What a scramble! After pumping up the inflatable NRS SUP Monday night, having retrieved it from the good folks at Jersey Paddler, who were busy with preparations for their “PaddleSport Expo,” I went to bed reasonably assured that I’d get to the water on time. Alas! That was not to be. I realized that I had left my trusty MTI inflatable PFD in the my car that was at Pete Smith’s Indian Mills Auto Repair shop waiting on a new clutch (she’s got 237,000 miles on her and she eats oil-junk or keep, what do you think?). And of course there’s that mad initial scramble to get all the gear together that I tend to underestimate will take as long as it does. Toss in a forgotten lunch box and well- hitting the water an hour later than is wanted.
Ah well, at least that meant the library was open so I could use the restroom! So by 10am or so I hit the Rancocas Creek by the Medford Pinelands Library of the Burlington County Library. The ground was mushy frozen and the launch, because of the quasi-frozen-ness wasn’t quite as muddy as normal. The South Branch of the Rancocas is a muddy affair, typically. It definitely helps to be wearing a wetsuit! Mud just washes right off.
Much of the run was a crazy comedy of errors. I forgot how to log into my SPOT Tracker (actually, don’t knew if I ever knew how-tech guy/life partner, Carl, is my “go to” guy for this detail and he’s outta town!). I was rusty on the GoPro, and-big mistake here-I neglected to remove the crazy long center fin on the board.
A long center fin is NOT what you need on the narrow twisty sections of the Upper South Branch of the Rancocas. There are so many trees down and things in the water you don’t always see, that it’s more of a royal pain in the arse than anything cause it’s constantly getting hung up on stuff, and I left it on. I don’t think I had even gotten up to Kirby’s Mill when I ran into something. It’s hard to always see with the swirls from the current and the dark water-but yea, I shoulda been paying more attention.
Going with the current you can pick up enough speed on this part of the river that when you come to a dead stop you can’t help but fall forward. Which is what I did, before bouncing right off the board into the water. Crazy thing-at the end of the trip my stuff in my backpack was still dry! Guess since I wasn’t in long enough to have water get in. After I scrambled back on the board I figured I’d just drop to my knees when approaching downed trees. This happened A LOT. This has been my third time down this stretch of the Rancocas and there were more, way, way more, downed trees than the last two times. But with a SUP it is easy to climb over the trees and either push the board under or drag it over the top. Sometimes, there was no option but to portage-still a HELLUVA lot easier with an inflatable SUP than either a canoe or a kayak. If I’d been in a kayak I’d…forget it…I’d never do this stretch in a kayak–would sooner stick pins in my eyes! Definitely a challenge and actually pretty funny. Plus, the portages also had the welcome benefit of warming me up. Even tho I was dressed for it, my hands especially, in 2m gloves, got uncomfortably chilly. They didn’t really get totally toasty until I hit Lumberton.
Once in Lumberton and further downstream, it was all flying with the current, until I slammed into the incoming tide a little past the Centerton Bridge by the Pirate’s Inn. Then it was a total slog. Total flipping slog. I wanted to bag it. My ride for the day to shuttle me back to my car in Medford, John Anderson, who is the volunteer NJ ACA (American Canoe Association) Stewardship guy, met me on the water. Earlier he expressed concern that I’d be hard to keep up with. Ha. He didn’t bank on the fact that, once again, I’d let my winter training slide by the wayside. Also, while while the NRS Baron is a tough-ass board and fun to paddle, it is, at three feet or close to it wide, way more stable than if is fast.
So the poor guy had quite the wait for me-smart move on his part, he decided to grab a late lunch and meet me on the water closer to 4:30/5. Once we met on the water he quickly scooted ahead, where he has a nice breather at the docks of Lightning Jack’s, a great little boat marina with what looks like a “barbecue barge.” If you catch up with John Anderson at the ACA booth at Jersey Paddler’s PaddleSport Expo, ask him about the ACA and Lightning Jack’s! It’s a great little marina on the south side of the Rancocas, right before the railroad bridge and downstream of rt 130.
Up until yesterday is been communicating with John via email and phone-so it was great to finally be able to meet him in person. It is super awesome to meet someone who gets who gets so excited about NJ’s many opportunists for outdoor adventure. Our natural resources provide an amazing gateway to really any kind of outside activity, and even outSIZED, fun. The ONLY things that keeps most folks from enjoying more of our wild places is awareness that these opportunities exist and ACCESS to them. Oh yea, and good access to good gear is CRUCIAL. How else are you going to keep paddling after going for a swim in the chilly Rancocas within the first hour of a six hour trip?
So if this sparks your interest, please come out to the PaddleSport Expo-gear is crucial for safety AND comfort!
What I wore-Excel vest and hood, Rip Curl 3m long sleeve top, NRS 3m farmer Jane, 7m O’Neill booties, Quick Silver 2m gloves. Supreme paddle jacket, and a red hat! Paddled with my adjustable awesome Kialoa paddle (great for distances when you want to adjust the length to ease tiring muscles-love Kialoa paddles!), will NEVER go without my “Island Paddler” leash-saved my ass on more than one occasion on the Pacific, made portages soo much easier today. The BEST leash around (and no, they are not a sponsor!). Yea, I get a little superstitious about the gear that’s saved my life!