Kayak Quest Completed? Smith River Festival

It took me forty-five minutes to tie my new-to-me kayak to my car the morning of the Smith River Festival. But I did it. I got it attached to my car, got myself to the festival, had a WONDERFUL day, and got myself home in one piece.

The Smith River Festival is an annual festival here, held at the Smith River Sports Complex. It runs 10 to 4 and is packed with activities. There’s the Helgramite 5K Mud Run, a river race, free tubes provided for tubing, free shuttles for tubes and kayaks, a demo pool for trying out different kinds of kayaks or SUPs, a petting zoo, a yoga class, a beer garden, live music, and activities for kids to include bikes to ride, a climbing tower, and a bounce house. And then there’s a rubber duck race that I keep missing.

Parking Around 9:30 AM

Timing is everything with the Smith River Festival. If you have a kayak, you can drive down to the river to drop it off and then park. If you are early enough, you can park close by. Otherwise you end up parking further and further away. By late morning, you have to park over by the soccer fields and take a shuttle to the festival.

Live Music Pavilion (left) Beer Garden (right)

I am always early. I arrived around 9:30, dropped off my kayak, and was able to park in the first row away from the demo pool . The down side to being early is that the festival itself – the tents, the music, even the bounce house – were still being set up.

Snow Cones, Climbing Tower, Bounce House Inflated, Chain of Fools Bicycle Tent Manned

I puttered around awhile and took some photos. It’s kind of nice to see a festival start taking shape.

Bikes to Ride

There were so many activities. Tons. They really excelled at providing things to do.

One thing this is not is an artisan fare. There were military recruiters, some political tents, various organizations that wanted to get the word out about programs they had. There were a few individuals selling things that they had made, but not many. It’s not really that kind of festival. I was pleased to see our local bike shop, Chain of Fools, in attendance. As the weather cools off, I’ll stop by there for a post of its own.

Food Court

There was one tent that really stood out though. That was largely because they would take a huge monitor lizard (wearing a cowboy hat) out for a walk or they would wrangle a rather large reticulating python.

Officer Clark Wrangling a Reticulating Python

Animal Control Officer Clark has been “in the news” (on Facebook) for rescuing a stray cat and fostering it for the Martinsville Henry County SPCA until a home can be found. Animals seem to really like him and this python was no exception. Every time they set it down, it sought him out.

Cooling Off the Reticulating Python

They dipped the python in water to keep it cool. In the picture above, you can see that it still was making its way to Officer Clark. I think that they did a good job with the snakes. They were very careful about controlling their temperatures. In the picture below, they were taking the temperature of a jungle python.

This Jungle Python is Getting a Temperature Check

But the real focus of Smith River Festival is the river. And about all the ways that you can enjoy the river. The Dan River Basin Association had a fantastic demo pool set up for trying different types of kayaks and paddle boards.

Brian Williams at the Demo Pool

I finally got to try a sit-on-top kayak. Wouldn’t you know that it was a Liquidlogic. Dare I say that I’m in love again? The Liquidlogic Coupe XP runs $869 on their website right now. This is, at least, still less expensive than the others I’ve fallen in love with so far. However, the website says that it’s on backorder now.

One of the Demo Kayaks: A Liquidlogic Coupe

The Helgramite Mud Run started at 11. I was anxious to get into the water but I really wanted to see the Mud Run get underway.

The Line-up for the Helgramite Mud Run

I got a good vantage point next to the starting line. All the runners shoes looked beautiful. Mine, I wear once and they look like I’ve been using them as yard shoes. They assured me that, no, they were old shoes. One racer even had his duct-taped to his feet.

A Clever Runner in the Helgramite Mud Run

The first pit is right at the start and it was fun to watch all those people lunge through the pit. I took over a dozen pictures (easily) and the rest are on the blog’s Facebook page.

The First Mud Pit in the 2021 Helgramite Mud Run

Then it was time for what I had come for. I had a choice to go down a stretch that I had done before or go down a part that was new to me. The shuttle was free and would pick me up at the next launch down or even the one after that, if I wanted. I did want to. But, even at 11, there weren’t that many people lining up for a shuttle or on the water and I was worried about doing something new on water I didn’t know – by myself. It would probably be okay but I’m not a “probably” kind of person when it comes to drowning.

I chose the South Martinsville back to the Complex stretch. I thought I “knew” it.

That’s Rives Road Crossing the River Ahead

I never regret time on the water and I was a fool to think that I knew this stretch. I had been down this run last year, when the water was so high that it was close to being too high for kayakers of my skill level to ride. I’m not going to see any rapids to speak of on this, I thought.

