There were no pirates for me today. Sorry. I was disappointed too. My original plans had me on the road by 7AM to have breakfast (with pirates) at Smith Mountain Lake, see an outfitter up there, and then turn around and go out to the Kibler River Run in Kibler Valley, the opposite direction. Two hours in the opposite direction. Sort of in the mountains.
Things can go wrong … Need. More. Time.
So I scratched everything else and headed out for the Kibler Valley River Run first thing.
The drive to Kibler Valley from Henry County is easy and uneventful. It takes a little less than an hour. You start out on a state highway and then turn off to smaller and smaller roads until you eventually leave the asphalt all together and the road snakes through densely wooded areas running alongside the Dan River.
I’ve never been to Kibler Valley before because I thought it was for hard-core whitewater aficionados only. While it does appear to attract younger men with Liquid Logic kayaks, I’m sorry that I let this preconceived notion keep me away for so long.
It is truly a community event worth a visit and, depending on who you talk to, not an overly challenging stretch of river. I’ll put it this way: everyone seems to agree that there are class III rapids on this stretch but there was disagreement about how class III they were. (I am not rolling my eyes but I do have “that look” on my face).
Here’s the deal: There is a dam up the river and they release water especially for this event. So, if you are arriving at the event first thing in the morning and thinking that the river looks really low for kayaking, you will definitely not be alone. Registration starts at 8:30 and they will start shuttling you up the river then but they may not have started releasing the water yet. This year, the lake above the dam is low so they didn’t open the dam until around 11 o’clock. The water did rise significantly.
That means that the river you rode at 9 o’clock may not be the “same” river you will ride at 1 o’clock.
The race costs $25. For that, you get a nice t-shirt and as many shuttles up the river as you can be present for. You can register to compete or not compete, it’s up to you. While I was there, I talked with someone who was surprised to win a trophy a couple of years ago. He had registered to compete and, just having fun, had taken second place. So, while this may be competitive, the people attending are still having fun.
I did not end up on the water today. I had been hopeful but, no. I had called one of the race organizers earlier in the week asking if anyone rented kayaks for this event. Each time I would ask that, he would explain the shuttle service and I would ask, ‘but what if you don’t have a kayak?’. Eventually, we came to understand that no one rents kayaks at the event but his son had a used kayak for sale and I was looking to buy one so …
And this is how I have a Rhino Rack roof rack in a box in my living room and I carried home a kayak today tied to the top of my car on horse blankets.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
While it is true that no one was renting kayaks, that does not mean that there were no kayaks to be had. Roanoke Outfitting & Adventures, a new outfitter opening up in the Salem/Roanoke area had brought out some kayaks and canoes. I’m not sure if everything that they brought out was for sale but they are taking pre-orders now and I think that some of what they brought out was to help people make a pre-order by actually seeing/feeling/sitting on an actual kayak.
Even though I had arranged to buy a pre-owned Perception Swifty kayak, I’m still very interested in getting something a little above entry grade. Given kayak availability, if I want something for next spring, I need to be looking now. I’m interested in the Dagger Katana, but I’m new at this so I’m still trying to see what is out there.
Roanoke Outfitting and Adventure brought out quite a selection and I really liked this Pulse 85 Huntsman by Tootega. I am wanting to get on rivers and lakes with a camera rather than a fishing pole. The Huntsman looks like it might be a good fit and costs almost half of what the Dagger costs.
If you are interested in the Huntsman also, Travis Overstreet is the man you want to talk to. He gave an impromptu lesson on how to tell how a boat will perform based on its footprint and explained a little more about the difference between a whitewater boat and a flat water boat.
Travis gave me his card. It says the following:
Travis Overstreet II, Drew McClaugherty, and Preston Pettengill.
Services: ACA Courses and Certifications, Beginner Paddling Clinics, Playboat Classes, River Safety Courses, Boat Repairs & Upgrades, Custom Outfitting
Authorized Silverbirch & Tootega Outfitter and Dealer
And that was really all I could fit into one day. I apologize to the cosmos in general for driving home at speeds between 30 and 45 miles an hour but it’s done now.
This has happened so fast. Kibler Valley wasn’t even on my radar last weekend. I figured that I had plenty of time for logistics. Once it became obvious that I was actually going to buy a kayak this weekend, I scrambled to get a roof rack and all the accessories. I will need the roof rack no matter what, so my panicked buying wasn’t a bad thing. However, it turns out that the panic was not necessary and a little ingenuity and a couple of horse blankets goes a long way.
I honestly don’t know in which direction the kayak quest will go next.
Really, I think that the driving force behind the rest of the summer is simply to enjoy it.