Destination Kayak


Part 6- Waccamaw River Through Paddle Series: Tuesday 12/20/2023

Making Camp at Savannah Lake Landing

            With the wondering thoughts about the river’s history and its future I, slipped into a zen like feel as I continued moving downstream. I was certainly able to relax a little and loosen up, as this is my most familiar part of the river. I passed by Worthman’s Ferry Landing also known as Grainger Landing. I knew I had about 5 miles to go to reach the Hwy 9 bridge. A subtle pain in my stomach lingered as a constant reminder of something wrong. The next 5 miles of river at the current water level would offer very few places to disembark for any any needed relief. I thought to myself, I know this stretch and I know how long it will take at my current pace. I figured if I could just hold out for about an hour and a half then I would be at the Chris Anderson Landing for lunch and have a porta-potty for any needed relief. With that thought in mind I checked my phone to calculate my current pace. It was a little slow for my liking to reach the next landing. So I increased my stride slightly so that I would average a 15 minute mile or less. My muscles tightened once again. They were trying to communicate with me they weren’t happy. After a dozen or so strokes my arms gave into my demands and agreed to comply with the new pace. I was concerned about the cramping, but was more concerned about reaching my lunch spot for some relief on my stomach.

           I started focusing again on the beauty of the river and suppressed my concerns. I wanted to enjoy this part  of the river. It has always been one of my favorite stretches, but I have rarely been able to paddle it solo. At first I had to force my focus on the river to ignore the subtle pain below. Slowly… stroke after stroke, I started to slip back into my zen greeting the familiar trees that I passed along the way. I followed the river turn by turn and was passing all the familiar landmarks as I went. Mind movies of my trips in the past began to playback memories of past moments. I could almost watch them play out along the bank. It was like I had my own personal “Ghost of Kayak Past” on my shoulder.  Look! There is the spot I beached with Laurie and my friend Mario once upon a time. That was a super cold day. There was an old random center block there at the time. We were all three cold. I trekked in the woods and found shards of fat lighter. We lit the turpentine fused wood and dropped it in the hole of the center block. We huddled around its warmth with our hands outstretched laughing at ourselves over the moment. That was a great trip. It seemed every corner of this stretch of river had a memory playback. There is where we hosted an employee camping trip, this is where Kaleb and I hunkered down for an overnight with the rain pouring down. The rain kept us from having a fire so we watched a scary movie in the tent using Netflix on my phone. That was dumb. The scary movie was set in the woods. I laughed about how we both laid wide awake well after the end of the movie before finally drifting off to sleep. Each corner I turned was a gift of a precious memory I’ve had on the Waccamaw. A few corners later I remembered watching my brother see a Barred Owl land directly above him. He was in complete awe. I wondered what raced through his mind as he watch this magnificent bird of prey. This sequence of mind movies would continue over the next 4 miles till I reached Hwy 9- Chris Anderson Landing. I had a treasure cove of beautiful memories around every bend. Whether I looked river left or river right it seemed there was a fond memory to be harvested. “How lucky am I?”- I thought. 

           I could begin to hear the cars of the now busy Hwy 9 bridge. Ten years ago you could have distinguished each car as it traversed the bridge. Now, it is a steady constant roaring sound much like that of rushing water. If you didn’t know any better you could think there was a waterfall ahead by the sound of it. The sound notified me that I was about thirty minutes from reaching the bridge, but my main focus was still on the memories of trips in the past. I passed the memories one after the other, bend after bend until the bridge appeared ahead. On this particular part of the river the first sight of the bridge is a tease. The river leads you straight to the bridge only to horseshoe back away from the bridge before making another U-turn that will lead you under the bridge.  I paddled through the pillars while the purple martins darted around like bats. The boat ramp and dock would be just on the other side of the bridge. When I came out the other side a silhouette of a man standing at the end of the dock came into view. His arms were held up holding his phone and taking pictures of me. Once I got closer I recognized him. It was David. He had been watching me on a link I shared. He was on his lunch work break and decided to come to the ramp to greet me. He had fresh brewed hot Earl Grey tea waiting for me! What a treat. The warm tea felt so good on my stomach. I’m not one to talk about my ailments especially in the present, so he really had no idea how much that tea did for me. After a short visit it was time for him to head back to work. As soon as he left, I immediately grabbed my toiletry bag and headed straight for the porta-potty.

