I am a bit hesitant to write about my daily adventures on Paddle Georgia 2012 after the fact. Over a week has gone by and I am finding I need to rely on pictures I took, pictures others took, Gwyneth Moody’s great entries in the Paddle Georgia blog, Joe Cook’s maps and Tara Muenz’s awesome cartography. In retrospect I am fine with that. I lived in the moment for an entire week at Paddle Georgia, the memories are part of me and have left a lasting impression. I continue to dig in to the Rayonier issue but I need a break from that today…….
Originally this post was going to be entitled “Moody Forest Minuet” and cover my thoughts on that first day. I am discovering however that as I write these entries many take a distinct turn as the thoughts come together. Maybe a recap of each day is not nearly as important as what is learned from the collective experience that IS Paddle Georgia.
Every year when I drop off my boat on Friday at the put in for another Paddle Georgia I look longingly at the river we are about to paddle. If you paddle at all leaving your boat near a river bank and driving away is counter intuitive. I want to be on that river! The first paddling day of paddle Georgia is electric. Everyone wants to get started. There is breakfast, filling your water bottles and getting your lunch if you ordered one. Mundane tasks given the adventure ahead. For first timers the biggest shock on day 1 is the inevitable bus line. Camping at the put in is never really feasible so we must be shuttled to and from the put ins and take outs.
Little River Guy experiences the bus line on Day 1
To quote from the paddlers information packet provided to all registered paddlers:
“Paddle Georgia is not a commercial, for-profit guided trip for individuals. It is an educational community adventure led by volunteers and staff of non-profit organizations and depends on well-prepared and self sufficient individuals and the pooled efforts of the entire Paddle Georgia group. As such, participants should come prepared to take care of all their own needs and to volunteer their services during the course of the week. These services include assisting themselves and others at launch sites/take outs, loading/unloading gear trucks, serving dinners, breakfasts and lunches, or lending a hand to your paddling friend when one is needed. If you wish to be pampered by professional guides, this isn’t the trip for you. But, if you want to experience a real community, brought together under a common goal and by the thrill of adventure, Paddle Georgia is it.”
For the uninitiated the lines seem unnecessarily long and the buses arrive too far apart. In reality this is all true, but veterans get it. Paddle Georgia is not always convenient. Sometimes the bus rides seem to take forever, sometimes we wait in line for a while, sometime we don’t get the lunch we ordered (before this year I would not have mentioned that but someone owes me two PB & Js). The places we will go are not tourist destinations, there is no preexisting infrastructure to get us there, many will never see sections of river that we see and in fact WE may never pass this way again.
Photo Credit: Gwyneth Moody, Georgia River Network
Artwork by Dan McNavish and Friends
If you find yourself getting impatient in a line, turn to that person in front or behind you and strike up a conversation. I have met some awesome folks this way. Some people you meet you will not see again until next year and yet somehow when you see them again you just pick up where you left off. My best advise for first timers is come in with the right attitude, people are friendly, just about every paddler I have ever met is. To hijack a famous quotation by John F Kennedy, “Ask not what Paddle Georgia can do for you, but what you can do for Paddle Georgia”. See someone struggling with a boat? Help them out, give of yourself without expectation of reward. I have met many people on Paddle Georgia just by lending a hand at some point during the trip. Conversations started and friendships were forged. We live in a world were it is easy to forget that we can make a difference even on a small scale just by offering a kind word of encouragement, helping someone move their boat, or any number of other small gestures. Paddle Georgia provides many opportunities to put this into practice. I have always felt that those participating in Paddle Georgia each year are more than a group of random paddlers, we must work together towards a common goal which is to get ourselves collectively down the chosen river for that year. We face challenges, we overcome them, we celebrate the victories. Together as one.