Tennessee postpones rising again

Our legislature here in the fair state of Tennessee in its infinite wisdom has decided that the proposed bill (House Bill 2120) which would make attending a dog fight a felony offense needs to be sent back to the lovely folks on the Agriculture committee. Where they know it will die. One can only speculate that legislators in Tennessee are afraid this may affect their friends and family.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the geniuses who continue to insist that Islam is not a religion are now trying to ensure that there will be no Muslim cemetery in Murfreesboro. Watch these loons flip out on a reporter. I am especially fond of the old man who can’t manage verb-noun agreement with this gem of a sentence: “You’re the ones that’s lying”. Folks I think we need to worry less about where Muslims want to bury their dead and more about where we can find ten educated people. I fear we might not be able to scrape that many together in some parts of our state.

Meanwhile, the good people of the State of Maine managed to convict someone and send them to prison for eight months for shooting a dog with a BB gun. Seriously, prison. Here, the legislature would probably send them a medal. Now all I need to complete the perfection is some redneck to tell me I need to quit bagging on the South because it’s gonna rise again and they don’t need uppity women telling them what to do. So even though I am a Southerner, I must wave Dixie and pretend this state is not run by backwoods, uneducated idiots. Suck it. Feel free to let me know when you want to schedule our public debate. I’m totally happy to do that to give you a chance to make your point, but my money’s on me in that battle.

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:

wtf?

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

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.

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.

Feuding in the holler

I have been in trial almost non-stop for nearly four weeks. This makes me unhappy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is an appalling lack of time to do anything remotely interesting and fun.

I could be here. Sadly, I'm not.

Instead, I am in rural Tennessee in court dealing with a land feud between a family whose tree has zero branches and a Californian who moved in to this county to buy acreage for horses. Guess which side the judge is (distantly) related to?

I believe this family may actually be related to the Hatfields.

Some actual quotes from the witnesses:

“I was raised up in that there holler by my sister, Mama”.

“It’s always been known that we owned that there land since my great great great grandpappy got it for fightin’ in the War of 1812.”

“We was squirrel huntin’ up yonder when she throwed me off the property.”

Tennessee is beautiful, but man, we have some dumb ass people living in the woods.

On behalf of those who can string together a noun and a verb, I apologize to the world at large for the backwoods parts of the state of Tennessee.  Tennessee may be the Volunteer State, but I think we need to volunteer to teach everyone who lives here how to read before we do anything else.

A note to our esteemed friends at the Fish and Wildlife: mountain lions are alive and well here

Earlier this year, our friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared eastern mountain lions extinct.  Across Tennessee, we all laughed. Here in heavily populated middle Tennessee in the suburbs of Nashville, we all know someone who knows someone who has seen a mountain lion. Some of us have seen them ourselves.  This poor dog came in to rescue with Big Fluffy Dog Rescue after a very clear mountain lion attack and she took the worst of it defending her flock:

Athena after her tangle with a mountain lion

Still, after all the sightings and all the evidence (puncture and slash marks on Athena, tracks, etc), the Fish and Wildlife people said there are no mountain lions here.  I wonder how they will explain this:

Oversized house cat hit on Hwy 109 near Gallatin TN on Tuesday, October 11

I think we’re going to need more catnip.

Note: Athena was attacked in 2008. She’s fine now and living large as a house pet. The picture needs proper attribution as I did not take it, but I am not sure who did. Suffice it to say, it’s not me, but the original can be found here.

I am too weak to hike Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Every spring when the trees turn green and the flowers bloom, I get the itch to hike. This is not an itch I had before I married Troy as I was very much a city girl who smoked, wore black and swilled martinis regularly. Once married, I developed a fondness for seeing places that you have to work to get to and that most people are too lazy to ever see. This fondess is in direct conflict with my intrinsic laziness and my loathing for sweating, chafing, etc. Since late April, I have been trying to get a weekend free to hike Burgess Falls, which is a picturesque little state park an hour or so east of Nashville not far from Cookeville, Tennessee. Since the state parks allow dogs on trails, we take our more athletically-inclined dogs with us.

Only two get to go hiking. Also, I suck at vacuuming.

The weather has been a problem this year. Lots of tornadoes, tons of flooding. I am not fond of the duck and cover approach to outdoor events, so it took a while to get a weekend when it wasn’t raining, hailing, blowing, etc. Finally, we loaded up and headed out. As someone with legendarily bad knees, this hike is one I can even manage without a lot of trouble. However, I failed to consider the effects of taking chemo dugs on my hiking abilities. (note to readers: I do not have cancer, I have lupus which sucks, but not nearly as badly as cancer). I take a cocktail of things to keep the lupus at bay and recently started on the chemo route again when my eyes started to swell and other drugs did not work.  On the plus side, I no longer look like an extra from Twilight with blood red eyes. On the downside, I can’t drink martinis and I find that I am really missing the red blood cells I used to have in abundance.

Burgess Falls is a gorgeous hike and with all the rain, the falls are in full show:

Burgess Falls, Lower Cascade

This is the easy part and pretty much the first thing you see in the parking lot. The climb up starts after this:

Burgess Falls, Middle Falls

Getting to Middle Falls requires a mild cardio workout with lots of steps and a steady incline over a short .5 mile climb. On chemo, it’s painful. When I have to rest at the overlook, this is a problem. I really miss my red blood cells.

At the end of the trail, you see the big falls which are really quite impressive and a good 50+ feet tall:

Burgess Falls, the reward for breathing hard at the end of the trail

Inexplicably, the trail was heavily populated by tourists from India, some of them swathed in saris and sandals, which I do not consider a good choice for hiking on rocky trails. Their children all wanted to pet Bess and Zoe:

Zoe, Bess and their Daddy pose for the camera, and Indians.

One last little bit of pretty:

Cascade at Burgess Falls

A simple little 1.5 miles and I am nearly defeated. This bodes badly for the upcoming trip to Yosemite. Encroaching old age sucks.