Sunday, September 25, 2022

Where to Paddleboard in Virginia

This was my first summer paddleboarding. Here are the places I checked out.


Ragged Mountain Reservoir

Ragged Mountain Reservoir, Charlottesville
- This lake is beautiful and pristine. What I imagine paddling in the Adirondacks to be like. The water is very clear and the surroundings are stunning, with no houses on the water. Perhaps the most zen-inducing place I went to this year. No motorized boats are allowed so it's just you and a few other paddlers on the lake. Despite the clearness of the water I saw almost no fish but I did see a few turtles. Round trip is about five miles. The small gravel parking lot is shared with people hiking and mountain biking so it does fill up quickly.

Swift Creek Lake, Pocahontas State Park - There is peace and tranquility at this popular local state park. To find that peace and tranquility, as well as solitude, it helps to get there early. The 225-acre Swift Creek Lake is narrow and long, resembling a river with no current. You probably won't beat the early morning kayak fishermen, but once you paddle beyond where they are it can feel like you have it all to yourself. A dam prevents you from paddling extremely far, although at approximately 4.5 miles round trip this is an almost perfect out-and-back length. It is common to see herons, kingfishers, and other birds on Swift Creek Lake. There is a fee to enter the park. As of this writing it is $10 on weekends, less on weekdays.

Northeast Creek Reservoir, Louisa - I like this little lake, which is a pleasant 45-minute country drive away for me. Fishermen know about this place but recreational paddlers not-so-much. No gas motors are allowed, just electric, and like most places with this policy the folks out fishing cause little or no disturbance to anyone just out for a paddle. It's about 3.5 miles round trip, perfect for a quick 90-minute summer evening workout. There is plenty of room for parking. Warning: geese and ducks hang out at the parking lot and will come right up to you expecting food. 

Hunting Run Reservoir, Spotsylvania - Not all of the public lakes in Spotsylvania allow SUPs, but this one does. Hunting Run Reservoir is quite big. When I paddle a lake I like to stick to the perimeter and the perimeter of this one must be well over six miles. On my first and only time there I cut it short and still managed to get in 4.8 miles. There are some houses, some very nice houses, on this lake but the no gas motors and no swimming rule helps keep things placid. I enjoyed my visit to Hunting Run and can't wait to go back. There is a fee and you pay at the check-in station near the boat launch - up to $11 for non-Spotsylvania residents.

Hunting Run Reservoir

Rivers (slow-ish moving flatwater rivers)

City Dock, Fredericksburg (Rappahannock River) - I was surprised to discover that there is great flatwater river paddling right in the heart of Fredericksburg! If you enter the water from City Dock Park off Sophia Street and paddle up the river, you can go almost 2.1 miles before hitting rapids. Along the way it is a very pleasant river paddle against a mild current that goes under a couple scenic bridges with the town on your left. The town gives way to a collection of parks on either side of the river where Hispanic families tend to hang out on weekends. There are some great spots for jumping in the water to cool off. Once you turn around, expect your return trip to be about twenty-percent faster than your upstream paddling time. There are several restaurants to choose from in downtown Fredericksburg after you're done. This was my overall favorite river destination. I recommend going during high tide.

Chain Ferry Road, West Point (Mattaponi River) - West Point is where the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers meet to form the York River. There are many places to enter the water around the town of West Point but I chose the primitive and discreet Mattaponi River launch site at the end of Chain Ferry Road. There is a small public parking lot and a sandy/beachy place to get in the river. I headed right onto the big wide and slightly turbulent river, paddling away from the bridge off in the distance and went about a third-of-a-mile until I saw a large creek on the right that looked like it was worth exploring. It was. I don't know if this creek has a name or is just another section of the Mattaponi but it was heaven on earth! I went about 2.4 miles up this creek before turning around and I only turned around because I wanted to, not because the creek was ending. I saw an impressive amount of fish jumping, lots of birds, and a couple nutria! Paddling on a creek like this was a new experience for me and it makes me want to find more places like this. Bonus: ice cream and coffee at The Lazy Cow.

Deep Bottom Park

Deep Bottom and Four Mile Creek (James River)
- At just 35 minutes away, this park in Henrico is one of the quickest drives from my home to a place where I can get on the water. It somehow feels both well known and a well kept secret. You have a couple choices at this spot - either stay on a flat section of the James River or explore Four Mile Creek. Or do both. I am not sure how far you can go down Four Mile Creek because I haven't gone that far down it yet. In my two visits to this location I mostly went up or down the river portion and only did the creek as an afterthought. The James River is tidal here. I went once during high tide and once during low tide and there was quite a difference between the two. There are gas motor boats on this part of the river but the park tends to be less crowded than you'd think it would be. Lots of birds, such as osprey, diving into the water for fish.

