak like a sieve? (I wrote a note to buy some duct tape and a big sponge.) Will I be able to sleep along the way listening to the alligators roar and hiss? Will I get the canoe tangled in brush and capsize?

It is a considerable act of faith. I have never taken this long a canoe trip before. What was I thinking? The vessel is untested. It’s been sitting around for quite a while from the looks of it. Well, faith is exactly what I need to practice. It turned out that by focusing on my fear I dropped off to sleep. The fear came from thinking about the unknown future but the fear itself was in the present. So focusing on the fear was focusing on the now and that is generally tonic.

Back down through the South Carolina Lowcountry. It was soon obvious that the new ratcheting tie down straps worked perfectly. Though the canoe is much longer than my little car it rode fine. I cruised at 70 MPH with no hit on fuel mileage—just the same as the car top carrier. The trees have leafed out in my absence. Very pretty.

The drive to the river was uneventful except for an ugly shopping experience at the Home Depot buying, you guessed it, duct tape and a big sponge.

I tried to get to the river soon enough to catch a shuttle to the put-in place but didn’t quite make it in time. So I camped near by in Colleton State Park which is right on the beautiful full-flowing Edisto River. It is also on U. S. Highway 15 and next to a noisy power plant. Not the idyllic vision I had for tonight but certainly not scary either. The only thing that worries me is that it means one more night to anticipate the worst. Maybe that won’t be necessary.

Monday, April 14, 2008

4-14-08: Canoe?

OK, I got my tax checks into the mail, did some more research on canoe trails, and I'm ready to go. I spent an inordinate amount of time in a dream store called Sunrift Adventures. They have stock on over 500 canoes and kayaks and everything to go with them plus a bike shop and god knows what else. I'd hate to drop in there after winning the lottery. I'd never get out. Mainly what I wanted and they had was a map and a guidebook for South Carolina river trips.

So tomorrow I head toward the Edisto River (accent on the -toe). Possibly the longest black water river in the US. The black water is from the tannin that comes from all the trees that live knee deep in the water. It makes a great reflector for photos. If all goes well I will canoe down about 123 miles of it so you won't hear from me for a while.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

4-13-08: Bizness

And so ends another day where I am actually living in a house and doing practical things. Shopping, online research, correspondence, and spiritual maintenance.

I'm reduced to using yesterday's photos and some of those taken indoors. This is comfortable but it has to end soon.

I did get to two meetings today and I'm beginning to load the car again after completely going through the whole kit and eliminating the stuff I have not used. It is a kind of easy laziness to be in a house. Seductive. I felt better traveling—thinking on my feet.