This trip had been in the planning for a few weeks and then suddenly it was tile to load the cars with paddling and camping gear! Due to it being the school holidays the campsite at Loch Ken was pretty busy and not everyone was able to get booked in which was a shame.
Andy, Tracy, Billy, Jean and I arrived on the Friday night ad set up camp in between the rain showers. After dinner as it was kind of chiily and damp, the party moved into my tent – I think the wood stove might have had something to do with it. It’s amazing how many people you can in a tipi. A couple of former members, Jim and Lindsay were in the area and joined us for a wee refreshment.
Saturday dawned sunny and warm and not a breath of wind. We took the boats up to the get in at St John’s Town of Dalry where we met Jim N, Rob and Robert. Trundling the boats down to the river and across the suspension bridge and fence took a bit of time but thank goodness there were plenty of portage trolleys around. Shuttling out the way we got on the water. After a lovely relaxed paddle of all of 50 meters people were out and wading through the first shingle rapid! It was low! The pattern was now set for the next part of the river (Water of Ken) until the outfall of Glenlee power station. Thankfully it was flowing so this added nicely to the water level and we didn’t need to wade any more.Shortly after that there was a nice wee rapid that we all had a good giggle going down. It was just after this that Tracy wondered why her feet were getting wet… Oops – a hole in wee wooden boat! This kind of forced the lunch stop on us – oh dear! Andy went into repair mode and got the hole sorted with the aid of duct tape! If it can’t be fixed with duct tape, it can’t be fixed!
After we had all fed and relaxed a bit , it was only a short paddle till we were under Ken Bridge and the breeze was filling in. Soon the sails were up and a bit of assistance from the wind was good. By the time we reached Loch Ken proper, the wind was a steady force three and we all had a good sail down to the Galloway Activity Centre – except poor Rob who manfully kept up under paddle power alone! It was time for a coffee and ice cream stop! The place was very busy with kids having a blast on the centre’s various inflatables and a load of marathon paddlers of all ages having races! These look even stranger boats than sea kayaks as they seem to need to be moving to stay upright… Glad I paddle a canoe! Off again under sail all the way down the rest of the loch to the campsite. Passing nice wooded shores, water skiers and folk fishing. The odd red kite put in an appearance too! It was grand to finish the paddle for the day by pulling up on the beach, grabbing the kit bag and just turning the boat over for the night. A short walk to the tent and beer!
Day 2 – breakfast in the sun and strike camp. Eventually the plan morphed into lets just go and paddle down the loch and then back up – save all that shuttling nonsense! It was lovely on the calm water, exploring reed beds, watching wildlife, seeing signs of otters – great to see they are preying on invasive fresh water crayfish! More red kites! We ended up at Crossmichael for lunch. The wind was trying to fill in from the southwest this time so we decided to head back in the direction of the cars. Some more sailing was tried but the wind was a bit fickle to be honest and then eventually refused to co-operate at all by setting in a totally inconvenient direction. Oh well back to paddle power then!
We paddled past the still busy campsite to the old railway bridge that once carried the Dumfries/Stranraer line – a victim of Beeching There was a very convenient slipway that meant only a very short wheel of the boats back to all the cars.
A great weekend in the grand company of EEKCC chums as usual!