Wafting on the Eno with River Dave
I took my mentee "wafting" last weekend. If you can make it to Durham NC you can go too - look up Riverdave's website. He's been doing these trips, twice a day and once at night, most nice days, for sixteen years. What a career, eh?
First call and make a reservation. Then get yourself to West Point on the Eno, site of the wonderful Festival for the Eno, held over the Fourth of July weekend. It's a huge fundraiser for the park (with the proceeds they have been buying up riverfront acreage, even through the heart of Durham, for many years). I've enjoyed performing there, with various bands and friends, for decades - despite its generally being so hot it could melt the glue out of my fiddle.
River Dave will take all the would-be rafters up to this old barn, where he keeps his life preservers. You will all be stripped of your cellphones, which are blessedly forbidden on this expedition.
Then you'll get a "waft" (not a raft, but an inflated kayak) and a paddle - only one, because he says having two paddles in one waft leads to acrimony - and you'll walk past the mill. Flour is still ground here every week.
As River Dave explained, this section of the Eno is deep enough to waft on only because of the mill, which backs the water up and slows it down. Upstream of the mill, the Eno gets quick and shallow again - which he says is a healthier condition.
We all dragged our wafts above the millrace and put in. It was a perfect day. The water is slow and lazy so one person, with bare feet propped up on the sides of the waft, can propel the thing with no effort at all.
We passed these fisherman dudes on the way. They weren't working up much of a sweat either.
River Dave has a hypnotic way about him. Practically, because there is no serious mileage to this excursion, he wants to stretch it out for us. So there is NO HURRY. This is also in line with his philosophy, espoused frequently and hypnotically, that, in these souped-up times, we all move too fast, to the great detriment of our quality of life. (Those commas were added, as speed bumps, to slow you down.)
He directed us to a couple ironwood trees with their branches hanging low over the water. We all backed in under their generous shade and put languid hands on each others' wafts to link into one big floating marina and we 'rested' there (I was falling asleep, it was so peaceful) while he told us quiet, slow stories about the flora and fauna and river people and about the Eno itself, which once had 30 mills on its 32 miles.
At the farthest point of our journey, where the river began to be quick and full of grasses and rounded stones, we pulled our wafts up and waded upstream to what used to be the next millpond - and swam across to what might have been the old millrace there. This mill is long gone, but the swimming hole remains.
Then he left us to float back to our starting point at our own speed. My mentee enjoyed paddling us in circles which was ok until I got a little queasy. Then she paddled us backwards most of the rest of the way. What an innovator.
What a great trip. (By the way, if you click on these pictures, they open bigger.)
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