June 24 is a day I must remember every year. I don’t want to be that husband that remembers the morning of, that its the wife’s birthday. So far, so good – if memory serves. I consider myself a good gift guy and always try to put in a lot of thought when deciding on that perfect bday present. I’ve had some winners and I’ve have some humdingers. That’s right, I just busted out the word “humdingers”! After 15 years of marriage and a handful more of dating, the ideas have gotten a lot tougher. There’s only so many pieces of jewelry you can buy before it gets stale. And as adults, your wish list becomes a lot more expensive or you can just go out and buy it yourself. So I’ve run the gambit on the birthday surprise over the years.
Last year was kind of a big one. I was finally able to score some Dave Matthews tickets, which was a bucket list item for Alicia. One year, we went to Atlanta and classed it up at some fancy club named “Opera”. There was Def Leppard one year. There was the Buckhead birthday where we went wining and dining. This year, we’ll be going to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band at an old landmark bar in Little Five Points. While the gift ideas are constantly evolving and I’m having to start earlier and earlier on my thought process, one constant is present every June around this date. That would be “The Birthday Float”.
The float consists of a group of friends, that also love the outdoors and the creek, kayaking or tubing or boating down the Kinchafoonee Creek in Lee County. The trip usually starts at the Highway 32 bridge in Leesgurg and twists and turns down to an area behind our neighborhood just north of the Dougherty County line. The cast changes slightly from year to year but the general core remains the same. The Normans, Duvall’s and Shivers. The Lambs are usually in tow but a new baby this year will put them on the shelf. My constant compadre on the trip is Clemmy Johnny, Mi Hermano de Otra Madre. We usually lag back a bit to oversee what’s happening and carry on our immature conversations without eye rolls from the women folk. We also bring our favorite adult beverage mixers to help keep cool if the sun is too hot….or something like that. We also lag back from time to time to avoid the alcohol police who think maybe we’re moving too quickly through the cooler. There is no such thing I say. And CJ surely agrees with me.
We also like to spend some time out of the kayak along the trip. There is a lot to see and do along the Kinchafoonee besides kayak. There are numerous jumping spots, from the old rope swing at the Century Rd bridge to the 30 foot cliff just before we get to our takeout point. I still don’t know how deep it is there but I’ve tried to touch a couple of times to no avail. There are a couple other jumping spots but the climbing is a little tougher and our coherence plays a part in whether we attempt those or not. I do remember Michael doing a sweet flip out of a tree once that made me think for a split second that we were going to be headed to the ER. We’ve talked many people into taking the leap from the large cliff but have never gotten Alicia to take the plunge. Maybe this year is the year. Shaina even did it after about 45 minutes of coaxing. And this was after she flipped her float and lost all of her important items like her drivers license. Sorry Shaina.
There are also some cool natural wonders to see along the trip. There is a nice cave that leads from the creek up to the top of a small cliff that the ladies won’t let us jump from because they think it’s too shallow. There is also a pair of Oakleys in the water somewhere near the mouth of the cave. There is a waterfall near the end of the trip that is always a nice photo op. Depending on the water level there is also a little area of tiny rapids that are a fun change of pace from the usual slow current. But the highlight is always the blue hole. It’s a pretty decent sized pool of clear, cold spring water that invigorates the body and makes everyone a little nervous of being pushed in. It’s a hotspot on the creek and usually the most populated area as everyone stops to enjoy the cool water. It’s usually where we stop to get a bite to eat and stretch the legs.
Of course, we typically aren’t the only species of creature on the creek, enjoying the water and sun. The most common sighting is the Kinchafoonee Creek Monster, pictured above. He’s known to perform daring acts from any height and also occasionally shows off feats of strength by crushing tree branches in the gathering of firewood. There are also a variety of snakes and gators. The gators are usually less visible during the day but the snakes are more than ready to come out and dangle off of a tree limb. You must remain vigilant when around the trees. The quicker CJ and I get through those coolers, the less alert we are. There have probably been lots of times where I was only a few feet from a snake and never even knew it. It’s just the normal law of probabilities. It’s their habitat, it’s the south and it’s summertime.
The trip typically takes about 4-6 hours depending on the water level, how much time we spend at different stopping points and our overall pace. By the end of the float, we are all tired, sunburned and waterlogged. But we are also happy and relaxed. I always sleep really well the night after a float on the creek. The combination of physical exertion and heat will wear your body out and leave you just plain beat. It might be why we only do it a few times a year. There are people that do it every weekend or twice a month. But when we take our group to the creek, we are all in and push it to the limit. Some of us party pretty hard! But it’s such a great time.
Alicia loves being on the water and I can understand why when I go out there. I am typically more of a fisherman or swimmer but floating and taking in all of the surroundings is peaceful and a heavy reminder that we are living in a beautiful world. Getting on the creek on a hot summer day with cold drinks and good friends can make all of your problems go away for a while. And who doesn’t need that. We usually take 2-3 big group trips a year but the one on Alicia’s birthday is always a given. I’m thankful she kept poking me to me change my stubborn attitude about getting out on the creek from time to time. I still enjoy my cool air downtime but our trips on the Birthday Float always create memories and I’m sure this year will be the same. So we will once again be launching tomorrow to take this excursion with our group of misfits and I am looking forward to it. Our goals are to have fun, stay safe, enjoy the outdoors, leave nature as we find it (or better off) and see if we can find the bottom of the cooler by the end of the day. We’ll be enjoying a nice band, good food and companionship soon for the official birthday present. But tomorrow, we float….and dive….and swim….and love life and each other. Happy Birthday again Alicia and I’m looking forward to enjoying another float with you!