After my father picked my comrade and I up at Lyerly-Dam road, and our gear was loaded in the back of his truck he took us to where my SUV was and where our wallets were as well. He dropped us off there and went to his house and my comrade and I both agreed that food was the first order of business. We went to our favorite barbecue joint initially and, despite what its hours-of-operation sign says on the door, it was closed. We opted for a Mexican spot on Main Street in Summerville and it was just what the doctor ordered – cheap, tasty and extremely filling.
After eating and going to my father’s house for a bit to rest up, hydrate and retrieve our gear we were off again to start gathering what we needed for another 16 or more hours on the river. We bought more chicken liver, beer, snacks and hooks at the Pay-N-Tote and were off to where we were picked up earlier in the day to restart our journey and end up another 6 or so hours down stream at Holland-Chattoogaville road.
Immediately after parking and getting all of our stuff out of the the car my comrade was loading his stuff onto his kayak and was on river before I could even process what all we needed to bring and make sure we weren’t forgetting anything. As usual he was hollering – “Hurry up!”. I secured everything I thought I needed on my craft, locked up my SUV and was in the water. He was ahead about 25 yards and it appeared that it might be a downpour as the sky had clouded up a bit, but could see blue in the direction we were heading and I was relieved. It did end up sprinkling a bit, but not enough to be bothersome.
After paddling for maybe 5 minutes I noticed that my comrade was somewhat distracted by something up on the bank to his left. I noticed he looked back at me pretty quickly but I couldn’t make out his facial expression. I heard some voices at low volume and then as I passed a large tree jutting out over the water a bit I saw the bushes shaking a bit and a girl with a guy behind her and I immediately knew what was going on! I wanted to get a good look at them but didn’t want to gawk as my urge was telling me to do and looked straight ahead and didn’t look over again. I thought – “I wouldn’t want someone glaring at me if I was in their position.” But then again, if I was having sex on the side of a river where I know people traverse frequently, I probably wouldn’t be overly concerned with people taking notice in the first place.
After we were out of earshot of the wilderness exhibitionists my comrade was like –
“Did you see that?!”
“I saw them, but I tried not to look.”
“Shit, I got an eyeful, haha!” he said.
“I probably should have myself, haha!”
“They were straight up banging in the bushes!”
“That they were,” I replied.
After paddling a little further, I looked around at my kayak and something seemed missing. I thought for a second and then I realized that in my haste to get going I’d left my fishing pole just lying on the bank. I started cussing like sailor and my comrade was like “What the hell is wrong with you?”. “I forgot my fishing pole. I left it on the bank.”
“GD!” he exclaimed.
“I have to go back.”
Lucky for me, like I mentioned before, this river is slow moving. I wasn’t just going to leave my $100 fishing pole for whomever happened to walk up on it.. I turned my boat and started paddling back up river. I was disgusted. I just wanted to relax. Not that my life is all that stressful in the first place, but I still wanted to just chill, with my beer, in my kayak and be carried in my kayak to wherever our next camp site was to be, but, so much for that. It’d be a good shoulder workout, I suppose.
I paddled with vigor. I paddled with the thought that someone might just wander up or be getting off the river from their own journey and think – “I be damned, I’ve found a pretty nice fishing pole!”. I didn’t want to let that happen. It was my fishing pole! I had good memories of that fishing pole and they involved catching fish that I often ate and appreciated and I certainly didn’t want to have to piss away money on a new untested pole. And I wanted to be able to catch my own dinner and not catch hell from my equally irresponsible comrade.
As I came back up river I noticed that the frisky couple from probably less than 30 minutes ago was gone. Thinking about it I could only assume that one or the other, or both, had something to hide from someone else. The area around the canoe launch is similar to a park, though not officially. Looking from the middle of the river there appears to be a trail that runs alongside the river starting at the road, opposite the canoe launch.
Finally, I made it back to the launch. There it was – my fishing pole, just lying on the steps. I slid up on the bank the best I could and hopped out and grabbed my pole. Just as I was getting back into my canoe I noticed a couple heading my way in a jon boat. As they were approaching, I was just getting situated in my boat and was in such a hurry to get the hell out of Dodge that I pushed off and left my paddle lying on the bank. Luckily, the couple had already gotten out of their boat and the female of the duo passed me my paddle to where I floated helplessly in the water.
