Fall leaf report 2012: crack smoking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I finally decided to take two days and head to the mountains to view the fantastic fall colors and do some hiking with Troy. The news reports gave glowing reviews of radiant leaf colors not seen for a decade. Reports of outstanding fall foliage were greatly overstated and may be the result of either hopeful merchants or crack-smoking leaf hunters.

Let’s review what good fall leaf color looks like.

Roaring Fork in a good fall color year (photo credit to Troy, not me)

Now, let’s see what exists there this year:

OK, but I will not be composing poetry rhapsodizing over the verdant fall colors.

For those of you who want to know, there is good color in a 1-mile stretch heading to Cades Cove (roughly 5 miles in) and there is some decent color in Greenbrier and around Chimney Tops. However, the crowds are unrelenting, the traffic is horrendous, and there is of course the horror known as Gatlinburg to contend with. I’d pass on this year. Unless you enjoy endless streams of Mississippians in Cadillacs cruising at 2 mph in Cades Cove slamming on their brakes every time they see a deer.

An oasis in a sea of fudge shops, Dukes of Hazard memorabilia and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Wikipedia needs better sources

Apparently, Wikipedia is looking to expand their sources on blowjob gestures.

Some things just really speak for themselves.[/caption]

Has anyone seen our weather?

Dear Death Valley,

It appears you left your park unlocked and allowed your weather to escape to Tennessee. I’m sure it’s just an oversight that you haven’t come to collect it yet. However, I am sweating in ways that I cannot describe. It’s the kind of hot where you drive down the street wearing a muumuu draped over the steering wheel so you can get cold refreshing air from the AC on your lady parts because your ass melted into the seat on contact. It also appears y’all stole our weather. We would like you to return it. Death Valley is sitting at a lovely 99 today, which is hot, but livable in Tennessee at this time of year.

A balmy 99 in the desert

By contrast, at 3:30 today, this is what the temperature is here in Nashville:


Come get your weather, assholes. I am not amused. Thanks.

True Blood, Season 5, Episode 2: Authority Always Wins. Yawn.

Last week I bitched about not enough naked vampire guys. This week, the only nakedness we got was in the form of a brief flash of a dead prostitute in 1905. WTF? Too much background on the Authority and not enough naked guys. I think the writers are losing touch with why we watch this show, and it’s not for a deep plot. Anyway, this week’s recap, in pictures.

First, Tara. Seriously. Who thought bringing Tara back as one of the undead was a good idea? First thing out of the ground and she’s trying to eat Sookie. Can we stake her yet?

Is anyone surprised by this?

Back at the 24 hour decomposing, pack leader diner, there’s a dispute brewing over who the Leader of the Pack is going to be.  I am pretty sure that Alcide doesn’t want to be their leader because he came from a neighborhood where the homes are attached to the ground by something more substantial than a garden hose and these low-rent motherfuckers are trailer-dwellers to be sure. Also, he is wearing clothes. This is a bad thing. He turns down the pack’s dinner invitation while looking all moody and hot. Let’s just cut to the chase. This scene would have been way better without a shirt on.

Why is he clothed?

Alcide, Luna and Sam leave, exit stage left.

What? Meatloaf again?

Meanwhile, Bill and Eric’s not so excellent adventure with the Authority lands them at the bunker. It’s noteworthy that the bunker is a run-down disaster that only invites urban explorers and codes citations. I think any Authority worth its salt would invest in more upkeep or at least try to blend in. If you want to be low profile, rent in a strip mall somewhere for God’s sake.

Put this secret compound next to Panera Bread in the suburbs and no one will notice anything.

Bill and Eric and Nora get tossed into a cell for a little light therapy.

Cage dancing at a rave or vampires melting in the sunlight? Your call.

After a little group torture, it’s time for the break-out sessions. Bill gets to go first. There’s a lot of questioning about vampire religion blah blah blah. Bill gets a little silver in his veins for his troubles.

“Remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?”

Bill doesn’t take the bait and so we get to visit Eric all tied up.

“No one expects the Inquisition”.

