I recently received an invite from area resident Jim McKnight, asking me if I wanted to go kayaking down Tygart Creek.
I first met Jim last year while writing a story for The Daily Independent in Ashland about the push for economic growth in the city of Russell, where Jim owns property. Several months later he asked if I wanted to go kayaking in Carter County.
Absolutely, was my response. I don't get a chance to do stuff like this very often. I cherish being out in nature. One of my big goals in life is to hike The Appalachian Trail from start to finish. This is a goal I will tackle when I'm retired and have months at a time to do so. Just in general, being a witness to the glory of God-given nature is one of the best things to do in life in my humble opinion. Thus, the idea of kayaking down Tygart was something I definitely wanted to do.
We put the kayaks in at the bridge near the AA Highway. This was going to be a shorter trip -- three to five hours we guessed -- as I had to go back into work Saturday night. This would prevent me from traversing the full haul all the way to Carter Caves State Park, but that's okay. I was in for a special treat on this day nonetheless.
Some immediate observations came to mind as we started our journey. One, the water was warm — far warmer than I'd expected. It was like pool water warm. Two, we were going to be lucky if we didn't get rained on. It was a cloudy, overcast day. Three, it was abundantly clear I was going to be able to handle this creek. I'm no expert kayaker by any means. For sure, there are spots that are super fun as you navigate the kayak around bends and stumps and downed trees, and there are certainly places where you could get dumped, go for a swim and have to retrieve the kayak and get the water out of it to resume the trip. But, generally speaking, I had no fear of imminent death if something went horribly wrong.
The creek level seemed high to me — a higher water level than one would expect. The most noticeable part of this journey was the natural beauty. The water that ran down this creek has been preceded by water for thousands and thousands of years before it. This has made for some simply gorgeous limestone cut outs, and this limestone scenery was just a miniversion compared to what was ahead for me to see on another day.
This creek, simply put, is beautiful. The water was at times clear, at times muddy. When it was clear you could see a creek bank or bed underneath that seemed as if it was undisturbed for generations. There were also several downed trees extending into the creek. Sometimes it seemed as if removal of these stumps and trees would be of long term benefit to the creek bed and nature. There were a few spots where the creek was almost completely compromised by downed trees and stumps.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the one negative — there are spots where trash mars the scenery. I saw one spot where someone had dumped an old washer and dryer in the creek. Really? There were a few other spots where soda bottles, garbage bags, netting, etc., were scattered alongside the creek bed.
Friends of Tygart Creek have done creek cleanups in the past, but it needs to be an ongoing process because of the length of the creek as well garbage finding its way into the streams during floods, and, infuriatingly, because of human negligence and outright dumping.
Still, these momentary setbacks did not take away from the overwhelming beauty to be found.
There were two parts of this journey that stand out in retrospect. One was when we paddled down a long straight away and came up on some cows sitting alongside the creek bank. They looked about as content as could be, hanging alongside the creek bank with some calves. I immediately thought, 'Wow these cows have it better than us humans.'
The other part of this journey that was especially valuable for me was the reaffirmation that Carter County has an abundance of natural resources opportunities to offer visitors. There is huge tourism potential here. When you factor in Carter Caves, this is a jewel of a resource that offers up the chance for real tourism growth.
The best part of my journey, though? Getting away from work and the daily grind of life. Leaving the cell phone in the pickup. Checking out from the hustle of the world for nearly five hours and receiving the reminder there is nothing more beautiful in life than nature.
This is a trip, and a journey, I highly recommend.