Fifteen paddlers signed up to experience 2 days on the New River, camping overnight at Campsite 17 (previously numbered campsite 7).
The group came from Tallahassee west to Pensacola and north to Montgomery. Some camped the night before to make the early meet-up in Sumatra. From the meet-up, the group drove to the put-in on sandy forestry roads, dropped off the boats, and drivers drove their cars to the take-out on day 2. The drivers were returned to the put-in in an outfitter’s van. In normal shuttles, the car(s) carrying the drivers back would be parked at the put-in and retrieved at the end of the paddle. However, the put-in spot seems to be a local party spot with beer cans and bottles strewn around. And this was a weekend.
Those who remained at the put-in while the drivers drove their cars to the final take-out spot, carried the kayaks down a steep, sandy path to the creek.
When the drivers returned, the trip was on.
The temperature was perfect, the sky was blue, the water 18 inches lower. Uh…oh, the 4 scouts the previous week thought — those scoot-overs are not going to be be scootable.
A section of the river looks like a sculpture garden, formed by wind and water.
As we paddled, the scouts were befuddled — this was turning to be an paddle without the challenges of the previous week. Where were all those scoot-overs, pull-overs, and there was only one limbo? The adventure we had talked up was not to be had — we’ve had more technical and tougher paddles in other frequently paddled creeks and rivers.
We got to the campsite with lots of time for people to set up their tents, set up their chairs and socialize. Each person prepared her/his own meal, the logs in the fire pit lit. Those who were tired went into their tents, the campfire addicts monitored the fire and enjoyed the starry evening. We lucked out on the weather!
The next day, for the final, easy 12 miles downriver, we didn’t have to rush to get on the river, stopped for lunch at Gully Branch, and proceeded the rest of the New River, no barriers, no strainers, no fallen trees. That section was as advertised.
I asked a paddler what he thought of the paddle: “Piece of cake”.
If we do it in 2018, we probably should not scout — let every paddler enjoy an uncleared, un-scouted adventure. That’s probably the best way to enjoy the upper section of the New.