Eric doesn’t take the bait either and so we find our heroes on their knees (yes!) only to find out it’s to listen to a prayer session, in Aramaic (epic bummer). The writers are apparently going to hammer us with the whole religious fanaticism thing this year to go along with our moral parable. Yawn. There’s a lot of talk about Vampire bibles and Lilith (Fair?) but frankly, it was boring.

I wonder if the jeans were True Religion? Anyway, this was a waste of a chance to showcase a shirtless Eric. On his knees, no less.

This whole boring Authority thing lasted for almost twelve minutes. I’ve been to zoning meetings that had more excitement. I will say that the Authority members are nattily-attired. Nice deployment of the pocket squares gentlemen.

Vampires Have Talent!

The Authority members deliberate and are arguing about who gets to go forward to the finals in Las Vegas  live and it’s a split decision, but suddenly Bill offers up a trade. He tells the Authority that Russell Edgington lives and that he and Eric will serve as bait. This logic eludes me and after Chris Meloni offers up a patented serious Law and Order look and threatens to stake Bill, he decides to let them live. Everyone knows this is fatal to the Authority because hot, younger vampires always win and he has just written his own True Death warrant. Also, Bill, please, contact a competent colorist. This hair color of yours is not working.

Meanwhile, Lafayette is proving he’s the only one in the whole outfit with a brain when he is in the crypt standing over Tara with a stake. Sookie of course reads his mind and stops him from killing the whiny she-beast. “She’ll change” blah blah blah. Rigggghhhtttt. Seriously, someone needs to shut Sookie the fuck up. Lafayette has the right of it.

Please God, do it. End the whining now for all time.

Of course, Sookie talks him out of it. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth across the land. This means we will have to listen to the bitch whine for all eternity.

Tara is not grateful and says she will never forgive them. I believe her. We will hear about this forever.

Meanwhile, Sam and Luna limp back from the dinner known as her ex-husband. Then her mother-in-law shows up and begs to be part of the kid’s life. Luna is not amused. Sam tries to be reasonable. Luna throws a hissy and they break up. Yawn. Then later her kid is making a racket and she discovers someone has kidnapped her child and replaced it with a husky puppy with gold eyes. Oh wait, that’s just Emma shifting. So when you go out on the town, do you hire a babysitter or a dog walker? Just wondering.

Do not bitch at a man who has just taken an ass beating on your behalf. It’s impolite.

Pam as usual gets the line of the night. Digging out of the grave, she seems entertained that Tara is not a good vampire baby and only barely orders her not to eat Sookie or Lafayette. When she drags into work, her human white trash employee asks “why she’s all dirty” and Pam tells her “I’ve been in the ground. What’s your excuse?” Badda bing.

Nice dress. Love your fang marks. The nearly-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark is a spectacular touch, although that’s a bit high-end for the truly white trash. Good work, prop folks.

Pam is getting all misty-eyed and remembering back to her first meeting with Eric which naturally involved a dead guy and lots of blood. I must say, he looks quite well in formal attire. It almost makes up for the lack of naked Eric. But not quite.  It is so not a shock that Pam was a brothel madam.

Eric looks hot in a coat and tails.

The good Reverend came to Jessica’s frat party to try to buy Jason from her.  One 900 number-inspired monologue later and Steve has blown his wad and Jessica mocks him and tells him her friends are not for sale.  Then he goes and pulls her hair and the fight is on. Jessica kicks him to the curb and he gives her the ominous news that maybe Bill is no longer the king. Well, then, that’s very special. I guess our friend Steve whose private parts were all tingly and engorged is in tight so to speak with the Authority. More will surely be revealed.

I fucking love those purple shoes. Snaps to Jessica.

We do get some Jason feeling sorry for himself after a teenager comes in to beat his ass for doing his Mom and busting up his parents’ marriage. I must say, the whole Jason rethinking his sordid behavior is sad, the same kind of sad like when Van Halen went from “Aint Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” to “Why Can’t this Be Love” sad. Stop now, writers. Please. Don’t Hagar Jason.

