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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

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