Sunday, October 10, 2010

James River Clean up

I got a message from Kevin Costello on my county email. He was organizing a clean up day for the James River in coordination with the Twin River Outfitters. I knew Kevin because he is in charge of the county tourism office and Lee and I were now models in all the Upper James River brochures and web sites. We also knew the Twin River Outfitters because they had donated the use of the canoes and their services for the photo shoot.

The original date had to be postponed because we had so much rain. The water was up 3 feet and it "looked like chocolate milk." So it was this weekend. Unfortunately, it was a holiday weekend for the county. Monday is Columbus Day. So a lot of people had made vacation plans. Including Kevin. So when Lee and I showed up only one other guy was there. His name was Rich Maxwell. With John from Twin Rivers ( he and his brother are twins, hence the name of their company )that was only two canoes. There were some other groups and individuals that showed up to clean the landings, but we were the only water based clean up group.

We put in at the Springwood ramp. There were some Class I rapids as we put in, so we didn't even look for debris until we got through that. Right away we started finding tires. They were filled with putrid, black mud and ooze. Even after a good rinsing the bottom of the canoe held lovely, wet bilge water that we kept for the whole trip.

The other group kept mostly to the left side and we worked the right. At times the right side was so sheer that there was nowhere for trash to land, so we drifted left and got trash behind them. At times we were quite far apart and then we would catch up. We each kind of did our own thing.

Sometimes we were able to snag trash with the T of the paddles. That was nice. If not, we had to beach the canoe and one of us had to get out and retrieve the junk while the other tried to hold the canoe in place. Now I'm old and my hips don't like being bent all day, so it was nice to be the one in the front of the boat so that I could get out. I needed to straighten out my hips. Once, Lee wanted to get out. We went nose first into the beach to hold the boat. The water was so clear that it looked more shallow than it was and when Lee stepped out, he sank down and as one leg was still in the boat it tipped us sideways so that we took on water and I had my left side submerged. I am not proud of the fact that I said something mean about that. Something along the lines of, "Just because you are falling in, don't take me with you!" How mean is that? Sorry, Lee.

He managed to right the boat pick up the garbage and then we got out a jar from the trash bag and we bailed off and on for the rest of the journey. Water kept coming from the tires as we bounced around and the sloshing water made it hard to stay upright. In addition, the tires made us top heavy and they would shift a bit from side to side. It made navigation in the other rapids quite tricky for two novice paddlers.

There is a art to paddling. Lee is so much stronger than I that if we both pick a side and paddle, the boat will turn to the side I am using. So Lee has to switch sides to keep us straight. But just when you get the boat going straight and switch to the other side, it keeps on going the other way. So you have to under correct. I had to switch sides due to sheer weakness. I had to let the other side get tired and sore, too! So Lee had to watch what I was doing, watch the way the boat was going and look for garbage. It sounds like a lot of work, and it was, but it was fun, too. The air was clear and warm. It has just started to get cold, so the leaves are turning beautiful colors. The water was mostly smooth as glass, with just a few rocks to keep you on your toes. A perfect day

Add to all of that the idea that we were helping our community and our environment and you would be hard pressed to come up with a better way to spend a Saturday in Fall. Count us in for next year!

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