Now that I had my fishing pole I’d paddled about 20 or so feet from the bank and cracked a beer. I was still a little shaky from the strenuous paddle back and was preparing myself to catch up with my comrade and suddenly I hear – “Hey buddy, think you could give me a hand with this boat since you ain’t too far away yet?”.
I couldn’t believe my ears, almost. I had just paddled up river and was pretty much exhausted and now I had to help this guy carry this gigantic boat up an an incline that was as steep as a slide on a playground!? This boat was not meant for this river. This was a boat for a lake. But, I complied all the same – “Yeah man. I’ll right over.”
“I really appreciate it, buddy.”
His lady friend didn’t appear to be in any position to lug this heavy-ass boat with a trolling motor on the back up this hill. I wondered how they’d have pulled this off had I not forgotten my fishing pole. At any rate we grabbed the jon boat and dragged it up the hill and I nearly dropped it a couple of times. After paddling up river and then dragging this boat that felt like a sack of bricks to my already noodle like arms up this steep embankment I was afraid my heart was going to give out and I’d drop dead right there. My comrade would be completely bewildered and wonder what had happened for sure!
They thanked me again for my help and I was definitely in a hurry to get the hell out of there then. I hopped in my kayak and wanted to paddle at a brisk pace, but had to take it easy. I was certain my comrade had already found a great place to camp for the night and I was so ready to be there and relax a bit and eat something.
I paddled slowly but steadily for maybe 20 minutes. I started getting aggravated. My presumption that my comrade wasn’t far away and that he’d probably already set up camp somewhere was apparently wrong. I hollered “Hey!” as loud as I possibly could, but nothing. No response. I paddled on. The foliage on this section of the river was a good bit more dense than the previous stretch we’d traversed. The last had more cow pastures and less trees along the side, but this was much more lush and that’s how I like it – like I’m in a jungle. I pictured monkeys in the trees and wished that we had them here in the South.
This river also seems to have a lot of fish. As one floats down it there are a lot more swirls and splashes and bubbles coming from unknown sources than the Tallapoosa river, some seventy or so miles south where we’ve also done a lot of exploring. I’ve never caught anything out of that river.
Coming around a bend, I thought I saw something blue and thought maybe it was my comrade, as he was in a blue kayak. I yelled again, but there was no response. I paddled on. Up ahead I saw a rope hanging from a tree and wooden steps that led up to the bank and some signs I couldn’t quite make out. As I got closer I could see that one said “Banjo Lessons $3” and then another the read “Skinny dipping aloud”. I wondered if they’d misspelled “allowed” out of ignorance or there simply wasn’t enough room on the board to spell out the correct word. After I’d passed the tree there was another sign that read “No Jumping” with an arrow pointing down and below it “Big log”. Nice of them to inform folks.
As I got closer I could see that the blue I’d seen in the distance was an old deflated inner-tube float. My comrade was still nowhere to be seen. I paddled on.
Eventually, I screamed again and got a reply. Muffled, and intelligible. My comrade was drunk – laughing and carrying on it sounded like. I yelled “STOP, wait!” I’m certain he couldn’t hear me any better than I could hear him. As I got closer I could hear that he was getting defensive and he was saying something about how I’d gotten drunk as hell the night before, which I did, and he was “damn sure getting just as drunk today”. I didn’t care if he was drunk, but I was a little annoyed that he hadn’t at least gotten camp started somewhat – but what could I say…
This back and forth went on for another 20 minutes or so and eventually I caught up with him and we proceeded to make our way to a spot to camp for the night. This ended up being another spot next to a relatively deep spot in the river that was fairly level. It was still rocky, but we didn’t have much choice at this point as it was getting dark quickly.
I didn’t feel like doing anything, I don’t think either of us did, but we had to gather firewood, put up a tent and again rig our lines. I put off my beer drinking til after we were good to go and it felt more rewarding than trying to intermingle drinking and setting up camp at the same time, and took a lot less time as well.
