Sunday, October 17, 2010

Low and Slow on the Harpeth River

Advanced Technical Draddling: A Style Primer

Jimmy and I knew the Harpeth was low. It has barely rained in middle Tennessee in more than a month. Still, after two decent rainfalls in the past week, I pushed for a Harpeth run yesterday morning. Turns out though it was less of a run and more of a drag. Or draddle, which is our newly coined portmanteau combining drag and paddle.

We retraced a route taken back in June of '09, and right off the bat, I feared we were going to have a repeat of the infamous draddle on the East Fork of the Stones a couple of years back. We didn't get a mile before the low flow necessitated an exit-and-drag maneuver. But then for much of the ~8.5-mile float, we managed to stay in our yaks—occasionally scraping bottom but managing to keep forward motion.

Hwy 249 to Hwy 70 on the Harpeth

Toward the end of the float, however, low current led to some pretty decent draddling. To avoid walking, we practiced techniques such as the paddle pole, the booty scoot, the bobsled, and the ever popular school of momentum. Still, we had to exit and drag in some stretches, and our two-hour float turned into 3.5 hours. Jimmy has since located hydrologic data for that section of the river, and using Saturday's level (1 foot) as a reference point, we should be able to avoid future draddling on the Harpeth.

Wildlife sightings included a fox squirrel, gobs of turkey vultures, at least four huge red-tailed hawks, and two coyotes. The 'yotes popped out of some tall grass next to a river bend, eyed us for a few seconds, and then trotted off downstream. I only captured the tail-end of one coyote with my camera, but Jimmy snapped a nice picture of both.


Just a couple of items worth mentioning...
  • I tried out my Seals spray skirt on the Perception Swifty and found it to be a good fit. It should be a valuable addition in cold and/or rainy weather and in active current where splashes are more likely.
  • Soon after executing a draddle during which I tucked my GPS into my life vest, I looked to my right and saw a familiar pouch floating down the river. It contained, of course, my Garmin GPS, and I can now say with confidence that I appreciate the buoyancy of the dry pouch—a Seal Line "See Pouch." Without it, my Garmin unit might still be somewhere in the Harpeth.

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