Wake Beach, Wake, VA (Rappahannock River) - This small, picturesque beach is popular with families. The swimming is good, when there are no jellyfish that is. Being near the Chesapeake Bay, the water is starting to be salty here. The river is very wide and a little choppy so it can feel like beach or bay type paddling. This would be more of a recreational choice. I like to paddle a bit, hang on the beach some, and then work in a visit to a favorite outdoor-dining waterside restaurant called Merroir. 

Tucker Park at Maidens Crossing (James River) - Trailers put in on the Powhatan side of the river, but there is a kayak launch on the Goochland side at Tucker Park. From here, you can paddle up stream toward Powhatan State Park. It's a little challenging for paddle boarding because you kind of have to navigate around some things but that makes it fun. You might encounter people tubing from Powhatan State Park down to the boat launch. This is not a place I would go all the time, but at less-than 40 minutes away I will be keeping it in mind as an option.

Old City Point Waterfront Park, Hopewell (Appomattox River/James River) - Hopewell is where the Appomattox River meets the James. Whatever you do, don't go right onto the James River portion toward the chemical plant. That should be a "no duh", but I thought I could paddle past all that ugliness to Bailey Creek but it totally wasn't worth it. And the water was strangely hot. I don't even want to think about it. After two miles I cut my losses and backtracked. The only good thing was I saw a bald eagle up close. The Appomattox River portion is much, much nicer.  There are some homes around the bend on the Appomattox with impressive little private beaches. Since I had already paddled two miles down and two miles back on the James, I only did one mile up and one mile back on the Appomattox. When I go back I will check out the Appomattox more and maybe put-in at a different location. There is a coffeeshop with excellent food in the heart of downtown Hopewell called Guncotton Coffee for when you are done. One of the great things about river paddling is there's usually a small town nearby with an interesting story.

Randolph's on the River, Port Royal (Rappahannock River) - Randolph's on the River is an enjoyable restaurant overlooking the banks of the Rappahannock River in Port Royal, VA. You can park at the restaurant and get in the water at the boat launch on-site. The restaurant features a covered deck for outdoor seating where a loved one can hang out while you are paddling or for a meal afterwards. This is certainly a calm section of the river, no rapids anywhere nearby and the current is slow. What I don't love about it is all the vegetation in the water. Definitely go during high tide. When I went I saw a bald eagle nest in the middle of the river inhabited by an adult and a couple juvenile eagles.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Successful Summer of (non-drinking at) Concerts

After a two-year break where I saw almost no live music, I had a pretty full summer of concerts in 2022. At most of these events I didn't drink at all, not even one beer. That's the biggest personal change in my approach pre to post pandemic. For anyone that loves live music, seeing music now is likely to be different than before both in how you experience it as an audience member and as how the performer presents it to you from the stage. In my case I had the additional benefits of increased focus and appreciation due to not being influenced by alcohol. Each and every concert I experienced this season felt like a very special moment...

The Cowboy Junkies

Melvin Seals and JGB


Trombone Shorty

Phish (three times!)

Leftover Salmon

My Morning Jacket

And that's not all. I still have Goose and Billy Strings coming up in 2022 where I want to continue this positive trend. Not only did I not drink at concerts, but I successfully completed a 100 day gong where I didn't drink at all during that stretch of time. Many of these concerts took place during that time period and I found it easy and life affirming to attend. Now that I've completed a 100 day gong, I see no reason not to make it a perpetual groove.

Dumpstaphunk Charlottesville

Leftover Salmon at Maymont

Phish in Charleston, SC


Friday, September 16, 2022

Exercise Conversion Chart - One Mile Walked Equals How Many Miles on a Bicycle

I found a handy dandy exercise conversion chart. Now that I've been recreationally bicycling and paddling it's good to know how those activities compare to the exercise of walking. 

According to the chart, for bicycling on a road or paved trail you take the distance you cycled and multiply that by .3 to convert it to miles walked. For example, this morning I bicycled 10 miles, so that equates to 3 miles walked. To put that into minutes, in my case it takes me about 5 minutes to bicycle a mile which averages out to 12mph. To "walk" 3 miles on a bike means cycling for 10 miles which would take me about 50 minutes.

