Flatwater paddling a river like the Altamaha is a quiet, reflective endeavor. There’s zero adrenaline involved, the scenery changes slowly, and the physical action is mostly mindless and repetitive. Occasionally I’ll get a little antsy, especially when I’m feeling saddle sore after a few hours of sitting. So I’ll admit that I’m surprised the boys handle the routine so well. Put them in the backseat of a car together for an hours’ drive and they’re either begging to play with my iPhone or bickering with each other. But we’ve been in the same small boat together for something like fifteen hours over the past three days, and I have yet to hear either of them complain about being bored. Bickering has been at a blissful minimum.
So we were talking about it today, and we started to come up with a list of reasons why, a list of things that never get old. Here’s what we have so far:
- Drifting up silently on wading birds and watching them do their thing from close range.
- Floating effortlessly downstream to the end of a sandbar with the extra buoyancy of a PFD, then getting up, walking to the upstream end, and doing it again.
- Sitting in the water and feeling tiny fish nibble at your toes. (What are they hoping for, anyway?)
- Water cannon attacks, preferably by surprise or misdirection.
- Cypress trees and cypress knees.
- Fish jumping (of any size)
- The way the sweet-tea-colored water of tributary streams runs side by side with the muddy main flow of the Altamaha for a hundred yards or so before blending in.
- Hearing the abusing-a-squeaky-toy cry of a Red-Shouldered hawk (a lot of them today).
- Feeling around on the clean, sandy river bottom and coming up with a baseball-sized Elephant-Ear Mussel.