Friday, November 28, 2008
I've lived in DC for over 10 years now. I've been kayaking a small section of the Potomac near my house for most of those years. It's a simple run with a few features and a half dozen rapids. Unless there's a big rain event or snowmelt, it's a fairly tame run. I've run it at barely a dribble and had fun. I've run it at flood stage in the dark and was terrified. I would not be surprised if the number of times I've run it tops 100. It had been months since I had done any kayaking and today seemed like a good day to get back to the river. I did a trail run to scout out a new unknown feature but the level was too low for it so I fell back to what I knew - Little Falls.
Not having any plans this evening there was no rush to my movements. In fact I moved rather slowly - a serious rarity for me. I took my time and my camera and made my way to the river. I knew the run wouldn't be overly challenging, even alone. I knew I could do it even if the light turned to dark. So I barely paddled and let the boat just float down the feeder creek into the main river. I began to be more aware of the details like I had never been before. The grip of the paddle.
The sound of the water.
A rock I've paddled past all these years but never paid any attention to caught my eye.
It totally stands out but I could not remember having ever seen it before tonight. I think it's quartz.
I would look at something and see it differently. Like this little slot.
Then I'd look at it closer and find art.
And for some reason, I sat looking at this little standing wave like a mental patient.
I risked flipping over to shoot a few seconds of video - one handed paddling through this wavetrain.
It started to get dark and the shots wouldn't come out without the flash. The pics aren't quite as moody but still with some splash on the camera, the results got interesting.
Water beading off my new drytop.
I figured I'd better put the cam away and run the final rapid - the hardest part of the run. Even at lower levels you can never take the Virginia slot of Little Falls for granted. I turned back upstream for a glimpse of the sunset-lit clouds before spinning the boat downstream towards the guts of the run.
The pool below fluxuates with the tide and if the tide is low, the drop and the hole waiting to flip you are bigger. Tonight the tide was out and as I ferried across the upper rapids to get lined up I couldn't see the landing and knew I'd probably get thumped. Funny how fast I went from artsy-fartsy to ready-for-battle! The boat crested the drop and the ugly hole revealed its self - diagonal and thick. I dropped in, reached for the back and pulled on the paddle. The stern got pulled under and the boat went vertical. I fought to keep from cartwheeling backwards planting another stroke on my left into the pile like a driving a spear into a beast attacking my little kayak. The paddle disappeared into it's belly and the boat leaned forward, leveling out as it shot towards to far side of the rapid and into a slab rock.
Before I took out I noticed an unlikely place for a tree to be growing.
The lights of Chain Bridge turned on and I figured it was time to get home. Tho if my fingers weren't frozen I'd have done a second run.
Posted by Jason Berry at 4:57 PM