As much as I like paddling with my friends, sometimes I like just getting out on my own. This week I was in the mood for just such a trip. Temperatures were supposed to be hot, and Lake Jocassee seemed like the perfect place to cool off. Tuesday I decided that’s where I would head.
Bennie Waddell and I have been trying to keep to our paddling schedule, even though we haven’t been able to make it work every week. Regardless of whether or not we can actually paddle that day (sickness, weather, conflict, etc., etc) I think it’s important that it at least be on the schedule. We’re more likely actually to hit the water than simply saying, “Oh we need to do X someday…” Wednesday the stars aligned, and we were both able to take the trip up to Lake Jocassee that we had missed last week. It was an excellent day of paddling.
Jocassee can be many things. Beginning paddlers can hang close to the bank and still get to some cool geological features and small waterfalls. Intermediate paddlers and venture further up to Wright Creek Falls and the Thompson River and Whitewater River areas. Experienced paddlers can take longer trips across open water to the Horsepasture and Toxaway arms of the lake. Regardless of the route taken, conditions on the lake can change in an instance, turning a leisurely paddle into a real challenge. That was really born out on my most recent trip to the lake.
The day was supposed to be hot. I thought the perfect antidote would be a cool mountain lake. So, Thursday morning I headed out early for what I thought would be a quick morning paddle on Lake Jocassee. As usual, I got caught up in the thrill of wanting to see what was just around the next bend, and wound up spending most of the day there. It met all my requirements for a cool lake, and then some.
I haven’t done much paddling with the Greenville Canoe and Kayak Meetup lately. Since they merged with the Asheville organization the group seems to have lost its identity, having been subsumed into that group, and many of the trips just didn’t appeal to me. However, one scheduled for this past Saturday really caught me eye, and I decided to give it a chance. It turned out to be a perfect day paddling on Lake Jocassee, and I’m now glad I gave them a shot.
Brooks Wade, owner of Jocassee Lake Tours, had offered to load our kayaks onto his pontoon boat and take the group to the upper reaches of Jocassee. The area is hard to reach unless you’re a very strong paddler with a very fast boat, or unless you break the trip into a two-day venture. But the rewards are spectacular – waterfalls and pristine mountain scenery. Of course, I couldn’t pass this up.
My brother, Houston, recently informed me that he starts feeling anxious when I don’t update this blog often enough. I’m afraid I’ve given him ample reason to be irritated over the last week or so. I just haven’t had much about which to write. The usual excuses apply – work has been nightmarish, Laura’s sister and mother have been visiting, and a massive heat wave have combined to keep me away from any explorations this week. OK, so maybe those aren’t so usual.
Regardless, I’ve still got several projects in the works. So, to allay Houston’s anxiety I’ll provide a sneak preview…
And so it was only two of us left. Chip had to get back to family, and Stephen had to get back to church. Houston and I got up, had a quick breakfast, then packed up the mountain of remaining food and gear into our trucks. At the Devil’s Fork State Park store we checked out and each bought souvenirs. We both bought copies of Claudia Hembree’s “Jocassee Valley” book, and I bought two more stickers for my kayak.
Sometimes after weekend like this it’s nice to step back and do an overview. We decided to do that quite literally. We left the park and headed up Highway 130 toward the Bad Creek Project. We had taken Laura’s mom up here for a picnic sometime back, and it has fantastic views of Lake Jocassee. This time, on our way up, we encountered a family of turkeys.
At the overlook itself we had clear views of the places we had paddled the day before. We could see where the Whitewater River enters the lake, and even had a view of the Lower Falls. We could also see where we had stopped for lunch and other places along our paddle route.
As we suspected, after our long haul we were not going to be up for a late-night trip. Our nephew, Chip, joined us after work, and we set about the task of putting together dinner. It seems that each of us had brought enough snacks for all of us. There was more food than the four of us could possibly eat. Stephen had prepared venison spaghetti for us, and we followed that up sitting out on the deck of the villa telling family tales and enjoying the evening in general.
The next morning we took our time getting started. We fixed a huge breakfast with grits, eggs, bacon, toast, and more venison, this time in sausage format. It looked a little off-putting, but tasted fine.
With such a gluttonous start, it was hard to imagine another paddling trip, but we headed out anyway. Stephen, Houston, and I walked down to where our boats were chained and set out. We would meet Chip at the boat ramp, where he would have his boat and the rest of our gear for the day.
…or “Becoming One with the Water”
Houston and I got up early, thinking we might do an early paddle. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating. It started pouring, and I kept checking the weather radar app on my phone. It looked like it was going to clear up soon, though, and it did.
Stephen got an early start and met us at the villa. After greetings, pleasantries, and settling in, we were anxious to get on the water. We decided that rather than dragging the boats down the trail to the beach, we would toss them on Houston’s truck and drive around to the boat ramp reserved for the villas.
Down at the ramp we readied the boats, as low clouds hung over the mountains to the north.
For this trip we decided to do a route Houston had done before, and I had done several times. We were ging to paddle up to Wright Creek Falls first, then see where we could go from there. The weather was still iffy, so I didn’t know how far we might make it.
Out on the lake there were loons – and not just the ones in kayaks. There was the distinctive loon call, and the birds proved themselves to be amazing divers. Stephen and Houston thought one had drowned given the amount of time it was under.
It was Stephen who first suggested it. The three Taylor brothers needed to take some time away for a multi-day paddling trip. We would pick a long route and camp along the way. Then reality set in and the plan got altered somewhat. Having slept on the hard ground enough in our lives, we decided that renting a villa at Lake Jocassee would be even better. A weekend in March was appointed, and I called and reserved our villa at Devil’s Fork State Park.
Having to plan that far in advance can be fraught with unexpected peril. I had work issues that I was afraid would delay me. Stephen had pastoral obligations that delayed his arrival and Houston had…cats. I finally got all my gear packed and arrived at the park at about 3:30 for check-in.
The term “villa” was a better choice than “cabin” when the park named these things. They are quite nice (as well as being reasonably priced.) We had a full kitchen, two bedrooms, fireplace, and even satellite TV. This was a far cry from when I last stayed up here in a tent with Houston.