With Balcony in the rear view the crew is relishing the beauty of Appalachia and taking time to explore relics of The James River and Kanawah Canal. West of Lynchburg, we are finally in the waters Marshall surveyed in 1812.
We spent much of the day after Balcony Falls resting in Glasgow and made camp a few miles upriver at the Wilderness Canoe Livery, where we were paid a suprise visit by JRBF chairman and longtime batteau builder Ralph Smith. Sitting around the fire we once again replayed the events of previous few days and entertained the proprietor of the campsite and other guests.
One of the greatest aspects of this excursion has been the outpouring of support by people along the river. Nancy and Monty Johnston live in Natural Bridge Station, right on the river bank. After hearing our story on NPR Nancy contacted me offering support as we passed by. Friday morning that support came in the form of breakfast casseroles, coffee, orange juice, fruit and homemade bread right on the river bank- certainly one of the best breakfasts on the trip. After visiting with Nancy and Monty, along with their neighbors Sally and David, we set off with full bellies for another day on the river.
The rapids on the upper James are noticeably steeper and more frequent than in the Piedmont; that, coupled with our frequent stops at canal relics, has slowed our pace over the past few days. Friday evening we made camp at Alpine Farms where we were visited by over a dozen area residents, all eager to learn more about the history of the river and our experiences thus far.
Saturday morning we departed Alpine Farms aiming to make camp in Buchanan, about 11 miles away. With an 80% chance of rain we spent the better part of the day under a bright blue sky, bashing the weather men all the way. Within a few miles of Buchanan and with the most significant rapids of the day still ahead, our luck changed dramatically. The temperature plummeted as heavy grey clouds settled in and the rain began. We pulled into Buchanan in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm, and sopping wet sprinted to The Copper Top, a local bar conveniently located about 100 yards from the boat landing. The rest of the evening was spent in the company of Dylan’s father and Wes’ parents and brother. Glad to be inside, we enjoyed a good dinner and fell asleep under our friend Jimmy Lewis’ riverside pavilion. With miserable weather and in no particular hurry, we decided to spend an extra day in Buchanan and will be back on the water first thing tomorrow morning.