Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kakayking Ocmulgee 2nd Leg

Saturday we embarked on the 2nd leg stretch of the Ocmulgee River.  This stretch is about 8.5 miles long and starts at Wise Creek boat ramp and ends at Hwy 83 bridge.  The weather started off nice, it was overcast and coolish for this time of year and we had the forethought of loading the boats the night before.
The river was a little higher this trip that our disastrous time before.

The gauge said that the river was running at about 325 cubic feet/sec and it was about 250 the time before.  The put in at wise creek was definitely higher.  Lauren enjoyed her last trip out with us so much that she joined us again.  She and I used the Triyak sit on top (the red beast) and clay used his sit-inside.

 The is a couple of pictures from the Wise creek put in/take out.  I wish that we had these pictures before doing the 1st leg of the trip so it would be easier to identify where the 1st leg ends.  It would be easy to miss the creek because it sneaks into the river in this little cove area but the ramp made with cinder blocks would be hard to miss even from across the river.
The trip started easy enough and was uneventful (in a good way) the whole time.  We stopped a little more than an hour in an went for a swimming break.  There was a nice little sandy beach area which turned out to be part of the equestrian trail.  While Lauren and Clay were jumping of the big rock and I was warming in the sun like a turtle, several horses and their humans came up on the shore.  They took turns coming in the water and cooling off.  Several water dogs came up during our time there too and went right in,  Clay just got more and more giddy.  I can't wait for us to have our own water dog!  One very curious horse came up to us when we got back in our boats and nibble a little on the edge of the boat and on the kayak and let me pet it.  You know me, I am a sucker for an animal!  Speaking of, on the drive in that morning I think that we saw the fastest land crawling turtle ever.  I stopped to help it across the road but by the time I got out of the car and over to get it, the speedy turtle was on the grass on the other side. 

After our swimming excursion we paddled on for an hour or so until we were so hungry we couldn't stand it.  We stopped for lunch on a little rocky area near where the tornado has come through and wiped out a bunch of trees.  We set up on the rock and cooked up our MREs.  I had a tasty strawberry milkshake treat in mine!  
After we had full bellies we hit the water.  For whatever reason, Lauren though it would be fun to pull Clay in his boat so we hitched him up with a bungee and started towing.  We had to get him to pay us back so we made him play DJ and we requested songs that he sang as many of the lyrics as he could remember (like 1-2 lines)This kept us entertained.  I raced Clay paddling our big ol' boat by myself and needless to say he won, I may or may not have forfeited out of fatigue before reaching the pre-appointed finish line.  
There were maybe 2-3 very small rapids in this stretch of river and most of it was very flat almost like lake paddling due to little current.  With our 2 fairly lengthy stops it took about 6 hours total on the river.  Poor Lauren even with her rash guard and multiple re-applications of SPF 50 sunscreen still got roasted and toasted.  The take out at 83 was easy to spot since there is a bridge there and was easy to maneuver except for the large amount of people clogging up the area.  Lots of swimmers, floaters, and loungers, none of whom were very keen on moving out of the way for the boats.  Also, if you park here under the bridge, make sure that you don't pull under so far that someone will pull behind you and block you in once the bridge is full.  This happened to us.  Luckily we had about 2 inches to spare to pull Clay's truck through the hole between cars.  
All in all we had a fantastic kayaking trip this time!  

Monday, July 16, 2012

We had a nice time at the Generous pour event at the Capital Grill in Atlanta.  Thank you Yelp for bringing us another fantastic elite event!   After a beautiful glass elevator ride to the 8th floor we were greeted by the staff, Kathleen, and some rose.  A little later the stations were opened up for sampling.  They had a total of 9 wines to taste and some delicious light bites.  The lobster and crab roll was perfect and the bite of Clay's filet roll was so tender and flavorful, I wish that I had gotten my own but I was pacing myself. 

They had a drawing for a free dinner for two and Kathleen (the Atlanta community manager) sadly did not choose our name. 
We sat at the bar for most of the evening.  Clay was sad that he was not able to have an old fasioned here.  The bartender deferred to the wine tasting, no mixed drinks here.   We talked with a new Yelper to us, Helmut and also caught up with Steve and Dee again (they are with us in the first picture at the top). 

