Destination Kayak


Part 9- Waccamaw River Through Paddle Series: Wednesday 12/22/2023

Camp at Pitch Landing: Next Stop Winyah Bay

         According to my GPS, I was at Pitch Landing. It didn’t look anything like a landing to me. A floating mooring dock was now an island and there was no resemblance of a landing. The water went flush up to the street. To the far right back corner was a tall healthy pine tree. To the left of the pine was a porta-potty. Behind the tall pine was the only semi-dry ground available. I paddled toward the high ground to assess my next move. The kayak stopped about ten feet short of the high ground. I had to once again pull my paddle apart and “ski pole” my kayak to the dry ground. The thought of stepping out there and getting my feet wet was quickly objected. I lunged my bodyweight forward while pulling on the two ends of my paddle until the kayak was high enough up on the dry ground to step out with dry feet. I curled my lip in disgust of my camping options. Given the circumstances of the water level I had one option. I would have to set my tent up less than five feet from the porta-potty. My mind internally debated, “Camp here- or – keep on going”. I really was not willing to entertain the idea of paddling to the “redneck riviera” just a couple of miles down. After all, I had already pre-ordered the spring rolls with my friend Nick. I was not cancelling on that idea. In an effort to make myself feel better I ignored the negatives of the flooded landing and focused on the positives. I had a tiny sliver of dry ground that my tent would fit on. I had an area saturated gravel area that rose just above the water to make a fire and I had spring rolls on the way!

         I pulled my kayak up and began unpacking to make camp suitable for the night. Like a golfer framing and lining up his putt, I knelt and carefully studied the little bit of dry surface area to decide the angle I would set my tent up. I locked in on where I wanted the tent. It went up quickly and soon my bed was made inside the tent. Now I just had to wait on Nick to arrive with my prized dinner. Marcus, the river angel showed up just a few minutes after I had set up camp. I was sitting in my small collapsible camp chair when he first came by. We talked for a bit and he left. He hollered out “I’ll be back in a little bit.” No sooner than he left, Nick sent a text. “Picking up spring rolls now”. I sat quietly reflecting on the day, impatiently waiting on my spring rolls. It was dark by now and every headlight that would scan across the landing would get me excited. Nope, that’s not him, not that one either. Then I heard her in all her glory! Nick’s large green “Screamin’ Eagle” van. His van is known for having a distinct sound, hence the name. He’s here- it was more like- My spring rolls! Nick also brought two bundles of firewood. The fire had to be first, it was getting cold. So we cracked open a bundle stacked some wood to contain heat but allow air and the fire was soon growing in strength and heat. No sooner than we settled into our seats and I began consuming my long awaited meal, another friend Romain showed up to hang out. The three of us sat around the fire. I was telling them about the guy up the road and told them he said he would be coming back. Sure enough, a few moments later Marcus drives right into the water of the flooded ramp and pulls his truck up near us. He drops his tailgate and said, “I brought some firewood”. Suddenly, we went from being sparing and stingy with the wood to building a nice fire. The four of us connected and the conversation flowed with stories, laughs, jokes, and tales of bad luck. If it weren’t for the company and my ‘river angel’ I think this night would have been a cold desolate lonely night with only the porta-potty to keep me company. I was very grateful for the friendship and kindness.

          Morning came gently at first. I work up warm and well rested in my tent. I unzipped my tent and rainfly to crawl out and make my morning coffee. I looked out and and lowered my head in disappointment. It seemed that Jack Frost was being extra sharing over the night. Everything was covered in a thick coat of hard frost. It was the kind of frost that is half way between frost and ice. My jacket, the kayak, my cockpit skirt, dry bags, etc… Everything that I had to put on and everything I had to touch was covered in this dense layer of winter’s bite. The only thing not covered in frost was my rain fly. It was saturated with dew. It couldn’t freeze because of the body heat inside the tent kept it warm enough. I accepted my situation made a morning fire with the remaining wood and started steeping the coffee. While the fire built I began breaking down camp. I packed up my bedding with numb  fingers from the frost on the dry bags. Warmed them back up over the fire then started working on stowing the bags below deck. Back to the fire for another warm up. Now to the tent. The dew that had settled on the rainfly was now frozen. Without my body heat to keep it warm it froze quickly. I removed the rainfly and halphhazardly rolled it and bunch it up and stuck it under the bungees on the deck of my kayak. of course, back to the fire once more for another heat treatment to the fingers. The tent packed quickly and everything was packed. I opened the day hatch of my kayak to grab some waters to refill my camel back. I reached in grabbed a bottle, then another, and on the third reach, nothing. I couldn’t feel a bottle. I opened the rear hatch cove, nothing, the front hatch cover, one bottle. I had three bottles of water left and about 2 liters that were still in my Camelbak. So I sat around my small morning fire finishing my coffee and trying to figure out my next move. 

         Peachtree landing would be about 8-10 miles  from my current position. I could “phone a friend”. My friend Marshall messaged me earlier in the trip and told me not to hesitate if I needed anything. So I messaged out to him asking if he could help out and meet me at Peachtree. He was more than happy to provide a replenishment and meet me. Relief, I have more than enough water to make it ten miles. I extinguished the fire, put on my still frost covered gear and “ski poled” off the shallow slope till I was floating again. About a half hour later, I was passing the “Redneck Riviera”. It was a sad sight. Decorated with trash bags, cans, and plastic debris all over. To use my mom’s term. It was a pig sty. It is so frustrating to see so little respect. Regardless, I wanted to focus on positives so I didn’t spend much time dwelling on it. Perhaps when the water level drops, I can host a paddle event to go clean it up.  Who’s interested, any takers? 

