Sunday, September 7, 2014

Red Rock Kayak Camping

What better way to experience your first overnight camping kayak trip than to take your whole family and friends along.  I relied on my experience of prior overnight bike and hike trips but packing for 7 people seemed to accumulate lots of stuff and I seriously doubt all the stuff would fit into the kayaks and that the kayaks would be overloaded.

The bad part of the Midwest, or at least Iowa, is that it's all heavily fertilized and chemically treated farmland around here.  So even with the great filtration system out there I don't want to drink that water.  That meant packing 9 gallons of water for a two night trip on top all the other stuff.  Surprising though everything fit into the kayaks without a problem

This trip was also the first time kayaking for our friends.  Even loaded down they didn't have any problems of their new found sport.  We all had an enjoyable 1.6 mile paddle from the Whitebreast beach to the Hickory Ride hike-in/paddle-in campsites. Oskar was our guide as I made him study satellite images of our campsite and the route to it.

No, these kayaks aren't ours but I just noticed now, writing the blog, that Oskar's kayak is the same one he paddled on our last trip.

The kids had a blast at the campsite.  Lots of swimming in the lake and kayaking around.

Hickory Ridge used to be time share campground. The layout of the wilderness area does give a hint of this.  Some electrical poles can be seen here and there.  The only structure still standing is a large shelter with picnic benches. Iowa National Heritage Foundation purchased the site after it had been vacant for 10-15 years.  Army Corp of Engineers now manages the 47 acres with eight camp sites of which four can be reserved.  Source: local radio recording  Additional campsite info  At present the water hydrant and vault toilet has not been installed.  A port-a-potty did exist which could have used a servicing.

Besides the usual animal sounds like coyotes howls and owls hoots we heard a whole bunch of dogs barking.  It sounded like a puppy mill was across the lake finger.  They did eventually quiet down for a few hours that night.

Next morning we paddled up the finger into the Campetine creek all the way to the Kennedy street bridge exploring on the way and watching a gray crane.

Yeah, we wimped out and didn't stay for the second night.  I knew there was a thunderstorm coming through the second night and was somewhat prepared.  I even brought a huge tarp along. But at the end we decided that there is not much gained from staying the night and instead headed back while we are still happy campers. 

One of the girls was picked up earlier in the day so I towed an unmanned kayak back.  Not fun at all. The kayak didn't stay in a straight line and zig-zagged around behind me.  It even got loose once which I didn't notice right away.  Towing Heidi in her kayak was much nicer.

One part we paddled past was rocky and neat.  I've seen other pictures of Lake Red Rock and there apparently many interesting shore lines to explore on the lake.  Certainly worth to come back sometime for another kayaking trip.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Springer Mountain Hike

Another short adventure with a co-worker in conjunction with a work trip. This time we picked a roughly 20 mile hike to Springer Mountain to spend a night up there. We were lucky to get flight that arrived 9:30am at the Atlanta airport which gave us plenty of time to do the hike on the same day.

Steps by the Amcalola Falls

The hike starts from the Amicalola Falls State Park where we paid $5 to enter and park overnight. For the overnight parking and hike we had to register at the visitor center. At first the lady there thought we would be going to the Hike Inn and suggested for us to park at the upper parking lot. Once she figured out that we were "section hikers" she corrected herself and told us to park right across the visitor center. With that we got to hike up the 600+ steps by the beautiful falls which turned out to be the most strenuous section of the whole hike. I guess this is a privilege that the Hike Inn guests don't get to enjoy.

Hike Inn & Appalachian Approach / Springer Mountain trail sign


Once above the falls, by the upper parking lot, the real trail began. Winding through the foresty hills up and down, the trail takes one up another 2000 feet until one arrives on top of Springer Mountain. Most of the view from Sprinter mountain is blocked by trees except for a bolder area to the south-west.

Panoramic view from Springer Mountain

Appalachian Trail plaque

Springer Mountain peak

Several hikers watched with us the sunset but left us alone for the night, either hiking back to the Springer shelter or the trail head north of Springer Mountain. With the gorgeous weather we decided to sleep under the stars and forgo our tents.

Sunset on Springer Mountain

Open sky from where we slept

Campsite in the dawn

After breakfast and some dilly dallying we started our hike back via the Len Foote Hike Inn, stopping by for some delicious homemade deserts. One of the staff gave us some expert advice on adjusting our backpacks as well. Surprisingly there wasn't anything really to improve on my pack. At the Hike Inn we also break down and finally weighted our packs at one of the scales that seem to be made available everywhere. Mine came to 30lbs, 10 less than I was guessing. Still I don't see a real reason to weight a pack.


Stairs by Amcalola Falls

Interactive route map