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Archive for June, 2018

I can’t believe the last day of Paddle GA 2018 is here. The week has flown by.  I know this is going to be a great day… Sippin’ on a steaming cuppa Café Campesino Joe and THE BUSES ARE HERE!!!

Looks like Joe saved the best day to last. The river was wonderful. Great shoals with lots of sand bars to pull over and play. Cold water at the water plant.

After we all finish and take our boats out, the Duck Race is on. Susan Ray’s duck had the speed and agility to cross the finish line first. She won the $250 pot but graciously donated it back to GRN – Thank you Susan and thanks to all who participated.

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Next the low country boil provided by Satterfields was great and plenty of it.

After the delicious food the 2018 Canoeathon winners were announced. In all: 19 people raised $18, 347 and the top Ten Canoeathon Winners include:

  1. Terry Pate
  2. John Branch
  3. Jim and Debbie Fountain
  4. Leslie Raymer
  5. Tammy Griffin
  6. Karen HIll
  7. Cindy Leighton
  8. Tim Voss
  9. Doug Mathews
  10. Sarah Topper

 Top Prizes Provided by Nomadic Flow Outfitters, Tom Beman, Len Foote Hike Inn, Friends of GA State Parks, and Patagonia.

Final announcements were followed by the live and “LABEL” auction. Everyone had a lot of fun with the auction and helped raise money for Georgia River Network.

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As we say farewell to our “River Family” we are already looking forward to next year. See you then, and please bring some new friends.

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Terry Pate, Georgia River Network Board Member 

MANY THANKS to our Sponsors and Partners:

Sponsors

Hennessy Land Rover Centres; Cedar Creek RV & Outdoors; Cary Baxter, CPA; China Clay Producers Association; CYA Agency, Inc.; Oglethorpe Power; Storm Water Systems; Stream Techs; The Rain Barrel Depot; Terry Pate, PC, CPA; Nomadic Flow Outfitters; EarthShare of Georgia; Friends of Georgia State Parks; Len Foote Hike Inn; Patagonia

Partners

American Canoe Association, Café Campesino, Georgia Canoe Association, Georgia Adopt-A-Stream, Project Wet, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Yellow River Water Trail, Ocmulgee River Water Trail

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Mason Ballard shoots through Annistown Falls rapid on the Yellow River.

In the pantheon of Paddle Georgia lore, the 2018 edition of Georgia River Network’s excellent adventure might be remembered as the year the buses, as often as not, didn’t run—a first in 14 years.

And, while the trials and tribulations with bus transportation certainly made campsite headlines, that’s not what I remember most from this year’s journey.

I remember the sunrises at Danridge Farms and the soft bed of river weed that I sat in as I was massaged by the water flowing over the shoals of Lamar Mill Rapid. I’ll remember the rugged beauty of the Yellow River’s Annistown Falls and the cool, green flank of the Ocmulgee as it passed through the Oconee National Forest.

These beautiful sights I will store away and call upon sometime later when I need an escape, but what I will remember most—and the stories that I will recount to friends long from now—will not be about late buses or beautiful scenery. The stories I will tell will be of the people.

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Steve & Kate Blackburn splash through Gees Mill Road Rapid on the Yellow River. 

I’ll recall the sheer joy of Cameron Visel’s laughs as Jim and Debbie Fountain paddled her through the rapids at Annistown Falls. It was the 8-year-old’s first time participating in all seven days of Paddle Georgia, and grandfather, Alan Kendall, later wrote to us: “Her squeals of delight going through the rapids were priceless. She started lobbying for her own kayak during the week!”

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Lead safety boater Vincent Payne directs traffic on the Ocmulgee River.

I’ll remember the sure and steady work, and excellent humor, of Vincent Payne who directed our contingency of some 20 volunteer safety boaters from the Georgia Canoeing Association. Aside from directing boaters through our most challenging obstacles, this group helped us make the wise decision to bypass Cedar Shoals after the river rose nearly two feet overnight.

I’ll never forget the resilience of more than 160 paddlers who, when faced with that unexpected bypass and portage, pitched in to move every boat downstream. Pete Smith Melissa Ballard and Duane Beckett took up their vehicles and trailers to do the job, and everyone else stepped up to make the move seamless, despite the rugged terrain and odiferous surroundings at Newton County’s wastewater treatment plant.

I’ll tell again and again the story of those who turned the Cedar Creek Park RV & Outdoor Center tug-o-war pool into their wet and wild dance floor during our party in Porterdale. There are those among the Paddle Georgia Navy that have a joy for life that is contagious: Ellen & Brian Cardin, Cynthia Cox, Anne Ledbetter, Carolyn Morris, Sarah Topper, Ruth Mead, Terry Pate, Gwyneth Moody.

