I know this river story has already been written. Over and over it has been told: an assemblage of people, usually men, load boats with food and fishing equipment and booze, and they step unsteadily into those boats and point their prows downstream. People see them off, and people are waiting for them at their destinations, and the people waiting will hear stories of what happened and witness the emotions on the faces of the adventurers, but those who were not transported by water will never know what really transpired.
I’ve been well out of the blogging habit for months now (as is my habit during the high school soccer season), but I made the 11th hour decision to drag the laptop along again this year as the boys and I participate in the 2012 iteration of Paddle Georgia. Maybe this time I’ll do a better job of posting along the way. (At this point last year, the end of first day of Paddle Georgia 2011, I was so completely worn out that I climbed right into my sleeping bag after dinner, so I’m already ahead of the curve.)
Anyway, we’ve had a great first day, settling into the flow of this trip like we had never reached the 2011 takeout and were still heading downstream. Literally within minutes of arriving last night at base camp, the boys had already reconnected with some of last summer’s river friends.
Geographically speaking, we are, in essence, picking up where we left off. A short way below last year’s take-out in Dublin, the Oconee merges with the Ocmulgee to form the Altamaha River, also known as the “Little Amazon” for its sizeable flow, its largely undeveloped corridor of swampland forests, and its surpassing biodiversity. We’ll be paddling most of the length of the Altamaha, starting just below the Oconee/Ocmulgee confluence and ending in the salt marshes at the head of the estuary in Darien—105 miles over the course of seven days.
Quick hits from Day One:
- The Altamaha is much bigger river than what we paddled last year (blindingly obvious given that we’re further downstream). Wider, stronger (even at relatively low flow), majestic rather than intimate. At times very windy—for a short while before lunch, we had to plow through ripples that were uniting into small swells. Surely at some time in my life, somewhere, I have paddled with the wind at my back, but I can’t think of when that might have been.
- Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way complaining about the weather. I was prepared for late June in South Georgia to make the average sauna feel tepid by comparison, but we’ve had real Chamber of Commerce weather—a high in the mid 80′s relatively low humidity, a nice breeze. That said . . .
- Gnats are gnot gnice. Thankfully, they’re nonexistent on the water, and they’re far more tolerable than mosquitoes, but still.
- How can you tell a South Georgian from someone from metro Atlanta? Stand at the boat landing and look for people waving their arms around in annoyance as they wait for a shuttle bus . . . those are the Atlantans. A South Georgian will merely stick his bottom lip out slightly and blow a little puff of air upward on occasion to clear away those gnasty gnats, even in mid sentence, and not miss a beat (hat tip to April Ingle for this observation).
- There is nothing more relaxing than floating on your back in a warm, slow moving river while wearing a PFD. I could nap like that. Effortless. I’m tempted to take my PFD and look like a total dork next time I have to take the boys to the pool.
- Will and Andrew are actually paddling this year, contributing to forward progress. Will likes to attack the water and try to beat it senseless with his paddle and actually creates more steering and steadying work for me in the back, but I applaud this development.
- Good day for birds, particularly Mississippi Kite circling and soaring overhead by the dozens. But I wish I could identify insect sounds like I can bird song, as a fascinatingly varied and interesting wall of insect noise emanates from the forest on both banks at all times. Surely somewhere in this crowd there must be a naturalist with this skill set.
Okay, enough for now. I thought I’d share some raw video from today, but evidently Tatnall County High School (our home for the first three nights on this trip) has blocked YouTube access on its network. Bummer.