published Thursday, July 24th, 2014

TVCC has cool weekend with 'Little T'

By Gary Petty
Pat Carver, a Catoosa County school teacher, sits in her kayak with her dog, Domino, waiting for her fellow paddlers to make their way over the shallow waters of the Little Tennessee River.
Pat Carver, a Catoosa County school teacher, sits in her kayak with her dog, Domino, waiting for her fellow paddlers to make their way over the shallow waters of the Little Tennessee River.
Photo: Gary Petty

With temperatures hitting 90 and over, some outdoor enthusiasts are opting to travel and camp via water instead of land.

Such was the case with several members of the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club recently.

Taking to the cool waters of the Little Tennessee River just north of Franklin, N.C., over the Fourth of July weekend, the group paddled more than 26 miles in three days to their take-out point at the Almond Boat and RV Park on Fontana Lake.

"For a canoe overnighter, the river can be somewhat difficult," trip coordinator Carolyn Rand said. "People think that just because it is a Class I-II river it will be a breeze, and it isn't. The river has striated rock ledges all the way down most of the river. When the water is low, it can be quite technical, especially when you have a fully loaded 16-foot canoe."

Rand had been educated on her initial Little Tennessee trip.

"The Little T was the first canoe overnight trip I had ever taken, and I got stuck about 90 percent of the way down, but it taught me a lot," she said. "The Little T is a great trip to practice your paddling skills. It requires a lot of control or you will be pulling your boat off of rocks a lot.

"It is great for teaching people to read a river without a lot of consequences, if you mess up."

Experienced TVCC member Ben Johnson said the Little Tennessee River is considered a "technical" stream since a paddler has to navigate from one side to another.

"With the river pushing you downstream and you trying to get to the other side, it can be a challenge," he said. "Sometimes you end up going forward, sometimes backward and sometimes even sideways."

The canoe trip involved two nights of camping along the river, and while the amount of gear that can be transported by canoe is more than a backpacker can carry, there are limitations. Still, some canoeists can be seen with lawnchairs, ice coolers, Dutch ovens, air mattress and even a portable toilet seat as they paddle.

The additional weight increases the difficulty in paddling -- or pulling the boats -- over the shallow waters that are sometimes encountered on the Little Tennessee and other rivers when the water depth is only a few inches, Johnson said.

TVCC member Don Bodley from Murphy, N.C., is known for his minimum approach to canoe camping equipment.

"I generally carry a tent but seldom use it. I carry a tarp and a foam pad. I have a sleeping bag, and depending on the weather, I use the sleeping bag or blanket," said the 80-year-old retired TVA engineer, who uses a battered old aluminum pot as he cuts his potatoes, carrots, onion and broccoli for an evening meal.

Bodley knows the Little Tennessee River very well.

"I've canoed it 15 to 20 times," he said. "The first time was in the late [19]60s. At that time my wife and I had a 2- and 4-year-old. I told her that if something happened she was to get the 4-year-old and I would get the 2-year-old. Somebody else can get the canoe."

Shane Rogers, an engineer with WorleyParsons Power Group, used his 13-foot kayak and a double paddle to glide down the river on the early-July trip. It was his first time to paddle the Little Tennessee and to take part in an overnight camping trip. He had done only day trips in the past.

"I wish there had been a little bit more water," Rogers, 42, said about the difficulty in going over the shallow areas.

He also was a little surprised about the group's first campsite. Some used machetes to clear a path from the river to the site, an old roadbed.

"I was hoping for something a little more established," he acknowledged.

Rogers said his interest in canoeing started while he was in the Boy Scouts. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

Caroline Hill, a CPA with Joseph Decosimo and Company who made the trip, likes to practice her outdoors cooking skills.

"I really love cooking over an open fire, and a Dutch oven really allows you to bake," she said. "You can control the temperature by adjusting the amount of coals. You can pretty much make anything with a Dutch oven."

As for the Little Tennessee, she said, "I thought it was a beautiful river. It was wide and there was not just one way to run each rapid. Since the water was low, Norman [French] and I were able to work on our technical skills."

At age 14, Cole Kuberg was the youngest paddler on the trip. He and his granddad, Dieter Kuberg, also found the river to be a challenge.

"It was a little shallow and I got tired of getting out of the canoe to get over rocks," the Hixson High School freshman football player admitted, but he said he "would go back." It was his first trip in a canoe, but he is very familiar with kayaking on Chickamauga Lake.

"I hope more people give the overnight trips a try sometime. We have a lot of easy one-night trips also," Rand said. "It is a lot of fun for people of any age, and it gets people away from the computer and TV and back to nature."

A full listing of TVCC's kayak and canoe trips can be found at www.tvccpaddler.com.

Contact Gary Petty at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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