Monday, June 27, 2011

106 miles, 7 days, 1 great time :)

"Men may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening. In time, it will have its way; the dam, like the ancient cliffs, will be carried away piecemeal in the currents." — (Wendell Berry)

Another Paddle Georgia has come and gone.  Clothes are cleaned, tent dried out and mud scrubbed from the boats.  This year was no exception to the fun that we have had over past paddle years.  There are many stories from this trip and many friends made.  It is a time when all you have is a tent, boat, backpack and a comb. When worrying about appearances seems a lifetime away with makeup and hairdriers left at home. But, all seem to be magically pleased when smiles form on our faces as they take a peek in a mirror.

Athens to Dublin Georgia.  We paddled 12 miles on Middle Oconee River, 6 miles on Lake Oconee and 88 miles on Oconee River.  We passed many sites and many creatures.  With all the rain that had occurred the previous week, the river cooperated and less scooting was required.  Along the way I pulled over, climbed the hill, and visited the State Botanical Garden for about an hour.  The gardens were beautiful and the air condintioned conservatory was a brief relief from the 100 degree temperatures.

  We swam the hot temperatures away and It's no wonder that we were always on the last shuttle at the end of the day.  The same people would be on that shuttle every night.  They were the ones that knew how to make paddling a good time with all the side fun along the way.  With 300+ people on this trip, we had all kinds of paddlers.  There were the racers, whose mission was to get down the river as soon as possible.  What exactly did they do the rest of the day in the scorching heat?  There were the families with little kids whose tempers rose with the temperatures.  The teens who sang along the river and annoyed the elders with their rhyming songs.  The pirates, whose mission was to make sure everyone was wet from their soaking guns.  I'm sure all had a great time along the way, but that last bus of people each night still had the most energy.  :)

We swam with gar, gators, snakes and turtles.  I only screamed once when a water moccasin was sitting next to me in the water. I didn't wait to introduce myself and sped away.  The alligator was cool and saw him eat a fish before I left.  Made me realize that with the abundant of fish in the water, they sure wouldn't want to munch on a Woodstock girl.  Would they?   :)

 We paddled past the Avant Mine & kaolin mine.  Kaolin is considered one of Georgia's largest natural resource.  Eight million tons are mined each year and it's all found at the edge of the fall line in the Coastal Plain. It is a white clay that is used to coat paper, make toilets, paint and even drugs. It was all along the hillside near our take-out one day. 

The Kaolin felt good in our hands when we wet it with water.  Sort of like sticky but hard play dough.  We had fun painting it on us which the kids called war paint.

At one point the cool crisp water was full of mussels.  These filter feeders were found around the shallow rock places in the water. They are seen as essential indicators of water quality.   It was neat seeing live ones and picking up the beautiful shells from dead ones to bring home. 

What is it that draws me to water time and time again? Is it the challenge, the beauty that I see, or just the thrill of the adventure?  Is it the demanding desire to know what lay around each bend of the river?  From as far back as I remember as a child, I felt great being in and on the water.  I had one paddler ask me if I had gills because I was in the water so much. The attraction is definitely there with a respect for the water and all it entails, combined with a love of it that can't be explained.  So far, just with Paddle Georgia trips, I racked up over 700 miles.  Enough miles one way to my hometown of Pittsburgh.  :) 

Next year is set for the Altamaha River in South Georgia that flows eastward for 137 miles.  The upper tributaries are the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers.  Both of which we paddled.  This trip will be located what I like to call below the gnat line and wonder just how many people will attempt it.  lol
For now, I will continue to paddle the rivers and lakes close to me and maybe get another safety class under my belt.  Let the adventures continue.  :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Alligators, storms and meltdown

"Choosing to save a river is more an act of passion than a careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way. " - Davis Boling

