Yesterday I worked; today I played.
Even though it is the first official day of spring, it felt more like summer. Eighty-plus degrees and sunny. The heat makes me want to ride to the river, and I figured I may as well try to do a little paddling. I have a nice set-up to tow my boat with my Xtracycle, and it’s a happy combination to be able to ride and paddle on a beautiful day.
My put-in is just up the road from our house, about 4 miles. Getting there was a breeze, literally. Gently rolling with an overall downhill grade, and I had a nice tailwind. It was definitely the easy part. Arrived and locked the bike along the guardrail by the bridge, and was reminded again of the mess that has been made of this river by Olin and their mercury dumping – which thankfully will be ending soon, with their commitment to converting the plant to mercury-free processing.
Meanwhile, I still cannot comprehend how people are still willing to fish – and keep their catch – despite the clearly posted warnings of high levels of carcinogens in the fish. Completely baffles me. I’ve discussed it with several fishermen before, but I have learned to just keep my mouth shut. There is no changing their minds; they perceive the risk as negligible. (And I secretly shudder and shake my head).
I paddled away most of the afternoon, exploring and trying to navigate the very shallow water. In places, I was paddling in only inches. The Hiwassee River levels are regulated and controlled by TVA, and at this time of year they don’t typically release water upstream for recreational use in this inlet. Hence, the lake that is filled and sparkling blue in late spring through summer, is filled with stumps and shoals and islands over the winter and into early spring. The locals call this inlet Stump Lake. A fitting name.
Dozens of Great Blue Herons were my company; I love to just sit and watch them fishing in the shallows. Turtles were out sunning on stumps and logs, but would quietly slip into the water as I raised my camera lens. One of the fishermen said he had seen a Bald Eagle near the bridge. Sadly I missed it. It was peaceful, quiet, and a beautiful afternoon to be on the water … and “pedaling” my arms rather than my legs for a change.
Having had enough sun and with fatigue setting in on my shoulders, I headed for home in the late afternoon – this time against a headwind, with a more uphill grade, requiring a bit more muscle to tow the boat. I will confess my wimpy-ness by saying it felt good to get home. Dinner was salad and veggie pizza. Not fish. Definitely not fish.