Sunday, May 27, 2012
The Great Pre-Thanksgiving Canoe Trip
I haven't posted to the blog in quite a while. I suspect that will be changing in the next couple of months. I have been working on a project that is very important but that has taken me away from my writing. In the mean time, I think something I wrote a while back has value. So, here 'tis.
22 November 2010
The Great Pre-Thanksgiving Canoe Trip
If I had known how it was going to turn out, I would have done it on purpose.
A week before Thanksgiving 2010, my son and I got together at the arguably early hour of to leave on a mini-adventure--a trip down
Augusta Savannah River rapids.
The old canoe hadn't been put to use in almost two years and it was, for
the most part, rarin' to go.
We both felt the need for a mental health day off (a sentiment apparently echoed by our patient spouses who uncharacteristically voiced no opposition) and, as we placed the
on my aged Honda, we both
breathed a sigh of pleased anticipation.
We got off in good time carrying with us my new Kodak, his new GAP
jacket, and his mother's well prepared lunch.
Our first stop was Old
Town North Augusta's public boat
ramp, our intended destination. The ramp
was just as I remembered it from my last visit several years ago. North Augusta has
maintained this asset well. Here we left
Stash's aged Honda. We continued
together in my aged Honda, heading for the Savannah Rapids Pavilion and its
adjacent . Recent improvements at the park include a
bridge over the Columbia County
Park canal and a
set of steps to the edge of the Augusta Savannah River. Anyone who might have tried launching a canoe
in the river from this point in the past would appreciate this new addition
In any case, we launched the
with minimal difficulty and
began our trip to Old
Town North Augusta. I am guessing this was about (will take "ship's log 101" the
next time it's offered at .) We passed through a number of rocky areas, adding
a few new scrapes to the bottom of the Augusta State , and continued until we
reached a relatively deep stretch approaching I-20. We noticed a number of ducks, at least one
Great Blue Herron, a spattering of Anhinga and flock upon flock of Canada Geese. About the time we reached that deep stretch,
I commented on the lack of turtles, thinking it was a bit too early, and too
warm, for them to begin the annual hibernation-like existence they usually
resort to during our not too cold, but cold enough, winters. Mother Nature, it seems, was listening in on
my conversation and, virtually as the sentence about the lack of turtles had
rolled past my tongue, a pair of bread plate sized turtles appeared not ten
feet from our starboard bow. Other
turtles soon joined them on the surface, mostly as pairs, and I decided
probably they were either practicing their life-saving moves or they had other
things on their minds. Old
As we approached the interstate, conversation became difficult. It's interesting how four lanes of interstate traffic, all trying to get from one state to the other in the least amount of time, spews forth a din to blight the wilderness. No serenity here, I'm afraid. No real problem, though, as we continued our paddling till we reached another stretch of rock on the downstream side of the interstate and returned to hunting passages. Interestingly enough, since standing in a canoe is not a viable technique, I've decided the next time I buy a canoe I will investigate the possibility of investing in a periscope option. While it will probably look a bit weird, it sure would help to find the passages through those low-lying rock walls that cordon off sections of the river at this point.
About a half mile downstream from the interstate, on the
side of the river and just beyond a bend, we spotted a number of picnic tables,
a portapotty, and a reasonable landing spot.
It was a little after
and wife's lunch began to beckon. We put
in, wondering who had placed this park on the edge of our watery
passageway. We seated ourselves at the
first available table (the maitre d' was no where in sight) and began to
eat. We had sausage-and-cheese balls for
an appetizer and continued on with ham, egg and cheese sandwiches on toasted
whole wheat bread. G2 Gatoraide was our
libation. thinking back, I'd have to say
this is where we probably slipped up--we neglected to spill the required sip to
the gods prior to consuming our drinks. Georgia
Around 12:30, all fed and refreshed, we noticed what looked like an information station a bit uphill. A minute later, our benefactors became known. It seems some public agency, the county, or perhaps the canal authority (I really do need that ship's log course) decided the spot we found was a good place for a mini-park, one that could serve not only those who might arrive by canoe but also those joggers and bicyclists traveling between the Riverwalk downtown and the Savannah Rapids Pavilion on the trail provided, I suspect, for maintenance of the Augusta Canal. Some of those very people began to arrive at that point and we decided we'd leave the park to them for their sole enjoyment, that being what we had had as we ate our luncheon.