Also, there’s more of that whole Terry and Arlene thing with the under-utilized and overly-clothed Scott Foley as Patrick. All the flashback crap from Iraq detracts from the central point of the show, which is to have morally-flexible people who are quite attractive having sex with each other. If you must insist on this plot line, in the name of all that is good and decent, let’s see some naked Foley.

Finally, the episode ends with a scene of gore and dismemberment and pans to what can only be a bloody, revolting Russell Edgington getting ready for his comeback. And, fade to the inevitable John Cougar song.  See you next week kids.

That’s no way to pick your friends.

Kayaking the Buffalo River in Tennessee: an exercise in humility

I was supposed to spend the weekend of the 8th in the Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountain National Park so I could finally see the synchronized fireflies that are unique to just this one small part of the national park and nowhere else in the world.  So it would of course figure that the early heat we have had meant the damned fireflies were done three days before we were supposed to get there. This meant I had to find something else to do. I decided we would drive to an area just past Hohenwald, Tennessee, to kayak a stretch of the Buffalo River. Hohenwald, Tennessee, is world-famous for an elephant sanctuary that you can’t visit.

Troy left me to plan the trip which meant no matter what I did, it would be inadequate planning. So I said fuck it and called a canoeing company for information. Of course no one answered, so I printed out what little information I could find on line, directions off of Google maps and we hit the road at 8. A few words to our friends at Google, your directions suck balls. Ditto to the Sprint phone GPS. Note to those who don’t know: avoid the Natchez Trace Parkway at all costs unless you are old and like to drive 50 the whole way. ** For those inclined, directions are below. You’re welcome.

Since I didn’t really plan for much, we showed up at Buffalo Canoeing which bills itself as ‘Christian Canoeing’.  Not sure how you canoe ‘Christian’ as opposed to Jewish canoeing, or Buddhist canoeing, but OK. Since it was a Friday, the place was largely deserted and a very nice man walked out on the porch. He had almost zero information on the river, runs, etc., but he told us we should run the Texas Bottoms run, which was about seven miles long. He offered to port our boats and us to the put in and allow us to leave our cars at the campsite, which is an unheard of luxury. (See previous descriptions of ignominious put ins). We took him up on the offer and we quickly found ourselves in the back seat of a Christian Ford Econoline.

This is the first time in recorded history my heathen self has been anywhere near a church van of any denomination. Miraculously, lightning did not strike.

The driver told us he was a school teacher and we made polite chit chat.  He told us he liked to sew but that he “wasn’t gay or nothin’.” Seriously. I assured him his manhood was not in question and that I merely marveled at anyone who could sew as I am prone to doing things like stapling buttons on my pants when they fall off. (Note: this does not work well). I have created a Google map for accurate directions to the put in so you won’t suffer finding it like we did.  Paddlers, you’re welcome.

This is where you put in.

We were told that it would take us three hours to do the run and that we needed to “watch for a fallen down bridge ” and that we needed to get out and portage the boats over it. That was all the instruction we got. In retrospect, a few more words to the wise would have been helpful. About 100 yards in, there’s a series of falls. Sadly, I had no idea they were coming and getting over them sucked. The water level was low and I high-centered it several times which sucked. Advice to the wise: go right in low water – it sucks less. In higher water, this is a Class II run.

The Buffalo River. There are no buffalo. There are buffalo fish. I think they should rename the river Buffalo Fish River. Buffalo River creates unrealistic expectations of buffalo.  There are cows. You will see lots of them on the banks and in some places, in the river.

Once we passed the first set of falls, we came across this gem:

Somewhere, an Indian is crying.

The problem with Tennessee is that apparently everyone feels free to use the rivers as their own personal landfill. It’s a lovely river, but it’s packed with trash. I quit counting tires after ten. Note to Tennesseans: when you don’t need something anymore, don’t throw it in the river. You will see a lot of blue herons, ducks, cows, gar, bass, etc. If you are very, very lucky, this stretch is reported to have it’s very own Sasquatch. My quest to see Bigfoot continues, alas, no ‘Squatch for Jean this trip.

Troy is ahead of me. This is so I can watch him eat it before I attempt rapids. I am good like that.

