We got to borrow the new Hobie i14T
inflatable over the Labor Day weekend for our trip to Phoenix where we put in at the Salt River. An inflatable was perfect for the trip as I didn't want to have our Oasis tandem baking on the truck all weekend in the desert heat.
We went to the last segment of the river Northeast of town just before it completely disappears in to a labyrinth of canals that quenches the City's enormous thirst. In addition to the tandem inflatable, our third member brought his paddling SOT.
As Western rivers go, I was surprised by the size of the Salt. A fellow kayaker, just pulling out, advised us that our Mirage Drives probably wouldn't get through the invasive river bottom grass that prevailed upstream. We figured to give it a try anyway.
Sure enough, our fins were no match for the grass. It entangled the fins and rudder repeatedly as the other kayak made steady progress.
Heading East into the sun, the grass would bog us down without warning. Some was so dense as to form islands:
While other patches lurked just below the surface:
We even flung it with the paddles:
We learned to adapt quickly enough though by flipping the fins up and paddling through the shallows and grass areas, using the Drive in the deeper and clear water zones.
Before long we were making a steady 1.5 to 2.5 MPH upstream against the 2 to 3.5 MPH current.
Fortunately I attached bow lines to both craft just in case. Sure enough, the effect of heat and exertion eventually took its toll on our paddler. There was no good place to pull over without losing ground so we doubled back to grab his line for a little R & R while the Mirage Drives propelled us all steadily upstream.
We finally reached the end of our journey, the site of an old dam probably built by the CCC back in the 1930s.
There we rested in the backwater before jumping out in the small rapids and starting the leisurely trip back.
At several spots there were groups of small islands of reeds:
Finally we returned to the starting point.
Here's some additional scenery along the way:
Here, just downstream of our launch point is the final small lake from which canals suck up the river.
So how did the inflatable do? It never seemed feasible to bring kayaks along on a trip before, so the inflatable opened up our recreational potential significantly! It has the enormous advantage of compact storage and easy portability. The 110 degree heat didn't seem to phase it. Nothing came unglued, warped or sagged. On the water, it performed beautifully as a hybrid drive and showed the tremendous advantage the Mirage Drive has when in its element. The inflatable had no disadvantages over its plastic brethren, but had one unique advantage -- being a stable platform for jumping into the cool, refreshing water and remounting without difficulty. It was great fun!8)