Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What the river could tell

Asherel finished her school work around three, and I finished cleaning the house under the glow of the new blue skytube. I also did a little research and discovered that the reason our tube was blue was the workmen had not removed the blue protective inner coating. We are hopeful Arvo can do that himself and by this weekend have the promised flooding of natural light in our great room. But while doing "Blue Tube" research, I also found that there are class 1-3 rapids on the Catawba River only a half hour from our house.! It is just a finger-few types away from sky tube, to tubing, to kayaking. And, I discovered, there are several kayak launch sites along the way.

Being only 96 degrees out, I roped Asherel and tied her to my side and told her we were going to go check out this river. She was not as enthused as she could have been, having just kayaked rapids for 3 hours two days before, but I told her we just wanted to walk along the river and see if it was something we would want to try. Since this is almost the exact verbage she had heard prior to our last 3 hour marathon kayak trip, she was dubious.

Nearby Fort Mill is busily constructing the one thing that I feel Charlotte really lacks- a beautiful public walkway along the gorgeous Catawba. The path we discovered is shaded, and meanders right by the river for two and a half glorious miles. The property adjacent to the path is being developed into a riverside community, restaurant, shopping area. At last, one of the most lovely natural resources in our region is being developed as a public boating, walking, and wildlife gazing accessible area. The trail is not yet officially open, so I dragged my reluctant partner onto an empty and peaceful walk we had nearly to ourselves.

The silence was broken only by the osprey screeching as it sailed over the river, and the cows on the opposite shore lowing.... and the large man who came up behind us and asked if I had a mint on me.

I did sort of wish I had a dog with me, or mace.... or some sort of protection, but I kept my hand on my cell phone.
"No, sorry," I said.
"I had a big lunch," he explained, like I wanted to hear about it, "And have a bit of an upset stomach. Mints help."
Fortunately, he lumbered past us without nefarious intent, and we reveled in the beauty of the magnificent field of rocks and rapids that stretched across the galloping Catawba. Several herons were fishing among the rocks, and the osprey was swooping.

A little golf cart motored up to us, with a park patrol logo, and a kindly old man driving.
"Oh good!" I called out, relieved to see the trail was patrolled with the mint man still in sight. I am not sure how much protection an old kindly man would be, but any port in a storm.....
I stopped to chat with the man and he was one of those gold mines of humanity, filled with the treasures of a lifetime of loving, studying, and living in the very area we stood.
"Those rapids there, where the rocks are and the water so shallow is Nation's Ford," he explained. I knew Nations Ford was a highway in Charlotte, but I hadn't known it had been an actual place where the Catawba was forded, crossed.
"That's where Sherman crossed the Catawba in his march to the sea," he continued,"And it was part of the Catawba Indian's trail. In the Revolutionary War, it is where the British crossed as well. See that stream to the left of the island? There was an old grist mill up the stream- that's part of how Fort Mill got its name. And on that hill there by the stream, a fort was built to attack the British if they came upriver- so the area became known as Fort Mill."

His face crinkled with a huge proud smile, "This river is full of history!"
We both looked out at the gurgling river, cascading over the rocks, speaking the language of the ages.
"Can we kayak against the current and then float back to here, do you think?" I asked,"Since it is just my daughter and myself I wouldn't be able to shuttle the car to a take out point downriver."
"Oh yes," he said, "I canoe it all the time. The current looks fast, but it is not hard to paddle upstream as long as you don't run into rapids. I don't think there are any for at least a mile that way." He pointed upstream.

So I know what I plan to do for my birthday this week, and even my somewhat reluctant cohort agreed I should get to do what I want on my birthday. Who knows how many more I have left, and what better way to spend it than gossiping with a river that met Sherman, and Cornwallis, and watched our nation be born?

Isaiah 66:12
For this is what the Lord says: "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream

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