Once again I’m playing catch-up with my blogging. The past weekend wasn’t as hectic crazy as the previous one, but somehow I still fell behind. I was able to get in kayaking trips to Lakes Keowee and Oolenoy, and check out a flea market that’s been on my radar for awhile. The lakes were great. The flea market…not so much.
Bennie Waddell and I have made a pact. We’re going to try to go somewhere to paddle every other week. This is all dependent on the health needs of Bennie’s son, Ben, and when a nurse is available, but we hope to stick to it. We had already done one trip to Lake Oolenoy in Bennie’s new kayak, but then Laura and I took off to Florida and Washington State, disrupting our paddling schedule. Bennie got a second boat (it’s addictive, as he’s discovering) and we needed to try it out as well.
Lake Keowee to Estatoe Creek
As expected, things got a bit delayed with my rendezvous with Bennie. This time it wasn’t Ben’s health issues, but a bad stomach bug. We originally set our kayaking time for Tuesday, but finally got things ready to go on Thursday. I had an early dentist appointment, but would pick up Bennie right afterwards.
We had something of a time crunch. I didn’t know how long my appointment would last, and Bennie needed to be back by a certain time for an evening gig. Looking at our options, we decided on the upper reaches of Lake Keowee.
Bennie had a surprise in store for me, though. He has a mascot for each of his boats, and has named them. Today he would be paddling “Uncle Salty,” with his mascot triceratops.
I don’t usually name my boats. I’ve got nearly a dozen kayaks, and I can’t imagine naming each one. However, Bennie insisted that I select a mascot and give my favorite Pungo 120 a name. (I thought “Pungo” was a good one, but…) Since this is the boat I paddle in swamps most of the time, I selected the alligator and dubbed the boat “Swamp Thing.”
We loaded up the gear and headed out.
Lake Keowee is a good alternative to Lake Jocassee, if you pick the right spot. It’s closer to Greenville and a bit more accessible. Unlike Devil’s Fork and some of the other state parks, there is no fee to launch from the Gorges Visitor’s Center off of Highway 11. This spot is strictly a canoe/kayak launch.
The downside is that it’s nowhere near as pristine as Jocassee. You’re launching right across from one of the Cliffs Communities abominations – a golf course. I still maintain that the Cliffs is one of the worst things to happen to the Upstate. I can just imagine the amount of fertilizer that has to be used to keep that grass green, and how much of it runs into the lake.
We got underway and stuck to the south side of the lake, along the state park boundary. Just past the launch is a small island with a couple of inviting white sand. A couple of deep coves led into the park area. We found one with a rock face with a tiny waterfall.
Bennie snapped this rather angelic photo of my next to the small waterfall.
As we continued on around a seemingly overpowered boat cruised passed us. Along the side were the words “Fire – Rescue – Safety.” As we continued around the cove the boat began testing its water sprayers, both fore and aft. It was cool. I wanted to figure out if there was a way we could paddle under the spray, but it was quite strong.
The target of the water spray was a large rock formation. I’ve seen folks jumping off of this rock.
We continued on upstream, past the multi-million dollar homes at the Cliffs, making a southward turn onto Estatoe Creek. The creek seemed more shallow than the last time I was up this way.
I like the more intimate setting of the creek. It was far to shallow to be disturbed by motorboats. However, that worked both ways. Several times I ran aground, and at one point I had to walk the boat.
We found a spot for lunch, then pretty much headed on back after that. Actually, I didn’t take many photos on the way back, and the GoPro’s battery had depleted. Boat traffic had also picked up, and we were dodging wakes from pontoon boats.
As we got back to the ramp and the island, I wanted to check out one of those beaches. Sure enough, a pontoon had pulled up to one. Don’t blame them – it’s a great place to stop. The other was equally inviting. We pulled up, but didn’t get out.
We paddled on around to the ramp, avoiding even more pontoon boats. We got off the water in plenty of time to get Bennie back for his gig. In all, we paddle about 5 and a half miles.
Barnyard Flea Market
Saturday morning rolled around, and I was in the mood to visit a flea market. I had driven past the Barnyard Flea Market in Greer while on my way to Union the other day, and had made a note to check it out sometime. Laura was happy sitting at home with coffee and a good book, so I headed out down I-85 to Highway 101.
For some reason I think of the Barnyard as being the “Starbucks of flea markets.” It’s a franchise, and there are several dotting the Southeast. I had never passed by when it was open, but it always struck me as cleaner and more organized than some of the other markets that have just evolved over time.
When I got there it was hopping. I found a place to park in the back. Spaces were rare, though.
There are no uncovered spaces – everything is under one of their sheds. I entered from rear shed, and was a bit surprised. All of these seemed like permanent vendors.
Everything seemed closed in, dark, and dank. I posted on Facebook that it was a “melange of cigarette smoke and body odor.” You can through in cooking tacos and cheap perfume. It was a bit overwhelming. I wandered through all sections and there was nothing – absolutely nothing that even remotely called out to me to buy it.
Religiosity was everywhere. There were Jehovah’s Witnesses and other brands. One man with a booth set up had his hand on the shoulder of a woman in tears, and was obviously praying with/for her. I had mixed feelings. I felt sad for a woman in such distress that she sought solace from a flea market preacher, but I also tend to look at some of these folks as misguided a best, or worse, charlatans. However, if he is truly providing some comfort, I’m not going to argue.
I didn’t stay long. Unlike Pickens Flea Market or the Anderson Jockey Lot, I don’t think this place will bear up to repeated visits. There won’t be new discoveries, but the same old junk from the permanent vendors that seem to be in residence here. It would take extraordinary circumstances for me to return.
Lake Oolenoy with Ken
Tuesday rolled around and it was time for another paddling trip with Bennie. This time Bennie was going to pick up a friend and introduce him to paddling on Lake Oolenoy. I picked up Ken at Clemson with plans to meet them for a short afternoon paddle.
Sadly, as Ken and I were having lunch and were about to head over to the lake, Bennie called to say that his son was not doing well that morning. Ken and I would be on our own.
The drive across country from Clemson to Table Rock State Park was enjoyable. It was a beautiful day. We made it to the lake, and got the boats unloaded.
We got underway and followed my usual route around the lake, first heading toward the bridge.
Ken had only been kayaking once before with me. It took a bit of time, but eventually he got comfortable controlling the boat.
We headed back and took the branch that leads to Oolenoy Creek, then circled the back side of the lake.
The back side of the lake has some of the most stunning views of Table Rock – views you can’t get anywhere else (well, duh.).
We paddle on around to the dam. Oolenoy Creek continues past this point.
Back in one of the tributary coves I heard water running. There was a beaver dam that hadn’t been there when I paddled this area last. I paddled up to investigate, and was startle when a small night heron hopped onto the dam. He was only about 12 feet from me, but didn’t move. I admired him for a bit, then backed off quietly. He stayed still.
We made our way back, past the dam, past the visitor’s center, and around Bird Crap Island.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Well, maybe…if it had been cooler. Even so, it was another great day on the water. Ken and I paddle about 3 miles on this trip. I just wish that Bennie had been able to join us.