The marinated roasted tomatoes were my favorite item of the evening though, they were perfect!  Although the desert wine was delicious too.  It was almost like wine made from rum raisin ice cream, very sweet and had a strong taste of fruit.

I got these photos from the Yelp flickr site.   

This one I snapped in the elevator, too bad you can't see the view!

Kayak Trip with Friends

On Saturday we loaded up the Kayaks and Latoya came down with her 2 kayaks (one for her one for Lauren) and we went down to Macon to paddle the easy peasy stretch of the Ocmulgee.   It was Hot by the time we got ready to go.  There were a group of tubing folks getting in behind us and I was thinking that they had the idea.

There was a breeze though and enough shade along the sides of the river that we could get out of the sun from time to time.  The water level was a good bit higher than the time we went before and the current helped send us along.   The clouds were absolutely beautiful Saturday!  Perfect day for outdoor fun. 

It was bright and a lot of squinting went on (I do not like sunglasses for some reason.)  Clay was tickled pink that we had a calm section of river and we only beached 1 time.  That was a welcome change after our last adventure!
We stopped on a sandy area and had our picnic lunch, it was Latoya's first MRE.  Only Clay was in the mood for swimming so we loaded back up and headed downstream again.

Lauren apparently likes to have pictures of bridges she goes under so I snapped a couple of pictures for her and they were actually kind of neat.  This is where I-16 crosses the river in Macon, Ga.  
It took us about 4 hours total to finish this section with very limited paddling and a long stop for lunch.   We had a nice trip!  We even saw a little bit of wildlife (heron, garr, one big catfish, turtles, and other little fish).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Job and Marathon Training

There is a lot going on currently in our household right now.  My new job started last night and it is a complete departure from what I am used to and comfortable with so it will take a LOT of getting used to.  I work again tonight but I am on another floor just to add insult to injury.  The good news is that everyone else is just as lost as I am!  I decided while I was in the midst of this big change it would be good for me mentally (for stress relief) and physically (because I have been gaining back a few pounds) to go ahead and start on my marathon training program although I haven't decided which marathon I want to run this fall.  I am thinking about the Columbus one since I heard it is pretty flat.  Day 2 down, 88 days to go = )

We are going to be getting another dog soon.  In the next couple of months we will be getting a Vizsla puppy.  I found out about this wonderful breed from a blog that I frequently read called PB Fingers.  They are usually water-loving dogs so that got Clay's attention, they like to be active which got my attention, and they are big cuddlers which both of us appreciated.  We are excited to have a playmate for Killer and an activity buddy for both of us.

We have been waiting several weeks now for an appraisal on the house (we are trying to refinance at a much lower rate) however the appraiser has yet to make an appointment although we have talked to our contact at the bank every week letting them know that we haven't been scheduled.  Hopefully that will straighten itself out soon. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kayaking Trip on Ocmulgee

Lloyd Shoals Dam at Jackson Lake put it in (from American Whitewater Website)
We were going to go kayaking Saturday and Sunday this weekend, however due to record heat and getting in super late Friday night/Saturday morning, we opted to sleep half of Saturday away and then go eyeball the Towaliga river and kayak on Sunday instead.  Luckily we did that because the river was so low, that will have to wait until we have a lot more rain!  So Clay consulted our book A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Georgia and decided we should start the Ocmulgee river (eventually he wants to run the whole thing piece by piece).  Leg 1 is from Lloyd Shoals Dam to Wise Creek approx 6 miles.

 Above is a video I found on You Tube that shows the same run we did.  They said the water was about 400 cfs ( this is a new term that I learned this weekend) at the time of their run.  I had looked up the river levels online at NOAA and it said that the Ocmulgee at Jackson was about 3.5 feet which sounded like PLENTY for our kayaks.  What I didn't realize was that the book said not to run it less than 400cfs and Sunday it was around 240.  Needless to say we learned our lesson!

