Some people may ask, “What’s the big deal? You go out on the river all the time with your kayak.” But recently and especially over the last nine months, I haven’t. In fact, this is the first time the kayak has hit the water since my operation and cancer diagnosis. In the beginning I was sure that I could recover enough to paddle last year before winter. But the combination of recovery from the operation and the start of Chemo treatments prevented this from happening. So nine months later, here I am finally back out on the water with my friends. For now and hopefully forever, my scans are clear and my cancer pointer numbers are very low. Every bit of visible cancer was removed from my body and then for months we destroyed bad and sadly, good cells. Now the true recovery begins. I’m told that in time my strength will return. I believe it. On this day of celebration, (it was also Easter Sunday) we paddled three miles and I had very little, if any, trouble making it to the take out point.
While this is a familiar site, somehow it has changed. The water is higher, the current faster, and the land a little more wooded. I know that for me, going forward my new “norm” will never feel like the old normal. Life has truly changed. And while I’ll enjoy moments like this one over and over again, I will forever be a different person and hopefully a better person for having faced cancer.
We paddled on this day because we know it is spring and the weather can and does change quickly. But on this day, the sun was out and it was in the high 70’s. We knew temperatures were going to drop dramatically and rain would return. Actually, we like rain at this point in the year because it means the level of the rivers and lakes rise making our trips more fun. This is the highest the Tugaloo River has been at this point in spring in a few years. If the level holds and there are no “down stream” dam releases, we’ll be able to paddle to Longnose Falls on our spring Tugaloo River History Tour. (Smile) You may notice a familiar face: Beth McDonald was with us on this trip. She’s trying out kayaks so she can decide what type to buy before the spring paddle.
The river is just beautiful! I love the rocks in this area and wish we could get up on them but that would require a bit of extra strength.
As Pat paddles down steam, we notice just how much higher the water level is. Last year at this time some of the banks were probably ten feet above the water line. This year they are only a couple of feet. I’m beginning to remember what some of the riverbed looks like below us, which is always scary! This is one of the places we stop on the spring paddle so we can catch our breathe and also listen as Kelly Vickers tells about the American Native Cherokee Indians, who had villages along the river hundreds of years ago.
Finally, I got a close up view of one of the illusive river turtles. This guy actually allowed me take his photoâ€”something that rarely happens. Usually they see us coming and dive into the water and swim off. The sun must have felt way too good to this guy because he stayed put. We also saw plenty of evidence of river otters and beavers. There were deep “slides” along the banks in very wooded areas where no one lives except the river animals.
We even notice an old log had popped up from the bottom of the river. Years ago before the Corp of Engineers build the Yonah Dam, this area was heavily logged. Men sent the logs down stream to a place near Broken Bridges (old Highway 123) where they were collected and sent off to be milled.
Our final destination for this dayâ€”the bridge on Prather Bridge Road. We had paddled three miles and that was excellent for my first time back out on the water! Thanks be to God!