Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pohick Bay Sort of Training Paddle

One of my real talents is my ability to drive myself crazy. No matter what I’m doing, I always think I should be doing something else, or should finish up what I’m doing so I can move on to the next thing. I do not by nature live “in the moment”. In that spirit, I awoke Sunday with a conundrum – bicycling or kayaking? I knew that I wanted to get some exercise – I need to keep building my conditioning back up. I really want to become a better cyclist. But, I have a week-long kayak camping trip coming up in September and I really, really, have to get in shape for that. I know that I am capable of feel that whichever I chose, I could make myself miserable for not having chosen the other. But the need to get into kayaking shape won out. Kayaking it was.

Having finished agonizing over my choice of activity, I next moved on to agonizing over location. I wanted to launch somewhere other than my usual Columbia Island location. I thought about Fletcher’s Cove – close to home, free, and a pretty section of the river; however, it would be a lonely solo trip. There was also Pohick Bay farther downriver. A couple of nights earlier, when I had run into some of my Westover friends at Wolf Trap, they had said they were going to do a paddleboarding/kayaking outing down at Pohick Sunday morning and encouraged me to join them. Now, at the time they told me this they were pretty intoxicated and I know that wasted people say a lot of stuff they don’t necessarily mean (or even remember the next day), but there was some possibility they were going to be at Pohick. While I wanted to get in some miles and they were doubtless just going to knock around, at least if they were there it would add some little bit of socialization to my outing. Pohick it was.

The Pohick Bay web site is ambiguous about the park’s opening time. It says the park is open dawn to dusk, but that the gatehouse doesn’t open until 10 AM (which is when the Westover crew planned to get there). I arrived a little before ten to find the place already open – the woman at the gatehouse said they open at 7 AM in the summer, though some of the amenities (like boat rental) don’t open until 10. It’s good to know for future reference that early launching is possible there.

Pohick has a “small craft” launch separate from the main concrete boat ramp, so kayakers, paddleboarders and such don’t have to mix with people launching motorboats off of trailers. Plus, you can drive right up to the launch, which is nice. This was actually another factor in my decision to go to Pohick. I’m just getting back to being able to carry my boat unassisted and so I preferred the short carry at Pohick to the very long carry at Fletcher’s. Unfortunately, unlike many other places, at Pohick “small craft” includes jet skis. I’m never happy about having to share what I think should be strictly a “car-top” (or people-powered boat) launch with people trailering jet skis into the water. Thus, I have to admit to a little schadenfreude at watching a van get stuck and have trouble getting back up off the sand and onto the pavement after dropping off a jet ski. The four young guys who had arrived in the van – Eastern Europeans of some sort, based on the sound of their language – huffed and puffed pushed and pushed and eventually got the thing unstuck. Then they had a similar amount of trouble getting their ancient jet ski started. During this time they were joined by a fifth friend, who arrived in a de-badged VW Passat with Audi wheels. You’re not fooling anyone with that FAuxdi, buddy.

I also saw a guy launch a small rowboat/johnboat with an outboard motor at the small craft launch. Launching a motorized boat there was a new one on me. He too had trouble getting the engine started and so I got another little opportunity to smirk over a power-boater’s troubles. And in yet another first, later on while I was out on the water several people on horseback rode down into the launch area and let their horses cool off a little in the water. Where had they come from?

At the launch I unexpectedly bumped into two kayaking friends, Jack and Marti. Jack was a regular paddler at Georgetown years ago, but for various health and personal reasons has drifted in and out of paddling over the years. Like me, he was there to get out on the water and rebuild from an injury – in his case, shoulder surgery (been there, done that).

Having had my fun watching the bumbling jet skiers, I launched and headed towards the boat rental area – and immediately saw familiar faces. There was Christine, in the water and clinging for dear life to a paddleboard. There was Dee, doing much better on a paddleboard. And Matt M., and some other folks I didn’t know. I had Christine grab the stern of my boat and I towed her back to shore, where she switched to a sit-on-top kayak (a much better idea for her).

I did wind up hanging around with them for a bit, stealing Cyndi’s old trick and literally paddling circles around them as they slowly made their way up into the bay. After a little bit, though, I bid them adieu and set out for my real paddle. I headed back out toward the mouth of the bay. Let me tell you, they’ve been building some pretty impressive houses along that section of the shoreline. Holy cow. I paddled along filled with house envy. In between ogling at houses I kept a lookout for the waterski boat which was plying the same waters. Back and forth, back and forth -  every time they went by I had to deal with their noise and then their wake.


 After a bit I turned back around again towards the launch. By the time I got back the Westover crowd was gone. I had a pretty strong suspicion, which turned out to have been accurate, that they had stopped at a nearby micro-brewery after getting off the water. I thought about checking the place out to see if they were there, but decided instead to head for home. I wound up paddling about 7.5 miles. I really need to get up over 10 miles and feel I could have done so, but I’m still not 100% comfortable paddling solo and so didn’t want to push it. My ten mile paddle will have to wait until I’m on my “home” section of the Potomac, where I’m more comfortable, or to when I’m with someone else, or both.

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