The river moves fairly fast and most of this stretch is rapids punctuated by flat still water stretches. This is awesome because I enjoy having a current move my carcass without much effort from me. On the down side, this creates the possibility of decapitation from strainers.  The Buffalo River is chock full of deadfall and strainers. Deadfall is paddling shorthand for dead trees and crap in the water that you hit in your boat which is bad. Strainers are things that allow water to pass but not kayakers, in my case, typically tree branches low over the water that I run into.  Since this river moves fairly fast and has lots of turns with strainers at the end, this is not a great river for novices.  Some people would call it foreshadowing with all the talk about strainers and deadfall, but it was inevitable that I was going to take a hit and dunking in the river. My Waterloo on the Buffalo came in the form of a series of drops with a quick hard turn to the left and a big tree sticking out to decapitate me. I saw it coming, and I could not paddle hard enough to avoid it.  As a wise man once said: “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way … turn.”  I kind of missed the turn part.

I hit this hard. It sucked. I went over and out into the water. That also sucked. Especially since Troy made it through and I didn’t.

Several large bruises and a tattered ego later, I crawled out of the river with boat in hand and had to pump water out. Troy managed to maintain a straight face for 30 seconds before he began making comments that will likely get him killed in his sleep.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Just after we passed under a large bridge, we came upon the ‘fallen bridge’ mentioned by the porter. He’s right – it’s best to get out of the boat and portage over the bridge. If you try to go over it, it’s not going to go well.

The water was way too low to try to go over this.

The other side of the fallen bridge. This is the halfway point.

The river flattens out a bit and you get to see nice pretty blue water. You will paddle past pastoral scenes of bucolic countryside. Cows may visit you. Rednecks may also suddenly appear unexpectedly around a bend of the river. They like to sit in chairs in the water and drink beer. By July, this river is reportedly packed with hordes of drunken fishermen. Be prepared.

Bluffs and blue water – almost to the end of the run

Troy and I saw two canoes and two middle-aged women arguing in the middle of the river on chairs and that was it, but it was a Friday. Do not expect to get this river to yourself, but it’s not as crowded as other middle Tennessee rivers.  There is no cell signal in this area, so try to avoid having an emergency.  Services are non-existent outside of Hohenwald so plan accordingly. Also, if you are looking for a nice remote place to bury your smart-assed husband’s body, this area has potential.  It’s hilly, heavily wooded and sparsely populated.

The end of the paddle at the Buffalo Canoeing.

**For those who want to know how to get to this place, at Exit 46 on I-65, head west toward Columbia.  Stay on this highway (Hwy 99 – a/k/a Bear Creek Road) until you get to Hampshire Pike and exit left, then stay on that all the way to Hohenwald (28 miles or so), take a left at Park Street (you have to look for the Hwy 99 sign as the street is not marked) take a quick jog left at E. 4th Ave (also unmarked, but follow the signs for Hwy 20) then take a quick right at Buffalo Road, otherwise known as Hwy 99 and stay on this road until you see a sign marked “Buffalo Canoeing” – you will know it when you see it. Ignore any other prompting from your GPS or Mapquest. You have been warned.

For paddlers who want more information, the Buffalo Canoeing owner is the son of the original owner and he works three jobs. This means he does not answer his phone much. Leave a message. Portage is available for $5 a person. Take them up on it.

True Blood, Season 5, Episode 1: Not enough naked guys

It is no secret that Sunday night during True Blood season is pretty much church for me. Everyone who wants to live knows not to bother me during that hour of communion with the television. Obviously after nine months with no True Blood, I was ramped for the premier. Troy fails to get my enthusiasm for this show, but to his credit, he kept his mouth shut for the entire show without more than a handful of stray comments. He gets to live.

To recap from last year’s finale: Alcide declared that Debbie was dead to him, Lafayette got possessed and ended up killing Jesus, Andy hooked up with Holly, Sookie broke up with Bill AND Eric, Debbie tried to kill Sookie but ended up shooting Tara and Sookie killed Debbie and dumped the body, Alcide killed Luna’s husband who killed Sam’s brother, Bill and Eric offed the annoying blonde from the Authority, Jason got it on with his best friend’s ex, Arlene and Terry’s devil baby burned their house down and Rene appears to be coming back from the beyond. That about covers it.

