Weekend of Paddles and Pedals

I would say that this weekend's trip with Jeff was an absolute success. The plan was to pack up the tandem kayak, two mountain bikes and a night's worth of gear and head into the woods and water. We headed out Thursday morning with some great water on our minds.

The Elkhorn Creek is a great little slice of Kentucky. There's not really any kind of serious whitewater... but that didn't matter to us. There's a great flow of current that is interesting enough to occupy several hours over a couple of days... so we thought.

After unloading our stuff into our camp site, we made a call to the local shuttle and water sports outfitters. "Due to the lack of rainfall this year and the low water levels, we've suspended operation on the Elkhorn Creek. We are still offering tours on the Kentucky River."

What? No water? Perhaps this is something I will check before I leave next time. We didn't want to throw in the towel, so we gave it a go anyway. Things started out okay...

The water level was obviously low, but we could do it.


Before we knew it we were out of water.

We could paddle for about 30 yards, then we'd have to portage for about 50 yards. There were a lot of creek rocks taunting us as we made our feeble attempts.

Eventually, we turned around and headed back. On the way back, though, we found a creepy vulture hang-out. There were hundreds of these things in the trees and on the ground. The air wreaked of death while they stared us down as we paddled by. The pics really don't do it justice.

Discouraged, we made another attempt at a different location to drop in and paddle. No luck. At least we tried. And, at least, we got some decent pics.

Two failed attempts left us with sore arms and disheartened spirits. We headed back to the camp with heads hanging low. I love camping. And if anything is going to cheer me up it's going to be sitting around a campfire with a buddy. Knowing this, we stopped to grab some fire wood on the way back. Across the counter an elderly man spoke more heartbreak into my ears. "Too dry, son. We're on a fire ban. You ain't allowed to build no fire... unless its charcoal on a grill."



No kayaking. No fire. We headed into town for 49 cent McDonald's ice cream cones. It didn't feel right. But what were we to do?

We laid our heads down that night on a sugar high, but our spirits were low. See, when you have three kids at home, it's a big deal to get out and camp. When you have a job that you love, it's hard to walk away for a couple days. This was our time. This was our chance. And it seemed to be falling apart.

Okay, I'm being dramatic. It wasn't that bad. We were both thankful to stand in the water. I love sleeping in a tent. If that's all the experience I got I would have been satisfied. But things definitely turned around in the morning.

We woke up with mountain biking on the mind. There was a mountain bike park nearby, and we were going to attack it. Could pedals offer what paddles couldn't? We were determined.

After we arrived, things quickly turned around. It. was. AWESOME. I'm not a mountain biker. I would say darn near everyone enters the world of cycling with a mountain bike. So I'd ridden knobby tires before. But this was intentional time on the trails. It was great to test my technical ability. And this time it was different than when I'd tried mountain biking before. My endurance is high from road riding. So my fitness level never stood in my way. I had the energy to do what I wanted. I just had to learn the technical end.

Jeff forgot his helmet. I wore mine. Don't yell at me. :)

We rode for hours. One of the fun parts of this park was all the deer we saw. I guess they're used to seeing guys and girls out here riding. They didn't think twice about us. They just stood there.

We also had a great time with all the sink holes.

Capital View Park from Derrick Purvis on Vimeo.

After a few hours of riding we headed back with sore legs, a few cuts and a twisted ankle. It was time to make another attempt for water.

We thought it would be worth it to give the Kentucky River a try. There's a big difference in the Elkhorn Creek and the Kentucky River. Obviously, one factor is size. But with that size comes an intimacy that the river can't offer over the creek. It's more about cruising on the river, less about adventure. But we had packed the boat and we were going to paddle it. It was worth it.

As I took off my MTB shoes and put on my Keens, I noticed this line. That's not a tan line. That's a dirt line. Where the trails dirtied me, the river was going to clean me.

The river offered enough interest and nice views that we felt like it was well worth it. I was limping on a twisted ankle and the lack of use was good for it. We paddled upstream for over an hour and let the water eventually pull us back to the Subaru.

In the end, the weekend was perfect. We laughed a ton and walked away with great stories. I extend thanks to my wonderful wife Angie for letting me go and to Jeff's Emily for gifting him the time. It was great to get out and smell the woods and feel the dirt. We made a great discovery in a town that offers such great outdoor activity and it's merely 30 minutes away.

It was an awesome trip.

Get out there.


  1. You are welcome (:

  2. The excellent shots of the back of my head in the kayak let me know why i felt like paddling the kayak was more difficult than expected. I was the ONLY one paddling. You were taking pics. But i guess someone had to -- at least for the blog.