Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Water Watching

One of the most scenic drives in this area is the drive from Coker Creek to Chattanooga. We shared this path through paradise with John and Mary. The forested highway from here to Farner is a stunning study in natural beauty with the dappled sunlight sifting through the leaves of the hardwood trees. This is followed by the drive along the Ocoee River where the Olympics held whitewater events in 1996.

Richard and I had once done whitewater rafting with visitors, but we’d never taken the time to visit the whitewater visitors’ center. Mary and John are great travel companions because they’re interested in processes and people, not simply racing from one event to another. We walked over the river on the catwalk bridge created for viewing the river other than from the road.

We enjoyed watching families happily splashing in the pools between the rocks, some of which were deep enough for swimming. This will be a welcome addition to less-than-an-hour away “Granny Camp” activities. While Mary waited for the concession stand manager to brew her a pot of decaf, this very informative man gave us background information on the area, especially the recent rockslide that closed the road and the center for almost six months this winter. This prompted Mary to encourage another stop for viewing the rockslide site.

The best area for seeing this sight turned out to be the put-in for river rafters and kayakers, where we watched these daredevils launch their arks of adventure. We were then able to follow some of them partway down the rapids which span the classifications from class one to class five. I was happy to be comfortably cool and dry watching from an automobile on the road rather than in a wet and wild raft. There are area rivers where the rapids only reach class three; that’s more the speed for me.

The interstate highway approach to Chattanooga offers panoramic vistas of the valley with long-range backdrops of surrounding mountains. With the high humidity in the area, there’s almost always a canopy of cumulus clouds crowning the view. This is almost worth the trip all by itself, but we soldiered on to the city.

Our destination was the Tennessee River Gorge tour offered by the aquarium. Since we were all boaters, and Mary and John still sail the Great Lakes, the prospect of boating on a southeastern river was appealing to all of us. Mary and I got a kick out of the on-board naturalist’s off-the-cuff explanations of the sights we were seeing, but Richard and John I think would have preferred a more didactic dissertation.

I felt right at home standing topside on the boat’s bridge with the breezes blowing through my hair and the sun warming my shoulders. The sounds of the engine and the sight of the spray transported me back to our life on the lake. All that was missing was the smell of salt sea and the sounds of the grandchildren’s voices and laughter.