Relentless Explorers

Exploring and Kayaking (Upstream) in the Pine Barrens



Trip Planning: What should I bring?

By Ken Relentless

25 Jun  2017

Having been at this for about four years now it is appropriate to inform you just what we are doing and how to prepare for an upstream kayak trip. To help here are some things to consider.



What Kind of Trip Is This Anyway?

This is an upstream trip against the current in high or median water levels, depending on how hard you want to paddle against the current. In other words, this ain't the lazy Wading River. If want that go to Micks Pine Barrens Canoe and Kayak Rental. They will drop you off and pick you up and you will have a perfectly lazy river trip. You might even take a nap floating downstream.



How long will the trip take?

That depends on several factors. The rule of thumb is it will take twice as long to paddle a mile upstream as it takes to return. If it takes two hours to paddle 1.5 miles up, then it will take 45 minutes or less coming back. A lot depends how high the water is and what obstacles you will encounter getting there. Any stops to clear fallen trees, branches and other debris will add extra hours. Our upstream trips are averaging about 5.5 hours up and back. Remember, we are treating these upstream trips as exploration into areas where few have gone.



How should I dress?

1. Wear a bathing suit just in case you dump your kayak. You should do this on any boat trip. You may have to get out to clear a fallen tree or portage over a beaver dam. It is really easy to get soaked.
2. Wear water shoes or protective footwear, mandatory to protect your feet from whatever is on the bottom in dark cedar water. Often there are logs, sharp sticks and branches, stones and other objects that will poke bare feet.
3. Wear an old shirt, particularly a t-shirt that you won't mind getting permanently stained. If the black muck frequently found in the stream bed gets picked up and lands on your shirt, the stains will likely not come out in the washing machine. I have a growing collection of brown-stained shirts that got muck on them.
4. Wear a hat. Not only does it keep your face and head from getting sun-burned, but it helps with the flies. Besides that, I want to look like Indian Jones.
5. Bring a life jacket. It is required when boating in the state forests.



What about lunch?

Easy. Go to Wawa and get a hoagie or sandwich. Get a quart of iced tea to go with it. Or just bring a quart or more of water. If you sweat a lot on a hot day, like I do, that water might go fast.



What else should I bring?

Buy a dry bag, such as a Field & Stream bag sold at Dick's Sporting Goods. Plastic bags from Walmart have tiny holes in the bottom that allow air in case a small child puts one over their head. Do not trust zip-loc type bags as water will get in if the seal breaks. And do not trust the supposedly water-tight compartment on kayaks that have bulkheads. I have resealed mine on both sides and water still gets in. A secured dry bag will keep water away from your lunch, car keys, wallet, cell phone, etc., plus it will float if you flip your boat.



How about a camera?

Don't. Never bring a camera unless it is one you can afford to replace. If the camera is not stored in a secured dry bag there is a good chance it will get wet when your boat flips over. A little water inside any camera will completely ruin it. Ask me, I know. A cell phone if protected with at least a water-resistant or water-proof case is a better choice. Personally I find it hard to keep my kayak going straight when trying to take photos anyway, which explains why there are so few on some of these trips. Most of the newer Android and iPhone cell phones take excellent photos and movies. Don't risk a point and shoot camera of any kind. Ignore the fact that I took my older Canon Rebel XS on my early Batsto Lake trip.



What about clearing the stream to make it passable?

The streams maintained by the canoe and kayak liveries are regularly cleared by their crews before the start of the season. For example, Micks maintains the Wading River, but they don't maintain the Batsto River. In low water conditions logs that are normally below the surface will be exposed above the water. This makes them a major pain to get over. To deal with these and larger deadfall laying across the stream, we recommend razor-tooth saws. These can be bought at any hardware store. They are inexpensive and cut fast. For the fearless types facing bigger logs, a battery-powered chain saw will do the job. However, these can be hazardous when run from a kayak. Don't risk it, just use a handsaw.


