Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Long Row: 2007 (Part 1)

Last Friday I rowed my annual "Long Row" on Lake Oconee - the third year I've rowed it. It's an 11-mile trip south from the boat ramp at the Redlands Wildlife Management Area to the Old Salem Park. For me, it's a trip in three parts: the first section is from the boat ramp to the I-20 bridge, the second is the long stretch from the I-20 bridge to "the mansion," and the final section is from the mansion to the park.

What I'd really like to do is row a marathon. Not sure I'll ever row one but wanted to at least get a feel for something longer than my regular 5- to 6-mile circular circuit around a local lake near home. Lake Oconee offers a longer, straighter course to test endurance.

My husband, Walt, and son, Justin, escort me on our pontoon boat. They take the photographs, run interference to protect me from other boat traffic on the lake, carry the shell and me back up the lake and bring the 'goodies' to eat on the way back to the boat ramp. This trip wouldn't be possible without their help. Take a bow, guys!

Lake Oconee is a reservoir. When the valley was flooded, some large areas of woods were not harvested. These offer good fishing areas. Perhaps it was thought that the trunks would rot with time, but they didn't. In fact, wood is preserved
remarkably well under water. Remember, too, that I'm working with another challenge. I'm rowing (sculling); I'm traveling with my back to the direction I'm going.

So when I leave the boat ramp, I'm immediately confronted with two large fields of these sunken forests (1a and 1b). This is the most nerve-wracking section of the trip. I have to keep turning my head to make sure that I'm not going to collide with an obstacle without losing balance and ending up unceremoniously in the water. Makes for slow going and a stiff neck before too long.

This section was made even more challenging this year by the fact that the lake level was some 12"-18" lower than normal owing to a year-long drought. It took almost an hour to pick my way along the shore to the causeway that leads out to the first bridge, a railway bridge, over the lake. In the last 300 meters before I reached the causeway, I was embedding my port oar gently in the soft sand on the shore to propel myself forward. Once to the causeway, it's a forest-free trip. Phew!

When I get to the railway bridge, I have to row out to the wide spans to cross under. My "wing-span" - oar tip to oar tip - is too wide to be able to row through the end spans. At this point, it's always interesting to see what's happening with the water flow in the lake. Hydropower is generated from the lake's water. If the generators are active, the downstream current is obvious by the flow of water around the bridge pylons. Last Friday, they were generating power. From here, it's a straight run down the lake to the I-20 bridge, under the bridge and on to section 2...

Photographs: Walter W. Knapp
Maps: Google maps

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