Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009 Paddle and Lunch on Lake Keowee

Conditions today were perfect for another paddle on Lake Keowee. Sunny, with temperatures in the high 80s. And just enough southeasterly breeze to cool the perspiring, ElderPaddler.

Fall Creek Landing on the other side of the lake actually is closer to Keowee-Toxaway State Park than the Crowe Creek landing put-in on this side. The one I used during an earlier paddle.

[Click photos for larger images]

090602 Keowee PaddleThis facility too has plenty of parking, three boat ramps well maintained by Duke Power, and a large floating dock.

It also includes a sandy beach that stretches north and south from the boat ramps and docks. When I put in, only a few people were there swimming and sun bathing. But when I returned, the beach was quite crowded. The majority appeared to be young mothers, each with several small children. An alternative to the country club pool, I guess. The splashing and laughing typical of such groups was nice to hear.

The landing’s boat ramps too were busy. Crafts of all types and sizes were putting in and taking out. Nearly all were power boats, boasting throaty inboard and outboard engines. Though during take-out I did see one small Stearns inflatable kayak.

Once on the water, I learned that this part of Lake Keowee is much more popular with fast-moving power boats than the waters surrounding Crowe Creek Landing.

Digital image  Kayakers here should keep a good look-out for the wakes those boats generate as they zoom by. Fortunately, my 13-foot Advanced Elements Expedition inflatable responds nicely even to the more energetic wakes, riding up and over as if she enjoyed the challenge. But there’s always the possibility ….

Today I headed directly east from the boat landing, toward a small unmarked island. It looked to be part of the peninsula jutting northward into the lake when the lake level is a foot or two lower. And therefore it didn’t show as an island on the GPS or map, and wasn’t numbered.

This island featured a high sheer-faced rock that looked custom made for diving. In the photo below you can see one lad diving, another waiting, and several already in the water, shouting encouragement.

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Lake Keowee, even more than nearby Lake Jocassee and the other man-made lakes in South Carolina created by the power companies, has an irregular coastline. Lots of inlets, coves, and peninsulas jutting out in the water. Some small; some quite large. This irregularity makes kayaking on Lake Keowee even more interesting and enjoyable. There’s always something new to see just around the next peninsula.

Keowee OverallKeowee’s larger inlets are identified on maps as “creeks,” which they must have been before the power generation dams raised the level of the water to the point they became part of the lake itself.

This jagged coastline is beautiful. Especially those sections with dramatic rock out-croppings, as in the photo below.

Digital image  But it can make navigation on longer trips more challenging for the paddler unfamiliar with the lake. Even when carrying a large detailed map!

A reliable GPS solves the problem, of course. Absent a GPS, the small numbered islands that dot this and similar lakes help to confirm the wandering paddler’s location.

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Highly visible number signs are posted in one or two places along the shoreline, corresponding to island numbers on the larger maps. The photo above shows number 21.

This island had high, steep banks that discouraged landing, and hosted a large number of bird nests, large and small. The nesting residents raised an indignant ruckus as I paddled around the island close to the shore.

So I resisted the temptation to land for a look around and paddled another half-mile or so up Cedar Creek. Then back out of the Creek, past the peninsula with the nice cottage pictured below, typical of those in this area, and north up the lake for another mile or so.

Digital image  On the way I passed by Island # 22, pictured below. From a distance, it was unimpressive, with only a few scraggly trees demanding sustenance from the knob of red clay poking up out of the lake. So small, in fact, that I was surprised anyone had bothered to number it!

Until, that is, I paddled closer and could see the sharp ridges of rock radiating out in all directions, covered by very shallow water.

Digital image  This island must be a serious hazard for boats requiring water deeper than the few inches necessary for my inflatable kayak! The rocky ridges radiating out from the island in all directions were beautiful beneath the clear Keowee water. I took a few photos, but none of them turned out. You’ll have to go look for yourself!

North of Island # 22 the lake shoreline appears to be largely undeveloped. Lots of rocky cliffs, some quite beautiful. And here and there an isolated sandy beach inviting the tired paddler to land for a rest and some lunch.

After turning west, toward the Highway 21 bridge that crosses the lake, I accepted the invitation of one sandy beach and took out for lunch. Here the sandy portion of the beach was fairly narrow. And a long-dead tree trunk blocked much of the useable area. But it was isolated.

The bottom sloped gently out a good ways, and there was enough room to take out safely. No sharp rocks, unexpected drop-offs, or any of the glue-like red clay found in some areas.

I also found three thin flat rocks nearby to place under the feet of the little three-legged collapsible stool I carry in the bow of the kayak. Without them, the stool’s spindly legs sink slowly into the sand. What more could a weary paddler want!

Well, a hot cup of tea and lunch would be nice. So, for the very first time on the water, I broke out the celebrated Kelly Kettle. Celebrated, anyway, in this and dozens of other blogs.

Following strict primitive naturalist procedure, I balled up two sheets of bone-dry typing paper [white, 20 pound weight] for tinder, added numerous small twigs collected around the beach site, and assembled a promising-looking pile in the Kettle’s heavy aluminum fire pan. I then filled the kettle with water from the lake and placed it atop the fire pan.

By then I was hungry, and in desperate need of a good cup of tea. It was no time to trust ignition to my trusty all-weather fire starter kit, or to the even less reliable method of briskly rubbing sticks together. [It’s well known, by the way, that many cases of back-country starvation can be attributed to over-confidence in the ability of briskly rubbed sticks to start cooking fires. It simply doesn’t work. And it exhausts the starving camper!]

So, after looking right and left and seeing no one within camera shot, I ignited the paper with a small butane lighter I’d hidden in the folds of the Kelly Kettle bag.

The typing paper balls caught immediately, igniting the twigs, and sending a satisfying plume of whitish smoke up the Kettle chimney. In less than a minute I had a brightly-burning fire in the Kettle’s fire pot. So I returned the small butane lighter to its hiding place in the Kelly Kettle bag.

Before the whole thing died out, I dropped a few larger-sized twigs down the chimney of the kettle. Adding larger twigs and chips of bark as confidence bloomed. In less than three minutes the water was boiling vigorously. This Kelly Kettle really does work.

Digital image  I’d brought along one package of instant ramen. One of the five basic food groups. And just the right size for the Kettle’s cooking dish. I broke the pieces up, added the seasoning, and poured boiling water over the ramen.

This, as any primitive naturalist knows, isn’t the proper way to cook gourmet instant ramen. But given the environment, and lack of an audience, it was fine. The rest of the boiling water went for a nice cup of hot, freshly-brewed tea. And lunch was ready.

The ramen, shrimp flavored, was just right. I’d brought along a set of wooden wari-bashi chipsticks especially for it. Ramen, plus a banana, and two of those over-priced “health bars” that primitive naturalists are required to eat, made a great lunch. The whole ceremony, including the rest, took less than 45 minutes.

From the lunch put-in, I paddled about a half-mile northwest toward the Highway 21 bridge that crosses Lake Keowee. This really is a beautiful lake.

Digital image  But the sun by then was quite hot. So I headed from the bridge directly back to the Fall Creek Landing. Power boat traffic had picked up, and there was little time to take photos, or even rest. Ignoring the shoreline, the straight route back was only 1.2 miles, according to the GPS.

At the ramp, I took out normally with no mishap, reassembled the two-wheeled cart, and walked up to a shaded area in the parking lot to deflate the boat and store it once again in the back seat of the car.

The whole paddle was only 4.42 miles. Which, according to the GPS, took just over 2.3 hours, including a stop for lunch. Another great day on Lake Keowee.

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