Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11, 2011 - Shoal Creek Canoe Run (or, A Tugboat am I)

Esther is pretty good at coming up with last minute plans. She's really good at making plans months ahead too, but that's just not how things worked out this weekend. So this Saturday the thing that she set us out to do was canoe down the Shoal Creek in Tennessee. We've been canoeing before. Most recently, Esther and I paddled around at the Chattanooga Nature Center during a visit last October. As a family, we've paddled 9 miles on Bear Creek in Alabama. This was to be a 10 mile trip for the five of us- two in a canoe and the other three in tubes. All indications were that the current would be rapid enough to keep us all moving downstream at a nice pace.

The day started out as most of the rafting/canoeing trips I've been on start- packed into a 1970-somthing era Ford or Chevy van with total strangers. I don't know where these vans come from. Most vehicles this old have simply ceased to function and it's not as if they are collector's items. They come from a time before the "mini" van and the air-bag. The air-conditioners never work, the side doors have to be slammed shut and most of the head-liner reverted to its constituent elements during the first George Bush's term in office. They are beasts of burden with FOUR bench seats in the back and if you're lucky the windows will open so that a little air not smelling of good 'ol boy can get into the cabin.

We were dropped off about 10 miles upstream of Iron City, Tennessee. Oh, I almost forgot! Zephyr, our loyal Mop-Headed Jack-Weasel, came along for the ride.

I had no idea what to expect as far as how Zephyr would deal with the whole "being on a boat" thing. Our two big dogs love riding on a pontoon, but Zephyr has pretty successfully distinguished herself from the other two dogs. I don't think they really acknowledge that she's an actual dog. I think, in their minds, that she's more like a cat that has suffered a head injury. I'm happy to report that Zeph did really well on the open seas. 

We made a handful of stops along the ride in the first four or five miles. Early on we stopped so the kids could do a little cliff diving. Or something similar to cliff diving.

Here the kids practice their best "Gar Defense Posture". The trick is to keep everything you value out of the water and hope that the gar doesn't jump up and bite you on the butt.

Check out the grass up in the tree above the kids here. This is an indication of the height of the last really good flood to come through here.

Notice the rope? I'd say that about 9 of the 10 miles we tugged the kids down the creek. According to my GPS, we were going about 1.5 mph in most places and about 3 mph in the rapids. The word "rapids" is used loosely in this case. These rapids would not cause you to, for example, spill your drink if it was balanced on your head.

Esther, one half of the tugboat engine crew, took a break and enjoyed a little float time while Jake endured my incessant orders to "paddle left!" and "paddle!" as well as "keep paddling!" and the ever popular "don't stop paddling!" These orders were usually followed by the qualifier "or I'm going to send you to public school!"

Here is little Zephyr hiding in the shade of Esther's seat. (tee-hee)

Even I had the opportunity to float behind the canoe. Chan pushed her skinny arms to the point of near-exercise in an effort to pull my carcass down the creek. Here we see her on the verge of collapse while mom continues to strain against the inertia of my massive bulk. 
...also I was standing in my tube and dragging my feet across the bottom of the creek. I was pretending to "ski" across the rocks. But don't tell them that.

Here's a picture of a flower that even Esther did not know the name of. They were growing in stands in the shallows of the creek. I learned that copperhead snakes apparently really like these flowers because on my way over to take this picture I flushed a large one out. It scared me and I said a bad word. The same bad word I always say when I see a snake.

Here's Chan looking like she's just about heard enough of whatever is coming out of Jake's mouth. I have no idea what was going on back there.

This is Esther trying to flirt with the captain of the tugboat. As if.

After a long day on the creek we wrapped things up at happiest place on the planet.

Esther even let me get a small coffee.

More pictures of our day can be seen here.

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