The following report was prepared by Samantha from our Rock/Creek paddlesports shop. Photos by Dawson Wheeler.
Morning came EARLY on Saturday, October 15, 2011, but it was to be an exciting day! As vehicles loaded with boats and smiles began rolling into the Rock/Creek Paddle Sports Store parking lot, Mother Nature promised an amazing day for Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Gorge.
While participants in the Kayak for Conservation signed in and enjoyed bagels and coffee, they excitedly (groggily?!) began delving into goodie bags (compliments of R/C and the TRGT) and making sure they had everything needed for a day on the water.
Meanwhile, guides from Rock/Creek and Outdoor Chattanooga loaded everyone’s boats onto trailers, gathered and double checked gear and made sure cameras were at the ready to document an awesome day on the water!
Though no goofy camp songs or cheers were sung or chanted on the school bus ride to the put-in, we DID get a bit of a history lesson on the Tennessee River Gorge, the Pot House and surrounding property, and on the mountains and the River proper, as well as some tantalizing bits of information regarding the biodiversity found within the Gorge. When taken as a whole, this helps to emphasize the gift that we in Chattanooga have in our backyards, and paints a more complete picture of the phenomenal vision and dedication of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, and the effort put forth by all involved to preserve this spectacular and unique beauty for generations to come.
Upon arriving at the public access boat launch at Suck Creek, boats were unloaded, PFDs, boats and gear checked, settled and safely launched. FINALLY we were all on the water headed down river with cameras in hand and eyes peeled for any serendipitous gift the Gorge choose to offer; what a gorgeous day!!
The camaraderie and excitement on the water were tangible, and conversation, jokes (and even a few pranks) flowed freely. A natural rhythm established itself, and as we paddled towards the Pot House we were treated to a visual timeline of development along the banks. Spirits were high, the temperatures and weather could not have been any better, and the paddling was easy. Best of all, right about the time the early morning bagels and coffee were beginning to wear off, we were at our lunch stop!
The short walk through the woods from the take out on the bank of the Tennessee River to the Pot House where lunch was waiting on us was a welcome respite from sitting in a kayak. Knowing that we were soon to be thoroughly enjoying delicious fare from Petunia’s Silver Jalapeno was even better! Before and after lunch, wandering through the restored Pot House, looking from the decks and living spaces of the restored house over the grounds and onto the River were treats unto themselves; sharing food and stories from the paddle thus far, and having opportunity to learn more of the history and vision of the Trust all continued to add to the delight of the day.
Back on the water after lunch, whether due to the hearty fare at the Pot House, from the sheer elegance of this particular segment of the Tennessee River Gorge or both, folks became quiet and we were able to hear the Gorge singing to us as we glided along the shoreline. From the Pot House downriver to the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility, we were witness to growing evidence of the work of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust on both sides of the River. Large, rolling stands of hardwood forest reaching from the banks of the River to beyond the top of the peaks on either side of us unfolded with each paddle stroke, easing an unconscious slip into the mystery and wonderment of this portion of the deepest Gorge in the eastern portion of the North American continent.
By the time we gained the take-out at the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility, we had been witness to only a miniscule percentage of the myriad species of flora and fauna that the Tennessee River Gorge shelters (I personally was lucky enough to catch sight of a couple of osprey, several kingfishers, a turtle or two, some ducks and a muskrat!)
With boats and gear on trailers, refreshments in our bellies and memories in our heads, hearts and cameras, we loaded onto the bus to headed back to the new Rock/Creek Paddle Sports Store. Once there, we enjoyed light refreshments, browsed through the new Paddle Sorts store, relived our day on the River and planned new adventures with newfound “accomplices”, all while our boats were offloaded from the trailers and set out for us to load on to our cars (with help from the awesome folks at Rock/Creek and Outdoor Chattanooga, of course!)
Contacts and relationships made and strengthened; awareness (and monies) raised for the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and the vision and efforts that they put forth to preserve the history and biodiversity of this sensitive and unique area; participation and support from the corporate partnerships between the TRGT, Rock/Creek and Outdoor Chattanooga; contacts made and furthered within the Chattanooga kayaking community and the Chattanooga outdoor community at large.
All of these elements combine to make for nothing short of an absolutely incredible day that I am truly blessed to have been a part of and which I look forward to participating in again in the future.