An hour later we were cold, wet, disgusted and our canoe and belongings were headed downstream at warp speed, or so it seemed. We had just passed by the City of Augusta's raw water pumping station and had continued downstream for about 1000 feet when, all of a sudden, we were in the water. Neither of us knew why we tipped over, we just did. In retrospect, I suspect lagging physical fitness was a factor. I say this because both of us had difficulty folding our legs to sit on the floor of the canoe, and we decided to sit on the seats--and be real careful. Hah! The only thing I can think of was both of us shifted a bit to port at the same time and, before we knew it, over we went. Luckily, we knew what to do when we hit the water, though, in our haste to get out of that 60 degree water (we were sure it was 50 degrees,) Stash stepped in a hole and bruised his shin on a river rock. We were less than 30 feet from the Georgia bank and soon were resting at the river's edge. We really were quite fortunate. We had gone to the
side of the river to look at the water pump station (we weren't exactly sure
what it was.) Had we turned over in the
middle of the river, we would have had to make our way several hundred yards in
either direction to get to dry land. I
guess one lesson learned would be: stay
near one bank, or the other while making this trip. Georgia
Following a few minutes' heavy breathing, we began to climb the 20 feet or so of steep slope next to the river and found a path leading upstream toward the pump station. A couple hundred feet later, we saw an opening in the trees twenty feet or so to our left and we went to it. It was a railroad track. We followed the track all the way back to the pumping station and, ignoring signs telling us where to go, we went to what was obviously an office. A City employee listened to our tale of woe and directed us to his supervisor. The operations supervisor was sympathetic and immediately put us in contact with the county sheriff's office.
I reported our mishap and the dispatcher was about to send a deputy to take our statement and deliver us to the county line (apparently as close as they could legally go to either of our cars) when Stash told me we had an offer that would get us back to Savannah Rapids Pavilion. I thanked the dispatcher, and we left. It was our good fortune that this "Good Samaritan" made the offer when she did and was able to assist us. We got back to my Honda and found its key had not been adversely affected by the river water. It cranked at once, as it always does. Good car! Guess I should drop that "aged" bit. We drove to the
boat ramp, looked upstream and saw what we expected--beautiful scenery, but no
we were home, in Aiken.
After Stash and I told our stories to his mother, I got back to the problem at hand. My Nokia had allowed me one call after it received its dunking and promptly ceased further operations. Of course that one call was to my wife. I took it apart and dried it. It started right back, like the trooper it is, and has worked fine ever since. I then used it to call 1)
Law Enforcement where I left
a message to be sure my problem was on the record. 2) The
Aiken County Sheriff's department, who promptly redirected me to the City of Richland
County , who I then called and left a detailed
account of my problem. 3) The Georgia Department of Natural Resources
whose officer promptly called me back and learned about my problem. 4) The
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources whose officer, like his
counterpart in North
Augusta Police ,
promptly returned my call and took down my information. Both of the DNR officers pointed out that
hunting was scheduled to begin on Saturday and it would be best, if I wished,
to search for my canoe before that time.
This was good news for me to have as sportsmen are generally people you
can count on. It was bad news for the
Canadians and the ducks, though. 5) Augusta Riverwalk Marina, where I talked with
a Mr. Christian who promised to let me know if any of his customers found the
boat and who also provided me with a number to contact a Dr. Carl with the
River Keepers, an organization I was unaware of. 5) Dr.
