A couple of miles up the road from our house we have a nice put-in to one of the Hiwassee River’s inlets. Although there is water year-round, it’s most conducive for paddling/boating in the summers when TVA is releasing water to the Hiwassee. In winter, water levels can get pretty low.
Despite the doubters in the house, I managed to get our old beater kayak loaded onto the Xtracycle and went for a paddle today. OK, I’ll admit, when I first felt the (off-)balance of the load I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But surprisingly, upon taking a test ride, I discovered that it was totally do-able – at least for the few miles I had to go. You kind of naturally make a center-of-gravity shift, but nothing that changes your cycling position dramatically. There was occasionally a funny little shimmy-shake in the front, especially when on a downhill coast, but pedaling seemed to eliminate it. Optimum no-shimmy speed seemed to be about 13mph. Not sure of the physics behind what was going on, but I’d be curious if someone could explain…
The great thing about this little inlet are all of the little islands and shallow channels – perfect quiet water for meandering about and bird-watching without a beastly motor. I had barely paddled off when I spotted a Little Green Heron perched overhead (picture of him on the Pix page). Also saw several Great Blue Herons, and another black and white water bird I have not yet identified.
Strangest event of the trip was spotting a very large creature swimming across one of the channels. It was huge – bigger than a muskrat or anything I might have expected to see. As I sat watching, I discovered it was a deer! She was swimming across the water, only her head sticking out – and had two lovely little fawns trailing behind her! I had never seen a deer swim before, so this was something pretty amazing for me.
Of course I didn’t have the telephoto lens on the camera, so I did the best I could. You can just make her out in the distance, doe on either side of her.
Had a great day exploring, bird-watching … and deer-watching. When I got back to the put-in, I was greeted by a rather mystified fisherman – a very nice older gentleman who introduced himself as Bill. Think he was pretty baffled with my boat-on-bike set-up, but offered some help while I was strapping things up, and I enjoyed chatting with him.
We had a brief discussion over the safety of fish consumption from this part of the river. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Olin Chemical, high levels of mercury in the river sediment and in fish have made it unsafe to consume the catch. Tennessee Fish & Game and the EPA have posted warning signs, but it doesn’t stop people from fishing. I was happy to hear that Bill knew about the situation and was strictly a catch-and-release fisherman. Still, it makes me very sad – especially watching the herons and the other fish-feeding birds and thinking about how it may be harming them and the rest of the ecosystem.
Great day, great ride, great paddle, great sights. Can’t wait to do it again.