Monday, May 1, 2017

Kentucky Dirt and Water

I shoveled backyard eggs into my mouth—alternating washing it down with steaming coffee from my new favorite mug (a steel mug they gave us when we went to the Outdoor Partners Expo at REI Cincinnati) and Mandy’s homemade biscuits with pear butter made from pears we picked from Mamaw’s tree next door.  I ate quickly because we were planning to paddle the Kentucky River from Beattyville to Heidelberg with Jimmy and Ethan Murray and I needed to unload the Jeep from the trail work the day before, hook up the trailer, and get the boats loaded ASAP.

I was excited because I’d never paddled that section of the Kentucky.  Years ago me and my dad paddled the three forks above Beattyville to ascertain the feasibility of expanding Red River Outdoors’s business to the Kentucky for when the Red River was too low.  I fondly remember those scouting trips.  I distinctly remember that the South Fork of the Kentucky between Booneville and Beattyville was the best section, but there wasn’t good access to put in.  Now there is a nice public access just below Booneville.  Next time we’ll run the South Fork, but it is a bit longer at ten miles than the six we had planned to run with Jimmy and Ethan.

Mandy and the kids and I ate lunch while we waited for the guys to arrive at the put-in in Beattyville.  We’d already dropped a vehicle at Heidelberg and scouted the take-out above the lock and dam to make sure we could get out there.  We knew we needed to stay hard to river right to avoid getting near the dam itself, but it looked like a no brainer so we were all set when they pulled in to the parking lot at the put-in.

In short order we set out with six kayaks.  I towed Bean because we had misplaced one kayak paddle.  Ethan, who is the same age as Lily, paddled on his own for a long way, but Jimmy was pretty sure he would have to tow him too.  And in fact he did end up dragging his kid as I dragged my kid for probably four of the six miles.  Dads got a workout for sure.

At the put-in the river was flowing fast and heavy from recent rains.  I was slightly concerned, but once we got a few hundred yards downstream past the mouth of the South Fork we entered the long pool above the dam and there was hardly any current.  And that was the theme for the entire trip. We paddled.  And we paddled.  And we paddled. 

It wasn’t a terrible slog, though the last couple of miles there was a stout headwind.  It was strong enough we were riding over decent sized waves and at times there were whitecaps over the brown water.  For a half mile or so I remember putting my head down and just plowing ahead—calling back to Bean to have her hunker down in her boat to reduce wind resistance—and we sallied on.

The trip was mostly uneventful.  About half way in the kids all got out of their boats and swam in the chill water.  It was still April after all.  Bean and Ethan dashed for their boats when I told them about the giant catfish that reportedly live in the river. 

All in all it was a great fun trip and we’d definitely do it again.  I do want to do the South Fork next time we’re able to get over through Lee County.

On Saturday Josh Lowry and I (and his twin boys) finished section 2 of Hillbilly Hayduke in Bald Rock.  I say “finished” but we really just made the final connection.  The trail still needs considerable work, but it’s rideable now and that was the goal.  I need to go back really soon and cut out a couple of stumps and do some geometric work and some drainage work, but otherwise that section is ready to go.  Time to move full on to building out the Shackle Rod Trail. 

In other news: the Clay City boat accesses are moving along well.  The put-in at the city park is almost ready to move in with concrete truck and do the pour of the steps.  I’m hoping this week…
And then we can move on to the take-out at the new park.  A group of us are planning a big shin dig on May 29th (Memorial Day) to kick off and ribbon cut for the accesses and the new paved walking path at the park.  We think this might be a really BFD.

Anyway, that was the weekend.  Hope yours was great, and hope I have more to report as the week goes on. 

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