Paddle Event to Honor Robbins Hero, Highlight Water Quality
Every year, paddlers on Bear Creek remember the late Robbins astronaut Charles E. Brady, Jr., with an outdoor excursion honoring Brady's pioneering efforts to clean the waters of the state.
Long before becoming a flight surgeon with the Blue Angels or looking down on Earth from Space Shuttle Columbia, Brady found a way to dramatize the problem of river pollution.
Over 30 years ago, Brady filled a pottery jug at the headwaters of the Haw River and canoed downstream. Along the way, he stopped to talk with people living along, working beside, and enjoying the river. When he poured that jug of water into Jordan Lake at the end of his paddle, it was easy to see the river had seen better days. It was Brady's way of calling attention to the damage pollution was causing the river.
Bringing a jug of water all the way from its source was the only way anybody could get fresh water out of the Haw. His trip launched a successful effort to clean up the Haw.
Every year Foothills Outdoors sponsors a March event honoring Brady and reminding people of the need both to protect and enjoy environmental treasures like Bear Creek and the state's freshwater resources.
The 2013 Charles E. Brady Paddle Challenge is this Saturday. It is the first race in the nonprofit's Bear Creek Race Series.
"Come and race, or take a float trip for fun," said William McDuffie, president of the N.C. Canoe Racing Association and one of the organizers of Foothills Outdoors. "It's a four-mile downstream race on Bear Creek from the Robbins canoe access on N.C. 705 down to the access at Reynolds' Mill Road."
Where N.C. 705 passes over the creek on its way north is where Robbins volunteers set up a water gate where canoes and kayaks can put in. It's become an unofficial waterside park and setting for everything from January's chilly Brrrrrrhhh Creek Plunge to spring's Adventure Bearathlon and other events throughout the year.
"This is a great stretch of Bear Creek to paddle," McDuffie says. "The scenery is excellent and there is quite a bit of whitewater. You do have to be on the lookout for strainers, and there's one portage around the old Carter's Mill."
Going around the dam means taking the canoes and kayaks 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 says. "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."
Registration on the day of the race opens creekside at 10 a.m. Half an hour later a shuttle heads around to the Reynolds' Mill finishing point. At 11 a.m. the float trip casts off, heading downstream ahead of racers. The race starts at 11:15.
There are both solo and tandem classes for recreational canoes and kayaks, McDuffie said.
The entry fee for adult competitors is $10, while competitors 18 and under paddle free. The float trip is also free.
"The first 50 competitors to register are guaranteed a hand-made pottery jug," McDuffie said.
That jug symbolizes Brady's jug, and other jugs over the years as other paddlers repeated Brady's Haw River trip.
Matt Steible, a student at Elon University, used the original jug when he repeated Brady's Haw River trip a few years ago.
"It was made by a Chatham County potter, a Mark Stewart - homemade and fired in a large, wood-fired kiln," Steible said then. "The reason Chuck Brady took that jug all the way down from the headwaters to Jordan was to show it was the only way to get clean water. That river is in better shape now, because of him."
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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