Sunset and Full Moon Paddle
Bill and I arrived at the main boat ramp of Devils Fork State Park around 7:40 pm and encountered a chaotic zoo as trailers were lined up to pick up incoming boats and drop off boats for evening excursions. We normally use the remote western ramp, but the gate to these ramps and the campground are locked around 9:00 pm giving us no choice but to mix with the motorboat maniacs. The lake was 4.9 feet below full pond.
We entered the water around 8:14 pm heading northwest (350 degrees) for a 2.5-mile crossing as the sun was setting in the west with cumulus clouds in the evening sky. The wind was light (6-8 mph) with a cooling breeze, but the water was choppy from the wind and boat traffic. The long rays of the setting sun gave a warm glow to the surrounding shore and majestic tree covered ridges, while the towering clouds provided a stirring contrast to the land and water horizons. The sun disappeared behind the mountains after about 12 minutes and 31 minutes later we completed the crossing for a speed of 3.6 mph.
Paddling between the island (34.9904N, 82.9360W) and the eastern shore the winds and water were calm, but became rougher with headwinds (8-10 mph with one foot chop and waves) after passing the island. The twilight provided excellent light until we approached the small island (35.0054N, 82.9244W) just south of Jumping Off Rock around 9:30 pm, and Bill turned on my stern light before reaching the sharp left turn (change heading from 44 to 0 degrees) as a precaution for boats rounding the bend.
The moon had finally emerged from the cloud cover and began teasing us by dressing and undressing with the clothing of the clouds. With the evening breeze and a wicking shirt, I was cool as the humidity began to fall. The stars slowly emerged in the night sky and we tried to count new ones as we paddled toward Laurel Falls. Lights from boats along the shore reminded us that we were not alone, and Bill finally turned off my stern light to enjoy the moon now higher in the sky.
In the shadows of the land, I paddled into a sweeper as we turned into the inlet for Laurel Falls, and upon entering the cove we could see illegal boat campers on the shore as their tent was outlined by a light. Approaching the falls (35.0318N, 82.8941W), we experienced nearly total darkness and waited 10 minutes to give our eyes a chance to adjust to the minimal light. When this failed, I briefly turned on a flashlight to provide a glimpse of the entrance to the falls and we paddled in on memory after turning off the light.
Sitting in the near total darkness at a 90-degree angle to the falls, we could only see the light reflecting off the falling water, and enveloped in darkness alone with the soothing sound of the falls we sat for nearly fifteen minutes. We paddled a short distance to the Foothills Trail access and exited the kayaks to stretch, eat snacks, and unwind from the 7-mile paddle.
As we entered the water around 11:00 pm for the return trip, the moon was high in the sky and with few clouds the illumination was brilliant. Enraptured by the moon in her naked splendor, the waters shimmering in her radiance, and the land enveloped in a dark foreboding mystery, we paddled at a steady pace. The murmuring insects provided a loud and steady musical accompaniment to the stunning visual images of moon and shimmering water. Too quickly, we arrived at the 2.5-mile crossing and again the wind had picked up (10-12 mph) and dark clouds began to hide the moon giving a moody forlorn appearance to the sky. Seeing 5-6 motorboats crossing the wide-open lake, we turned on my stern light concerned about our visibility.
With a following sea, we surfed the choppy waves (1-1.5 feet) and I had to brace with corrective strokes to maintain course to the boat ramp since the Sirocco has no rudder. The constant knee bracing, and timing of strokes to the kayak surfing motion gave rise to an aching back. Arriving back at the ramp around 1:00 am gave us a speed of 3.5-3.6 mph for the return trip.
The full moon paddle provided a whole new experience of Lake Jocassee and enabled us to avoid the heat and glaring sun of summer days. The 14-mile paddle and nearly five hour excursion ended far too soon as the beauty of the moon dancing among the clouds was still so seductive.
Please note: A deck light is required for night kayaking and a headlamp would also be a good idea. The gates to the remote boat ramps are locked after 9:00 p.m.
Devils Fork State Park has a campground, with tent sites, RV sites, and Cabins.
A remote campsite accessible by boat is available at Double Springs Campground about 3 miles from the main boat ramp and 1 mile from the remote boat ramp.
Current Design Sirocco (1610" length, 23.5" beam) with skeg
Current Design Storm (17 length, 24" beam) with rudder
Entrance Fee: $2.00/person
From 11 (Cherokee Foothills Scenic Hwy) turn onto Jocassee Lake Road and follow it all the way to Devils Fork State Park. Drive toward the Park Office for entrance to the main boat ramps (three).
Devil's Fork State Park
161 Holcombe Cir
Salem, SC 29676-2306
phone: (864) 944-2639
Lake Jocassee - Kingfisher Map #1600, from www.kingfishermaps.com; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Google Earth (a virtual tour for planning a trip) provided the coordinates mentioned above.