June 2007, Long Creek, South Carolina
Some old friends and I gathered up in the South Carolina hills around the Chattooga river to shoot some interviews about the old days of paddling. That would be the days before the Ocoee River turned into a theme park, I guess. Like any history, we'll leave out the really good stuff. Every industry has it's characters and crazy people, but in the case of the outdoors and human powered recreation, it's all of us.
The cameraman had flown in from California and was melting in the Carolina humidity. I don't know which is worse for him, the fires which are burning Tahoe and the Sierra mountains back in California, or death by drowning in humidity and your own sweat. A 5:45 am flight out of Knoxville this morning may just save his life.
Frankly, I love summer in the Southern Highlands. The air may get inhospitable but the water gets perfect. No one on earth has ever found greater relief than slipping into a clear pool in a spring fed creek when the temperature and humidity add up to 190. Shrinkage is a wonderful thing at certain times.
We had time to play and we did, crawling around on and through the rocks in a favorite rapid gone meek in the summer drought. We crawled through a hole in the rock ledge of the rapid. At normal paddling levels, we would have been driving our boats hard over the top of the hole which would be hidden, submerged under hundreds of cubic feet of water crashing over it's deadly mouth. At least one person has died there, but today it is a wonderland for old children. I let myself settle into the pool within the hole and watch the water crash over my head and out through the large opening beside me. I hadn't planned on this and was wearing cotton shorts and a nice shirt but when the river says "Join with me," what choice do you have? I work it out later.
Sand laden water drills holes in the underlying rock of mountain rivers during floods. The progress is only seen over geological time frames, but those who pay attention can see a river change before their eyes. Rocks the size of small cars and even houses get moved around, changing the river. We stood on just such a rock, moved only two feet in the thirty three years I've known it but moved none the less...Headed toward the ocean. In only 87,000 more years, the rock will be a mile closer to Savannah at this rate, but things could go wrong...or right, according to the point of view. Savannah's nice and all but maybe the rock likes it here.
Later on we sat in the cabin and drank together watching the thunderstorm and light show of a summer evening in the mountains.