           It was such a welcome sight, but only because I had already mentally prepared myself for the condition of the outhouse. I was familiar with its almost abandoned shape. The door is broken and no way to latch it. Graffiti of sex offers, vulgarity, racial slurs, and pictures were displayed on the inside. The floor was covered in debris, sand, ants, trash, and even a dirty diaper. The back wall had pellet size wholes, no doubt from a shotgun, sprayed all along the back wall letting tiny beams of sunlight through. I thought- “At least it is well ventilated”. I was very grateful to have my own paper because what was left of the useless one-ply roll was saturated in an unknown liquid. Once again, I’ll spare the details of “the deed”. I felt much better coming out than going in. I packed my bag grabbed my hot tea gift and set on my way. I knew from this landing I only had about 8 miles left to go and still had plenty of sunshine. I could relax and take a nice slow pace. 

           When I cleared the protruding dock I was back in the current and pointed down stream. Onward and forward was the name of the game. Only eight miles left to go. About three miles later temptation settled in. I have a friend that has a farm on the riverside. I told him about my planned trip and he generously offered for me to stay at the farm on my journey. For a moment the temptation was so convincing. I was thinking about the very cold night ahead. My friend had offered me a cooked meal, and even to stay in one of his guest cottages for the night. A soft warm bed on a cold night was such an inviting invitation. The problem was I would stop short of my days goal and it would set me too far behind schedule for my planned trip. I thought of the story in the Bible where Jesus was in the desert fasting for 40 days and Satan approached and said to him- “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” When I heard this story as a child I thought, yeah, but he is the Son of God. I had a disassociation to the fact that He was here in human form and He would have felt the same as what we feel- Pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue.  Man, I thought, how hard was it for Him not to reach out to the Father knowing that if He asked it would have been given. I now found my self in a similar predicament. Abandon my trip and my cause for a single night of comfort? It would be in the low twenty’s by morning. That didn’t seem near as inviting as the offer to stay in a warm guest cabin and enjoy a prepared hot meal. His property has a good bit of riverfront and it was in view. I kept battling with the notion to pull over. I tried to rationalize the stop and say, “Well, I will just pop in to say Hi” yeah right. I know how that would go. First it would be Hi, then maybe share a beer, then eat a hot meal, then next thing I know I would be laid in that warm inviting bed. You know the old story: “Give a mouse a crumb, he’ll ask for the whole cookie…”. I was the mouse, I wanted the cookie, the milk, the whole package. If I took a taste I would be hooked. This battle went on for the next mile or so till I decided it wasn’t worth turning around anymore. 

         Alas! I have reached my turn off. Turn right and head to Savannah Lake. Miss it and turn left, and continue downstream for another twelve miles or so. No way was I missing that turn. To the right I went, winding and turning up the narrow flow to Savannah Lake. I have camped here before and was excited because it is very remote but accommodating. I made landfall around 3pm and was so glad that I had planned today to be a shorter day. Only traveling about 25 miles instead of the nearly 40 miles the day before. I was sore my muscles were still randomly cramping and there was still a dull ache in my stomach. I drug my kayak up the steep embankment and fought with the gear below deck. I tugged and jerked in all different directions to break lose the compressed gear. One bag at a time they began to release. I opted for the hammock again due to the ground still being somewhat wet from the rains 2 days before. Walked around and collected firewood to pile up for later. I had been there for about just under two hours by this time and once again, my stomach was churning! “Knock it off, damn it! That’s enough!” I yelled at my stomach as if it had any inclination to listen to me. I surveyed the area for a “spot”.

