Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kayak Catch Cooler

After yesterday's paddle, I stopped in at West Marine to have a look at the kayaks. The selection was vastly reduced from last year, and there were only a few Ocean Kayak sit-on-tops to see. However, I poked around in the accessories section and found this product--the Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler. It was on clearance, and a quick check on the iPhone determined that "50% off" really was half the price of any online deals.

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The products appears well designed and well made, and the reviews I read at REI and at Austin Kayak were all positive. It should help with a problem I've been contemplating with regard to a couple of overnight paddles this summer--namely, how to keep some food cold for an evening cookout without taking up valuable below-deck space. The reflective cooler bag has six clips to hold it securely to kayak deck lines, and it features an inner liner where you can put fish to keep them cold during a day on the lake or river. I'm looking forward to trying out this cooler bag soon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Old Hickory Run

I made the trip up to Old Hickory Lake today for an early morning paddle. Since I was kayaking with a friend, we were able to manage a point-to-point trip rather than a loop. We launched at the Cedar Creek Recreation Area, a Corps of Engineers property, where quite a few facilities are available right next to the lake. I noticed a well-kept campground, a pavilion, a playground, and a beach. The area definitely seemed like a place worth revisiting this summer. Since we paddled north up and over a peninsula, our take-out was less than five-miles away at the Shutes Branch Recreation Area where there are several fishing docks and a boat ramp. Both the put-in and take-out are just off of Saundersville Road on the south side of the lake.

Saundersville Road Paddle at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Conditions were fantastic. It was overcast and cooler, and the sun never broke out of the cloud cover while we were on the water. Total paddle time was around 2 hours, 15 minutes, and our distance traveled was 9.3 miles. We averaged a little over 4 mph despite a few stops for water, a bite of food, or some sight-seeing. This paddle reinforced the idea that it is very easy to cruise around 5 mph in the Essence, but any faster speed requires considerable effort.

I had a new dry pouch for the Garmin GPS handheld. The unit is purportedly waterproof, but my main fear was that I'd drop it overboard, and it would wind up on the bottom of a lake. In the new bag, a Seal Line "See Pouch," the Garmin has even more water protection, and it should float if I somehow let it out of my grip.

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Just before we reached our take-out, as we were passing by Harbor Island Yacht Club, we spotted (actually, I heard it first) a small island with trees full of vocal birds. Upon closer inspection, they seemed to be in the middle of their spring nesting. They were wading birds of some sort, related perhaps to herons, and I wish I'd gotten a clearer picture so I could make a positive identification. Everything resembling them so far in my bird books does not appear to be indigenous to this area.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Though a topo map is a handy thing to have in the field, gone are the days when a USGS map was the main tool for planning an outdoor excursion. So much more visual information is available today via sites like Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth. Lately, I've been exploring some of these sites and learning to use their features.

Here, for instance is a kayak paddle planned for Friday on Old Hickory Lake that I charted with Live Search Maps. Using the route feature, I was able to track a path that hugs the shore line and determine the paddle would be over 9 miles long.


The lake features can be viewed with a pretty fine-grained lens, either with an Aerial view as shown here at the put-in.


Or with a Bird's Eye view as shown here at the take-out.


I can also download this charted path as a .gpx file, label the various waypoints, and upload the route to my Garmin handheld should I need navigational assistance on the lake. Information can also go in the opposite direction if I want to save a track on my handheld and then view that track as plotted over an Aerial or Road view of the terrain. Another nice feature is that driving directions are readily called up to the take-out, to the put-in, or between the two.

In the past week or so, I've used Live Search Maps to create a couple of routes for upcoming paddles, and those routes are now loaded up on the Garmin after a bit of finagling with a freeware application called EasyGPS. One is a 20+ mile trip from the Mona launch on the Stones River up to the Anderson Public Use Area on Percy Priest. The other is a river float on the Painted Rock River down in Alabama. I am looking forward to those overnight paddles this summer.

The world is getting smaller and smaller, and our vantage points are getting more powerful all the time.

Update: Live Search Maps is now Bing maps.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kayaking Notes

Note 1: Last Thursday, I tried out my new Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx on a roughly seven-mile paddle at the north end of Percy Priest. It did a nice job of tracking the paddle, and the trip log was a good way of seeing just how fast the Essence goes. It cruises very easily around 5 mph. Max speed that day was 6.2 mph, but to get that extra 1 mph, I really had to push it.

Priest May 21 at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Note 2: I'm appreciating more and more the Thule rack system on my pickup. It puts the 16.5' Essence over the center of the vehicle and so far (knock wood) has been a stable and secure transportation platform.