JOHN CHAPPELL: NORTH NOTES: Paddlers Honor 'Hometown Hero'
Weather threatened but did not keep paddlers off Bear Creek last weekend.
It was the second annual Charles E. Clean Water Challenge -- an annual salute from Robbins to one of her favorite sons: Charles E. Brady.
Brady, who grew up in Robbins, was a doctor of sports medicine who became flight surgeon to the Navy's famous Blue Angels, then an astronaut who flew aboard the shuttle Columbia. He was a camper, paddler and an Eagle Scout, and cared deeply both about protecting the environment and the natural waters of his state and about enjoying the outdoors.
Last year, Robbins Town Commissioner Mark Garner and some friends who enjoy canoes and kayaks paddled down Bear Creek and Deep River just as another canoe trip repeated a famous one by Brady carrying Haw River headwater downstream to call attention to river pollution.
They saw such startlingly beautiful vistas along the way that the idea of doing this every year was born.
"Several of us in Robbins are planning on doing the paddle from the headwaters of Bear Creek to Mermaid Point again this year," Garner said, inviting other Piedmont area paddlers to come along. "We plan on breaking up the 'Classic' over two weeks this year instead of one. Our intent is to organize a relay run to cover the nine miles from the headwaters to the N.C. 705 access in Robbins. From there, the jug will travel entirely by boat.
The idea is both celebrating the memory of Brady and enjoying the legacy he left for posterity.
"We can once more empty our combined selves into the water to form the Cape Fear like Matt, William, Lynne, and myself did last year and Chuck did 26 years ago," Garner said.
Planning for Next Year
Heavy weather looked as if it would be moving in, so plans changed at the last minute. The relay run, carrying a pottery jug of clear Bear Creek headwater to Robbins, took place Saturday. The paddle was put off to Sunday when thunderstorms and lightning would not be likely to endanger paddlers.
The distance from the Bear Creek headwaters on Dover Church Road to Robbins is 9.6 miles. It takes a little more than 90 minutes to run this distance carrying a pottery jug filled with water. Garner found a small one for the relay runners.
"The worst hill is the one coming up from Cabin Creek on the Spies Road," said William McDuffie after the Saturday relay had run its course. "Joey Boswell ran the full distance with me, and we both were wondering how there can be so much uphill when we're going downstream. Dan Smoak, our official photographer, and River joined us for part of the run. I did have to tell River to slow down a little as we came into town. It's not good for my ego to be outrun by my 6-year-old daughter. Mark Garner, Cynthia Reeves and Lynne (McDuffie, his wife) provided much appreciated road support."
They settled in outside Deep River Coffee Co. for a rest and refreshments. Clouds were already forming, and all hoped Sunday would be clear. It was.
"Good morning, guys, ain't it a beautiful day to be on the water?" Garner said the next day. "Hell, is there such a thing as a bad day? Once again we have been blessed, the weather provided an opportunity to paddle a very nice section of Bear Creek. I can't wait till next year, as a matter of fact, the planning has already begun."
One part of the new RobbinsAlive! recreation and tourism plan is making boat access to Bear Creek and Deep River easier and better known.
Where N.C. 705 -- The Pottery Highway -- passes over the creek on its way north, Robbins is setting up a water gate where canoes and kayaks can put in. That was the site for Sunday's clean water ceremony.
"We were honored to have Charles E's mom, Ann Brady, Robbins Mayor Theron Bell, Barbara Smith and my parents, Bill and Sue McDuffie, present as we emptied our headwater jug from the previous day's run," McDuffie said.
Then, they launched onto Bear Creek.
"There were seven of us paddling," he said. "Elizabeth Lyerly and Jared Byrd were in Kayaks, Scott Forrest in his solo whitewater canoe, Lynne McDuffie and a friend of hers named Brittany in a tandem canoe. My daughter River paddled bow and pulled me down the creek. The older she gets the less work I have to do."
Remember Hometown Hero
Sunday's paddle had been scheduled to be from Robbins to High Falls, but high water following Saturday night's heavy rain forced paddlers upstream, where they ran the Brown's Mill to Robbins section instead.
"This is a great stretch of Bear Creek to paddle," McDuffie said. "The scenery is excellent and there is quite a bit of whitewater. You do have to be on the lookout for strainers and there is one tree across the creek that you have to portage on the right."
Those sights surprised Jared Byrd.
"I really enjoyed the upper section of Bear Creek and was amazed at how mountainous it looked," he said. "I sure hope to do that again sometime, and take more pictures. I can't wait to get another trip going, because if I am off work I will surely be there."
Going around the dam means taking the craft out of the water and carrying them around to continue from a downstream point.
"As you approach the dam in Robbins, which is about a mile from the takeout, it is best to turn right and go up Cabin Creek to the spillway," McDuffie said. "It's easy to take out here, and the road makes for an easy carry down to the dam which is portaged on the right. Your last bit of excitement is an easy rapid about a quarter mile downstream."
Their trip Sunday took the paddlers about two hours. Ann Brady and Barbara Smith were waiting at the takeout with snacks. McDuffie's parents were there as well, ready to run shuttle.
"It's pretty easy to get spoiled with support like that," he said. "Twenty six years ago Charles E. Brady paddled the length of the Haw River and brought awareness to the importance of protecting our waterways. This past weekend a few like-minded people got together and enjoyed running and paddling along the creek that flows past the town he called home. I can't think of a better way to remember our hometown hero."
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.?
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