It was going to be another blistering weekend so there was no option of exploring, hiking or cycling. After wilting so badly last weekend, I couldn't face anything that involved a lot of exertion in this heat. So a paddle with friends seemed to be the answer, and a moonlight paddle sounded even better. I was foolish enough to shower before I loaded Big Red onto Stuart and afterwards had to stand in front of the open fridge for a while to prevent myself from melting away.
We had dinner on a ramp and watched the sun dip below the horizon and then started the next leg of the journey in the dark.
On the calm stretches it was wonderful to feel the cool night air and watch lightning bugs dance across the water while a breeze wafted an exotic perfume of wild flowers across us. It was amazing how much we could see but the moon was evading us. We twisted and turned in our boats trying to see it but to no avail.
At one point we could hear the fireworks from a concert at Antietam and see the glares in the sky so that for a moment it felt like we were Marines stealthily paddling our way down a river in a war. It was also noted that this was the 40th anniversary of Deliverance so someone hummed the Dueling Banjos and I smiled as I realized that everyone kept to the middle of the river and away from the banks.
We stopped briefly for a potty break and were warned about the Black Widow spiders that had nested under the toilet seats and then as we regrouped Bob gave us a lecture about the upcoming rapids famously known as The Razorbacks. These were a relatively large group of rocks spread across the water that peaked out above the splashing froth of the water coursing over them. Control of your boat was imperative as immediately after that were two long lines of rock just below the water's surface that ran side by side down the river. It would be easy to tip out onto these, or lose control of our boats against the current and seriously injure ourselves. And we had to do it in the dark! Bob of course went first and then I wasn't hanging around either, I steamed forward. I could see the rocks and knew it would be impossible to not hit any of them. But I didn't think I'd end up perched on top of one. I was aware of someone else caught on a rock near me and we worked our body weight back and forth trying to free ourselves. I leaned over to the right and looked down onto more rocks and promptly sat up straight again. I really didn't want to get out of the kayak as I was worried about being swept away but eventually got free and gushed forward through the rapids and heard yells of 'Over here!' I managed to steer over to the bank against the current but then found myself in quiet water with a couple of the others. We waited a while for everyone to come through and then one by one steered down past The Razorbacks. Even in the dark I could see the unyielding stone wall under the water.
Bob told us later that a previous group of kayakers had serious issues with these rapids but wouldn't go into details so I was impressed that we'd all got through with out any incidents. Apparently more fatalities have occurred here than anywhere else on the river. Jolly glad he told us that afterwards and not before. A couple had to get out of their boats to get off the rocks but we'd all stayed in control. Bob said 'it was a testament to our abilities that we all came back okay', so we all fluffed and preened with pride for a bit after that comment.
The rest of the paddling was smooth but some in the group were getting tired, then we rounded a corner and there was the moon! Big and orange, hanging above the trees, it was a wonderful sight, restoring our energy. A couple of miles later we arrived at Shepherdstown and looked up at The Bavarian Inn, it's bright lights welcoming us back. We'd paddled 12 miles but I didn't want to get out, I could've paddled all night until sunrise.
After 2:00am I arrived home and forced myself to unload Big Red and put him back in the barn knowing tomorrow I would be glad I'd done that before turning in for the night. I collapsed into bed relishing the fact that there was nothing that I had to get up for in the morning. I was exhausted but it had been a magically exciting and fabulous trip.