We have 85 miles behind us as of today. Miles that have given me the pleasure of seeing this great river. With the cypress trees and spanish moss, and reptiles, this river comes alive. Today I came upon a small alligator. Probably 4 foot or so. It was in this strainer in the picture. I was surprised that I could get close enough to take a picture without him ducking under. After about five minutes I was ready to leave but not before he guzzled down a fish that popped out of no where. It was very cool. I swam in this river today as we continue to go south to gator country. With the heat as it is, we take our chances. After the gator sighting, I waited till I went a mile or two before I slipped back in the water. No problem there :)
Next came the storms. We had 20 miles to paddle today. At mile 11 a storm was brewing. The sky went black and lighting had started. We got off the water, got prepared, and waited. It ended up breaking apart and moving away from us. We then continued on. At mile 17 another storm showed its face. No lighting this time, but sheets of rain. With paddle skirt and raincoat on, I raced down the river the last 3 miles. Pulled in at the takeout and it stopped. No problem there. :)
After staying to help and wait for the last 100 people to get off the water, I finally rode the last shuttle back to camp. Wanting to stay and help usually is good, right? Wrong. Problem here.
My backpack and everything I have got soaked. My clothes, pillow blankets etc. It sat outside while the storm was here and I was on the water. It was soaked terribly. We re out in the middle of no where and I don't even have a dry bed. After trying to get to a dryer with no success, I borrowed 2 blankets from a friend for Dan and I. That didn't stop the meltdown when I got in my tent. Unusual in this setting that I love, but it happened. I can dodge shoals, dams, storms and gators, but it seems that water wanted to show me whose boss.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

65 and counting...

"A river is more than an amenity---it is a treasure that offers a necessity of life that must be rationed among those that have the power over it. "

So far I have paddled 65 miles of my journey down the Oconee river. Two more days and 41 miles.
Today we had a lot of strainers and snags to get around. These trees cause chaos on the river and can be dangerous. Dodging the strainers takes effort and time. Another long day and exhaustion is setting in for the night. Alarm set for 6 to pack up camp and be on our way.
Today we saw a landowner cutting down trees on his property. He did not leave a buffer zone of 25 ft. We checked it out, took pictures, and had someone look to see if a permit was made. It was not. The owner will most likely be fined and will need to restore. Without a buffer zone, the land will continue to erode to our water. These trips are for awareness of our rivers and how they need to be protected. We need our water resources to be here for a long time!

My kayak in this photo was sitting on a sandbar while I ate lunch and swam.
Side note - an alligator was spotted. :)

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mad river

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step on to the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept of to. " (Bilbo to Frodo) - J R R Tolkien

The river today was absolutely gorgeous. It was clear, cool and glistening. I set off in the morning with the lead boat to get to Buzzard Island Dam early at 7:30 so as to get ready for another portage. It all went very smoothly as the boats were lined done the shoot while the people walked down. My boat actually went down twice and pulled up once. I was set at the bottom and then needed at the top. It worked out well and all 300 boats passed thru by 1:30. This picture is from the bottom of the Dam structure. The boat is a solo wish list boat for myself :)
I swam for a long while once again in the cool water. I saw two otters on the bank in the early morning, fish, herons and many other birds. It was a great day. :)
We have 3 days left to complete the 106 mile trip. Tomorrow we will paddle another 15. Four down and three to go. Its going too fast. :)

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lake Oconee

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. " - St Augustine

It was 100 degrees today here in GA. We paddled 6 miles on the river and spilled into Lake Oconee for another 6 miles. I spent a lot of the time in the water cooling off while holding onto the painters line so I wouldn't lose the kayak.
We found a 4ft gar that was floating in the water with a hook in his mouth. Some guy pulled it out of the water to look at its teeth! Yikes! I took pictures with my camera before he tossed it back in. Unbelievable that we were swimming in the water with those fish! They were literally jumping all around us. In a couple of days we could see the alligators that hang out below the fault line.