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Synchronized swimming…Paddle Georgia style with Brian Cardin, Sarah Topper, Ellen Cardin, Cynthia Cox, Carolyn Morris, Anne Ledbetter, Terry Pate and Ellie Harbert. 

And, I’ll recall the pride in the faces of the “yutes” from Camp Horizon as they expertly navigated a sizable shoal on Day 7 of our journey. In six short days, these kids had gone from beginners to competent, if not confident, paddlers. As they successfully shot the rapid cheers shot up from the crowd gathered below the shoals, who themselves were luxuriating in the cool water lapping a wide sandbar.

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Youth from Camp Horizon sail safely through a shoal on the Ocmulgee to the cheers of other Paddle Georgia participants during the last day of the journey.

It was the kind of scene I have seen played out on virtually every other Paddle Georgia —at some point along the route a pop up community forms at a shoal or sandbar to watch how others respond to the obstacle (or to simply ambush fellow participants with water canons). Inevitably, there is laughter and cries of joy. At these places, there is a strong sense of shared experience. The river unites and embraces us as we support and embrace one another.

It is, for a group of individuals from such disparate backgrounds, a little slice of heaven here on earth. If we could package it and sell it, we’d make a mint.

For all the beauty and fun that the Yellow and Ocmulgee served up during the week, the rivers taught us again that ultimately we are all on the same journey. Our needs are simple: we want to navigate the obstacles of life safely and have a great time doing it. Each of us is more successful when we support one another.

At least for seven days on the Yellow and Ocmulgee, we can declare mission accomplished.

Joe Cook

June 25, 2018

Here’s a few other favorite images from the journey:

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Ellie Harbert…butterfly whisperer at our Bert Adams Scout Camp take out. 

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Cindy Leighton runs Annistown Falls Rapid…backwards. She survived to paddle six more days. 

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Georgia Canoeing Association Safety Boater Larry Tomlinson gives a thumbs up to Chuck Moody as he slides through an Ocmulgee River shoal. 

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Ellie Harbert, Kate Blackburn and Cameron Visel squeal on the swing at Danridge Farms, our campsite for three nights near Monticello. 

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Sophie Greenleaf Peel, a reporter with Georgia Public Broadcasting in Macon, gets in on the Paddle Georgia fun by surfing through an Ocmulgee River shoal. 

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Leslie Raymer takes a break on the Ocmulgee River. 

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It’s Day 6 of Paddle GA which is practically forever for my 7 teenagers. This is Camp Horizon’s third consecutive year of partnering to participate on this marvelous journey. Camp Horizon has served Atlanta’s children and youth who have been abused and neglected for over 35 years. These are kids who have been in and out of the foster care system. These are kids who have rarely been in a canoe and who have never camped before this week.

However, now that we are on Day 6, each of these kids look like experts. Today’s trail started near GA Highway 83. We stopped in the little town of Juliette after we portaged around the dam. Naturally, we stopped at the Whistle Stop Café and had some fried green tomatoes. They were the perfect mid-morning snack for us to continue on our 14.5 journey. Afterwards, we hit a few small shoals, ambushed other boaters with our water cannons, and swam at some small beaches.

The other highlight on the river was the Dame’s Ferry Rapid. Since we’re beginners, we have had to miss many of the rapids that the more experienced paddlers have been able to go through the week. The safety boaters warned us of the rebar and showed us the best path to take. But between you and me, these kids needed no help. They are able to accurately read the river and choose the best path. Each stroke has purpose and direction. It is consistently amazing to watch a group of teenagers who are awkward and clumsy in a pack of canoes turn into skilled, strong paddlers.

Once we were off the river, we came back to camp and had an amazing cookout. We ventured to the sunflower fields at the farm, watched the No-Talent Show and WON the Cornhole Tournament! Every night, we have what we call “campfire” which is really just a lantern. (Note: We would love an actual campfire because we want s’mores!) Tonight, we will have our braid ceremony. We give a small, yarn braid to everyone which recognizes our individual strengths as well as our journey we have been on as a family.  It is one of our most sacred traditions that each of the campers will remember for years to come.

I’m often asked if I really believe this trip makes a difference for them. My answer is always a resounding yes. Not only does to provide an opportunity for teens to be unplugged from technology and connected to nature which is a serious deficit in today’s youth, it is week where these kids get to simply be kids. They don’t have to go to a closure visit when their mother’s rights are terminated. They don’t have to worry about getting along with foster siblings. They don’t have to move to a new house for the 5th time in year. They get to have an adventure. They get to play and swim and explore and laugh. They get to be with their family. It is a beautiful week.

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These kids are just like our rivers. When they are forgotten and abused, the future is bleak. When they are safe and loved, they make our world a better place. I am so privileged to be a part of Paddle GA that gets to take care of both.

