When
I agreed to coordinate this trip in November, I thought that we’d
probably have a blizzard and no one would call. On Wednesday the
weatherman was calling for a paddler’s paradise: rain through Friday
night and a Spring-like weekend. Eight of us heard that guy and
showed up at the Cartecay. He was correct about the rain, the river
was running near 5 feet. Too mean for me (I had experienced Mr.
Cartecay at 6 feet once)! We opted for the Lower Toccoa with Margo
Booth’s leadership, and proceeded to her cabin to put in. It was
chilly, not 55 as had been predicted.

The
Toccoa was ripping at 3.5 feet. It looked like fun to river hungry
kayakers Matt Engle and T.L. Hudgens from Peachtree City and Chris
Corbin and Roman South from Conyers. Margo led our now late trip in
her open canoe. Troy Smith was trying out a Whitesell Descender
canoe and, thankfully, it was much more stable and forgiving to his
200 lbs. than the Mohawk XL-11 canoe he’d been paddling.

As
we entered the first bend in the river and the wind hit us full
force, my tandem canoe partner, Haley, announced that she was not
going to paddle because she was too cold. She wanted OUT. She put
her paddle away and sat on her cold hands. It reminded me (the
kindergarten teacher) of the story about the naked emperor, who
pretended to be wearing clothes of royal beauty until a child pointed
out that he was wearing NO clothes.

I
was now spinning back upstream, where I talked it over with her dad,
Troy. We’ve always thought she was smart. She’s 8 years old and has
6 years of paddling experience. It was a wise decision she had made.
He agreed to make the sacrifice and get out with her at the TVC
Campground. We swapped boats and he got Mr. Long, who owns the
campground, to take them to our nice warm van sitting in the sun at
the take-out. Oh, how good that must have felt!

We
(dressed for Spring, except for the always prepared Margo) proceeded.
As kayakers do, the four guys played in every hole, some of them
rolling, but none swimming. One started to seem a little
hypothermic, but it was hard to tell whether he was disoriented or
just being himself. We stopped to feed him and warm him, and he
agreed to get out with his friend at the bridge and call Troy and
Haley in the van to pick them up. I could just imagine them all cozy
watching a movie and taking a nap in that warm van.

Actually,
Troy sensed that we might be in trouble, so they came looking for us,
and two of the guys went with him. When we got to the bridge, there
stood those two angels again, Troy and Haley, the wise one. I had had
enough cold wind to last me a lifetime. I wanted heat! Margo and
the two coolest kayakers in Conyers continued on to the BEST part of
the river. They had a great time through the big rapid at Aska Road.
I’ll bet they won’t forget their gloves next time. I know I won’t!
The Smiths are all caught up on their cold weather paddling.

by
Karen Smith
January 25, 1997