Robbins Paddlers Begin Journey Down Bear Creek, Deep River
A jug filled at the head of Bear Creek is to start its journey downstream today.
Robbins Commissioner Mark Garner and two friends will carry their jug down the creek and down the Deep River to where it joins the Haw River to become the Cape Fear. Already paddling down the Haw is Matt Steible, an Elon University student from New Jersey.
The Robbins group was to head out about 2 p.m. Garner is calling it Bear Creek Sunday.
Meanwhile, Steible is already tipping his hat to Robbins. He is actually retracing a downstream paddle done 25 years ago by the late Charles E. "Chuck" Brady.
Brady, son of a Robbins town doctor, was already a doctor himself. He specialized in sports medicine, then went on to join the Air Force and become a flight surgeon with the famed Blue Angels before NASA tapped him as an astronaut. He flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia.
On that trip long ago, Brady went down the river with a jug of clear water from the headwaters of the Haw, showing people along the way how clear and clean it was compared to water even a short distance downstream. Eventually he poured it into Jordan Lake to show that the only way to get clean water at Jordan Lake was to bring it down in a jug.
Brady died last year, but Steible hopes his spirit will live on this trip, which he calls a "Spring Break Paddle." Garner thinks this parallel paddle is one real good way to let people know about recreation opportunities where Brady grew up.
He coordinated with Steible. They will meet a week later where two rivers join, far downstream as Haw and Deep combine to become the Cape Fear.
"William McDuffie, his wife Lynn, and I are going all the way down Bear Creek on Sunday," Garner said. "They'll bring as many friends as they can get together, and I will have as many people as I can get together in Robbins on Sunday."
Garner hopes lots of people will come out for their launch.
"It is exciting," he said. "It is a perfect opportunity. Isn't this a perfect way to express how we are all connected? One group -- starting at one headwaiters -- will end at the same place, and empty their waters into the same river, as the other."
McDuffie himself was camping out 25 years ago and actually saw Brady arrive to empty his jug of clear water at Jordan Lake. This time, McDuffie will have his own jug of water, collected near Brady's home. He'll have a sample of clear fresh Moore County water to compare with Steible's jug of Haw when their canoes meet up.
"Here's our plan," said Garner in a note to Steible. "This Sunday, carry a jug of Bear Creek headwaters' water down the whole length of the creek into Deep River. We will probably take out at High Falls."
Steible expects to complete his trip Sunday, March 25. That's when Garner and party will put in upstream early, in time to match Steible's arrival at the Cape Fear.
"We plan to pick back up and paddle the rest of the way down the Deep to where it merges with the Haw," Garner said. "We'll be arriving where you tell us to, when you tell us to, but assuming around 4 p.m. to join you with our water. We feel like 4 is a good workable time. A good portion of the Deep River section will consist of just one tandem racing canoe, with several others hopefully driving down and putting in as our two canoes meet -- for the celebration, so to speak."
Steible planned to put in at Haw River State Park about noon Friday. By Saturday, he was expecting to stop to camp at Grove Winery.
"For every glass of wine they sell on their patio that weekend, they will donate a dollar to the Haw River Assembly," he said.
At the same time, the Robbins paddlers are going down the Bear, Steible will be cruising through Glencoe. Sometime in early afternoon, he will be portaging the dam and checking out the mill village.
By Monday, March 19, he'll be paddling through the towns of Burlington, Haw River and Graham.
"My goal is hop out at access points and take a look around at what surrounds the Haw," Steible said, in his plan. "March 20, Tuesday -- Swepsonville. This town has done so much in terms of providing a great town park/canoe takeout and portage around its dams. I'm going to spend midmorning to early afternoon in town talking to everyone before I paddle on."
He has a lazy day planned for Wednesday, when he will be stopping in at Saxapahaw's New Century Charter School to talk to students and faculty about the river. The next day, Steible paddles on to Rock Rest Community, where he'll camp for the night.
On Friday, he hopes to reach Bynum, where the Haw River Assembly has its Spring Festival.
The next-to-last day, Saturday, March 24, is a good day for others to join in the fun. Joe Jacob of Haw River Canoe & Kayak -- one of Steible's instructors at Elon -- will offer separate scenic or whitewater paddles at the bridge over U.S. 15-501.
"Call him to reserve your place on this exciting day," Steible said. "You can choose which paddle suits your skill level."
On his final day, the parallel paddlers will hit the water, too. Garner and the folks from Robbins will be paddling down the lower Deep River even as Steible navigates Class II and III rapids -- Lunchstop, Ocean Boulevard, Gabriel's Bend, Moose Jaw. A scenic paddle going into Jordan Lake from the Robeson Canoe Launch will offer another, primarily scenic, choice for paddlers joining the day's events.
"That Sunday (is) the big finale," Steible said. "I'll be portaging the dam and continuing into the late afternoon to Mermaid Point. The 'Point' is the confluence of the Haw and the Deep River."
That's where the Bear Creek water bearers will be meeting Steible, with his jug of Haw River water. It is the same jug Brady himself used on one of his trips."
Steible and the Robbins paddlers will meet at the Cape Fear River, the end of the trip, to improve the Cape Fear with two jugs of fresh water.
"This just seems like the perfect opportunity to accomplish so many positive results," Garner said. "Celebrate the Haw, honor a local hero while spreading the conservation message. This just occurred to me: this might be a perfect example of how we really are all connected -- at a lot of different levels."
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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