This photo is taken from our book and shows the put in (A) and take out (C) spots.  I searched the internet for good directions to the take out at Wise Creek (C) and never found any great ones.  Basically it is in the middle of nowhere.  I settled on latitude and longitude coordinates and we put those in the GPS.   We were on a dirt road  without much signage and the GPS indicated for us to take a right (into the middle of some pine trees) so I thought maybe the road was a little further down, luckily we ran into some folks headed opposite us up the road and I asked the guy if he knew where Wise Creek ramp was and he said that is where they were headed and just to follow them.  He said that the last time they came it took them 2 hours to find the spot.  We finally made it down lots of dirt road (funny in my little Versa) and dropped Clay's truck there and headed north up another dirt road toward Lake Jackson and the put in.

Who knew we would have an adventure just finding the place.  So here we are hot and ready to get on the water (did I mention that there was record breaking temps all weekend here - like 108 degrees without the heat index).  So we readied our boats while the folks we followed in got in the water.  In a few minutes, we were on the water.  This was my first outing in the little watermelon and it took some getting used to.  I got spoiled going out in the Jackson sit on top that we rented from the outfitter in Macon, it was much more stable than the one I bought.  I decided that the underlying benefit was that I would get a good core workout paddling my boat and staying upright.  I must say that throughout the day I did get more comfortable with it and felt less unstable.  The fact that I paid less than half of what the Jackson cost helped ease the pain too.

We started off in slow moving water and ran into some rocky shoals here and there requiring some grunting and maneuvering to get loose and back to paddling (which you had to do a good bit of since there wasn't a current here to speak of).  This also made the water a little stinky, there were lots of little mussels and due to the low water a lot of them on the rocks were exposed and baking in the heat, eew.  Further downstream the river opened up some and still required paddling but there were less rocks and made for smooth sailing for a while.  Clay is pretty much in love with the comfort of his boat.
We had only been on the river an hour and started getting hungry since it took like 1.5 hours just to find the place and get on the water but we decided to try and get about another hour in before stopping.  This worked out well because about an hour later we saw the perfect spot on this island in the middle of the river with a little beach area to pull up to.  There was a tree overhanging this spot and I was double checking the tree for snakes when I caught some movement in the corner of my eye and there was a snake swimming to shore right where we wanted to eat.  I was back paddling and getting out of there.  I cannot stand a swimming snake! 
We headed downstream a little further and there were a bunch of folks swimming on the right side and they warned us that it was a little rocky further down we thanked them (not knowing what we had gotten ourselves into) and found us a good place to stop and eat.  There were lots of big rocks in the shad on the right bank and we were going to have to stop and portage the boats through that area anyway.  We got the boats down to where we would get back in after lunch and sat down to enjoy our MREs (I think these are fun, like grown-up lunchables).  We were both excited to find that we had cheese spread and jalepeno cheese spread in our MREs 
; ) oh the little things in life! 
We sat in the water for a while to cool off (it wasn't deep enough for swimming).  In the distance we thought we might have heard a little thunder and some clouds were getting dark but there was no wind to speak of and it was still hot as blazes.  In fact, I had taken lots more pictures but I think my phone was overheating and didn't save most of them.  We headed off down-river again.
We started running into more and more rocky shoals and getting stuck, it is pretty easy to get in and out of my kayak but that doesn't exactly make it fun with a very uneven bottom and the current picking up between rocks.  I tipped out at one point on a rapid between two rocks, I banged up my legs a little bit and lost my shoes (Croc slingbacks which I know now are too big).  I was just glad to get my feet back under me and that Clay's boat didn't run over me!  I got back in and Clay made it down without a hitch.  Around the corner I found a shoe and as I was scooping it up, Clay found my other one, YAY!
The sky is getting darker at this point, the wind is picking up, and I start noticing lightning in the distance.  I am curious how far we are from the take out point and check the Garmin, it doesn't look terribly far.  Bad news is that we come up on a huge treacherous rocky shoal and Clay's boat gets swamped, we pick up all the unsecured items (cooler, seat, etc) and throw them into my boat and pull his up on some rocks to dump.  I had lost one of my shoes again at this point and was just hoping I didn't tear up my foot on the rocks.  It starts to rain at this point and there is lightning to boot and some thunder just laughing at us.  We are standing on the top of the shoal looking around and realize that it is impassible by boat due to the low water and the currents in between are super fast.  We started pulling the boats along attempting to get down the rocks (we are stuck in the middle of the river a long way from shore and it is easier to go down that to the side).  After many choice words, almost twisted ankles, and bruised shins later we made it down and got back in the boats.
Rapids just before 40 acre island (from American Whitewater.org)

