This past Saturday I found myself so very thankful that I live in eastern Tennessee: I experienced kayaking for the first time. I met up with three new friends at Chilhowee Lake, just south of Knoxville. After going through the regulatory land-lessons of how to properly hold and use your paddle, we shoved off. I quickly learned that it takes a certain amount of finesse to glide gracefully through the water like my friend (and experienced kayaker) Deanna. I would like to attribute my learning curve to the current I was fighting against in the lake, but I’m not sure I can entirely blame the water. Deanna did warn us that if you are right-handed you will find that you do pull to the right naturally, so you have to learn to compensate for that. I am right-handed, but I found myself being pulled to the left… which I gladly blame on the lake. I think I ended up covering twice the distance as everyone else in the first 20 minutes due to constantly correcting my mis-guided boat.
We were not on the lake long, and I found that once we got into the quieter waters of Abram’s Creek, guiding my kayak became much easier. To try to describe Abram’s Creek is near impossible, but I will try. Picture a very serene little creek, not more than 20 feet wide in places, hugged on either side by the Smoky Mountains. And because we were now entering the Smoky Mountain National Park, the wilderness was pristine. A few trees were starting to show red in their leaves, fall flowers were blooming, and that thick tree-sap scent was in the air. The water was clear – we could see weird brain-shaped algae growing on fallen branches in the water. And while we stayed dry, we could feel how the coolness of the water through the bottoms of the kayaks.
We paddled at a very relaxed pace for a little over an hour, drinking in the scenery around us, listening to the birds serenading us. We reached a point where the creek becomes too rocky and our large kayaks could go no further, so that is where we parked the kayaks and stopped for lunch. We found a few large rocks to sit on and began happily munching. I was surprised at how much of an appetite I had worked up from only an hour’s paddling (it must have been from my zig-zagging). We threw a few tiny scraps to the minnows darting around in the shallows a few feet in front of us. After satisfying our tummies and taking pictures of our surroundings, we climbed back into the waiting boats.
The trip back downstream was even more relaxing, for obvious reasons. While Abram’s Creek is a rather slow-moving stream, every little bit helps! On our way back we spotted many sunbathing turtles, who were not all that thrilled to have four women sneaking up on them. Where the creek runs east we had a magnificent view of the crescent moon over the mountains.
It was somewhere in this stretch that I found Mr. Katydid frantically trying not to drown. Feeling bad for the green bug, I scooped him up with my paddle and put him on the front of my kayak. I paddled a little further while he clung to the front, drying his little wings in the sun. He must have started to feel better because he started exploring the kayak. Then suddenly, he abandoned ship! I guess he must have figured that he would rather try swimming than take a ride from a stranger. I said my goodbyes to Mr. Katydid and do hope he made it to shore before a fish decided he would make a good afternoon snack. Just goes to show that you can’t save a bug that doesn’t want to be saved.
As we were heading back towards the lake, I was feeling pretty good about my kayak-paddling abilities. I had, after all, done pretty well in the creek, and had little trouble directing the boat where I wanted it to go. Once we got out onto the lake again, it was a different story. I did manage to maneuver my kayak into the right position for a picture with the amazing scenery, though. Deanna graciously reminded me that the current and the (small) waves were fighting against the direction we were trying to go. I did make it back to shore with less trouble than I originally had in the lake, so I was feeling better about my newly-learned abilities. And I am eager to have another chance to further practice them again!