unfortunately...I've discovered a fantastic way to cross-train!
Kayaking! It's fun, cool, and strengthens muscles NOT used in
running. So, running on Saturday morning and kayaking on Saturday
evening makes for a perfect day!
August 19, 2008
I’ve gotten quite a few inquires about the Great Kayathalon
we did recently and more than a few requests for highlights of the trek.
I thought I’d try to put a few things down for those that are interested.
We began preparation on Monday night by loading our
new kayak trailer (holds 6 kayaks/canoes easily and makes packing and
loading SO much easier) and all our gear. We departed at 6 a.m. on Tuesday
morning and dropped the kayaks and all kayak gear at Bill Bellis Botel
(prearranged with them). By 7 we were at the Catfish Hotel parking lot.
Thankfully, Jimmy’s brother, Jackie, was there and preparing to accompany
us in a small inflatable kayak on our swim across the river. After a
30 minute wait for a large tow pushing 12 barges to pass going up river,
we set out about 7:30 on the swim. The swim was fun, but we did run
into an unforeseen peril. About half way across the river I spotted,
way in the distance, a tug coming up river. Assuming it was full and
would take maybe 20-30 minutes to get to us, I pushed on. A couple of
minutes later I glanced again and the tug was bearing down painfully
close, a white foamy wall of water plainly visible in front. It was
only the tug, without any barges, and it was moving up river as fast
as a fishing boat. As we treaded water, trying to decide the next course
of action, he veered sharply away….I’m sure uttering choice words for
those weird dudes swimming across HIS river!
The remainder of the swim was uneventful and soon we
were out on the other shore. We had been pushed about 300 yards downriver
by the current in the river. (There were 3 generators operating all
day and that created a nice current.) Jimmy’s GPS said .42 miles, which
was a healthy….but manageable….swim.
The next order was to change clothes and shoes, and
find the spot we had marked for our exit up the sheer bank of the river.
Finally we located it and pushed through the high grass until we got
to our climbing tree. The tree was easily climbable and one could nearly
walk up the tree limbs until able to step out at the top. It took two
steps at the top for us to realize we had made a big mistake by putting
on our running shoes. The dew was excessive and after 10 steps our shoes
were full of water. We continued out through the weeds until we got
into The Man’s soybean field, where we took great care not to trample
his vines. 10 minutes later we were on the gravel road. We had stashed
water and bug stray there and we took a break and hydrated before the
Soon we were on the way back to the dam…rather Bill
Bellis’. The entire way was very flat, no hills. It was, other than
one 200 yard paved section, gravel. The gravel was not a problem as
it was rather fine so it didn’t cause foot pain like larger gravel would
have. The course was beautiful and very remote. We did not have one
automobile pass in the 10 miles. There were fields of waist-high soy
beans covering practically the entire bottom and the road cut right
through the fields. There was some shade, tunnels of tree limbs making
a cool archway between soybean fields. We saw plenty of soybeans, many
just bearing their first flowery blooms.
The day was wonderful, especially for August down south.
We had stashed water in several places and marked it with tape. However,
when I arrived at the first spot I kicked and pulled weeds, but 10 minutes
of looking only resulted in me finding a wicked looking fire-ant mound.
I left waterless, then blindly ran past the second stash so by the time
I’d come to the 3rd stash, I’d run 7 miles in the heat and was thirsty.
It had been unseasonably cool as we entered the swim, but mid morning
brought hot sun and rising temperatures and I needed the liquid.
The land was so flat I could see the Paper Mill from
3 miles away and I knew I was getting closer. Finally the old barge
that houses Bill Bellis Botel appeared in view and the running leg was
over for me.
Jimmy’s brother, Jacky, arrived via auto to help stage
us for the kayak run, and by the time Jimmy finished his hike I had
run an extra mile, taken a swim and laid out a pretty good snack, including
a yellow (pronounced ‘yallar’ down south) meated watermelon which we
ate by digging the heart out by hand.
Soon we were on the river, pushed along by the current
created by the three operating generators and a wind blowing from our
backs. That made for a wonderful combination accept that it was very
hot….paddling in a vacuum. The river was virtually free of people. We
went an hour before we saw the first boat, surprising for a beautiful
day in August.
The Tennessee River, particularly that portion between
Pickwick and Savannah is wonderful! It’s clean, wide and has a current.
It’s an amazing, but highly unutilized asset we have available to us.
We just need to find more uses for it.
