I picked Curtis up at our usual time, 8:30am, but it was different this time. The insane daylight savings time had taken effect, and it was really an hour later than we usually start. This fact would have an impact on us as the day went on.
Today we put into a creek that I think is called Mill Seat Creek, but Im not really sure. The map I use to find paddle waters does not name it, but one of the main feeder creeks has this name so Im assuming that is the name. One thing I know for sure, this creeks spills into the Kentucky River and it is the boundary line between Clark County and Estill County.
Our put in spot was in the Kentucky River, on the Madison County side, across from where the Mill Seat joins the Kentucky. It was a very short paddle across to the entrance, but we purposely took our time. Mainly to witness the Mist that was just starting to lift off the river. There were only wisps of it still clinging to the water, as the main body was probably about 50 feet up right now. We were witness to that on the road descending to the river. Just the same it was an eerie fantastic sight. The creation of this mist was due to the fact the water temperature had already dropped considerably, but we were experiencing a nice Indian summer day. It was suppose to get into the sixties this day with sunshine, which is really a great day for the first week of November.
We paddled upstream for about two miles when we came to a bridge that crossed the creek. This road was hwy 89. There was no way from the road to get to the river from our perceptive, but there was still a shanty kind of shack on the shore accompanied by an older blue school bus. Curtis felt these were farmers of a sort. We paddled on.
About two more miles up stream, we came across some railroad tracks that crossed the creek by what seemed 200 feet in the air. It seemed so unreal, as from our perspective; the tracks looked like a monorail. Tracks so small that support such large cars and engines as what makes up todays trains. And these tracks were no new addition to these areas. The trains grew and the tracks remained the same. One of the evidence to this was a 3 part concrete and brick structure on the southwest shore of the tracks. The average person probably would not know what they were, but Ive run across these structures before on the rivers and have explored them extensively. They are old pump houses for when the trains where steam engines. They would pump the water out of the river in one building, store the water in another building and pump them up to the train when needed. Of course, they have not been needed in a long time. All the pumps and pipes have long since rotted out. But these buildings are designed that they will last a thousand years. The first one I saw, I spent 6 months researching it, to buy it for an escape home. I had such dreams and plans for a structure like that. But someone else did too. Nonetheless, I will research this one in Estill County to see if there is a chance I can pick it up for little to nothing. They are totally worthless buildings for their original purpose, but to someone like me, they are a gold mine.
The support pylons of the train track were at least 50 feet off the river. The most amazing thing about them, were there were logs jammed into the pylons where the concrete met the steel of the support structure for the tracks. To imagine this river so high as to lodge logs on top of those pylons is an amazing thing. But Ive seen some evidence of the force of nature and am mighty happy to witness the aftermath as opposed to the time that actually caused the logs to be in place up there. There were also quite a few log jams around the base of the pylons at river level, but not so bad that we couldnt power paddle through them. But this would be the point that any kind of powerboat would not be able to venture further.
The river got shallower the next couple of miles and we came to a few shoals and riffles that we had to get out and pull our boats upstream. It wasnt too bad, as we knew that even though we had to pull up stream, we could still ride these riffles in our boats coming back down stream. After passing the train tracks, the wild life came in abundance. We came to one area where a squirrel was running up and down the trunk of a tree that hung out over the river, barking and chirping like some one just cut his tail off. Then he ran off onto the bank. Next we heard a noise in the leaves that sounded like a hundreds squirrels were running away. We paddled across the water enough to see what the racket was, and it was at least 2 dozen wild turkeys running up a bluff side.
After sighting the turkeys, we came to another shoal that we knew we would have to get out and pull the boats up. Before we could get out of our boats, a deer went racing down the hill and slid to a stop at the banks edge where we were. Im sure his intent was to run across the river in the shallows there, but had second thoughts when he saw us. He stood their just froze, wild eyed and staring at us. He stood there long enough for us to notice that his tongue was hanging out from exhaustion and blood was streaming down it and running off the end. He finally decided against crossing the water and headed back from the direction he came. Curtis and I had decided that he was the victim of a hunting expedition and they did not get a killing shot in. I hoped with all my heart that the hunters were trying to track this deer and would have more of a chance since he was heading back from wince he came. We got out and pulled through the shoals.
The next couple miles we saw several deer from mature to a very small fawn that couldnt have been much larger than a dog. Of course, every time we spotted something, we would quit paddling to reduce noise and just float along to enjoy the sighting. After about 7 miles of total paddling, we came to a really large logjam. I told Curtis that this was the sign it was time to turn back. But the youth in him would have no part of it and he managed to get out onto the logjam and pull his boat over the top of it to the other side. It reminded me of when my 9 year old son jumped off a forty-foot cliff into Lake Cumberland. I did not want to jump from that height, but could see no way around it after he jumped. I did not want to balance out of my boat onto that log jam and pull the thing over and try to get into it again. But I could see no way around it. It was a bit tricky, but we made it and Im glad we did. It was like we moved back even farther into no mans land wilderness. And the paddling distance between get outs were really good distances.
About a mile farther upstream, I saw another squirrel going crazy at the waters edge. This time I also saw two wild turkeys staring at me. I became convinced that the squirrel is a hired watchdog to the turkey. I quit paddling and floated their direction. That squirrel kept getting louder and louder, than finally took off running up the bank. The forest erupted in noise from rustled leaves. There must have been at least three to four dozen wild turkeys running up the hill. What amazed me most was almost every one of them was running up the hillside like a mountain goat. I only saw one get so panicked that it took to flight. The rest were quite content to just run up this hill. Ive never seen so many wild turkeys in my life as what I just saw then.
The next set of shoals we came to seem to go on forever. We got out of our boats and hiked a little distance and realized we had reached our turn around spot. It was a little after 3 and we had been paddling since 9:30 am. I told Curtis that he was about to get his first experience of night paddling, as there were no way we could be off the water by dark. We turned and paddled as brisk as we could. Fortunately, we reached the logjam while it was still daylight out to see how to get over it. But darkness soon took over. All we had was the light of the moon. It wasnt quite a quarter, but better than a sliver. Being an old military man, Im aware of my night vision and know how to best use what little light there is. My young paddle partner has had the fortune (or misfortune) of being spared this type of training. He is also a smoker. I told him at dusk not to light up any cigarettes or the light from his lighter would destroy his night vision and the paddle back would not be very comfortable with out it. He took my word for it. This was also the time of year that you dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature. Curtis had cotton pants on and did not wear the dive boots I brought for him. A chill set into him when the sun went down.
Fortunately, we only paddle about an hour in complete darkness, but we both could hardly move from the cold and time on the water without any food. It took awhile for us to load our gear in our animated motion from the elements and self-punishment.
Its supposed to be a bit chillier and 50% chance of rain this coming Monday, but Curtis said he is still on for it. In reality, he is my driving force right now with his youth and love for this new found sport for him. There was a rainy day I would have skipped in early fall if not for his enthusiasm. And I would have not crossed that logjam if not for his enthusiasm. And I would have missed the most wild turkeys Ive ever seen in my life. It amazes me to no end the friends you meet in your life just when you need them most. Im almost 50 and my body is trying to slow down though my mind says it would be a mistake. Then I meet Curtis who drives me to the level that my mind says I should be at. Gods plan. Must be.