(Anyone who wants to see this later and not have the whole thing ruined should quit reading now and should definitely NOT look at the pictures).

Season 5 opens with Sookie on the floor cradling the dying Tara in her arms while Lafayette pretty much freaks the fuck out.  I had to agree with Troy that Tara kicking off was awesome because she whined incessantly and I just wanted to shut her up. Death is a pretty permanent shut the fuck up so I was down with it. Then Sookie had to go and ruin it by begging Pam to turn Tara into the walking undead. Fabulous. Now we have a walking undead whiner in the making.

Anyone with minimal brains can grasp that this is a very bad idea.

Pam feeds her some blood and then lays down for a dirt nap with Tara while wearing a yellow Wal-Mart sweat suit. Line of the night to Pam for the “If that’s not a demonstration of team spirit, I don’t know what is.”

Meanwhile, Eric and Bill have run into a spot of trouble. Problem number one from my vantage point is that they are wearing clothes, but I digress. It seems that last season when they killed the blonde mouthpiece of the Authority they irritated the powers that be.  Bill leaves Jessica in charge and he and Eric prepare to hide out.  Eric cleaning the house in super high-speed while Bill is on the phone with Jessica was a nice touch. Both Eric and Bill get a little jolt when they sense Sookie is in trouble, but Eric saves the day with a “Fuck Sookie” since she ditched them. They leave Sookie to her fate. Sadly for Bill and Eric, the Authority is there to nab them as they flee the house and they get netted with silver.  Considering the size of the nets, I can only speculate that these are really pricey nets. They get thrown in a trunk and driven off, then after some chit-chat, they blow the car up and get out. Bill gets injured and Eric comes to his rescue saying “I won’t leave without you.” WTF? These two can’t stand each other and now they’re BFFs?

Could you at least have taken his shirt off?

Just as they are about to get killed, along comes some new hot vampire who rescues them with a timely staking and suddenly Eric and the new girl are on. Bill gets to be all snarky here but Eric introduces his “sister” (insert Louisiana joke here) before he rams his tongue down her throat once again.

Ah, the romance of having a guy grab you by your hair all covered in blood and then ramming his tongue down your throat.

It looks like Eric’s broken heart lasted about an hour, so props to him for his quick emotional recovery. She takes them to a loading dock and they spend the day napping in a shipping container.  I didn’t see air conditioning, so I can only assume vamps don’t mind broiling mid-day Southern heat in a box. Naturally, as night falls Eric has to have sex with his sister while Bill waits outside with the occasional snarky comment. As they are getting it on, Eric’s phone goes off. Nice. It’s Alcide. Eric is so up to something, but it doesn’t matter what because the man is shirtless and zipping his pants. Let’s enjoy this for a moment:

Thank you.

They get new names and identities and are headed off to a new life, when explosions occur and the Authority is on them again. This is not good as it means more clothes for Eric.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Andy has scored with Holly and gets the awkward walk of shame to the squad car when her kids come back early from hunting:

Covering up your nekkid self with a fairy costume is on the humiliating side.

Why this is a story line I am unclear. Andy also has a test of convictions and fails when he allows the local judge to get him to let his relative off the hook for a ticket. This is boring too and does not lead to more naked Eric, Bill, Jason or Alcide. Yawn. Note to producers: we aren’t watching this for moral redemption. I’m just sayin’. Ditto the Terry and Arlene thing. More nakedness, less PTSD for the cook.

Getting back to the story, Jason answers the door naked and it’s crazy Rev. Steve Newlin, now sporting fangs. Jason gets glamored and lets the Rev inside to hear his tale, which turns out to be a declaration of gay vampire love. I will forever love the good Reverend for showing up just for this image:

Thank you Jesus. The perfect man. Naked and mouth covered with duct tape.

Thanking him for the honor of being the object of his gay vampire love, he declines and then the Reverend gets all pissy and threatens to bite him when Little Red Riding Hood shows up to save the day:

The sledgehammer of subtlety: the connotations of the red riding hood outfit on a vampire coming to save Jason were too obvious to be missed, writers. We got it.