After digging around our tackle we’d realized that we’d forgotten to get more weights at the store and this put a damper on my fishing aspirations. I couldn’t believe we’d dropped the ball on this one. It’s very important to have enough weight on one’s line, especially when fishing in a current. We both started brain storming and came up with looping fishing line through a few beer can tabs where the weight would normally go. There wasn’t much choice at this point. So I figured I’d give it a try. It seemed to work well enough. Initially we were fishing right in front of where we were camping and throwing up stream. We tried this for another 30 minutes or so, but didn’t have much luck. My comrade had a normal weight on his line, but that was the only one we had. I wasn’t quite ready to give up on this spot yet, but of course my after my comrade started getting bites on the opposite side of the sort of peninsula we were on I was ready to move over by him, even though it involved sitting in the weeds, and itchy legs. I was sure there was a snake waiting to dig its fangs into my ankles as I walked over in the darkness.
Siting there, I on top of a log and my comrade on top of a collapsing cooler, fishing with chicken livers again, the moon was our only light as the fire was just around the bend of the river where our tent was and the night was a bit cooler than the night before. We could hear someone shooting guns off in the distance and hollering and talking and I mentioned that I hoped no stray bullets come our way. My comrade told me to “Quit being a pussy. They ain’t shooting our way.” I said “Hey, you never know”. He didn’t answer back, just stared out into the darkness as if watching his line. In a practical sense, the chances were much higher that a stray bullet would hit a tree long before it ever reached us. The guns they were shooting sounded like semi-automatic based on the steady – pop, pop, pop, pop – and no breaks in between to reload.
Finally, we started getting some real bites and we caught a few nice sized cats. Again, we didn’t want to catch more than we could eat. The ones we’d caught on this night were a bit smaller and so we caught 4 before we quit this time. We actually caught 5 total. I caught 2 decent size and my comrade 2 of eating size and another that was too small to fool with.
Again, we cleaned them and fried them up with some spicy batter and boiled some more potatoes, and listened to the gun party downstream stream as we dined. Our full bellies and countless beers primed us for turning in. My comrade fell asleep right away and as I lay there waiting for my own sleep to set in I could hear a hoot owl somewhere out there in the quiet night.
The next morning I again woke up to sore hip bones and vowed to get a camping pad, and not to go on another of these type excursions again until I do. My comrade said he didn’t sleep worth a shit either and we got up and restarted our fire to make coffee with. I ate sardines for breakfast and he Vienna sausages.
After taking down the tent and stowing away all of our gear we were set to continue our journey and, despite the fact that we weren’t properly prepared, do some bass fishing. Ideally when you’re fishing with a worm you need a small weight to carry it to the bottom of the the river or lake as you jig and its sudden movements help to attract these typically bored and hard to impress fish.
It didn’t take my comrade long and he’d reeled in a little large mouth bass that gave him a hell of a fight for its size, but it really wasn’t worth keeping. It seemed that the lack of a weights didn’t hinder us too much as we were both getting plenty of bites, but as the day heated up the fish didn’t seem to be interested in actually taking the bait and running with it. They only wanted to tease us and pull our the worms down to the bottom of the hook.
After an hour or so of fishing with nothing much to show for it, we were pretty much ready to go. Kayaking a new river for me and my comrade is always exciting but our food, beer and water had dwindled and the summer heat was starting to take its toll on our wits. I stopped to check our coordinates and it seemed we were still a good 2 hours from where we were to take out. No reason to hurry, it was just a matter of steadily paddling and taking breaks as needed.
At one point when we’d stopped to take a break, I looked at the GPS on my phone and it looked as though we’d passed our takeout. I told my comrade and we were dumbfounded as to how that could’ve happened. We sat there on the tiny island and tried to figure out how and where it would have been, but we couldn’t come up with anything. I decide to check my phone again.
As it turned out we were still another twenty minutes or so out from our Holland-Chattoogaville destination. My judgement error, I suspect, was due to a temporary glitch in my phone’s functionality and my own dehydrated fatigue. I called my father to let him know to go ahead and head our way. Surely we’d be there by the time he got there.
We knew we weren’t far away from our destination when we started to hear cars. As we came up on the bridge I could see my father standing in the water waving. “Hey, y’all!”
Being the perpetual character he is, my father was under the bridge swimming around in a red life jacket and cut-off blue jean shorts. My comrade and I looked at one another in near disbelief and could only laugh.