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– Taylor Hunt, Camp Horizon

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6 am came early today but was welcomed by the song of the Bobwhite Quail and Eastern Bluebird. The Northern Mockingbird piped in singing its repertoire of songs. It almost fooled me with its impressive imitation of the Yellow-breasted Chat but when it switched to imitating the Carolina Wren, I realized its identity. Waking up in a field of sunflowers also added to the beauty of the morning. Now that most of the day has passed, I can only say this was overall just a delightful day.

 

I needed to be on the 1st bus out because I was part of the Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) workshop training so I traveled to the river with the early birds. Looking out the window, the Ocmulgee River sign caught my eye. We were almost there! I reached the river before the first boat entered and was graced by the sight of a circling Osprey. Soon the water filled with boats and I watched as the first water fight of the day started 50 foot from the put in.

 

Breakfast is a worthy mention for the day. For the most part I have been skipping breakfast but I overheard everyone raving about the food so I had to go for it, especially the grits. And yes, the raves were true! Hats off to our caterers!

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Every year on Paddle Georgia, AAS offers a chemical training for anyone interested in getting involved in their local watershed by becoming an AAS volunteer. This year we had 4 participants in our chemical training workshop including the 3 teacher scholarship recipients. AAS coordinators spent about an hour with these folks yesterday evening discussing watersheds, threats to our waterways, goals of AAS and how to get involved. This morning at the put in, the newly certified volunteers practiced monitoring by measuring temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity and also made basic water and weather observations. I assisted in the training as an AAS trainer but I also enjoyed the morning watching almost every paddler slip their boat into the inviting Ocmulgee River.

Let me take a minute to introduce the teacher scholarship participants. Thanks to Paddle Georgia’s many sponsors, Georgia River Network is able to offer scholarships to teachers to participate in the paddle and go through curriculum training during the week. Their trip starts early, meeting Friday at 10am before the paddle begins to get training in Project WET (Water Education for Teachers). The curriculum is full of exciting hands-on activities to get students engaged in exploring water, from properties of water to watersheds, and how water inspires our lives. This year, the teachers also received training in Healthy Water Healthy People, another engaging curriculum geared for middle school. Both curriculums include fun activities like exploring pH by creating your on pH scale with cabbage juice or analyzing different liquids to determine which one is water. The teachers this year include Kari Riley, Erin Smoaks, and Tyler Carpenter. Join them tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon as they present some of the activities for the whole camp to participate in.

So, to get back to today’s paddle, I kept my eye on the paddlers as they started their paddle. The talk of the morning was whether or not you were continuing on for the Class II rapids. Those planning to continue were asking for prays and giving instructions on what to do if they didn’t return. All talk was lighthearted and all paddlers were just enjoying the morning.

9:30 and the paddler’s were on the water with me being close to the last boat. Seira Baker, my canoe partner and AAS State Coordinator, and I paddled steadily and soon found ourselves in the mist with the other paddlers. Near the 2 mile mark, a large Sycamore leaned out over a deep pool in the river inviting paddlers to climb its main trunk and jump off into the cool waters below. Those that took the challenge were encouraged by others cheering below.

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Just before the 4 mile take out at Marjorie Kahn Popper Boat Launch, all paddlers were treated to a series of shoals that prepared the paddles continuing on for the Lamar Mill Rapids and gave those ending at 4 miles, a little thrill and relieve they were close to the end. The safety boats placed throughout the shoals were seen as angles guiding us through the rapids and offering encouraging instructions. Thanks to our angles for making the shoals a fun run.

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Marjorie Kahn Popper Boat Launch provided a shading rest stop or a welcome take out. For those taking out, the site provided a shoot for the boats to get them to the top of the ramp.  I followed the shoot up and watched as kayaks were loaded on and easily pulled to the top. Wouldn’t it be great if every launch site made loading boats so easy?

 

For those of us continuing through Lamar Mill Rapids, it was time to put on the helmets and get serious. Safety boaters gave us a description of what to expect ahead and the best position to be in the water. We were told to expect 3 ledges each on river right and that’s what we found. As in the previous rapids, we found angles (our safely boats) strategically placed in the rapids to guide us through and be there should we get in trouble. These shoals provided an exciting run and I was happy to report, they weren’t as difficult as the hype, yet very technical.

Once through the rapids, all paddlers were nothing but smiles. Some of us weren’t good listeners and continued on river left and found the shoals before Wise Creek, one last exciting run before the calmer waters below. From Wise Creek on, paddlers found calming sandbars to get out for a swim, lunch, stretch our legs or skip rocks or if you are Harold Harbert and Chris Thompson, soap up for a refreshing bath in the river.

