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Discharge and Gage Height near Francisco, NC
Sunday, August 20th, 2006. Exactly two years to the day after renting my first kayak from DRC and paddling on the Dan River in Danbury, NC, Amy, Ben, Jackson and I made our first family canoe outing. The first step was to call our friend Jeff to see if we could borrow his 16 foot Mad River canoe. The next was to call Dan River Company and set up a shuttle. The owner, Dave Hoskins, called back to warn that the water was only at 78cfs. That first trip in 2004 was the lowest I've ever paddled at and it was at 149cfs that day. Dave thought that we would still have a good time, but would have to pick our lines down the river and since we were more interested in just getting outside with the kids than anything else, we decided to go ahead with the trip. We arrived at DRC off Flinchum Road in Danbury around 11:15 and arrived at the put-in around noon, along with four other canoes and a shuttle bus full of paddlers. A Family Fun magazine that arrived earlier in the week suggested taking a sand bucket full of rocks for Ben to throw into the water. Other suggestions that we followed were taking a small toddler's beach chair for Ben to sit in and a kite string to tie Ben's rubber ducks to. The chair and the ducks weren't big hits, but the bucket of rocks was a fantastic idea. Whenever we ran low on rocks, Jackson would use his net to scoop more from the river bottom.
We also found that Ben was a hundred times happier in the bow where he could see than he was in the middle of the boat. We brought two small paddles and Jackson spent a lot of his time helping us paddle down the river. Amy turned out to be a natural and really enjoyed paddling. She kept us moving fast and, much to Jackson's delight, we passed three or four different paddling groups. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we weren't getting stuck. We followed good lines and made excellent time. I later learned that the water level rose to just shy of 100cfs during our trip, due to the rain from the night before. Jackson was ready for a break after the first mile, so we stopped briefly just shy of Moore's Spring Campground, but didn't stop again until we reached the beach at Dan River Shores. Jackson made a dozen or more trips down that stretch of river, floating along in his pfd, but Ben thought the water was too cold. Amy and I agreed with Ben, but still made the float a few times with Jackson. We ate a great lunch, mine included left-over barbequed chicken legs from the night before. Amy befriended a hound dog and made sure it got a snack too, since it was pretty obvious that she was a new mom. And before we shoved off, Brian and others from Dan River Rats stopped by for a few minutes.
Everything up until then had went perfect. Ben had even dozed off just before we reached the beach. I kept telling everyone how surprised I was that we weren't dragging or getting stuck. I had promised the boys that we would see a great blue heron and we did. It had flown right over Amy's head. But not long before stopping, we had noticed an unusual amount of water in the boat. Looking at the bottom of the boat, Amy discovered why. We had ripped off a portion of the stern's kevlar patch and opened a crack along the stern's seam. Not good. Not good at all. We had borrowed a boat and would have to take it back with a hole in it. I felt sick.
We loaded everything back up and started paddling the last leg of the trip. During our long lunch break, the four canoes full of friendly paddlers from the shuttle had caught up, along with a large group in rec boats we had passed at the big rock, plus Brian's group. And we found more kayakers at the play wave just before the Flinchum Road ramp. So we had lots of paddling company on the way out. Although we kept having to stop for Ben to take his little pit stops off the bow. At least until he fell asleep again. The water in the boat was starting to get a little deeper than desired, but Jackson wanted to paddle instead of bail. We didn't want to stop because Ben was asleep on Amy's lap, so we offered Jackson a dollar to bail the boat for us. And that's how we finished the day, with Ben asleep and Jackson using an empty sand bucket to bail our boat.
Amy rocked sleeping Ben on DRC's front porch while Jackson and I loaded everything into the Van. Dave helped me get the canoe up the stairs and offered some advice on fixing the boat. Jackson changed into dry clothes, then spent his buck on a root beer. Ben slept all the way home and for another two hours once we got home. We discovered the next morning that the poor guy was sick. If you can somehow block out the part about putting a hole in our good friend Jeff's boat, then our first canoe trip was a smashing success. Jeff was very nice and more than forgiving about us bringing his boat back with a hole in it and hopefully we'll be able to help him get his canoe fixed. And I also hope that this trip was the first of many, many family paddling adventures.
Depth River Depth at Francisco gauge = 1.4 - 1.5 feet Discharge = 78-95 cubic feet per second