Trip Report - 4/2/2010 - VCL to ESP....Again


Posted on : 4/04/2010 10:48:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

After a very busy weekend, I finally have a few moments to report on my latest aquatic adventure.  An early morning outing with my newest kayak buddy, Kat. 

The total time of the trip was 2 hours.  We finally got started at about 8:30 AM.  The temperature was 60 degrees and warming as the day progressed.  The total time for the run was 2 hours.  I am estimating the distance at 5 miles; which makes our speed about 2.5 mph.  Much quicker than the run I made with Denis and Jamie last August.

The most significant contributor to our speed was water.  Although the gauge downstream had the depth at a little over 9 1/2 feet, it was not the same 9 1/2 feet that we paddled through last August.  If you are interested in making this run, then the best time to make it is now.  It will be much harder once the marshes have emptied.

The second factor was lily pads.   There weren't any.  Which made a couple of the marshy areas much easier to manage.

We began with a brief lesson for me.  Don't launch a kayak from a public beach area.  Use the boat launch areas.  Apparently trouble with law enforcement can ensue.  I mention that as I was unloading my yak in the park area when I saw a car with a yak in the back drive by the park and eventually end up over at the boat dock which I correctly assumed was Kat.  Rather than pack everything back up, I just paddled over to get things started.

We decided to shuttle cars to ease a graceful conclusion to our adventure.  By the time we were really ready, our 8 AM start time had slid to 8:30.

Vandercook Lake was almost perfectly still.  The biggest waves being made were the result of our kayaks cutting through the almost glasslike surface. 

One reason why I really like this run is that you have to paddle across two lakes before you get to any real flowing water.  That means you get quite a nice workout followed by an easy run with the river.

The first noticeably easier spot was under the bridge for Browns Lake Road.  Where our yaks had ground through the sand at the entrance to Browns Lake last summer, this time we slid through with nary a sound from the lake bottom.

Towards the end of Browns Lake and on through Williams Lake and beyond I discovered the additional delight of paddling with Kat.  She is a birder.  Where I saw feathers, a bill, and webbed feet and said "duck", she saw Mergansers.

Mergansers on Williams Lake by Kat Kulchinski

It was a treat to travel with someone that could identify so many different types of birds.

I am certain that we will be discussed at the next United Brotherhood of Waterfowl meeting.  We followed several pairs of geese and ducks at various times along the way.  The Canadian geese were the most timid, most vocal, and most irritated with our presence.  We got quite close to a couple of mergansers and one wood duck along the way.

We also had several encounters with deer.  Most of the time we saw them just in time to see their fluffy white tails bobbing away through the woods.  One pair launched away from us only to stop at the top of a nearby road.  A safe distance from the obvious threat of a pair of kayakers, but not necessarily safe from vehicular traffic.

The most striking encounter with deer occurred in a marshy area.  There two deer stood still as statues, except for their heads which slowly turned to follow our course past where they were standing perhaps 30 feet away.  Their fur blended in with the woods and the reeds so that they might have been ghosts rather than deer.  A little more splashing or talking and I supposed they would have gone running.

Most of the serious dead falls remained pretty much the same as our encounter from last August.  They were mostly easier to deal with due to the extra water that was flowing along.  Most of the time we just cruised right over the trees.

There is one new dead fall that comes right after the river bends towards and then sharply away from Wyckoff Lake.  Kat managed to get a picture of your devoted correspondent as he slid his graceful, if somewhat pudgy, frame under this particular bit of blockage.

The portly gentleman lifting a tree.  By Kat Kulchinski

That bend is also noticeable as that is were the river runs through someone's back yard.  Whoever designed the home appears to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Stone steps lead down not just to the water's edge, but right down into it.  Had we known the owners, we might have disembarked on their submerged steps and joined them for brunch.  As it was no one was there to greet us as we passed.

There is a concrete footbridge that passes over the stream.  A bit of stonework also graces the opposite shore lending the appearance of a calm pool rather than a way point along a rushing river.

Two of the more significant obstacles on this stretch of river are a pair of dams.  One is a metal sea wall structure that totally blocks the river.  The other is more like half of a dam.  It seems as if they only wanted to take out enough of the dam to lower the water level a bit, but did not want to invest enough time and/or money to totally remove it.

We had to bump and scrape across both last summer.  This time we sailed over both with hardly any effort.  About the only thing we really needed to do was to paddle fast enough to keep the current from turning us sideways to the current.

The sea wall dam was no big deal, even though it had the larger drop.  The half a dam was another thing.  I started off too far to the right when I should have just shot the center gap.  As a result, I ended up running next to a brush pile in a rather ungraceful manner.

Or at least I think so.  You be the judge.

Is this a category IV run?  By Kat Kulchinski

Ah yes.  Grace under pressure.

Our last run-in with the locals came close to the end of our trip.  There the river widens to incorporate a small pond.  The outflow from there is narrow as the river runs around a very small bit of land that juts out.  A Canadian goose had elected to build her nest at the end of this miniature promontory.  Had we wanted to, it would have been no problem at all to have touched her nest with our paddles as we passed by.  Kat attempted a photograph but could not get a good shot before the current pulled her past.

I just keep looking out for one really pissed off goose.

We stopped for a brief chat with a couple that were crossing the bridge at Probert Road.  Shortly thereafter we made our way to the end of our run.

My thanks to Kat for having me along.  If I had but one word to describe our adventure, I would use 'delightful'.

The map from last summer.

View Trip 6 - Vandercook Lake to Ella Sharp Park in a larger map

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