A Lesson Learned: Long Walks with a Kayak

In 2003, my new Pelican Endeavor (sit in kayak) in tow, I took my first long hike with my kayak in search of the elusive honey hole. I was very new to the sport and didn't want to spend the money on a kayak cart so I  rigged up a golf club caddy and took off down a long dirt road, a road that hadn't seen a car in twenty years. I was smart enough to bring a buddy with me and he had a very similar setup.
Not a kayak cart

The road was old, sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy and had ruts running on both sides that had been there for who knows how long. Going around turns in the road was an adventure as you usually spooked a wild hog or deer or had to work around a rattlesnake. It was as close to an American safari as I've ever come. The landscape snarled with yucca, prickly pear, mesquites and cedars. It taunted us to make a wrong move. The hike, all gear and kayaks in tow was just over a mile. Because our "carts" weren't made for this terrain, it took several adjustments and close to 45 minutes to get to the water we were so desperately seeking. We saw it up ahead. A sharp rise of about 20 feet. A berm that stretched a few hundred yards was actually the dam on this honey hole and we knew it. With renewed spirits we made the climb and saw what we had come for: the honey hole.

I had bank fished this little spot in northwest Texas once before and had decent success but this time I was prepared with my new boat and a conquering attitude. We unstrapped our kayaks and quickly were on the water. Paddling toward a tree line that looked promising we were greeted by a pair of water snakes who seemed very curious about our kayaks, possibly the first ever on this lake. Two casts into the day we both hooked up and that pattern would continue for most of the day.

Time melted away and what had started at sun up quickly blended into late afternoon. We needed to get back. We hadn't prepared to be out after dark and had no lights to navigate back so the pace was brisk. The walk to the honey hole had been apparently been downhill because walking back to the car was agonizing. Shoulders worn from paddling and fishing all day made the kayak and gear feel like it was an elephant being pulled along on a tricycle. The boat kept sliding off and we kept getting stuck and we were only 100 yards from where we started. As I tried to pull the caddy out from another rut the scariest thing I hadn't known could happen, happened. The bearings and axle on the golf club caddy cart gave way. Broke in two. Now what!?!

After an attempted repair job and failure, I relegated myself to dragging it back. I didn't know what kind of damage it would do but I wasn't going to leave it and there was way too much gear to pack it out. Carrying it was out of the question. I had a 50 foot long anchor rope which I fastened into a harness and started pulling. It was hard work. I felt sorry for every plow horse and mule I had ever seen. My friend, being the good sport he always is, rotated shifts with me dragging this albatross back up the winding, rutted, mine field of rocks and cactus.

Nearly two hours later we reached our destination, completely exhausted and sun baked. I immediately started downing any available fluids I had. Though it had only been about 80 degrees I am sure my core temperature reached liquid steel a couple of times. We sat until dark, recovering and learning rapidly from our mistakes.

I learned so much about having the right tool for the job, preparation for the worst case scenario,  and how to plan for a trip just from that one outing. A steep learning curve leaves scars sometimes.

I haven't been back to that spot since. I have bought better equipment though. I have also been game planning with every possible scenario. Knowing what you are up against is a good battle but the unknown is the one that will ruin a day.

Plan well and invest in a good cart.

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