We moved camp today to Milledgeville. Getting up early to pack, we finished by 8 and was on the water. We got on the last shuttle again at night and just made the dinner being served at 6:30. Long days but fun days :)
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friend for the day :)

"The river is a promise of things to come, a ribbon of hope shining in the sun. The river is life for the great and small" -Walkin' Jim Stoltz

Day 2 on the Oconee and what a nice day it was as I had a new friend that paddled with me. :). Sitting at the dam and waiting for all the people to portage around, I was getting a little bored. That is until someone handed me this little turtle. What fun I had watching it crawl all around my boat. At one point I had it in my pfd pocket when I had to pull my boat out. It was a tiny little thing with a great pattern on the shell and great color. All the young kids were excited to see one that small. After paddling down the river the 15 miles, I gave it to a young girl who put it back in the water. :)
Dan and I had a great day paddling together and swimming outside our boat. We were on the water at 7:30 and off at 5:30. It was a long, but fun day. :)
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Saturday, June 18, 2011


"The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. " - Mark Twain-

Getting on the water at 7am and directing the safety boaters was easy. Getting myself ready and positioned on the last big shoal was just the same. What happened next still makes me want to yell nooooo from the top of my lungs. My paddle decided to crunch between two rocks as I perched myself on a rock waiting for the 300+ paddlers. Anyone that has a lightweight carbon\carbon paddle knows what a great friend it can be. As I looked at my paddle, day 1 of 7, mile 1 1\2 of 106, I closed my eyes in disbelief and opened to an onslaught of paddlers heading our way. With no time to dwell, the work began. There were deer in headlights people, boats flipping and gear floating as some newbies tried their best to make their way through. As I stood there directing with my paddle and holding the broken blade in sorrow, low and behold, floating by me was half of a kayak paddle! I scooped it up waiting for the owner to claim it. No one did. They must have decided half of a paddle was better than none. Four hours later when all 300 people went through, I set out to paddle the next 10 miles with one borrowed paddle, one broken paddle, and one half of a lost paddle.
I absorbed the lush green scenery, chirping birds and beautiful flowers at the botanical garden that was along the river. Took pictures and talked with friends floating by.
But getting off the water at 5pm, shuttling back to camp, buying a paddle from an outfitter parked at camp that only had one choice of a paddle, I made my way to the lost and found and dumped the lost paddle into the box. I wonder what story the owner of that paddle had to tell about their day.

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Friday, June 17, 2011

In the beginning

"There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it". -Charles Dudley Warner-

The moment has arrived and Paddle Georgia is here to show itself for the next 7 days. How exciting it is to finally be here. Reuniting with friends one time out of the year to experience yet another beautiful river in Georgia puts smiles on everyone's faces. Arriving in this state 10 years ago, I never thought I would be seeing Georgia quite this way. This week will have us traveling from the Piedmont Plains to the Coastal Plains. The river, its scenery and wildlife will change before our eyes. The beauty of spanish moss draping the cypress trees will come alive later in the week along with alligators peering at the 300 paddlers while wondering who is evading their territory... and why. Birds will sing their river song as the paddle georgia navy swims, play and paddle their way down the river. Not to forget the rope swings and jumping rocks that seem to call everyone's name, beckoning for the joys of youth to sprout from their adult bodies.
I lay here in my tent in anticipation of tomorrow. Dan and I will be ready to hit the water at 7am. We will paddle 12 miles on the Middle Oconee and go through a thicket of rocks and shoals called Ben Burton Shoals during the first few miles. I can't wait. I plan on having a great time. :)

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paddling into the wild...


Here we are, the day before we leave to make the 106 mile journey on the Oconee River from Athens to Dublin GA, and I sit here feeling to be quite the lucky one. This will be our 7th year going into the wild enjoying yet another river on one of the 14 different water basins I plan on paddling in Georgia. After next week, I will be halfway there with 7 rivers left to paddle the next 7 years. :)

Setting forth, my kayak, backpack and tent will be my best friend for the next 8 days. I can't think of a better way to see the outdoors. The excitement is mounting on just what lays in store for us. Dan was 11 when we both started this journey and now at almost 18, he is just as excited as that first day 7 years ago.

We will encounter nature at it's best in seeing new sites with new experiences. We start in the Piedmont Plain of Athens and end up in the Coastal Plains down south in Dublin. Passing the fault line (what I like to call the gnat line :), we will see the river change many times. We will be hot, tired and sore by the time we hit the pillow each night, but there will be a smile on my face that will stay there all night. :)

I hope to blog my trip this year instead of writing in a journal book. I just need the cooperation of my blackberry to do that. :)

Leaving it all behind, I start my journey.....