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Done, but just beginning

Posted by on February 14, 2013

Wednesday, 2/13/2013: 0.1 mile
Trip: 1,502.7 miles

I officially finished the trip at Elvin and Nancy Hilyer’s house Wednesday afternoon by paddling up to Chuck Shoals to the incredibly warm welcome of a crowd of friends and supporters. The really big surprise was seeing daughters, Erin and Sarah, who came over from Auburn, Alabama. Elvin, Nancy, and Andy Leavitt had arranged the party that followed, and it was a doozy. Elvin and Nancy opened their beautiful home to us all and threw a fine party!

So, what’s left? There are still some small river segments that flooding kept me from paddling, and, while i have paddled these in the downstream direction before, i still intend to go back and paddle them upriver when waters recede to a manageable level. But the big thing is to share what I have learned and to find more to glean from the trip. There is a whole book of water quality data waiting to be analyzed, but the big task will be writing. I have notes stored in two books, on a digital recorder, in this blog, and in hundreds of photographs. In addition to sorting and trying to make sense of all of this stuff, I plan to retrace part of my route by car in April, with my Sea Wind canoe on the roof, of course, to visit a few of my new friends from the trip, to paddle those missed sections, and to take more photographs. I will have already begun writing, so I should have a good idea of what I need to photograph.

As part of this assembling of data effort, I will also begin to weave my experiences into my class material. I will be back in the classroom in August, and I anticipate incorporating some of what I have learned into those classes.

I have heard from a lot of you folks who have followed my trip via this blog, and I thank you. I suspect and hope that many more have found some value here. This trip has been about many things, but at its core, it has been about discovery. I set out to make some scientific discoveries, to learn first-hand what was out there on these rivers, and to discover what I had inside me to meet the challenges that I knew I would encounter. The journey provided all of that, but it provided a whole ‘nother element of discovery that I was not expecting, and that was the people. I met a lot of fascinating people along the way, people with all sorts of backgrounds, occupations, belief systems, and economic circumstances, but I found that I formed bonds of one sort or another with many of them, and I found nearly all of them to be open and generous. That was my greatest discovery, I suppose, and the one that I treasure most.

I thank all of you who have shared the trip with me. Some have come to my aid along the way, some have offered their comments on the blog, by email, or by phone, and many have not advertised their participation, but have been there none the less. I thank you all and hope that you have found something worthwhile in my journey.

Dr. Robert C. Fuller
University of North Georgia

5 Responses to Done, but just beginning

  1. Elvin Hilyer

    Welcome home, Robert. Thanks for the academic curiosity, vision, courage, tenacity, and physical stamina to give us armchairists a wonderful vicarious enjoyment of a modern-day adventure on the 1,500 mile extensions of two rivers that originate in our home county and that are important to study and precious to preserve. Elvin

  2. Jean Fuller Stevens

    Robert – so happy to hear you safely made it to the end ! Looks like there sh be several books to come out of this – maybe you should retire” and become a writer. I read a great little book abt the same type of trip – “Far Appalachia – Following the New River North” by Noah Adams. The guy started at the headwaters near Boone and followed it through Virginia & West Virginia.We live quite near the New River in NC so I could relate to the NC part. You should read it if you haven’t yet.
    Anyway, get some rest & enjoy the spring !

  3. randall lackey

    It looks like you still have a great deal of work and further enjoyment to be had in
    Preparing this great learning adventure for a book.I certainly enjoyed the oppourtunity to get to meet you as well as enjoy and learn from following your postings daily.I had intended on doing so already but i’ll get the couple pictures that I took of you in Montgomery e-mailed to you.Take care friend.

  4. Barbara Howerton

    So glad you are home and your trip was so successful! Amazing accomplishment.

  5. Shae Hoschek

    Congratulations Dr. Fuller!

    I have enjoyed following your trip on this blog. I found it fascinating as a paddler and a water resources engineer. To do a trip like this just for the sake of doing it is amazing in itself and to add water quality data collection to it only adds to the awesomeness of what you just accomplished. I look forward to reading and learning more about this trip in the future. I found extra value in this blog fantasizing about completing future long distance paddle adventures myself.

    Congratulations again,
    Shae Hoschek

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