Then they get it on. Later, Jessica goes all sorority girl and hosts a party at Bill’s house while he is out-of-town and Jason crashes it and bums her out, but they are both jealous of each other and they sing a tragic rendition of ‘Cherry Bomb’ on Guitar Hero and then Jason leaves with a stacked blonde but just takes her home claiming he has a new-found respect for women. Whatever.

Back at Chez Sookie, Alcide comes over to warn her that Russell Edginton is back and she is in danger. Sookie hides a tooth she missed in cleaning up her kitchen (guess Alcide’s werewolf nose is all stuffed up) and Alcide begs her to come with him so he can protect her. Sookie starts to confess she offed his girlfriend, but then Lafayette shows up and goes all ballistic on him and Alcide leaves. Still wearing his clothes. Sigh.

Q: What is wrong with this picture?
A: He’s wearing clothes.

Meanwhile, Sam is trying his best to take one for the team by claiming to have killed his girlfriend’s crazy ex to protect Alcide who helped him find his brother.  In exchange for leaving Luna and her daughter alone, Sam gets a beat down while the writers want us to unconsciously assimilate the crucifixion imagery where he literally turns the other cheek. Finally, he coughs up the location of the grave in exchange for permanent clemency for Luna and her daughter. Then the wolves take him to the body, which they dig up just in time for Alcide and Luna to show up (wearing clothes) and stop his execution, but the dead guy’s wolf parents eat their son’s decomposing corpse. Not sure what to make of that, but I can’t imagine there’s an Emily Post etiquette rule that covers what to do when werewolves devour the body of their dead child in front of you.

Where did he get his pants? He left his house with the werewolf totally naked. So they beat him once he puts his pants on? Whose sensibilities were offended? I vote for no pants.

And finally, there’s night fall and Lafayette and Sookie are waiting for Tara with a bottle of True Blood by the shallow grave. After some totally not so subtle foreshadowing of doom and after some pitiful squalling by Sookie who is constantly squalling, Tara emerges from the grave and she does not look friendly. Girlfriend, I told you this was a bad idea and now you have a mess on your hands.

The bitch is back and she is pissed off.

So much for the end of Tara.  I hope they have several sharpened spikes waiting in the wings.

The hazards of kayaking in Tennessee: ticks, sunburns and rednecks

It’s been a while since the Harrison household hit the water for a variety of reasons. Baxter’s death took the wind out of my sails to some extent and Troy’s continuing rotator cuff injury meant that there was little point in getting the kayaks out. This weekend, though, we decreed it was time. We mulled over a number of possibilities and decided to do a stretch of the Piney River in Hickman County, Tennessee, about an hour west of Nashville. We consulted the oracle, otherwise known as a paddling book for the Middle Tennessee area, and set upon a 6.9 mile run from the old Piney River bridge to the Walter Nunnelly bridge. The book indicates that you will arrive at an area where you can park next to the bridge and then descend a short embankment to put in to the river. After Troy and I skirmished over whether the area we found was indeed northwest of the bridge (thankyouverymuchTroyIwasright), we parked and did a quick recon. The book euphemistically refers to the put in area at the end as a “slide”. This translates to very difficult and steep muddy bank for those not in the know. We lugged the boats down. Then Troy changed his mind and we lugged the boats back up the hill. I complained. After another skirmish about violating someone’s property rights and entering on the east side of the river, we turned back and went back down with the boats to the edge of the river. We were greeted by an Australian cattle dog that gave us the “are you seriously going down there?” look. We went down there. Again.

Crawling down a steep bank with waist-high flora is guaranteed to get you two things: poison ivy and ticks. I marinated myself in Deet, but as it turned out, the ticks laughed at my feeble attempts to keep them at bay. One of them was later discovered lodged in my side where the sports bra was. I am reasonably confident I avoided the poison ivy, but it’s a bit early to say for certain. However, the end of the bank and my less than graceful entrance into the water pretty much guarantee that I washed off any sap I may have touched as we pretty much took headers into the river. Troy’s shoe got stuck deep in mud and there were some choice words that rhyme with brother trucker and similar words that came out of his mouth.

