August 22, 2019

Seasons, a gift of paddlesports

The different seasons and their message of the passage of time can be melancholy for us mortals, unless we consider them in the light of paddling whitewater in the glorious Southeastern United States.

Fall beckons us even now in the heat of August.  The place we practice rolling on the Cahaba is newly covered in leaves.  The air seems less humid.  And already I can feel the Nantahala in autumn; the Hiwassee in fall colors, the Ocoee in October crispness.  Campfires, wet gear hung to dry (it never does), cold beers and tall tales of the river adventures of the past, and of the day; plans to make new river stories the next day.   Football scores.  Guitars by the fire.  Fleece.  Cold air, warm sleeping bag. Warm socks.  Clear sky; meteor showers, milky way.

Winter, drysuit weather; December in Alabama the local water is coming up; the air is cool,  but the water is still somewhat warm.  We can even have 70F degree weather days in January; but we wear our drysuits for safety.  The Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork of the Warrior River are the familiar backyard runs.  At higher water there are challenging spots in each.   The Alabama creeks arise -  Little River Canyon, crown jewel of Alabama;  South Sauty and Town creeks, Kelly creek; Calvert Prong; many others.  They range from class II-III to class V.  The trees are bare; sometimes icicles cover the rock walls.  In February it can be in the 30F range and the water is brilliant; it feels like little knife cuts as it splashes.  Everything, everything! is intense; the muted grey colors are even intense.  We slide off of wet rocks; we bash and tear down rock stairs on the creeks, and then again, run deep waves and troughs on high water Locust.  

Spring, fecund, soaked, saturated, greys turning to green and everything is running; sometimes too high, we call it high-water skunked; then again, rarely run options are available.  Water is still chilly; but getting warmer.  We can get away with wearing drytops and shorts, and maybe step up and run things we might feel a bit intimidated to do; but it's local water, the best water.  The riverbanks are crazy with things growing but they're not yet choked with blackberry thorns and rhodo.  We roll and roll and roll.  We celebrate having all the water, every day it makes us yearn for it as we go to work instead.  We surf ourselves silly.   Life is amazing.  

Summer, my favorite season, though the local water is gone; the heat is upon us and we have to drive to the dam release runs for whitewater.  But they are excellent destinations; and there is nothing better to me than the full sun, and the river.  Ocoee in shorts and a splash top.  Hiwassee with bald eagles, wave surfing, and kids learning to boat. Playboats.  Sunblock, Deet and sandals.  Summer is also the season for the annual Week of Rivers event near the Nantahala.   Smoky mountain love.  My heart's home.


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