May 14, 2017

The Sluice

  • 7.74 miles
  • 2:15 duration
  • 1 cache found (FTF)
  • 1 cache visited (previously found)
  • 1 cache hidden by LakeBum

Well, it has been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything. I’ve done plenty of wandering and pondering in the interim, but not with Huck or my hiking stick. I’ve mostly been traveling out of state. But, today I finally got to get Huck wet again.

LakeBum (Rob) and I met up this morning for a paddle on the Sluice. This is a section of the South Fork Holston River that takes you along the southwest side of Long Island. No, not the one in New York. The one in Kingsport.

We put in just below Fort Patrick Henry Dam.  When we arrived at the put in, the water was FLYING by. We have had a lot of rain lately, and TVA was running two generators at the dam today, so we knew it would be a quick trip. The water was definitely higher and faster than what we encountered on our two recent paddles starting at this point (April 9 and April 15). On each of those trips, it would not have been possible to paddle the Sluice because the water was too low.

We got our boats in the water, and began the fast float downstream. I mostly used my paddle to steer, and just let the current do all the work unless I needed to navigate to shore for a cache stop. I checked my mapmyfitness app several times throughout the trip, and our speed ranged from 11 – 17 mph for much of the trip.

Just a short distance downstream, I paddled to the far shore and into the mouth of what is usually a small stream entering the river. Today it was a calm lake. We paddled through and among the trees, feeling like we were in the Everglades. I kept expecting to see a gator rear its ugly head above the water. LakeBum hid a new cache nearby, and then we headed on downstream toward the entrance to the Sluice.

Once we were in the narrow channel of the Sluice, it seemed that we were going even faster than before. According to my app, our speed was about the same, but with the land and trees closer on each side of us it seemed faster.

This is a beautiful stretch of river with trees overhanging the water. In one spot is an interesting old, abandoned bridge that once carried Eastman Road across the Sluice. We were moving too quickly for me to stop for pictures, but there are several good pictures at the link above.

Our next stop was at a cache I had already logged, but that Rob needed. This cache, hidden last summer by our buddy BackWoodsAng, requires climbing a tree. Since that is not Rob’s forte, I volunteered to make the climb. The last time I made this climb I couldn’t figure out how to get back down the tree, and ended up jumping into the river instead. That resulted in a near catastrophe when my foot brushed a tree limb that was hidden underwater. I was lucky I didn’t impale myself on it or break something. Today I felt much more confident in my tree climbing (or descending) abilities and managed to make it back to ground without having to make that wet leap.

We then paddled a little further downstream and stopped once more to log a First to Find (FTF) on another BackWoodsAng cache hidden last week. There is always a special added thrill when you see a fresh log sheet in a cache.

As we approached the Riverport Rd bridge, the water was so high it looked as if we might not be able to float under it. I was able to reach up and touch the bridge as we went under, and Rob actually had to duck a little.

We continued on down the river, enjoying a nice set of rapids near Domtar Park. I’ve posted a two-minute video of these rapids here. This is a very tame river overall, so every little rapid like this is fun to navigate, especially with such a high flow.

At the end of Long Island, the Sluice rejoins the main channel of the South Holston, becoming a much wider body of water. It was still flowing quickly here, but we were suddenly faced with a stiff headwind which slowed our progress considerably. I spotted a large piece of driftwood floating in the river, and spent several minutes wrestling it onto the back of my yak so that I could take it home for our new landscaping project.

While I was wrangling the driftwood, I heard Rob shout something, but couldn’t understand it over the sound of the wind and water. Once I had it on board, I started paddling over toward him. Suddenly, there was a huge splash between us, and Rob told me that it was a river otter that he had been watching. We spotted it a few more times as it would surface while swimming across the river.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and we pulled in at the Riverfront Boat Ramp in record time.

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