At the end of every week, I load my kayak onto my truck and hit the road. I anxiously make the short, one-hour drive to my favorite “weekend getaway.” This special place is an oasis of the simpler things, in a world which seems to revolve around money and jobs. This stretch of serene whitewater starts high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and ends up flowing through beautiful Ellijay, Georgia. This river is known as “The Cartecay.” It holds a special place in my heart. It is where my best friends and I met, and where we set up camp for our weekends of whitewater kayaking. We set up our tents and hammocks in a small clearing by the river, which radiates with good vibes. Like hobbits in The Shire, we make ourselves at home. A thick shield of hardwoods and underbrush serve as a barrier between the outside world and us. The cool, clear water of the river flows endlessly through the tranquil setting. It, along with the fire which blazes, eases the mind. This beautiful place allows me to forget about the troubles of routine life. There is no judgment here. There is only acceptance. Here, I am safe in Mother Nature’s arms.
The river features several whitewater rapids just upstream from our campsite. Slick, moss-covered boulders resting in the path of the flowing water have created challenging, but safe class II+ rapids. As the water nears these large rocks it picks up speed, while being funneled to the path of least resistance. The roaring whitewater rushing over the boulders creates a scene of organized chaos. This is where the raw power and freedom of nature can be experienced first-hand. These rapids are where many people fall in love with the sport of kayaking. Watching people conquer their fears and paddle through these hidden gems is amazing. With both hands thrust toward the sky, they often let out a barbaric yelp of victory. The passion pulsating through their body at that moment is what keeps them coming back.
The rapids and camping at the Cartecay are outstanding, but the people are what really make it so special. This group of twenty or so misfits was complete strangers to me just a year ago. Today, they are closer than family. Our bond is unbreakable. We are all from different walks of life, but somehow we mesh seamlessly. When we are together at the Cartecay, the problems of the routine world escape me. I walk around as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I am truly happy.
Most humans desire something to help them escape the stresses and monotony of routine life. Luckily, I have found a place only a short drive away which caters to my every need. The Cartecay has given me far more than I could have ever expected. It provides a campground which is a perfect spot for my group of friends to relax after a fun day on the river. The very act of spending time in nature is relaxing and good for the soul. The lessons to be learned at such a place are endless. Every return trip is an adventure in progress. I will forever cherish the Cartecay River.
Written By Lyle Morris