By Scott Morris
With each paddle stroke, we inch across the choppy Tennessee River toward the island ahead.
Around the arrowhead-shaped point — we hope — the shallow waters, high bluffs and narrow passageway of Coffee Slough will offer protection from the waves and stiff autumn breeze.
This is no lazy downstream float on the gentle currents of a creek. We are working against the wind with white caps lapping over the tops of our kayaks. A good distance behind us, two-in-a-canoe sit higher in the wind, making them work even harder as they cross the main channel.
What could be worth this labor when we could be relaxing in the recliner with a bag of barbecue potato chips, waiting for the next football game to kick off? I’m not sure. I haven’t been here before.
And then I see it.
The fall colors are aglow against the limestone cliffs of Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge. The deep blue sky and wisps of white clouds complete the landscape.
And I am here — inside this work of art — immersed in 360 degrees of the most beautiful scenery a person could imagine, just a few miles from my home in Florence, Alabama.
I breathe in the cold October air and wonder at the strange brownish orange trees that lie in the distance. As we paddle closer, we see the giant bases of cypress trees exposed by the low water levels from the annual drawdown by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Soon we are paddling between these trees, zigzagging our way through and around them just for the fun of it. Overhead, their brown-orange needles explain the color we had seen before.
Two-in-a-canoe catch up to us. We determine a spot below the bluffs for our lunch and recovery before the long paddle back to Pride Landing.
The average person is allotted 78 autumns. Seventy-eight chances to absorb the magnificence of fall. Somehow, 78 doesn’t seem like enough. I will savor the ones that are left.
By Wayne Williams
Kayaks moving over the rolling waters of the slough
Paddle blades glistening in the winter sun
Tall cypress standing with their knees in the water
Pristine white egrets wading carefully along the shore
Crows yakking at each other the latest gossip
A hawk gliding on the slightest thermal rising higher and higher
In that moment all that is is that moment caught
Like a photograph etched in memory