Field & Stream Dry Bag. It is the only bag that is 100% water proof when secured.
The Wawa lunch. Actually there was Walmart Great Value Iced Tea in that container for this shot, but you get the idea.
Razor-tooth saws. These are very sharp. The tether prevents loss when they fall into the water.
My wide-rim Indiana Jones hat.
Bug spray. Pick your brand. Spray the hat, shirt and your arms to keep the biting flies away.

New Arrival: Vivitar DVR786HD Action Cam

By Ken Relentless

6 Jul  2017

Breaking news! Just arrived this day is a brand new Vivitar DVR786HD Action Cam. This was purchased from BuyDig.com. It was bundled with a number of accessories and the price was right. This thing comes in a water-proof case, just like its more expensive GoPro Hero4 competitor. Stay tuned for future photos and videos from this gadget.


Vivitar DVR786HD Action Cam with accessory bundle from buydig.com.

New Arrival: Perception Sport Conduit 13.0

By Ken Relentless

27 Jul  2017

Just arrived today is my third kayak, a Perception Sports Conduit 13.0. Unlike my other Perception Sports Rhythm 10.0 and L.L. Bean Manatee DLX100 kayaks, this one is the next step up. Not a flat-bottomed recreation kayak like those two, the Conduit 13.0 has a v-shaped hull. According to the customer reports I read on DICK's Sporting Goods website, almost everyone was happy with the speed and performance of this kayak. This included using it on large lakes and bays.

When it comes kayaks and boats in general, hull shape has everything to do with speed and stability.



More to come...


This was my first boat, a Perception Sport Rhythm 10.0, a popular flat water recreation kayak.

First Impression: Perception Sport Conduit 13.0

By Ken Relentless

04 Sep  2017

Labor Day. August was a busy month for me with a vacation trip to Shenandoah National Park, Virginia and a church retreat in Hackettstown, New Jersey. I took the opportunity to load up the new kayak onto my truck and head down to put in on the Wading River. This is Beaver Branch, the place Mick's uses to pick up their boaters on the Wading River. Below this there is no place to launch or pull out until you reach Chip's Folly Campground in Leekstown.


Beaver Branch was my launch point. The first thing I noticed was the stability of this boat, there being very little difference between it and the Rhythm 10.0. I took to it immediately and headed south. The Wading River is wider from from here and affected somewhat by the tides. The kayak just seemed to effortlessly cut through the water. I paddled hard to see how fast I could drive it. I took it nearly a mile past marker Mile 18. There was no one out there except me. I turned around and paddled against the current, pushing up past Beaver Branch and Bodine Field to point beyond marker Mile 16.


As the river narrows above Beaver Branch, the current was stronger due to extra water from the remnants of tropical storm Harvey. On the curves and narrow spots is where I noticed the handling characteristics of the Conduit 13.0. The extra length and hull shape allowed me to keep the boat going straight a lot better than the shorter Rhythm 10.0. When the current did try to pull me off course a quick paddle drag to one side brought the entire boat back on course. Another thing I noticed was that I was able to make descent headway in the relatively strong current. Overall I was pleased with the handling characteristics.


Beyond this first test I still want to try it out on a larger lake or the bay where chop and boat wakes present more of a challenge, but that will have to wait until next year.

One thing this kayak will not be good for is the narrower streams like the Tulpehocken Creek or the Batsto River above Hampton Furnace, but then I knew that when I bought it. For these waterways the Rhythm 10.0 is better suited.


The Wading River below Beaver Branch. I am heading back from a point not far from Mile 19.
You can see the Mile 18 sign on the tree in the center of the photo.
I paddled upstream just beyond Mile 16 to a feeder that comes from Harrisville Lake before turning around. It was a bit of fight against the current.
Nearing Beaver Branch where I launched and pulled out.
Ladder racks and some pipe foam insulation make an excellent way to haul this 13 foot, 50 pound kayak. It important to always thread the straps through handles on the ends.
The Beaver Branch launch/pickup point. There is nothing for several miles below this point until you reach Chip's Folly Campground.

Exploring the Batsto River by Foot, II

By Ken Relentless

27 Dec  2017

See the entry here.