Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kayaking the Pineys

Thankfully the weather held last Sunday and I was able to meet up with Neil, the organizer of The Best South Jersey Kayaking Meetup Group Ever!, and go on out to Batsto Lake in the Pine Barrens to do some kayaking.

It really was a gorgeous day - bright blue skies and upper fifties/lower sixties the whole time we were out. We parked at Batsto Lake and a friend of Neil's was kind enough to let us throw the kayaks and gear on his Prius and drive us the several miles through the Barrens to where we'd launch. If you're not familiar with the Barrens, which I was not, there are these extremely long, scary one lane "roads" that just run all through that area. Supposively, they are the same roads traveled by Washington (the main road is called the Washington Turnpike) and his troops during the Revolutionary War. I admit I was slightly nervous being out there with strangers but my awe and surprise that such a monstrosity of dense woods could exist in New Jersey took precedence over my fear.

We finally reached the launching area which seemed to me no more than a creek about ankle deep and very narrow.


I got a quick paddling instruction on land and I was off. I wouldn't say kayaking is difficult. But kayaking down a narrow, shallow river that's more like a stream is quite challenging. I accidentally beached myself on shallow sandbars and weird mounds of red algae numerous times and I crashed quite a few times. Maneuvering fallen trees and very low lying branches while navigating the narrowness, shallowness and curviness of the river was challenging. There wasn't much time for reflection until several hours into the trip. Oh, and not to mention that all those branches you either duck under or get swiped in the face by all have huge spiders on them.

We took a break 3.5 miles into the trip. I wasn't aware how much I needed it until I stood up and ate a pear. Ten minutes later back in the kayak the paddle felt much lighter.

The river gradually became deeper and wider and the trip got a little easier and there were times I could just coast a little. We saw hundreds of turtles over the course of the trip. They were everywhere! Neil was excellent at pointing out all the wildlife and helping me to sneak up on the turtles to get these shots:

We eventually ended up in what looked like a lake, but wasn't. I don't know what to call it but it was gorgeous. These pictures are from that area:

After paddling through the fake lake, we made it into the real lake and I didn't get any pictures because the wind really picked up out on the flat lake and we really had to struggle to get across it. In all the trip was six miles and took about four hours give or take. When we got to the lake with only a quarter of a mile left was the first time we saw another human. It was just us out in the middle of this lake and hikers along the edge were taking pictures of us.

The whole experience left me feeling small. We were certainly the intrusion out on the river and by no means was it our turf. The experience also left me feeling hopeful. I didn't know such a huge pocket of nature and beauty existed in New Jersey and it makes me happy to know that we haven't yet destroyed all of nature. I'm also proud of myself in a way. I really wanted to get out there and try something new and I found a way. I did something that the majority of the world may not get to experience. I look forward to getting out there again.



Doug Walsh said...

Congrats! Nice pictures and I'm glad you had fun. We'll have to take you kayaking the next time you come out west.

Perceptiveone said...

hehehehe Your description about your initial kayaking moments made me chuckle and smile, as I had a similar experience when I went kayaking on my last bday up in the Cat Skills. We went through this bird sanctuary and hit a few fallen trees and so on. It was still a lot of fun. Your pictures are beautiful and it seemed like a great day. :-)