Had we paid $5 each, we could have ported to the private spot across the river.

After our ignominious start, we ambled down the river. For those who read this and actually want to know what the river is like, note that this was a warm, dry day in May after several days without rain. A good bit of the first part of the river is inches deep and there was some portage involved. Also cursing. Expect a fair bit of grinding over shallow rocky bars in the middle of the river in places and if you have a fiberglass kayak, I’m so sorry.  For novice kayakers, there are parts of this river that run at class IV+ to Class V and this is not a river to fuck with in high water or in specific stretches. Leave that to the pros and stick to the area between Piney River Road and the Piney River Campground and you really can’t hurt yourself without effort.

The start of the run next to the wreckage of the Old Piney River Bridge

In May of 2010, the middle Tennessee area was hit with catastrophic flooding and this river still shows the effects. Huge trees are down along the entirety of the river and there is a great deal of deadfall and some strainers.  At the beginning of the run, you can see the wreckage of the old bridge which was destroyed by the floodwaters. Also, the picture above gives you a good idea of just how shallow the river can get in places. Look ahead for the blue water to avoid getting high centered on a gravel bar. Also, this avoids hearing taunting comments from one’s husband who did not get high-centered on the gravel bar.

Shallow and wide at the beginning, punctuated with little rapid runs.

The Piney River drops at about 8 feet a mile so there are some nice little rapids you will have to contend with. Post-flood, there is a ton of debris you have to avoid and in higher water, this could be challenging and easily a class III run.  Most of this is in the class II category which is easy enough, but for the novice, you may find yourself tipped over multiple times. Fortunately, unless you knock yourself senseless, you won’t drown because these rapids aren’t more than a foot deep in most places.

The water is clear and moves along at a good 100 cfm. There are places to fish for those inclined and there are a lot of trout. Also, there are a lot of beer cans, which indicates redneck fishermen. Be prepared.

This river is lovely, but it’s also trashy. 99% of the people you will meet on the water are going to be beer-swilling rednecks with extended families carrying fishing gear, and smoking and drinking. Apparently, they simply heave their trash wherever they happen to be which is quite unfortunate. On the plus side, the old sewer plant no longer takes water in here.  Less than two miles from the end of the run, you will come upon what is clearly a Redneck Riviera. As you round a bend, you will see a campground on the right packed in good weather with the unwashed masses swimming in the river, drinking beer, smoking and engaging in redneck mating rituals. Paddle harder and get past this. Resist the urge to look as you might need therapy.

Troy lagging behind just past the Highway 48 bridge

On this run you will pass under three bridges. The first at Pinewood Road, the second at Highway 48 and the final one at the end which is Highway 230 where you have hopefully had the foresight to park your car or arrange for portage. Once you hit the Highway 48 bridge, you are roughly halfway done and the river gets wider and deeper, still punctuated by occasional rapids with steep turns and things you want to avoid.

Once you see these, you are in the home stretch.

You will know your run is at an end because you will see another bridge, but this one is packed with redneck kids. They like to jump off the bridge. This is Darwinism in action, but make sure you look up before you go under the bridge to get out on the left side. There are dumb kids up there and they might not realize you are coming underneath. No sense dying with them.

Walter Nunnelly bridge and home to jumping redneck kids

You will want to exit here as we are told the debris from the flood has made much of the rest of the trip to Vernon Bridge (2+ more miles down the river) largely impassable.  On your exit, you will immediately note the poor condition of the bridge while mentally wondering if you have to drive over it. The good news is, no, you do not have to drive over this bridge which looks like it’s at risk of imminent collapse from below.

“Big Guns vs Hot Rod FOREVER”. I have no idea what this means. Note the kids preparing to jump up above.

I was told by one of the kids that before the flood of 2010, you could just walk right up to spray paint the bridge, but now, they have to hang off the bridge to do it. Today’s youth, tomorrow’s convenience store clerks.

I am not a nice person.

At the end of the day, what I have is three ticks, one serious sunburn, majorly sore muscles and a new appreciation for urban dwellers.

I am not sure how to explain the line of sunburn demarcation.