Posts Tagged ‘swimming holes’

With the new academic year right around the corner, we’ve had Apple training sessions at school this past week as part of our changeover to Macintosh, so I took advantage of this time to edit together more of the video I’ve been sitting on from our summer adventures.

First, I put together a look back at Paddle Georgia 2011 which highlights the size and scope of the trip:

I knew from the Paddle Georgia website that some 350 people participate in this trip each year, but this number was little more than an abstraction for me until I pulled up at the initial put-in that first Saturday morning and saw the sea of waiting boats. To sit on the riverbank that week and watch us pass you’d probably have seen a steady stream of paddlers for at least three hours. At the midpoint of our open water Lake Oconee transit on day three, I could see our group stretching two miles in each direction, boats diminishing to specks in the distance. That this many people come together each year to love a Georgia river is nothing short of inspiring. And it’s a real testament to the good folks at Georgia River Network and the monumental organizing effort that must go into pulling off such a logistically complicated expedition.

The off-river footage I’m missing in documenting day six is that of dinner, “evening announcements,” and the annual Paddle Georgia Talent Show. It’s unfortunate in that I don’t quite capture the festive sense of community that surrounds the trip (though others do), a scene that was a little overwhelming at first for us newbies. I’m not sure what percentage of this year’s participants were Paddle Georgia veterans, but I’d bet it was more than half (a surprising number of boats sport a collection of Paddle Georgia stickers stretching back to the inaugural run in 2005.) We’re already looking forward to the Altamaha in 2012. (Worryingly, the boys are already plotting something for next year’s talent show.)

My second video in this post is something of a grab-bag from the rest of our summer, where we try to keep up the momentum and spend as much time as possible playing in our rivers:

I rather alarmed Belinda recently when I told her we need to build a boat barn in the backyard. My whitewater boat tucks away neatly enough in a corner of the garage, but now we’ve appropriated my brother’s canoe, and I agree with my nephew Matt that the family really needs one of those Jackson Duos. And then within a few years, the boys will (hopefully) want boats of their own.


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I had someone ask me about the new picture in the Postcards from the Outback header bar.  It’s a picture of Will and Andrew playing in the river left cascade at Bull Sluice on the Chattooga, taken in the interval between our return from Alaska and the beginning of school.

I began taking the boys there last summer on one of those scorching Atlanta days when the only outdoor activity that sounds bearable is swimming.  They would gladly have gone to the local pool every day, but I’m frankly bored by the totalitarian conformity of the concrete swimming pool and knew that we could do better.  A lot better.

Dad, how ’bout I go with those guys?  That looks like fun.

Bull Sluice at full throttle is a pretty fearsome rapid—one that has eaten my lunch more times than I’d care to admit—but as water levels fall and temperatures rise in the summer, the pool below it becomes a popular swimming hole (run this drop upside down in summertime and you’ll have quite an audience).  The meat of the main drop is still potentially deadly, a ledge sluiced with potholes to nowhere dropping onto a massive undercut rock affectionately named “Decap,”  but stay below all that and you’re golden.  It’s easy to get to, maybe too easy (kayaking author/artist William Nealy once wrote that the best thing about Bull Sluice is that you can drive ambulances almost right to it), and it can be quite crowded on weekends, but then so is the pool at our local Y.

For the boys, it has a little bit of everything.  They chase fish through the shallows, trying to scoop them up with their sun hats.  They search for lizards on the rocks.  They investigate little rock slides and plunge pools. They experiment with current.  They skip rocks and shovel sand.  They pause for the regular entertainment of kayak pods and raft armadas passing through, some successfully and others less so. (They’ve become connoisseurs of raft carnage—I’ve taught them well.)  And they can stay all day, protesting when I peel them away after six, seven hours of solid fun.

Will taking the plunge.

Will checks out a spot where you can lie in the current and breathe easily in the air pocket a good hat creates.  It looks a little alarming for the onlooker when you sit still, apparently submerged, for minutes at a time, but it’s an amazing sensation.

Needless to say, if Bull Sluice were closer, we’d be there nearly every day in the summer weeks when we aren’t traveling.  But alas, the nearly four-hour round trip is something of a deterrent.  Do I dare take them just down the street to frolic in the Chattahoochee?  For a while, the authorities posted daily e-coli levels, but I think they’ve stopped now due to budget cuts.  What a shame that urban kids are effectively sentenced to concrete tubs for neighborhood summer water play.  What’s worse, we seem largely content with that.

And so I have a request for my readers.  For relatively good water quality, accessibility, and a huge “fun factor,” Bull Sluice gets my vote as the BEST natural swimming hole in the (somewhat) local area, but maybe you’ve got better suggestions?  If you’re a reader from afar, what’s the best swimming hole in your local area?  The more candidates, the better—and then let us all take our children out to try them.  We may never settle on a winner, but then that’s not the point, is it?