Carl, formerly of the River Keepers,
discussed my problem with me and gave me a current number for the River Keeper
organization, which I called and talked with "Andy," who promised to
do what he could and gave me a number for a "Steve" with the dive
organization that works problems in the river.
Since my Georgia
has a double hull with enclosed flotation (it can't sink,) I didn't bother to
call him. Old Town
Having notified everyone I thought might be able to help, I moved on to other things. Wondering how much Google Earth might be able to tell me about my boat's possible whereabouts, I checked it out. Vewy intewesting, as Elmer Fudd might have said. Not only was I able to look at the stretch of water I had been navigating, and determine its "as the crow flies" distance to be around 7 miles, I was able to zoom in to the very place I thought I had lost the boat and observe the individual rocks I had been avoiding at the time. Had we not plopped ourselves into the water where we did, we would have had a little more than a mile to go (again, "as the crow flies") to reach our destination. Of course, part of that distance remained rife with rocks and the actual distance we would have had to paddle may have been double that direct over the top distance. In any case, it appeared my canoe had a good chance of finding itself a berth in the rocks before it reached that long, narrow pond that is the Augusta-North Augusta riverfront.
Friday I had things that couldn't be put off and there was no way to consider getting back to the water. Had I not had other obligations, my plan would have been to find that one-man life raft I bought years ago as I learned the art of snorkeling in the waters of the
Aegean Sea between
and Karamursel Istanbul . I would have had no problem riding that raft
over the rocks from the Augusta Pump station area down to the ponded portion of
the river. Surely I could have located
the canoe. Fortunately (since the raft
is buried under several tons of my other possessions of yesteryear in a local
storage building) I didn't have to try out that plan. Instead, around on Friday I received a call from the North Augusta Police. Someone had called them and said they had
found a canoe and had left it tied to the dock at the North Augusta Boat Launch
area. It seems another "Good
Samaritan" had enabled my canoe to finish the trip I had planned for it
totally without my presence. Sometimes,
God truly does work wonders. Turkey
I called Stash and jumped into my trusted steed, planning to meet up with him at the boat launch area. Stash made arrangements with Grandma for the unplanned children management services and he followed on. When I got to the boat launch area I saw two men talking by the dock. I approached them and I explained what had happened. The canoe and all our other possessions was right there, attached to the dock, looking for all practical purposes just like it looked (excepting for its having taken on about fifty gallons of water) when I experienced my unplanned disembarkation. About that time, as one of the men left, Stash arrived. The other man stayed and helped me move the boat around the dock and onto the boat launch area's concrete approach way. I thanked him and we made our introductions. Remember that diver I didn't call? Well, now I know him, too. Stash (i.e., Stephen Ashley) and I had fun with our new friend doing an updated version of an old MASH routine. Instead of "Doctor, Doctor. Doctor, Doctor...Doctor...." our routine was "Steve, Steve. Steve, Steve...Steve...." Of course I told him (and showed him the notation on the 3x5 card in my pocket) I already had his number, and explained how I came to have it. He gave me another number, just in case, though--his cell number. Small world!
Oh well, as I stated at the beginning, If I had known how it was going to turn out, I would have done it on purpose-- i.e., tip over the canoe. Lacking that mishap, Stash and I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet quite a few of our area's good people, starting with a couple of the City's water treatment plant operators, continuing with a couple of unheralded "Good Samaritans," and ending with a number of public servants and volunteers I met first on the phone and one, finally, in person at the boat launch area. Even more important was the opportunity Stash and I had to experience one another in a way we never had before. Adversity provides opportunities for growth and understanding. I know and have more reason to admire my son today than I would have otherwise, had our trip gone according to plan.
Service, it's said, provides its own rewards. I believe this is true. Still, I hope somewhere, sometime, I might have the opportunity to meet each of my many benefactors of those several days in November to thank them personally for their faithful service to me and to other members of the public in our CSRA community. That much, at the very least, they truly deserve.
Stephen V. Geddes