– Ruth Mead, PG Teacher

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A Beautiful day with water like Dave’s mocha latte.  Rains earlier in the week raised our water levels a foot or two on the Yellow River, resulting in high turbidity   levels and a good current to push us downstream into Lake Jackson.

Today was trash day, and we gathered lots of modern day flotsam and jetsom, mostly plastic bottles and balls and Styrofoam, from the strainers along the river banks (but only if there was an eddy or slow enough flow to make the trash retrieval safe).   We’re big on that at Paddle Georgia – safety first, fun second and fundraising for cleaner healthier rivers.  Our put in at Bert Adams Scout Camp was a wood-chipped trail with portable wooden steps and platform, just big enough to get in your canoe or kayak with help from our ubiquitous Georgia Canoeing Association volunteers.

“Trash Queen” Bonnie Putney organized today’s river cleanup and made prizes from fused glass (melted) bottles from other river cleanups.  Yay Bonnie!  No surprise, Duane “Bubba Duck” and his Kentucky crew took most trash (10 bags on Duane’s 15.5 foot Kraaken) and a special prize for the most balls—113 balls pulled from the river; runner up Cheryl Smith had around 80.  We saw our kingfisher and snowy egret, as we do on almost every Paddle Georgia.

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Lake Jackson took up 4 of our 6.5 mile paddle today, but with sparse motorized lake traffic the lake side shuffle up the left hand lake shore went swimmingly (we only saw one jet ski).

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Danridge Farm is our new campsite today.  Camp move days are always a hustle, packing up and loading our gear before boarding buses for the river in the morning, and setting up camp after getting off the river that afternoon.  But this old farmsite is an icon, with plenty of shade trees to camp under and an awesome rope swing in the middle of the site underneath a massive black walnut tree that had to be at least 150 years old.  Dozens of our tents fit underneath this old grandmother tree.  Others pitched camp near an old homesite chimney next to sunflower fields, with the event station in several old repurposed barns and our big white dining tent and the old farmhouse in between.

From the corn hole tournament to the Newleywet Game to a viewing of “My Cousin Vinnie” (filmed in nearby Monticello), we all had a most excellent evening, well fed on Satterfield’s famous cole slaw, barbeque and Brunswick stew (or beans and rice for those with a more plant based diet), and peach cobbler.  And so another day of little adventures and challenges ends, with more fun and excitement is store tomorrow for our happy paddlers.

Sidenote: On any journey, unexpected pathways open, well laid plans change from no fault of mice and men, and always the Georgia River Network crew, led by the ever innovative Joe Cook and aided by interns, volunteers, and fellow campers find a way to improvise and overcome those little setbacks that always tend to happen, often with very little (or no) notice.  And often, usually, with persistence and perseverance, they reach a different outcome than originally intended, along a better path, that leaves us with valuable lessons and experience we would not have gained if we were not on Paddle Georgia, working together to improve our rivers and our waters, and our knowledge and understanding of them.  Tomorrow, the adventure continues.

  • Victor Johnson, GRN Boardmember

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A second cup of coffee was in order this morning although changes in events soon began to fall into place. Increased water flow from Sunday evening rain made it necessary to change the put-in location farther downstream to avoid rapids which became unpassable below the original starting point.  The higher water flow provided a new perspective of a river swollen nearing the bank heights, covering many of the prior days obstacles.

The new morning brought blue skies and higher water and the wildlife was active.  The ripples in the water glistened, birds sang and fish were jumping in the new morning light. The Yellow was moving swiftly, paddling to merely navigate the winding river allowed a restful day for all.

– Tim Voss, Georgia River Network Board member

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When it rains it pours, literally & figuratively! After a slightly chaotic start Saturday morning & Saturday night’s downpour, things were bound to get better. After all no rain was forecast for Sunday… and then we arrived at the launch site to discover kayaks and canoes stacked on in and around other boats down a long narrow path. While this delayed the actual launch somewhat, the Paddle Georgia “ready for anything” attitude among our paddlers prevailed.

The safety boaters were out at their pre-assigned locations to ensure a safe passage through difficult spots. We got to paddle a few whitewater sections, although nothing like Day 1. After that, it was flat water, and time for renewing old friendships while establishing new ones. Porterdale got to share its charm with Paddle Georgia aficionados and local townspeople.

The town party was highlighted by the annual canoe tug-of-war, which was held at the Porterdale gymnasium. With an open ceiling, a temporary 50’ x 25’ pool, and an awesome live band, the party rocked! People (and the lead singer of the band!) even jumped into the pool for a swim after the tug-of-war!

The canoe tug-of-war ended with a victorious battle-cry from the GRN team defeating the River Rats, who had a local resident join their team after hearing the nearby party. We ended the evening at a reasonable hour as we headed to our sleeping tent. Overall, a pretty grand day.

– Kit Carson, Georgia River Network Board member

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