          Most of the ground was covered in large puddles of rain water or thick underbrush. I thought this is a remote place and at this time of day, who cares? So I walked about fifteen yards and chose my spot. Down came the pants, my thermals, and underwear for the FOURTH time that day! My toilet paper carefully positioned beside me as I was on a downhill towards the water. There, relief came and my stomach once again began to settle some. I’m mid-stage of wiping when all hell broke loose! “Holy Shit! (literally, I guess)” my mind voice yelled. There was a pick up truck barreling down the road. By the time I heard the truck it was already visible. I leaped from my squat and ran to tuck behind some brush. My pants STILL around my ankles. My knee lunged forward and my foot remained in place, shackled at the ankle by my pants. I fell! Face first, genitals first into the spiky bed of pine needles that carpeted the ground. My only concern was not to literally be caught with my pants down. I began to flail about, like a startled squirrel. I’m trying to flip over and pull three layers of close up simultaneously. I abandoned every layer except my pants. I grabbed and tugged as hard as I could. I slammed back of my head and shoulders into the hill to raise my still dirty rump off the ground to get my pants up. They slid up stubbornly bringing my underwear and thermals to about mid thigh. The waist line of my pants barely covered the “goods”. I couldn’t button them so I did the best I could to drape my shirt and jacket over the exposed hips and upper butt cheeks.  Then froze like a scared possum. I couldn’t move, I was still shackled at the knee by my undergarments and half my ass was hanging out. The worst is yet to come…By this time the truck had already whipped through the turn around and stopped on the landing just sitting there in park faced right at me. I dared not to even look that way. As I sat there frozen, immobile, like a new born fawn I saw from my left peripheral a site that devastated me. Kick a man when he is pant less and down, why don’t you? My toilet paper! It took one roll to a lower spot, then another, then another, like a snowball gaining speed down the hill. There was no grabbing it or reacting. I had to sit there helpless as I watched my most coveted item roll its way all the way down to the river and into the water. My only roll! It was like watching my sanity grow wings and take flight. I’m half-wiped, half dressed and there is a damn truck sitting in park facing right at me! It was humiliating and demoralizing, but what could I do other than just sit their posed like the thinker, pretending to be that nature loving zen person just staring out at the beauty of the lake. “Roll out! Go on now! Get-own outta cheer!” – were the thoughts in my head about the truck. 

          Finally the truck left. I have no idea what they may have seen or not seen. I didn’t want to know. If they saw any piece of the chaos, I’m sure they speculated all sorts of crazy conclusions of what was happening. Oh well, its best not to think about it. I carefully stood up and found a couple napkins in my jacket pocket, cleaned myself off and put myself back together. I took one last look at my entire roll of toilet paper as it swelled and began to sink in the river. There is some good news. I had previously arranged this as a stop for some new gear and water replenishing. My son Kyle was going to meet me here with some new gear I had ordered that didn’t arrive before launch day. Earlier in the day I had been texting him with a list of items to bring. I knew he was coming here but, didn’t know exactly when. I darted to the phone and began frantically texting him to bring me a new role of TP. I suddenly did not care one bit about anything else he was bringing. I just wanted the TP. I needed that TP! What seemed like a decade later he responded confirming he would bring TP. All was right in the world again. TP was on the way. To him it was probably no big deal and no big urgency. To me it was like the scene from Mrs. Doubtfire- when the new boyfriend starts choking….”HELP IS ON THE WAY”! 

         Tomorrow will conclude the rest of the night and how I finally came to a realization about what is wrong with my body. I packed up camp and made a few mental notes of treatment for myself and headed off for Conway. 

Part 7: Savannah Lake to Conway-Pitch Landing

The stomach pains, the diarreah, the muscle cramps, and the abnormal fatigue would be over soon as I began taking countermeasure to combat the symptoms. See if you can guess what I was experiencing? Comment below….

The tale continues in part 7: Release date: 1/3/2024


5 thoughts on “Part 6- Waccamaw River Through Paddle Series: Tuesday 12/20/2023”

  1. Fantastic pictures as always. So sorry for what you went through, but I haven’t had such a laugh in a long time. Lol. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m thinking the touch of the flu… any event, you again made this whole experience for the day comical. I know it wasn’t great for you but, you have to admit, If you hadn’t had these issues, your story would be eh. Even though your descriptions were pretty detailed, I’m sure it was a lot worse LOL…that damn truck made you lose your TP argggg! Great story Justin!

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