Sept. 5 Near Calhoun, Georgia—Today, I took a side trip to explore the Coosawattee River. The Coosawattee is formed by the Cartecay and Ellijay rivers in Ellijay. The Coosawattee, in turn, joins the Conasauga to form the Oostanaula. My trip today began at the re-regulation dam below Carter’s Lake. , The Coosawattee was considered one of the premiere whitewater rivers in the state, but Carter’s Lake now covers most of the river’s legendary rapids.
The Coosawattee’s swift water made today’s 13 mile paddle an easy ride. The rains that muddied the lower Conasauga had little effect on the Coosawattee and the water was clear in the shoals and a deep emerald in the pools. The banks of the Coosawattee are lined with picturesque rock outcroppings and cliffs.
Once again, I saw an abundance of wildlife. Traveling solo, I make very little noise and I have been able to see things those traveling in groups usually don’t see. Like many, I view animals as being very regal and majestic in their natural habitat. My travels have supported this view, but I have also discovered that these majestic animals can be just as clumsy and awkward as humans.
Each day during this trip, I have spooked dozens of turtles off logs and rocks, and I still laugh every time at their clumsy tumbles to the river. I’ve seen back flips, front flips, roll overs, belly flops, pushing, shoving, and sliding, but the turtles have yet to give a slick dive.
On another occasion, I snuck up on a muskrat. As I focused in on it with my camera, it noticed me and made a run for its hole. It swam in four different directions before finding the way to its den.
Today, a gizzard shad was making terrific leaps out of the water. It got about five good jumps in before smacking head first into my canoe. I also watched as osprey have similar luck. After soaring through the air, it lighted on a limb of a tall tree. The limb promptly broke, and the osprey flapped away with as much grace as I’ve used in avoiding the hundreds of horse flies I’ve encountered.
A few days ago I came across a box turtle swimming across the river. It looked like a small child wearing floaties in pool as its limbs flailed around while it bobbed up and down from the buoyancy of its shell.
But of all my entertaining animal encounters, by far the most awkward and clumsy I witnessed was the 20 wild turkeys flying through the trees. The large birds were slipping and sliding all over the limbs, miraculously staying balanced. Each time one flew to a new tree it sounded like a helicopter, and it seemed they would take all the leaves in the forest with them. I saw more limbs break from turkeys than I did throughout the entire series of heavy thunderstorms I paddled through.
It is nice to know that wildlife can possess the same endearing flaws as humans. I have not been so graceful myself. If the turkeys could write a blog, they would tell about the time I was standing up and paddling, hit a rock, and fell face first into my canoe…or perhaps the time I fell 20 feet down a bank covering myself in mud from head to foot.