Right After Rives Road

I ate my words quickly. There were rapids right after Rives Road. I watched two kayakers in front of me. The first went through on the left and motioned to the second, who blew off the instructions and went through the middle.

I approached. Tacked for the left. Got right up on it and frantically paddled out of it. I went through the middle and realized that I had underestimated this stretch. I forgot that the water had been very low until just recently. There were actually fewer rapids when the water was higher.

It doesn’t look that bad now, does it?

The rapids made the trip all the more interesting and enjoyable. I am getting braver with my camera too. Once through the rapids, several times I pulled back up to the rocks to get some close ups of the water rushing through. Only once did my camera get doused. But it survived.

Note the Tuber Approaching the Rapids

Unlike when I was on the river before, I passed by a lot of people. Some in tubes. Some in kayaks. Some forming chains four, five, or six kayaks across, just drifting with the current and enjoying their company.

I just love this shot

There’s a spot not far from the complex where you can see the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail following along the river. By this time, I was chatting with another couple of kayakers and one told me that they actually had to blast some rock here to make the path through.

One of the Few Places Where You Can See the Dick & Willie Trail from the River

And then, before I knew it, I was back at the complex. I could have kept going and I probably should have since there were so many people on the water now. But it had finally dawned on me that I was going to have to repeat my feat of getting the kayak back on top of the car before I could get home. It was now 2, the festival ended at 4, and I hadn’t had a chance to have a beer in the beer garden and relax.

The Finish Line

In retrospect, I do wish that I had continued. For one thing, maybe I wouldn’t have forgotten about the rubber duck race.

I guess that’s what next year is for.

🙂

The Last Hurrah for 2020

Life in Martinsville-Henry County right now is pretty sedate. It is for me anyhow. I intended to keep on trying to get out at least a little despite the virus but thought better of it and am now just waiting for spring. The 6th Annual Wine by the River Festival back in late October turned out to be my last hurrah for 2020, though I didn’t know it at the time.

This is a festival that is held on the banks of the Smith River at the Smith River Sports Complex. In any normal year, I would highly recommend it. Even during this epidemic, though, they did a very good job at providing an enjoyable outdoor event that was as safe as they could make it. That said, the maskless woman in line behind me bumped into me twice. So much for social distancing.

Wine By The River Festival 2020

I doubt that it was really dangerous in any way, even with the woman with no personal space behind me. I think that, in normal years, there are more wine vendors. This year, there were only a handful and the wait in line was around twenty minutes, more or less. The woman behind me had complained that she would lose her buzz in the time that it took to stand in line for a refill. I just squinted and tried to tune her out.

The Rebec Vineyard Tasting Table

Still, she did have a halfway valid point because it was a good little wait and, thanks to her, less than enjoyable. I watched the people ahead of me and realized that the idea is to buy a bottle of wine in addition to the glass that they fill. Then you can go back to your chair or blanket, listen to the live music and enjoy the afternoon without returning to the line.

Live Music

There were other sights to be seen – like a camel. While this seemed really random, my guess is that he or she was visiting from the local Infinity Acres Ranch. I’m really going to have make a point to visit there this spring.

A Camel at the Wine by the River Festival

And there were other vendors selling treats like key lime pie (Treedah’s Treats), bath salts (SoapsByJera), Scentsy (Lisa Joyce) and lots and lots more. There was also a food truck with a covered sitting/dining area.

2020 – The year we stayed home

Another exciting place to see this coming spring, Scuffle Hill Brewing was also there giving out free tastes of their various brews. Scuffle Hill, when it opens, will be the first craft brewery in Collinsville and the second in Henry County. Oh, to visit a brewery again! Hang in there guys.

Scuffle Hill Brewing is Coming Soon

I was really pleased with the Wine by the River Festival. Despite this being a heck of year for any events, they pulled it off and I can see how this will be a must-not-miss event in normal years. Tips for future years: take a corkscrew and a little collapsible table would be really nice.

So much of my time now is filled with thinking about what I will do later. I’m sure that it’s the same for everyone. Thanks to this event, I do have a bottle of Rebec wine to share with my circle of friends when we can get together again. That will be nice.

2021 is going to have a heck of time living up to what I’ve imagined it to be.

Getting Out on the Smith River in Martinsville

I have finally gotten on the Smith River.  It’s been on my list for years.  After all, it’s right here.  It’s a beautiful river and I’ve always wanted to get on it but I never could find anyone who knew the river to tell me anything about it.  Like… are there rapids?  Are there falls?  What skill level do you need? Et cetera. (This is not entirely true because there is an outfitter. Read this as I couldn’t get my husband interested in the Smith. He was fixated on the Dan.) Continue reading Getting Out on the Smith River in Martinsville