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Well, from this point, the tenor of the trip has changed a bit.  On Wednesday afternoon, I shipped home much of our camping gear from Jackson before going to the airport to pick up Belinda.  We’ve become a foursome.  And I sit right now in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn . . . extra luxurious accommodations compared to what we’ve been used to.

(BTW, we shipped via UPS.  Why is it so easy to find a UPS Store but not see UPS trucks on the road?  FedEx trucks continue to be everywhere.)

Backtracking a bit, here are the past couple of days in pictures.

Monday: From Swan Laundry in West Yellowstone, my last post location, we drove back into the park and on to Upper Geyser Basin, where we walked out onto the boardwalk just in time to see Castle Geyser erupt in the distance.  Castle has become perhaps my favorite Yellowstone geyser; it only goes a couple of times a day, but it’s relatively predictable and very impressive.  Castle’s eruptions last much longer than those of Old Faithful, and they’re followed by an impressive roaring steam phase, which was still in full force when we got this close.

Daaad, will the stinky steam get us?

We wandered the area for an hour or so, waiting for Old Faithful’s next eruption.

If possible, visit Upper Geyser Basin after dinner, when you can have it (relatively speaking) to yourself.

My favorite vantage point for watching Old Faithful is on the backside, away from the buildings and the crowds on the main boardwalk.  Plus, you can sit right over the outflow stream where it drops into the Firehole River.

The boys both say that “tasting Old Faithful” has been one of their favorite things so far.  Funny what resonates with them.

We ate dinner at the lodge, watched the sun go down, and saw Old Faithful go again (a much longer and more impressive show this time).

Never in a million years did I think this picture would turn out.

A personal rule: on any given visit, give Upper Geyser Basin a long enough visit to see two eruptions.

Despite all lodgings in Yellowstone having been booked solid months in advance, we hit the cancellation jackpot for the first time on Monday night and ended up staying in Grant Village.  We had lingered so long and so late at Upper Geyser Basin, that this was a real stroke of luck.  At the same time, I secure a cancelled room at the Old Faithful Inn for Thursday, knowing Belinda will be thrilled (I understand these rooms can book a year in advance).

Tuesday: Driving south to the Tetons, we tried and failed to snag a campsite at Jenny Lake (10:30 AM is not early enough!) before backtracking and establishing camp at Lizard Creek.  We then drove south again to spend the afternoon and evening at String Lake.

No swimming pools like this at home!

In fact, there’s no natural swimming hole I can think of within an hour and a half of home that’s clean enough to let the boys wade around in.  Certainly not going to let them do this in the Hooch!  What a shame . . . no wonder modern kids suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder.

Will happily cooperates while I experiment with backlighting and shutter speed.

Returning to camp, we learn two things: 1) our campground hosts know exactly where we live (their son lives in our neighborhood) and 2) a black bear has been nosing around our camp.

Fresh claw marks . . . the bear was up in this tree when our campsite neighbors came back for the evening.  Daddy Hoot, them Park Rangers aren’t just trying to be annoying with those pesky food storage rules!  This bear got no joy in our campsite.

Wednesday: Lingered late in camp while Will played with the ten-year old girl from the next campsite and I talked with our campground host.  Poor Andrew . . . this is the second time that Will has found a campground friend, and Andrew has ended up feeling pretty left out.  Will tries conscientiously to include him, but he just doesn’t quite know how to hang with older kids and ends up coming back to where I am and moons around.

Leaving camp, we spend the afternoon getting ready for Mommy . . . showering, doing laundry (again!), cleaning out and organizing the car, shipping stuff home so she has room to sit.

Belinda arrives on schedule, we eat dinner at Dornan’s in Moose (cowboy-style Dutch-oven cooking–highly recommended), and then drive to Jackson Lake Lodge for the night (yet another cancellation jackpot).  Happy that Mommy is with us, the boys stay up too late.  In his fatigue, Will gets all weepy and emotional.  Our dynamic is definitely different . . . no more Team Testosterone.

Thursday: Why the hell does housekeeping begin knocking on doors at 8:00 AM?  And why knock when you don’t really listen to the people inside yelling “We’re still in here”?  Just a question.

But we slept late anyway before heading to Jenny Lake, where we join the tourist masses for the boat shuttle and the subsequent hike to Hidden Falls and then Inspiration Point.  Will misunderstands me when I say that the trail into Cascade Canyon is flat once you get beyond Inspiration Point, and at one point he turns and yells “Daaad, you were wrong; this trail isn’t flat!”  Another dad going the other way with teenagers in tow comments grimly “He’ll never believe you again.”

I haven’t loaded my pictures of the hike onto the computer yet. but I’m not sure they’ll be that good anyway, the mid-afternoon light being far too harsh (it was flat-out hot today).

Now, we’re backtracking through Yellowstone with Belinda along.  Tonight at Old Faithful, tomorrow night probably in Cooke City again before turning south towards Denver, where she’ll fly home with the boys and I’ll turn the Outback eastward to finish the circuit.

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