For canoeing/kayaking (moderate) - and I'll add stand up paddle boarding to that - you take the hours paddling and multiply that by 2.0 to convert it to miles walked. By that standard, to paddle the equivalent of walking three miles or cycling 10 miles you would need to paddle for 1.5 hours. So 90 minutes paddling equals 50 minutes pedaling! See how I did that!?

I'm not a jogger, but interestingly one mile jogged is about the same amount of exercise as one mile walked. Of course, when you're running you're going faster than walking so if you only have 30 minutes to walk 1.5 miles or run three miles you're going to get more exercise running the full 30 minutes. But if all you're trying to do is get from point A to point B and those two points are three miles apart you're going to get approximately the same exercise whether you walk or run. You'll just get there faster by running!

I also have a mini-trampoline or rebounder at home. It's not on the conversion chart, but according to some stats I found online I feel at liberty to say that 11 minutes on the rebounder is the equivalent of walking one mile. Therefore, 22 minutes equals 2 miles and 3 miles would be 33 minutes on the rebounder.

I also do slide board! I don't really have many stats for slide board, but based on the little that I have seen it seems like about 9 minutes on the slide board equals one mile walking.

2.5 miles walked = 8.33 miles bicycle, 75 minutes SUP, 27.5 minutes rebounder, and 22 minutes slide board.

2 miles walked = 6.66 miles bicycle, one hour SUP, 22 minutes rebounder, and 18 minutes slide board.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

I Chose Paddle Board, But...

As recently as four months ago it had never occurred to me to take up kayaking as a hobby, let alone paddle boarding. Now that I've had some experience with both I can say that stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is an activity that I'd like to continue.

I find SUP to be a better overall workout than kayaking with less risk of repetitive motion wrist or elbow injuries. I also like the perspective you gain by standing up and looking down into the water. Thirdly, SUP as an identity or image is something that I find more easy to align with...sporty and athletic. Lastly, it is common for a SUP to be inflatable and lightweight, making transport and storage a breeze with many brands and options to choose from.

I'm pretty good at research but I still didn't really know what I was doing or what I would want when I bought my first SUP a few months ago. The SUP I got is like what is referred to as an "all around" board. It's 10'6" long, 34" wide, and 6 inches (15cm) thick. Those dimensions are pretty common for a beginner board but it's not the fastest or the straightest and the 325 liter volume is more than I need.

the SUP I got

I don't have any plans to enter competitive SUP races and I have no plans to do overnight camping trips with a SUP, but I am a fitness-minded paddler. I like to SUP at a moderate to fast pace for a couple hours straight. As a full body workout. I don't use it for yoga or for a leisurely float on the water. I like to move. So for my next paddle board I want something more sleek.

The characteristics I'm looking for in my next inflatable SUP include:
-A displacement hull. SUPs with a displacement hull typically have a pointy nose. This helps it cut through the water more efficiently and track straighter. These are usually called touring boards. I want to get more out of each paddle stroke. More speed and better tracking.
-A width of 28 to 30 inches. A wider SUP, like my 34" wide board, is too slow. It's also probably too wide for my body type which can disrupt my paddle stroke. I'm a smaller paddler so I need a more narrow board. I don't bring a bunch of gear so I don't need much storage space.
-A thickness of 12cm as opposed to 15cm. This one's not a must because there are some good boards out there that are 15cm (6") thick, but I'm under 150lbs so based on what I've learned I stand to gain by going with a 12cm (5") thickness offered by premium brands. Lower center of gravity = more stability.
-A volume of 300 liters or less. A board is going to respond differently to me than it is to a heavier person. I'm not bringing along a child or a pet or gear and I don't need a lot of weight capacity. Ideally I'd like to find a board designed with a 130 to 160 pound person in mind. Also, a board with less volume requires less pumped air! I don't mind manually pumping up a SUP but I'll do anything I can to speed up the process.
-Durability. This would seem like a no brainer but sometimes racing boards are made with one thing in mind - speed - and may not be designed with as much durability as an all around board. So the goal is to find a board with the above characteristics and durability. Lakes and rivers can have rocks and sticks.
-A weight of 24lbs or less. Most boards meet this characteristic but there are some hefty ones that would be disqualified by weight alone.  

The board that best meets all of the above characteristics appears to be the Red Paddle Co. 11'0 Sport model.