Day 24 – Pickwick, TN

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Today is my last day in Tennessee as I make my way into the Tombigbee Canal and continue my southward journey. There will be about 14 locks ahead, and if there is easy portage and too many barges to wait for I might take the portage option, or I might lock through. I had portaged the huge Kentucky Dam lock, but opted for ease to lock through the large Pickwick Lock.

It was a little daunting, paddling into that lock. The wind which had been at my back and helped me fly over intensifying current because of the dam releases, swirled around and blasted me in the chamber as I paddled in and tried to throw a line over the floating bollard thing the floats up and down with the water level. I had been told I couldn’t use those at past locks, because sometimes they get stuck and will sink, taking a vessel less than 30 ft down with them. But there really were no options, so I just made sure I watched it the entire time and the first sense of something amiss and I’d drop my line, which I let dangle so as not to get tangled up in it.

Young fish swirled about madly in and around the bollard. The guys at the lock brought me up easy, and it was the first time I ever had such a good ride going up a lock. Usually, especially with these big locks, the turbulence really has you working your legs to keep the canoe from smashing into the wall. This time going up was as easy as going down. The hardest part being tossing the line over the top of the bollard.

I’m glad I was able to lock through yesterday, tho it sure does kill your time, because we have the sweetest spot here at the marina and state park above the dam. Our accommodations tomorrow look a little rough. We will probably have no service. This place is practically heaven. We are also enjoying a cold spell, which will surely  end as the hurricane currently swamping Florida moves up the coast pushes more warm moist air with it.

We’ve got our eyes on the weather. I just saw a quote “100’s of thousands without power” in Florida. I guess no matter what you power your central power plant with, if a hurricane or tornado knocks out the poles or floods the power plants you ain’t got nothing. The future is gonna be for those that think ahead, shrink the grid and generate as much of their own power through clean, sustainable energy sources so that in times of crisis they can still have the power they think they need. I say “think they need” because generally speaking, we Americans waste a lot.  We waste our precious water, we waste energy (which wastes water, by the way!), we waste so much. One blessings of these trips, for my own head, is you see how little you actually really need to live.

I say this knowing full well my iPhone is charging off a battery source, my waterproof cell is on its battery source, and my VHF radio (needed for locks and communicating with the tows), and GoPro (totally a “fluff item”) are charging at the camp’s outlet. The light I used to write by in my journal is solar powered, and of course there is no AC or refrigeration for our food, but our needs are being met. I’m not saying this should be a way of live tho it is for some and I love it, but it does make you realize how little you actually do need.

As I paddle today I’ll be thinking about the folks in North Dakota. If you haven’t been following them, you should. @RedWarriorCamp on Twitter is a great place to start. The Tribal Nations are rising up against a pipeline going through their territory which would jeopardize their water, land, and health. They’ve said “enough is enough,” and they are asking for solidarity actions.

I do believe that the time has come to demand clean water and real protection of our natural resources which seem to be in a free for all status if you are a fossil fuel interest related industry. Look at Flint, look at all our older cities and communities, we need clean water sources and new water pipelines, not more gas and oil pipelines. You can live without fossil fuels, you cannot live without water.

The people without power in Florida will deal without power, hospitals and nursing homes will use their generators, but watch the Red Cross trucks scrambling to bring in water. I am praying this storm doesn’t get stronger as it moves over the hot inland areas, that it doesn’t wreck more lives. And then there’s one behind it that could not just derail my plans to paddle to NOLA, but could derail more lives right along with it.

We are definitely at a defining moment in our country’s history, every bit as defining as the Revolutionary and Civil wars. We can keep denying what we are doing to our planet, our water, or we can meet this challenge head on. We cannot afford to quake in fear and turn back to the status quo. We need to put our game faces on and turn our attention to the tasks at hand, protect our water, protect our people, and move this great country forward. We totally got this.

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