 These photos were found online and were listed as being taken when the river was at 460 cfs, there were even more rocks on Sunday since we were running it at 246 cfs.  Lots of rock, little water.
Rapids just before 40 acre island (from American Whitewater.org)

It was already about 6pm and was much darker than usual thanks to the storm and I am getting concerned thanks to the darkening sky and frequent lightning, I attempt to make a phone call and realize that I have no service.   I urge Clay to "paddle faster" and we head down the river to the river right of what we hope is 40 acre island (the last little bit before our take out).  Good news is, we found my shoe yet again! A ways down we hit a little more rapid but manage to stay in our boats. 

I see a canoe on the bank to my right and there is this strange stone building and there is someone and their dog looking over the top of the wall.  I am getting a bit panicky at this point, worried that we won't make it to the take out by dark and I am bummed that someone else found this place of shelter.  Hoping they can ease my mind, I yell up asking if Wise Creek is close.  They say "yes, it is just a ways down river".  I have never been so happy in my life.  I pass the news on to Clay and we start to see some hope that we will make it that night and not have to camp in the rain and storm without any camping gear and only a few snacks left.
Lamar's Mill Ruins from American Whitewater.org

After the island we see a creek over to the left bank and are hopeful, but I paddle over and I don't see any signs of life and the Wise Creek campground was hopping earlier so we check the Garmin and sure enough, we haven't made it yet.  Of course just a little further downstream the river gets more shallow and we start getting hung on rocks again and it is so time consuming trying to get off and back going.  
We hear some whitewater again and round the bend and see another decent sized rock shoal and are both getting depressed when I see a guy on the left bank hurry out of the water and a girl putting her bathing suit top back on.  The wind is whipping all around and I am afraid they won't hear me but Clay and I both yell over asking if that was Wise Creek boat ramp and they said yes.  I was so excited!!  It took us about 5 minutes to make it over to the ramp getting over all the surfaced rocks there but we were so happy to see and end in sight that we didn't care.  What was supposed to be a 3-4 hour trip took 7 very long hours.  The take out point has large rectangle cinder blocks that come down to the water.  I grabbed the key and went up to pull the truck down and I didn't see it and thought for a minute we were at the wrong place (major suck!) and then I saw that there are two levels to the parking and we were parked at the top so I pulled the truck down and we loaded up ( we hear a tree crack and fall while we are strapping down the boats) out just in time. 
 We were starving and it was pouring rain, we headed to Jackson to pick up my car and then we headed down town to get some grub.  After we filled our bellies full of Mexican food we headed home looking forward to a shower and some rest.

This is a before picture just thought I would end on a positive note = )

When we arrived home, finally at 10:30 that night we pulled into a dark yard, the power was out!  Apparently the storm that came through was really bad not that I thought any different while I was panicking on the rocks, but Clay was just worried that we were going to break a foot (priorities, right?)  
Feet not broken > Not getting struck by lightning 
The next day, I am messing around on the internet reading and trying to figure out why it was so scary and how did others want to repeat this stretch.  I learned about cfs and will pay very close attention to this number in the future.  I also noticed a paragraph in the Kayaking book that stated: A more abrupt channel right of the island abuses boats; few would consider it worthwhile.  Less advanced boaters and those more keen on experiencing history than bruising limbs and busting boats can portage the entire right rapid through the mill site on the right shore.  Ok, noted.  Also noted: Long stretches of smooth water deter most whitewater boaters from the Seven Islands section; the difficulty of the infrequent rapids wards off most others.  I must say that the rapids that we did make it through were fun and a little elating but they were few and far between, we (especially Clay's boat with the gear) got stuck far too many times to just laugh off.  However, I think a lot of our problems would have been remedied had we gone when the water level was higher.  We will keep that in mind if we ever feel frisky enough to run this stretch again.  We will also probably opt to portage around the mill.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where have I been

