canoeing

Blue Ridge Journal Day 4

Day 4

Tuesday

Today was Scooby’s day. Dam was scheduled to release at 10am, then 1pm, then 3pm. (Dam you, TVA! Tee hee. Just a sampling of all the dam jokes cracked and yet to be cracked this week). All week Scooby has made it clearly known that he doesn’t like being drugged (We gave him doggy Dramamine), hauled 3 hours away, and then left behind as we paddled down the river, so today…is his day. Jo came along for the ride. Keith and Luke came too…in their canoe. Buddy did not. Buddy is their dog and he’s round like a barrel. He’s more obese than any lab should ever be and he looks like a surgeon we know named Dr. Rowitz (although Dr. Rowitz isn’t fat at all). Michelle says Buddy’s not fat. He’s fat. (Is it just me or do I sound like Junie B. Jones?) As my friend Mark Lowe’s grandma said (of Mark, not Buddy), “I know fat when I see fat and he’s fat, fat, fat.” So Buddy stayed at the cabin. The dam released (or so we thought) at 3pm. We began to slowly paddle and drift as we waited for the river to rise and the current to pick up. It took Scoob a while to get his sea legs and until that time we had some pretty close calls. He saw some cows and a donkey then some ducks. Each time he stood alert and prepared to leave the boat but we talked him down. Basically he did pretty well and seemed to enjoy himself. We arrived back at the cabin about an hour later, just in time to see the dam actually release. As we pulled the boats out of the water we watched the river surge above the rocks. Dana and Michelle had called after we left and found out that they postponed the release until 4pm. Go figure, huh? So we threw caution to the wind and drove to Blue Ridge for some reasonably good and way over-priced pizza, wings and garlic rolls…and greek salad. . When we arrived back at the cabin the river was rushing past and some fellow paddlers told us it was pretty rough. Jo and I excitedly leapt into the canoe and headed for McCaysville. Now is probably a good time to mention that I had several sensible options for take-out that would ensure a safe, quick trip. Of course I chose the one option that made the least amount of sense…McCaysville. Dana would pick us up at Toccoa River Adventures in McCaysville and shuttle us back. Where was I? Oh yeah, we shoved off in the canoe. Again, Scooby was unhappy with being left behind. So he dove in and swam toward the boat. We shouted him back to the bank. He ran along the bank with Buddy in tow. We laughed. Then he jumped in again, and tried, unsuccessfully, to swim upriver. We stopped laughing. We turned and tried to paddle upriver against a substantial current. It wasn’t easy but we were faring better than Scooby. He was fighting against the current and was losing the battle. Jo got him to the bank, dragged him back to the yard and delivered him to Dana who tied him up. This took about 20 minutes. Just in time for the Dam to stop generating. Yeah, almost no current, but we were going to McCaysville, by gosh, come hell or high water. I was hoping for the latter but we ended up with just a touch of the former. As the sun began to dip below the horizon, and thunder rumbled in the distance we paddled and paddled and then paddled some more. The exact implications of my bonehead decision weren’t completely clear but were becoming clearer by the minute. We were enjoying the scenery, much of which could have come directly from the “Deliverance” set. The river shacks were cool to look at but better judgement forbade us saying hi to the neighbors (Two of which looked like they walked right out of a bedroom scene in Lil’ Abner. Yes, I’m aware Lil’ Abner had no bedroom scenes. I’m trying to be delicate here.)
More paddling, awkward smiles and more paddling. What happened to that dam current? Sorry. As darkness began to settle quickly over our surroundings and the lightning began it’s dance, I started to consider our options…which were few…okay two. We could keep paddling and hope that the plastic canoe would act as an insulator or find a place to pull out here in the boonies and hope for a friendly neighbor with a modern communication device like say a telegraph, 2 dixie cups and a length of string or maybe…a phone. Just as these thoughts were working through my mind lightning struck a little closer and Jo asked nervously, “Hey Dad, think maybe we oughta get off the river?” I’m just looking for a spot. Directly around the bend are some of those yard lights. Looked friendly enough, so we banked the canoe and started making our way toward some ladies in a neighboring yard. I walked quickly with my hands waving in what I hoped looked like a benign request for help. It worked. After explaining our situation to our new friend, she offered to just drive us to McCaysville to meet Dana. When we arrived at TRA Dana wasn’t there. Now, my main concern most of this time had been Dana’s sanity. It had been a while and I was afraid she was beyond worried. My goal was to put her mind to ease. When she wasn’t there I started to freak. (I found out later that my concerns were valid. She had been struggling with whether or not to call the “authorities” and gather a search party). We found her just up from our agreed upon spot. She had moved and cut on the headlights to better provide a “target” for us. Long story short? We found her, made our way back to the canoe, shoved it into the back of the van because I forgot the straps (yeah) just as it started to rain. Just before we left, our heroine told us we “just had” to visit the Olympic Whitewater Center on the Ocoee. We assured her we would and made our way back down the dusty gravel roads, grateful to be warm, sheltered and basically dry.