Bliss on the Little River

Monday, 10 September 2012
East Tennessee has its faults, many of them, but it is hard to find a more beautiful area in the United States for outdoor fun in a forest/mountainous region.

Here's why: temperatures are rarely, if ever, extreme in the lower elevations. It is unlikely that you will die unless you're camping in the dead of winter and by a fluke, it is 10 below zero. Since the Appalachians are so old, there are relatively few mountain peaks that humans cannot conquer, and my goodness, the waterways here are pristine, numerous and full of gorgeous coves, rapids, natural bends and deep, crisp pools.

The view from my tent

I almost hate to blog about River John's Island in Maryville, Tennessee because more people are going to find out about it and book the few remaining weekends for 2013. Alas, as a writer, I just cannot shut up (to the dismay of close friends and family).

This is how it works: John owns a lovely island in the Little River in Maryville. It is wooded, beautiful and surrounded by rushing water that is not too deep but certainly deep enough for canoes and kayaks. There is short bridge leading to the island and John's home is on the bank of the river so he is always around if he is needed. People will reserve an entire weekend for just $400 for the entire island and invite as many friends as they want. We all showed up around 4pm Friday and had such a nice time.

I went with a fun group made up of folks that have been visiting River John's for quite some time. Their rules are simple: everyone pitches their own tent or pop-up, packs their own food and beverages and cleans up after themselves, taking their own trash when they leave on Sunday. There are no showers or bathroom facilities but John has a couple of portable toilets if needed. So yes, in a way, we were certainly roughing it.

My campsite

I'll admit, in a million years I never would have dreamed that I would enjoy camping. Certainly in my 20s, I would have lifted my nose at the idea of sleeping on the ground and not having electricity for a hair straightener. However, after living in Eugene, Oregon for two years and camping in the gorgeous national parks there, I have gained an appreciation for the outdoors. I enjoy building a fire, putting up a tent and listening to nature while sitting with friends and for those that enjoy adult bevies, camping is a good way to ensure that no one drives after drinking. 

Our fire - tended to by almost everyone

Speaking of the sounds of nature, though, I'm clearly still a city girl. Each night, I bedded down on my little mattress in my tent around 11pm. I could hear the river rushing all around and the occasional owl in the distance. With the cool temperatures and peaceful surroundings, sleep came easily. Nature can be very peaceful. So, you can imagine my absolute terror when I was jolted out of a deep sleep early Saturday morning by three powerful gun shots. 

Eyes wide open in the darkness, I somehow willed my heart to start beating again. The shooting seemed to be coming from just across the river. I reached for my cell phone trying not to make a sound while my mind systematically constructed an escape plan. My phone showed that it was 6am but there was no glow yet signifying the rising of the sun. Steve (a good friend) had pitched his tent nearby and I texted him, not caring about the hour. "Omg someone just shot someone nearby. Should we make a run for our cars or call 911?" A few minutes later (felt like hours), I actually heard him laugh from his tent. What the HECK? How could someone laugh when a person was likely just killed in cold blood? The answer came back via text. "I think someone is just out looking for breakfast." Slowly it dawned on me. Hunters. 

My heart rate eventually returned to normal but every time I was about to drift off again... pow! pow! pow! Apparently it is dove season. Do NOT go camping during dove season unless you are in a protected national or state park. :)

1 comment

LizP said...

I'm glad that your two years in Eugene had a postive effect :-)