         A short while later I was at the split at Thorofare. Both ways will reconnect at the same place. Going left would be a 3.5 mile paddle before the confluence. Going right would be less than a mile to the same confluence. When talking with Marshall I told Him I would be there around 11am. Now I was faced with a decision. Take the challenge and go the long way around or cheat and take the short cut. On Tuesday, Marshall sent me a message challenging me to the long way around. Challenge accepted. I made the left and took the additional 3 mile route. About half way through, I realized I forgot to calculate that into my expected arrival time. I sent Marshall a message and let him know I would be later than expected. “Oh well” I thought. After all, it was he that challenged me to the longer route in the first place. I was worried he would be aggravated for having to wait so long for me to get there. I tried to pick up the pace a little but, knew I needed to pace myself. My plan was to paddle a minimum of 40 miles on this leg. Stroke after stroke I closed the distance between me and the meeting spot at Peachtree. I checked my GPS periodically due to impatience. I knew I had Marshall waiting and I was running an hour late to get there. It became an obsession for me to look at my GPS. It was a terrible Idea. Its like the last day of school before summer and you’re sitting there staring at the clock. The more I checked the GPS, the less progress I felt like I was making. I had to stop. I had to resist the urge to stare at the screen. I flipped the dry box over so I couldn’t see the screen anymore and zeroed in on the small targets in front of me. 

         I arrived at Peachtree about an hour later than originally expected and there was Marshall and Merri standing tall cheering me on and taking pictures. Not one ounce of frustration from them about me being late. They just seemed full of joy and excitement that I called on them to help me out through my expedition. When I disembark from my kayak they greeted me with hugs. Marshall popped the hood of his truck and pulls out a food bag from Burger King. That was a neat trick. The engine was warm and it kept the food like a warming oven till I arrived. In addition to bringing me my much needed resupply of water, they stopped at Burger King and brought me a large coffee and a Double Whopper with cheese! Burger King isn’t really known for good food, but that Whopper was the perfect morale booster. Thank you  Marshall and Merri for being another river angel along my trip. The food fed the stomach, but the company and your kindness fed the soul.

         I didn’t stick around for too long because I had many more miles to cover that day. I loaded every little gap below deck with a bottle of water to resupply and I was back in the saddle and on my way. Merri lifted the bow of my kayak and gave me an assisted shove back out into the water. With enough water supply and plenty of food left in my dry bags, I was set for the rest of the trip. I was feeling great. That whopper was like Popeye spinach and I was completely content. Things were finally perfect. I was hydrated, well fueled, and had peak morale. I was in this race to the finish. A short while later I pass Enterprise landing. This is where the waterway becomes the Waccamaw River. Shortly after Enterprise, I round the corner of Bucksport, then down a ways, I was passing up Wacca Wachee. I was in the best physical and mental state I had been in the entire trip. The wide open water was glass, the sun was bright, and the scenery was beautiful. When I was passing Wacca Wachee I was at the peak of my game. I started thinking, I’m really not that far from Hagley. I’ll just head on down to hagley. The sun was getting low and I knew if I stretched for Hagley landing that I would be arriving well after sunset. That was okay with me. I am not a stranger to paddling in the dark. I had plenty of lights packed and I knew I would have good moonlight to help see the way. So I set in for Hagley Landing, but it turned out I didn’t stop there….

         Onward and forward through the dark. I might have overestimated myself, or I might not have. One thing was for sure, I didn’t like the sudden idea that I might have to sleep in my kayak- when a tiny dose of calamity happened….

Part 10: Sunset and beyond: Conway to Winyah Bay

An incredible sunset had me in full admiration of the beauty God gifts to us. The sun was setting across the tree line landscape that reflected like a mirror on the water. Earlier in the day I planned to stop at or around Hagley landing for the night, by choice that was not the case…I press on pushing myself further than I have for a single day trip. By the end of the leg I had paddle just over 50 miles in a single day.

The tale continues in part 9: Release date: 1/6/2024


11 thoughts on “Part 9- Waccamaw River Through Paddle Series: Wednesday 12/22/2023”

  1. Oh the cliffhangers…. This is worse than having to wait for the next episode of your favorite TV series. At least it’s only a day til the next episode 😉

  2. This should be a published book! You have a natural talent for writing that should not go unrecognized. I wish I could have been around to be a river angel but alas I wasn’t. Having done what we have (me in sections) I felt the emotions in your writing and certainly recognized a lot of photos. I can’t wait to get out there with you again. As an old geezer I am grateful to have you and Laurie as my best friends. God bless and get that last chapter out.

    1. You were there! You were the one to introduce me to the Waccamaw so many years ago. You are the blame for my addiction to kayaking. Your support and help was a direct contribution that enabled me to turn my idea into J & L Kayaking.

  3. Justin – Im am anxiously waiting for the finale! You have great friends who helped you along the way! (After reading this I will always remember lots of water AND TP!) I can’t wait to meet all of the characters on your journey on future adventures with the club. Your blog has inspired me to want to do the 123 mile Waccamaw River Challenge! But first Im looking forward to the “decadent” (in comparison) Marathon, Florida trip!

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