July 18, 2013
Melissa and Zach
Another early morning on the Middle James River Expedition. We woke up around 6:30 and had to quickly break down camp because we had walked through the Scottsville Basin and Canal museum and we had our batteau drivers meeting us at Horseshoe Flats campground around 10. Breakfast was AMAZING, made by our lovely land support Bray. The medley consisted of potatoes and eggs with a couple bagels with cream cheese on the side. Delicious!!
After breakfast we walked over the connecting bridge between the two masses of land towards Scottsville and headed towards the outdoor museum. Walking over the bridge was a really almost daunting experience for me personally, but others around thought it to be cool to have a new perspective on were we have and have not paddled thus far. Walking through the museum we learned about how slaves were the main captains of the batteau's that ran throughout the James. Slaves were chosen as captains because of the sheer danger involved in driving a batteau upstream or downstream. Kyle also mentioned a story about a slave who helped save almost 60 people’s lives from Balcony Falls, which we got to see on the drive up to Gala, and all the people were white aristocrats. How selfless was that!! Whoop! Whoop! Coming out of the museum, we found a marker that had records of how high the water had gotten during certain storms including Hurricane Agnes and Camille. The water levels were 30 feet and above!
After the museum we walked back across the bridge and met our batteau captains for today and some of tomorrow. Andrew, Randy, and Mason are some pretty interesting guys that I wish everyone could have a chance to talk to them, they are pretty neat guys. It was a pretty cool experience to see the amount of work that has to go into pushing a batteau and even several canoes upstream. It is crazy, and I thought paddling 15-16 miles a day was a workout! At one point Andrew had Georgia steering us through a pretty narrow spot and we almost had a collision with a tree, but thanks to the captains’ quick thinking, we avoided it. Seeing the aqueduct that was upstream of the Hardware River was neat. Built in 1838, the aqueduct was designed to be a part of the Kanawha Canal system, which we learned was never completed because of the emergence of railroads and the onset of the civil war. The water was chilled to a very comforting temperature due to the shade factor and I noticed that the cohesiveness of our group continues to grow. We like to harmonize on the water, sing songs that are current, not so current, and even some songs you normally hear around a campfire. No one holds anything back anymore; we have all grown accustomed to each other and respect everyone’s semi-personal needs. Going back downstream we made our lunch stop for the day and dropped off three members that had joined us for a short paddle, Ryan and Rob from JRA and then Mrs. Coleman who was picked up by her husband Frank and daughter Grace. Such a cute reunion.
After lunch we continued to float through relatively flat water and then we turn a bend and see up ahead some little riffles and rapids, but going through them on a batteau is completely different from going through them in a canoe. We barely even felt them, whereas in a canoe you may bounce quite a bit depending on the size of the waves. We floated a total of 10 miles today with one batteau and only four canoes instead of seven. These puppies were packed down to their brims and we had Kyle and Pat soloing. Can’t even imagine how that was going upstream.
Shortly after we arrived at our campsite and began our usual shlepage of gear to where we will set up camp. As we sit here writing, that process is unfolding. Some unique about tonight is that the leaders, Georgia, Kyle, Bray, Pat, Rachel, and even the three batteau men have left the reins to us. We only have permission call on them if we truly and utterly need them, but aside from that, everything we do and when it is done is left up to us. It will be interesting to see how much our group cohesiveness and moral has grown since meeting each other that very first day in rainy Lynchburg what seems like a lifetime ago. We cannot say enough how grateful we are to have been given this opportunity to do what we have for the past 6 days and just meeting some of these people has been the experience of a lifetime that I know I won’t forget. I sign off in hopes of an amazing remainder of our expedition and hope that we keep these relationships that we have made for a good time to come after we have said our goodbyes. See you tomorrow, Melissa and Zach!