As we approached Shiloh we spotted a few mussel boats,
diver’s air generators puttering along as they grope along in the cold
darkness of the river bottom for mussels. Tennessee River mussels have
a unique use: many are shipped to Japan, where the shell fragments are
placed into farm-raised oysters. The mussel shell fragment is an irritant
to the oyster and it generates a covering for it. This, in turn, produces
the magnificent cultured pearls ladies proudly wear. I understand that
this is the only area of the world where the mussels live that can make
Soon we were at the bottom of the ladder at the Catfish,
having traveled the 8 miles in less than 2 hours. Pretty neat.
We carried the kayaks up the ladder before we ordered
our lunch….fresh catfish!!!
It was a fun event. Not terribly difficult, but rewarding.
It’s ‘doable’ for sure, although it does take some prior planning. The
only unsafe part is swimming the river….and that just carries a risk
of danger. I’m not sure there’s a lot one can do to lessen the risks
associated with traversing an active and sometimes busy, river by swimming.
Therefore, extreme caution is urged for anyone interested in giving
it a try.
Thanks for all those that emailed and texted.
RIVER KAYAK RUN
Pickwick Dam to Savannah, TN
The kayak run from Pickwick Dam to Savannah is a great half-day trip.
The scenery is good; it varies from open fields to wooded hills, interspersed
river houses of all makes and models. River traffic is sparse,
even on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, I
began my journey too late in the day and didn't allow enough time, so
I was forced to hurry and paddle hard in order to make my goal before
dark. I did the journey in 3.5 hours, which is too fast to gain
the most enjoyment. On my next trip I'll try to coordinate the
trip based on the number of “generators” that are operating
at the dam. The more generators active then the more river current
to aid in your journey. I found out after my trip that one can
call a number (800.238.2264) and define the information you are seeking
(punch 4) and the particular dam (punch 32) and you can
identify how many generators are to be open for the next day,
plus how long the gates are going to be open.
Another thing that's important is to try to
locate the portion of the river you are traveling in that has the fastest
current. I tried to travel close to the river bank, on the right
side, for safety sake. However, that was not always the place
to ride on the fastest moving water. In fact, there were times
when, with the various action of the river, I was going against the
current. Don't expect too much from the "current"
I'm discussing. I'm talking about the water moving downstream
at a leisurely pace, maybe 3-4 miles per hour. It is, however,
enough to help out. My journey was 3.5 hours of very steady paddling.
I didn't allow enough time for sightseeing, picture-taking, stretching
my legs or relieving the stress on my butt…which proved to be
my biggest ailment. I was nervous about making my goal before
dark and didn't carry a map, so I was just hoping to avoid a bad situation.
The river passes directly under Shiloh Park,
(of course the battle was at Pittsburg Landing, so that should give
a hint). This is about 8 miles downriver from the Dam. This
would be a neat place to stop and make a short hike up the hill to park
headquarters. Also, just one-half mile from Shiloh is the Catfish
Hotel. Another fun experience would be to stop there for lunch
or an early dinner, then after refueling, travel on to Savannah. The
further away from the Dam, the less current, and the last 4 miles or
so was difficult. By then I was tired, hot, thirsty and hungry,
plus I didn't want to take the time to stop and stretch my legs.
Again, I didn't allow enough time.
My buddy, Matt Jones, somehow folded himself
into my mini-Toyota pickup and shoved me off below the Dam then, 3.5
hours later, was waiting for me at Savannah at the park when I arrived.
He had driven to the Catfish Hotel to watch me pass, but missed me.
Incidentally, there was cell service each time I looked during the journey;
it was nice to have the phone for coordination at the pickup stop….and
to assure my somewhat dubious wife that I was fine. Of course
I carried my cell in a waterproof case. Overall, it was a fun
Sunday afternoon mini-adventure.
(RUNNING, EATING AND KAYAKING)
met in Waterloo, AL at 7 A.M., me arriving via pontoon boat with
kayak on board, and my buddy John, via automobile., from his home in
Florence. Waterloo is a quaint village sitting right on the
north bank of the Tennessee River, approximately 20 miles, by water
east of Pickwick Dam. It has much history associated with it.
Read the historical marker below.
plaque fails to mention that Waterloo was on the TRAIL OF TEARS and
there is a small park there dedicated to that tragic event.
By automobile, one can reach Waterloo via Hwy. 14 which leaves the Natchez
Trace several miles north of Hwy. 72. Hwy. 14 is a scenic highway
that winds for about 12 miles before passing through Waterloo.
