Many of my friends were celebrating a glorious November Saturday afternoon in Pine Mountain watching the Steeplechase. Some were in Jacksonville, Fla., watching the Georgia-Florida game on a fall day made for college football.
I decided to take the road less traveled. And that road led right into the middle of the Chattahoochee River.
First of all, the facts from our good friends at the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Ga. it was 70 degrees at noon and the water was a chilly 68 degrees.
Never miss a local story.
The water temperature is an important element of this story.
Our Whitewater Express guide, Jeremy he of the red beard, pink toenails and carefree West Virginia mountainman demeanor got us through the upper part of the course without incident.
The new rapid just below the Bibb City dam is challenging. They call it Ambush for a reason you are in the middle of it just six paddle strokes into the adventure. At low-flow, the opening rapid provides a much-needed thrill at the top of the course.
But this isn’t about Ambush, this is about Pemberton Falls, the newly redesigned rapid just below the 14th Street pedestrian bridge. Last month, workers took out some possible foot entrapments caused by the remnants of an old wooden dam and took the time to reshape the entrance to the rapid.
At low flow, Pemberton Falls, named for Coca-Cola founder John Pemberton, is now the best rapid on the course. And it is in the perfect location.
When we went through it Saturday, there were a couple of dozen people watching from the pedestrian bridge one of them even wished us luck. Even more folks were lining the Phenix City riverwalk. And they got a nice view of four Ledger-Enquirer journalists taking a little swim. After successfully getting us through Pemberton Falls, Jeremy decided to take us back up river and play a little in the rapid.
In retrospect, it was a bad idea. Unless, of course, Jeremy was trying to get us wet, and in that case it was a brilliant idea.
We went back into the rapid sideways, and immediately flipped.
The water was cold, but tolerable. That was a good thing because it took a few minutes to collect us. Tim Chitwood flushed out of the rapid toward the 13th Street bridge. Dimon Kendrick-Holmes was the first one Jeremy picked up, and they had to paddle against the flow to get to me and Mike Owen.
Owen and I were in the relative safety of an eddy on the Alabama side. The only problem was we couldn’t swim out of it, get into the current and float downstream.
After a few minutes, it all ended well. The swim was refreshing.
I think I may do it again New Year’s Day. Anyone interested?
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