The last week and a half has been very busy, plus my laptop went on the fritz so I have been a little absent in the blogosphere.   Clay and I attended another Yelp elite event at Lime Fresh in Atlanta.  We had a good time and visited with 2 other Yelping couples.  The spread there was great!  Guac, salsa bar, tacos, burritos, key lime pie, sangria, and margaritas for free.  We also spent some time just running around ATL on last Saturday.  We hit up Petsmart and visited with the humane society puppies and got them some chew toys, then we were going to go back to the Book House Pub, but sadly we were too early and they weren't open yet.  Next, we found ourselves in Inman Park and decided to hit up Fritti, which we had seen before when going to Dad's garage theater but never tried.  We have been missing out, what a fantastic meal.  We ate out on the patio and didn't even mind the heat because the food was that good!  We started with calamari which was crisp and not chewy and sausage risotto balls that were innovative and delicious!  We shared a pizza with several cheeses, ham, artichokes, and olives.  Yummy!  1 pizza was 8 decently sized slices, so it was perfect for sharing.  It was so warm that we couldn't turn up the opportunity for gelato and we were very glad we didn't.  The pistachio was the most flavorful that I have ever had and the lime-raspberry was sweet and tangy and so refreshing. 

We decided that evening that we would come back on Friday for a Braves baseball game and headed south to go pick me out a kayak.  I tried the one that I thought would be my favorite but the foot pegs pushed in on my ankles and were very uncomfortable so I tried on the small and cheapest *yay* just for giggles and it was so much more comfortable and it was super light.  I can actually pick it up over my head to carry it.  Plus, it is green and looks like a watermelon.  We strapped that baby to the roof and headed home.  I spent the week working and hanging out with Stacie.  It was Claire's last week in Georgia so we had a little festivity for her at work and then I went out to eat with her and Bekie on evening.  
So, when we made our plans last week to go to the Braves game little did we know we were going to be in the midst of a heat wave, but we are hard core so off we went Friday into the 100+ degree temps to cheer on the Braves.

We arrived and met Eric and bought our tickets *cheap nosebleeders* and headed up into the rafters of the stadium.  Profusely sweating but still having a good time we proceeded to watch the Braves get their asses handed to them until the 7th inning when they got 4 runs to tie it up.  Unfortunately the Nationals brought scored again and the Braves weren't able to come back.  We all had a good time and enjoyed ourselves and it wasn't that bad considering the scorching temps.
After the game I was a bit peckish so we were trying to decide on somewhere to go eat and since we attempted to go to the Book House Pub the other day and they are open until 0200 we headed over there.  We encountered a sketchy parking situation but managed to get in and get a table.  The vibe was different than when we were there at dinner time but other than having to yell at tablemates to be heard it was a nice time.  Our waitress even scrounged up some house made chips for us even thought the kitchen was closed.  I enjoyed a spicy bloody Mary while Clay and Eric tried a few beers.  Clay was disappointed that they didn't have the banana nut bread beer that he enjoyed so much the last time we were there but found a new favorite, the watermelon beer.  We tortured my sister with pics of this beer because I remembered her Facebook post from earlier in the week lamenting her lack of access to said beer.  We were still munchy when we left, the chips didn't quite count as dinner, so we hit up the Zesto close by for our first experience there, then we headed home, surprising Killer at about 0300.

Today was even hotter and Clay attempted to talk me into doing yardwork, haha haha.  Needless to say that didn't get done.  Tomorrow is supposed to be around 104 but our crazy selves are heading out for a kayak excursion on the Ocmulgee.  We are going to put in at Lloyd Shoals Dam and take out at Wise Creek.  We are taking lots of water and hoping that the whole river hasn't evaporated or we will be miserably portaging a whole lot.  This run is supposed to take about 3 hours, I am betting on more like 5-6 counting a picnic lunch for us.  We shall see!  Me and my watermelon mobile will be hitting the water for the first time.