"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. :)