We have a Travel Hag Adventure planned for July 23rd to paddle the Transquaking River in Lower Dorchester County near Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. A canal has been cut to connect two sections of the river making a five mile loop convenient for paddlers. Since we have a few beginners on this Adventure, we checked out the loop ahead of time. I invited Lisa – a fellow travel hag – to come with me and by the time we were done, …we were nearly DONE. Both of us were out of energy, half dehydrated and close to heat exhaustion. It took us over an hour to load the two kayaks because we had to stop and sit in the air conditioning, drinking water every few minutes.
It was a good thing we previewed the trail before bringing beginners. We’ve modified the location to a different part of the river that will be much more enjoyable for our group.
I had friends in the area who would have rushed to our aid if we needed them, so we were never really in danger. But being proud and not wanting to impose on friends (and admit our stupidity), we toughed it out, loaded the kayaks and made our way to dinner. Our trip would have been better if I wasn’t so careless. As an experienced paddler, I can’t believe the stupid mistakes and poor decisions I made regarding this trip – most stemming from overconfidence.
SAFETY ALWAYS, BUT CONTINUE TO USE GOOD SENSE
Naturally, we had taken all the major safety precautions. We both had water, sunscreen, hats, bug repellent, proper safety gear, maps, GPS, and cell phones. I had marked out the logistics of the trail for my husband so someone knew exactly where we were going.
It was certain details I neglected… or rather ignored, that created problems.
A five-mile paddle in tidal water (meaning there’s a current you may have to paddle against) and open marsh where the wind can blow from many directions can be a serious challenge for a beginner. I am not a beginner, but Lisa is. For experienced paddlers, it should take about 3 hours to do the loop. We’re paddling in July so the harshest heat of the day would be between noon and 3 pm.
Here are some details to think about that go beyond the typical safety precautions. Most people learn these one at a time, on separate paddle trips. We made them all o none trip.
HEAT OF THE DAY
Originally, I’d planned on starting the paddle at about 9:00 am and be done by the noon when the scorching heat of the day would commence. I got a late start, and we didn’t hit the water until 11:56 am, just as the heat was beginning to beat down. Though we had sunscreen, water and hats, the heat made the paddle uncomfortable when the wind wasn’t blowing and sapped our strength. An hour would have been tolerable, but three hours was hell.
Lisa and I both ate breakfast but not lunch. We figured we’d be out for a couple of hours and do lunch after the paddle. When our paddle went on longer than expected we felt our strength wane. Both of us can go for long periods without eating, but not when exerting the strength needed for the paddling. Our blood sugar was low and we ran out of steam before the paddle was concluded. Neither of us brought snacks. Even an apple would have helped rejuvenate our weak bodies.
KNOW WHEN YOU’RE TOO TIRED
This is a tough one. Though paddling is a sport for all ages and most strength capabilities, the paddler has to gauge the strength needed to complete the trip. You can’t just stop when you’re tired, because your launch point may be miles away. Gauging strength is hard for the proud. I pushed us beyond our strength limitations and when we hit the entrance to the canal where we had to finish the last 1/2 mile, the current was exceptionally strong, as was the heat. Stopping would cause us to be pushed back to the entrance. We had no choice but to press on. Once we got to the ramp we could barely get out of the kayaks.
Individually, we could have easily handled any one of these challenges. But to burden our bodies with all three – overworking our strength-sapped bodies with no food in near 90-degree heat, took its toll. And it took away from the general joys of kayaking through such spectacular scenery.
Best parts of the Transquaking Loop paddle:
- Seeing a bald eagle just as we entered the loop.
- Great Blue Herons, terrapins, Osprey, and fish
- The unparalleled beauty of a salt marsh and big Eastern Shore sky
- Seeing the Native lands where the Transquaking Indians lived – Guinea and Chance Islands
- Paddling with my girlfriend Lisa and having wonderful conversations.
I would recommend the Transquaking Loop to any paddlers who love the Eastern Shore marsh landscape. However, one should not feel pressured to complete the loop. Once you get tired, turn around and go back. Bring a camera. The scenery is to die for.
Good links on the Transquaking River and water trails
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