Monday, October 03, 2011

Kayaking Fontana Lake

My first kayak venture! It was a blast! Let’s get that much said at first. What a cool event even if we only were gone two nights. (Pictures to follow.)

I pride myself in being a good canoeist but a kayak is not only a different beast, getting my maiden in the deep waters of Fontana Lake is itself quite a start.

The kayaks were single-person lake kayaks and tandem lake kayaks. For what it’s worth, ours was red! A tandem can carry quite a load in addition to us paddlers. In fact, it got so loaded it was hard to lift. There were eight of us and for the overnight at Proctor, N.C., we had to take tents, water, food, fuel, and all kinds of personal gear. In six kayaks. (All colors!)

Our first night out was car camping since we arrived at Fontana well after dark from Johnson City. To find us on the maps, go south from Johnson City to Asheville, N.C., then west  past Cherokee, on past Bryson City and into upper reach of the lake. But, you have to go to Fontana Dam to get permits and such. So the drive, while very nice, and way back in there, is a bit long.

If you were continue slight south-westerly further into the toe of North Carolina you would be near Andrews where Eric Rudolph eluded the FBI for so many years.

If you cross the lake at the dam you are near Deals Gap, home of the famous Dragon that the bikers like to use. This is good country. Check it out. The AT crosses at the dam, too, before bisecting the Smokies.

We camped the first night at Cable Cove, on the south shore of Fontana, and then Saturday night at Proctor, N.C., which is just about straight north across the lake. Since we were new at this it was a slug to get up Hazel Creek to Proctor but fun. We picnicked along the shore (see the photo with the red check table cloth!). A new treat is a tortilla with tuna fish, creamy p.b., and cheese. Mighty fine wrap, indeed. The deceptive part is that the map makes it look easier than when you're at water level!

One the of things to think about is, of course, you are a level "A" while normal pool might be level "B," twenty feet above you. So there's this twenty-foot high bathtub ring all around the lake. Blue water below. Blue sky above. You level is in fact a certain height above sea level and it doesn't change for the trip. There's no such thing as up hill or down hill.

Proctor is a primitive sight, to say the least. Bring you own water. Toilet paper and flashlight. I’ve been in dark campsites but this one really dark.

Kayaking is a different beast from canoeing, to say the least. I think sometimes, strangely, the canoes are more stable than the kayak but I found our tandem to be quite sturdy and reliable underneath us. In the water it sits deep, center of gravity is low, it paddles straight. All good features for having fun without wearing yourself out or worrying endlessly about tipping over. Our advisor said we’d have to go some to tip and I think he’s right. Although we never came close to tipping over, I'd want my try at it to be a little more controlled than in a 300-foot deep lake.

The best way to understand to dynamics would be to load one up and take it to the pool for a trial run. In fact, you'd be wise to test a canoe, too, to understand how they react differently. Also, a lake canoe has a keel. Maybe only one inch but it's 10 feet long or 120 square inches. That's a lot of keel. A lake canoe will drift somewhat in a straight line.  A kayak, lacking a keel, drifts on it's own thoughts.

It’d been hard to sink one, too. You’re are advised to be sure things are firmly attached to the kayak (not you!). I don’t imagine you could ever send one to the bottom once you’re out of it.

Speaking of which, for a coolish day, with lots of wind and water, we were comfortable. Below your waist is below the cockpit cowling. You have on some kind non-cotton pants, sandals, a non-cotton shirt, a rain suit top, the spray skirt, life jacket, and hat. (No life jacket, no go!) All this keeps you dry which keeps you warm. I’d be sure to always pack one extra layer of dry clothes, if only pants and hoodie,  just in case. You cannot be too prepared but remember even though you are carrying all this stuff it still has weight and you still have to propel yourself and it through the water.

My arms are still tired. But I like to think I’d go again soon. This was an enjoyable way to see the lake and some of the back country. We had a good crew of students. I like to think we all had fun. It looked to me like everyone did. Good weather. Bright sun. Calm lake. Warm water. Can't beat that!

Labels: ,