After turning off the river, and paddling up into the creek that runs behind the campground, Ian jumped out of his funyak and quietly remarked, “It was perfect.” How right a three-year-old can be sometimes.
It’s been hard to keep up with chronicling the events of our small family over the last year because Ian has grown so big and become so capable that we find ourselves so busy out living life to the fullest. This summer has flown by in a blur of kayaking, camping, riding ponies, cook outs with friends, roll practice, a river cleanup, farming, and on and on and on.
Of all of our summer events, I am most excited about Ian’s shared excitement for learning to kayak with us. While he’s had his little Fun1 out during roll practice (that’s another story) he’s still not ready to solo his own way through rapids. We began the summer by taking Ian and friends back down the Hiwassee river in our 13 foot self bailing Aire raft. This boat is a work horse on the Ocoee, the Hiwassee’s class IV sister river. On the class II Hiwassee, our raft is a full on barge. The shallow rocky Hiwassee, while slow and forgiving for kayaking, is also boring and snaggy for rafting. Our indication that Ian was ready to step it up came along about mid July. While surfing in the rapid above lunch stop, Ian sat on the side of boat and concentrated more on his applesauce than the rapid. This is when we realized that he may be getting a little bored.
Ian moved from the raft to our 2 man inflatable kayak with Brinn. Now he is much closer to the water, and the rapids all feel much bigger to him. He also graduated out of his first infant life vest and moved into his first whitewater pfd.
Last weekend we went down on our biggest river trip of the summer. All of the Andersons (David, Anne, Amy, Paul, Phoenix, and Charlie) the Siscos (Brad, Al, Meredith, and Riley), Joe and Sheila (some relief parents from the ranch), and two of the ranch boys who have spent the summer learning the basics to get ready for their first kayaking trip. I’ve written about the Andersons before, as they are such an important family to us now, and to Brinn’s past. They were his first teachers on the river. The Siscos live in middle TN fairly close to us. Brad helped my paddling at a time when my confidence was at an all time, and his wife Al is one of the sweetest kindest people I know. Joe and Sheila are just entering into the paddling world since their relief son, Zach, has decided to become a kayaker.
We spent the weekend camping at the Hiwassee Outfitters, and Ian has never had more fun. Friday night he had Meredith and Riley to play with, who can dish it just as well as they can take it. Ian absolutely loves having friends who go as hard as he does. Saturday morning his buddy Charlie joined the fun as we prepared to head up to the put in. Then neighboring campers delivered bad news: the generators at the dam were not working. There may not be any water release. After a three hour drive the night before, 4 young children, and 3 teens who were all excited to go down, this was the last news we wanted to hear. A trip to rent boats from Webb’s store soon reassured us that though one generator was indeed not functioning, the river would have a partial release.
Partial release on the Hiwassee means that the water is shallower but the drops are higher. The wave trains calm down but the holes are bigger. Brad took a stand up paddler board (SUP) and led our group down, finding rocks along the way, while four funyaks and four kayaks spaced out behind him. We had some swimmers, we had some moments stuck on rocks, but we mostly had fun. We drank gatorade and ate dried coconut at lunch stop in the muggy August weather, chilled by the spray from the rapids we had run, but warmed by the conversation of good company. You’re right Ian, it was perfect.