For about 3 miles after the highway leaves Waterloo, it follows the
shoreline of the lake (river) and is a
beautiful and scenic running route. With a little imagination,
one could imagine himself on Hwy. 1, on the northern coast of California.
John and I had a nice 8 miler, (four out and back). Four miles
took us to an old fashioned country store where we were able to PowerAde-up.
the run, we cooled down with a short swim and loaded on the pontoon.
We crossed the river to the Mississippi side to Eastport and had a nice
breakfast at a small cafe that is open on weekends. The restaurant
is located on the water at Eastport Harbor. The food is good and
service is excellent. But it's necessary to find a seat outside
and away from the cigarette smokers.
After breakfast we travel back to Waterloo and John departed.
I took about three hours to explore Second Creek in it's entirety.
It enters the Tennessee at Waterloo and forms a large 'bay' of quiet
water. I paddled under the low Hwy. 14 bridge (see below) and
entered the calm waters of the bay.
was able to navigate all the way back to where Second Creek enters the
bay and then follow the creek several hundred yards. In the process
I managed to disturb a family of Canadian geese that had decided to
summer a long way from home.
I was back in Yellow Creek (summer home) by early afternoon. This
was a nice mini-adventure to a quaint river town.
you get one hint.....it's in Yellow Creek and it goes under a highway!
Well, that's actually TWO hints.
But, even if you find it you have to get up your nerve to lie
down on your kayak, because it's too tight to sit, and use your hands
pushing against the dark top to propel through the 150 feet of
the tunnel....while you distantly hear a big truck hit its Jake Brake
as he runs over the very spot where you are, 20 feet over your head,
and you feel the tunnel shake from the vibration and you envision an
overweight Mack log truck heading for Counce, logs extending behind,
faded red rag tied to the longest pine pole, still at 70 mph, even after
he releases his deafening Jake and then you think about Minneapolis
and how that bridge, after standing more than 40 years, had to pick
that exact instant to crumble and fall and you wonder how many weeks
it will take MDOT to remove all the debris and maybe locate your body,
because no one in the world knows where you are, then about that time
you look up at the top of the long concrete coffin and see 5 spiders
a foot above your privates and every time the kayak moves half a kayak-length
there are a dozen more... all looking down at you and debating whether
to drop 14 inches and bite you on the nose, or worse, and you have no
choice but to continue pushing through using your hands and trying not
to touch the spiders. Then you thank God that the small beam of
light at the end of the coffin is suddenly larger and, in a flash
you are out and in the bright blazing sunlight and your first thought
is of the Resurrection and then you think...."Hey, that's not so
bad....I think I'll enjoy the trip back through".
It's dungeon-dark except for the camera flash
SCRUGGS BRIDGE AREA
Bridge spans the mouth of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway on Hwy. 25.
It's the new, massive concrete bridge where you can look at the Yellow
Creek portion of Pickwick Lake out one window and the Tennessee Tombigbee
Waterway out the other. Located just to the east of the bridge,
on one bank of the Waterway is a nice, State-owned boat
ramp and on the other bank is a small day-park. Put you kayak
in at the boat ramp and paddle directly across the Waterway and you
will enter the old, original channel of Yellow Creek. It meanders
gently east for a while, with smaller, but highly accessible tributaries
going deep into the backwoods. It's most all tree lined and has
nice shade, which comes in handy on days like today, when the temperature
reached 103 degrees. You can paddle for a couple of hours exploring
the nooks and crannies of the headwaters of Yellow Creek as well as
the various, isolated shallow bays. And, you don't have to worry
about jet boats and wave runners running over you as it's much too shallow
for them....which is a GOOD thing! On the far eastern side there is
the entrance to Martin Creek, a clear and flowing stream that you can
traverse all the way to the highway that leads to J.P.Coleman Park.
is a highly-accessible area that you can enjoy for three seasons of
(J. P. COLEMAN STATE PARK)
nice day-trip is to motor to J. P. Coleman State Park. It's located
on Pickwick Lake, about 12 miles east of the Dam. Access J.P.
Coleman by road by turning east off Hwy. 25 between Iuka and Pickwick.
Unload your kayak at the boat ramp then venture out of the harbor and
right into Indian Creek. You will have a fairly long paddle (maybe
30 minutes, one way) before you arrive at the mouth of Indian
Creek. The water is very clear and you will cover some nice fishing
territory as you travel.
Creek is well defined and nice and wide. However, there are fallen
trees that must be maneuvered around. See how far you can go
up Indian Creek.
are swarming in Indian Creek, so you can assume the bream are biting!