Sunday, May 3, 2009
The final day of the journey down the Shenandoah River began a several miles upstream from the confluence with the Potomac River. The river is flat and slow at this point until you reach the rapids where it gets challenging. The first day that John and I started canoeing on this journey there was rain, the river was up and moving fast. A sharp contrast from over 150 miles back and two weeks ago at the start of canoeing up until today. We decided to finish the journey on Saturday, a day earlier than the scheduled because Sunday there will be rain. Around half of the days on this journey had some amount of rain and it would be nice to end it with no rain.
We approached the drop known as Bull Falls and pull up to a rock to take a closer look. As we are looking at the falls, a flotilla of rafts from some of the area's river guides appear around the bend. John and I decide to wait and watch the rafts go through first. Slowly, one by one, they go through Bull Falls. When the last of over a dozen rafts approaches the falls, we load up in the canoe for our turn. We have lightened the load for this final section of the journey. I have only brought a video camera in a small water tight box and plan to use it when there is little chance of it getting wet. John has brought his small video camera and rubber bands it to the underside of the lid of his LSU baseball cap. He also brings the only phone and his wallet in a water box. We also brought a bottle of spring water that we have been carrying with us from the spring at the beginning of this journey where we filled up the bottle. One other item we brought that needs mentioning is an extra flotation device to help keep the canoe afloat when filled with water. My daughter was happy to lend us her penguin snow tube. The tube has an attachment on one side that is in the shape of a penguin head. We strapped it down in the middle of the canoe. With our penguin and canoe, we paddle out to the falls.
The falls that we are going through is one of three chutes on the left side of the river. There is a left, center and right chute. Ours is on the right. The many rafters have gone through and are waiting below the falls. I see the falls getting closer and the scores of people watching from beyond. We slowly are drawn into the falls, speed up and crash through the first wave. Taking on lots of water, we work to line the canoe up for the next wave. We ride the wave to the top where it pushes the canoe sideways and dumps us. A short float out from the rapids and we are able to stand up and pull the canoe to a rock where we turn it over and drain out the water. Cheers and whistles come from the crowd of people at our attempt at the falls.
The rafts begin there journey and I check my video camera and it looks fine. I get some video of the falls and some more of the rafts. After chatting with some of the people we load back up and float some more. No one ever commented about the penguin. Maybe no one noticed. It looks like a regular tube except for the fact there is a separate tube that looks like a head attached to one side. It could be possible that everyone is so into the river, rapids and the moment that they do not notice much else. That is what the river and nature is all about. Experiencing that moment in nature and here in the Shenandoah Valley and on the river, you can find these moments everywhere.
We continue on down the Shenandoah and go through many rapids, crash into many waves and bail lots of water out of the canoe but were never swamped or rolled again that day. The sight of our final destination of the Potomac Wayside comes into view. I can see a woman with a little girl on the shoreline. It's Nina and Carmen to come and pick us wet river dogs up for the last time. We reach the shore, John and I get out and have a drink of our spring water that we have carried over 180 miles.
The water that we collected at the spring, carried all the way and then drank at the end is about as good as water gets. I would not drink the water from the river at the end of this journey. The water from the spring to the Potomac was polluted and trashed along the way. We picked up trash that filled up about dozen trash bags. There seems to be a certain amount of people that just do not care about the environment in which they live. The simple task of properly throwing trash away and even recycling can make a difference. We can teach our children and others that we have a responsibility to our environment. You can even show them what this river and valley have to offer.
Thanks to everyone who helped me with this journey and to everyone that tuned in. I have an art show in Crozet, Virginia next weekend (May 9-10). So if you are in the Charlottesville area, stop by for a visit. Some point in the near future, I will post more images of the journey as I will have more time to edit through the thousand or more images. Check back from time to time to see if I added anything new. Thanks again and enjoy the outdoors.