"Ice Castle Escape"
It was below freezing when I slid my kayak into the Kentucky River this early Monday morning, as it has been for at least the last two and a half days. But todays weather called for lots of sunshine and a temperature rise to forty degrees. I started paddling up river, as I wanted explore the Boone creek today that was just east of where Interstate 75 crosses the river.
As I rounded my first bend and started paddling up river, I noticed a good size bluff that seemed to be glistening more than usual just up ahead. No more did I start to look at it, then I saw a large splash at the base of the bluff. I thought it had to be the biggest fish in the river. As I paddled more, I saw another humongous splash in almost the same area. I couldnt figure why this giant fish was hanging in the same spot. Then I realized what was going on. The bluff was covered with thousands of icicles from a couple inches long to a couple feet long. The sun was warming the rock enough to loosen their icy grips, causing them to crack loose and fall the hundred or so feet into the river with a grand display of splash and spray. It was amazing. After I realized what it was, I was able to sit there and stare at the bluff and one after another after another would break loose and make the plunge. I had my picture phone out and was taking pictures as fast as I could to share this amazing sight with friends and family.
I started out my paddle today with 5 layers of shirts on and 4 layers of pants. Even though it was in the teens as far as temperature goes, I was starting to over heat with my paddle in the sun. I didnt think it was a wise idea to start stripping out of layers, but I didnt want to break a sweat in the freezing weather either. Then I thought of my rabbit. Actually, it was a rabbit my youngest son received as present on Easter over five years ago. She just passed away this Christmas. I wonder if there was a message in those two dates? Anyway, it was the first rabbit I had ever raised, so I read everything I could about keeping them healthy. One of the things I read about them was that they could adjust their body temperature by their ears. I wondered if it would work for humans too. So I lifted the earflaps up from my headgear to expose my ears to the cold morning chill. Walla!! With in a few minutes my body temperature dropped back down to a bearable paddle comfort. It just seemed too easy, so I wondered if I was the last to learn this secret. If not, then I share with the world. If so, then I humbly expose myself as I learn about winter kayaking.
I neared the entrance to the Boone, which excited me, as it appeared to be a total different world as opposed to being out on the open Kentucky. I had read on a web sight that this creek is 23 miles long and makes a good kayak run down creek, so I wondered how it would be up creek.
The creek seemed to be a good deep channel as I assumed it would be because there was another creek, the Galloway, right across the Kentucky from it. I figured that they were at least the depth of the original Kentucky River before we started putting locks on the river. The Boones average distance across seemed to be about 30 feet. In some places the palisades went from left bank to right bank and in other places where there was shore lines, the trees would lean toward each other on opposite banks to form arches. It was beautiful.
One slightly scary attribute of the enclosed areas was the icicles falling off the palisades back in this creek. Some of them would land with in feet of my boat and the splash would actually land on the boat and me. I decided that I would have my best picture taking opportunity here, from a land location. So I beached my boat and hiked up to a cove in the bluff where I had a great view both directions. I reached in my pocket for my picture phone and realized it was not there. I had forgot to zip shut the pocket I carried it in. I had not hiked far and knew I would find it, but was a little uneasy about where I might find it. As I backtracked, I realized it was not on the trail, so I hope I had dropped it in my boat. But I was not to be so lucky, as it lay in about four inches of water from where I had climbed out of my boat. I was amazed to see it still had a display on the face, even though it had been in the water several minutes. I dried it off, pushed a couple buttons and everything seemed to still work. So I hiked back up to the bluff and took it out to take pictures and... it was dead. Never to live again. But, I couldnt cry over spilt milk, as I was in a beautiful place and the pictures in my mind would just have to do.
I started to paddle on up creek when I came to a riffle. I was able to paddle through it, but built up a heat that almost caused me to break a sweat again. I paddled up a little farther and came to a class one riffle, but was able to climb out on a little island and pull my boat up. Paddling a bit farther, I came to another class of water and again pulled through it. The next class I came to, I decided it was time to beach and hike.
There was a flat piece of land laying about 6 foot above me on the Fayette county side of the creek (Boone Creek is the county line between Fayette and Clark Counties), so I decided to hike there. When I climbed up to the ledge, I noticed a foot wide trail that was so used that the snow was already melted on it. My first thought was that it was a cow trail and I was on the banks of some ones field. But on closer inspection, I saw that there were no hoof tracks on this trail. Not even deer hoofs. But there were plenty of footprints. There was squirrel, raccoon, skunk, otter, coyote, and I even saw bob cat prints. At first I thought they were some kind of mountain cat, but I must have forgot where I was. My mind started racing imagining the raccoon walking this creek trail looking for grub and spying crawdads in the creek. And the other predators looking for everything else that walked the trail. It was amazing how much wild life evidence could be seen from this trail. I walked it for about a mile before it disappeared into the creek and emerged on the other side. I figured that was a good turning place.
I had a hoot riding the three class currents and riffles back out to the main river channel. This will be one creek that I will have to stage and run the whole thing in the near future. I paddle across the Kentucky River and entered the Galloway. A whole new world again. As soon as I rounded the first corner, I came across a concave in the bluff right on the creek. It was the size of a four-car garage and I couldnt help but paddle into it. The exciting thing about being in this opening was you could not see when the icicle was falling. Even though I expected them, when they would hit close to my boat, they still shook me like I was caught off guard. Coming out was a bit tingling, not knowing if one of these frozen spears would get me on the way out. Galloway was not as long in the paddle as Boone and I soon ran out of deep enough water to paddle. But it still made for a good hike up the creek bed.
After returning out to the main River again, I headed to the Palisades on the river. By now it was in the high thirties or low forties and the sun had been on full shine for about 6 hours. The ice cycles were falling in troves. It was amazing and I felt so privileged to be able to watch this natural phenomenon. No other person was any where around, just me and the show nature was providing. I even paddle close to the low ledges and ran my paddle down a couple rows of ice cycles just to hear the unique tinkle sound and cause a wake to my boat.
As I neared my take out spot, I notice two creatures swimming in the water. I couldnt tell what they were, but have seen ground hogs and beaver in the river before. These two guys got curious about me and came up to get a look. I was amazed to see they were otters. I had heard they were in this river but had never seen any. An omen of a grand day.
What a grand day! Most people think it is just too cold to get out in this style. But right now, I see all those images in my mind and think that most people just dont know what they are missing. Wish I could send pictures!
put in ramp, local pub
four dollar fee when gate is open, walk around for free in off season
Interstate 75, south of Lexington, Exit 97 or 99, head down to the river.