The sound of fish hitting the surface of the water and birds chirping as yellow and red leaves fluttered down from the autumn trees provided a calming backdrop for our evening after a busy day. Ian participated in the Tomahawk Trot fundraiser at his school today (soliciting pledges from his family members for donations to his school for each lap he ran around a course) while Brinn and I ran our annual booth at Cooking on the Square. The three of us were up early and out the door by 7:00 to get moving with our exciting days. After running out of venison stew and my grandma’s broccoli cheese soup, Brinn and I flew home, packed our gear, threw boats on top of the jeep, and left the truck at our take-out while we were in route to pick Ian up from school.
It feels like the day consisted of hurry up, hurry up, then hurry up some more. After we grabbed Ian from the pick-up line, we threw snacks in the backseat to him and bolted to the put-in. We yanked him out of his booster seat and stuffed him in his hydroskins, slapped a helmet and pfd on, and hustled through the weeds to battle the beggar’s lice with our boats sliding in front of us to beat down a path so we could actually walk through the brush. After all this rush, rush, rush, we finally made it to the water with enough daylight remaining that we all took a deep breath, and slowed down to properly enjoy the significance of this trip.
While we’ve gone down this section of Spring Creek as a family about a dozen times, we enjoyed today more than all those other times put together. You see, today Ian made his debut descent in a hard boat! He has paddled Kachow on the lake, and even through a couple of rapids on Spring Creek, but until today, he had not run from put-in to take-out as a solo boater.
We floated through the first few “rapids” with Brinn leading Ian through his lines, but Ian soon decided that he could pick his own lines. For the most part, this worked fine as Ian has progressed in his ability to read water, but he’s not had a lot of practice at boat scouting yet. All went well until he refused to listen to his daddy and he drove himself against a rock too big to splat, and he failed to lean into the rock. Since he’s still paddling skirtless, Kachow took on a good bit of water when he partially flipped. Fortunately the water was shallow enough that he was able to hold a good brace against the bottom of the creek to hold himself up while mom grabbed his stern and rolled him back up so he could climb out on the offending rock while dad drained his boat.
While Brinn and I revealed in the beauty of autumn in all its glory, and the experience of our family hard boating together, Ian had other goals for the trip. Obviously his long day at school took a toll and left him pretty tuckered out before we got on the water, but cold weather moves in tonight, and today had the best weather we’re going to see for a while, so we asked him to soldier on and he happily agreed until we hit flat water. Brinn tried to encourage Ian to set his paddle down on his cockpit and enjoy taking a break while floating, but Ian had other plans. He pulled a sweep stroke to spin his boat around and declared, “let’s get this show going!” Then he paddled away and we had to hustle to catch him before the next small feature.
With the final release of the Ocoee this weekend, river running season in the southeast effectively draws to a close, but creeking season will soon begin. The Almanac predicts that Tennessee should have a chilly winter this year, so it looks like I need to get a move-on and get a youth drysuit ordered soon!