Thus starts the wonderful Shaggs song about Halloween.
I was supposed to be on the Ocoee today for the very last scheduled release of the year. But I overslept, even though I got home pretty early from the grotto halloween party at Alabama Caverns. My cats are delighted, as my spending a whole day at home so seldom occurs, but I feel quite the slacker.
This has been my best paddling year yet, at least so far (not wanting to jinx myself)... and coming soon, all the river rats hope, will be local rainfall creating "local water" - whitewater less than 3 hours away.
Alabama has a lot of whitewater that we can only experience in the winter and spring. As a result local paddlers tend to invest heavily in dry gear - waterproof tops, neoprene bottoms, and the fanciest of all paddling gear - a drysuit. In my drysuit I can stay completely dry even after a swim - the only exposed skin is my head and hands. I've even paddled to the take-out, and once off the river, gotten out of the drysuit, and driven home in my fleece layers. Drysuits have advantages in terms of safety as well as convenience - in the event that a paddler might need to stand in the water for a long time helping someone who has had an accident, or in a situation that necessitates an overnight stay in the woods, drysuits can prevent hypothermia. One downside is that they can feel like you're wearing a sort of space-suit.
In other news, I am now the Conservation Chair for the BCC, and a board member. Being Conservation Chair means a lot to me, because I am a member of many of the national whitewater and local water advocacy groups, and this way can keep our club appraised of the good work being done by these groups. Since I cannot afford to be members of all of the water groups I rotate my membership between them; with a couple that I intend to remain in as long as I can: Alabama Rivers Alliance and Black Warrior Riverkeeper. Nationally I urge all paddlers to become members of American Whitewater. AW fights for access to whitewater rivers and also protects the access we have during proceedings like power company dam relicensing. One thing AW has been working on for several years is the relicensing process and agreement with Duke Power for releases on the Upper Nantahala and the West Fork of the Tuckaseegee. Here is a video of the West Fork of the Tuck study release.
Lots of other stuff, sad and happy, has happened in my life besides paddling. We lost Matt Kimbrell to a heart attack at 51. He was one of Birmingham's music icons in the Southside, a sweet and super-talented guy. I still can't really believe it happened. His wake was hugely attended, and I saw a lot of people I haven't seen in years. I still have mixed emotions about the music scene; the other day I was at Highland and it struck me that I'm about to be 45 and really, what am I going to do with a Marshall half-stack now?
I am still playing ukulele a bunch even though I think it's aggravating my tennis elbow. At home it's the blue jap strat and chinese Vox ac30. Sometimes my cheap mandolin. It doesn't matter. I only play at home, at the Blues Society Jams on occasion, and once in awhile when we are out camping somewhere. I get a kick out of people singing along with me. My favorite musical memory of late is playing 'Do You Want To Know A Secret' by the Beatles during Geezerfest, around the fire ring, with turtle, garmachi, kayakpirate and psychicmidget.
I had to laugh because someone told me recently that they had to end a friendship because they couldn't take the drama the other person was dropping on them, and I sheepishly admitted that I've been both - the person who ended an overly taxing friendship in one instance, and the person who spewed friend-ship ending drama in another. I've been thinking about this for a few days now: maybe it's because all of the people involved are women, but jeez men seem to have simpler friendships than women do. Anyway, many of those folks at the wake were people I saw on a daily basis, and now some of them - I couldn't even remember their names. I never expected any of it but most of my friends now are paddlers or cavers or both. A few of us at the wake commented that we should get together more for happier occasions, not just at sad ones - but we all know that we will not. And that leads me to my meandering point. The river again teaches us something - just this: it all flows, changes, never going back upstream; and I believe that we shall find that that is a good thing.
I will never be able to quantify all of the things the river has taught me, it has so enriched my life.
Now, it's ice cream time.