October 10-17, 2012
When we left Chattanooga, we turned around and retraced the route we had taken the week before. There aren’t many alternatives on a river, after all. With few exceptions, it’s pretty much up or down.
We were lucky to have a sunnier day traveling through the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee than we’d had coming up. The leaf colors were further along, too, but it looked like we were still a week or so too early for peak colors.
We passed very little river traffic along the way. This was one of the few boats we saw. It was an excursion boat that we saw in Chattanooga the day we arrived there.
We had already decided that on our return trip we would skip the unlovely Hales Bar Marina and go all the way to Goose Pond in Scottsboro. We waved to the remains of the old Hales Bar dam and passed on by.
We arrived at Goose Pond to find Next To Me waiting to catch our lines. Sadly, they had incurred a prop boo-boo earlier in the day and needed to have the boat hauled at Goose Pond for repairs. But it gave us a chance to have another nice docktail time with Cathryn and Bob and his sister and brother-in-law, Lynn and David, who were still traveling with them.
We also returned to the Docks restaurant on site, and enjoyed another good meal and beautiful sunset.
The next day we said good-bye to Next To Me and returned to the Lake Guntersville Yacht Club, where we would stay for five nights, filling some time before heading to Joe Wheeler for the Looper Rendezvous the next week. LGYC is such a pretty and convenient spot, and the members and staff were so friendly and helpful. They even invited us Big Ten folks to an SEC football and chili party.
Staying in Guntersville a second time also gave us a chance to visit again with Craig’s Hyco colleagues (Robin and Marlena Helms, Al Bennett, and Nick and Leslie Bonds). We also had dinner again with AGLCA friends Jack and Jane Conway.
On Saturday we took the courtesy car into downtown Guntersville and explored the local sights, like Fants Department Store – a real, old-style independent department store – and Mike’s Warehouse, which offers a mind-boggling and randomly organized assortment of just about anything you might need or didn’t even know you needed. Craig did find the stiff-bristled, long-handled brush for deck scrubbing that he had been searching for unsuccessfully for weeks. I found absolutely nothing, but I have to admit I didn’t look too hard.
On Sunday we went to church at the Guntersville Presbyterian Church, c. 1890. Small but very welcoming congregation. And on Monday we had the boat washed and waxed. It was fun to watch while others worked on the boat for a change!
Our last morning in Guntersville, we did a final load of laundry, filled up with diesel and pumped out the holding tanks. To quote friend Marc from Marc’s Ark, “a Looper’s happiest days are when you’re fueled up, pumped out and all your laundry is clean!” How true!
Jane Conway joined us on board for our trip from Guntersville to Ditto Landing near Huntsville. We were so happy to have her join us. Unfortunately, Jack had a meeting in Huntsville that day and couldn’t join the cruise, but he did meet us at Ditto Landing and we had dinner together that night.
One of the best things that happened on our trip back downriver was meeting Gold Loopers Tom and Patsy Conrad on their boat True North as we all floated around waiting for the Guntersville Lock to open. Tom is known in Looper circles as the Gulf crossing guru – he posts weather and Gulf water observations/recommendations from their home in Pensacola during the typical Looper crossing season starting in November. More than that, they are both wonderful people whom we spent a lot of time with for the next several days and throughout the Rendezvous and whom we are now grateful to call our friends. Not the first example and certainly won’t be the last of how the Loop brings new friends and old friends together.
On Wednesday morning, Blue Heron and True North left Ditto Landing and headed for Joe Wheeler State Park, where we would spend the next week at the Fall Looper Rendezvous. In the week since we left Chattanooga, the fall colors had become more and more brilliant. The pretty bay at Joe Wheeler would be a perfect spot to watch the colors reach their peak over the coming week.
We pulled into Joe Wheeler as the 5th and 6th boats of the 50 or so that would begin arriving over the next few days. We were looking forward to the camaraderie of the Rendezvous, but it was nice to enjoy a day or two having this peaceful spot almost to ourselves.
Next: Loopermania at Joe Wheeler!
(Real-time update: On November 2, we are in Dog River Marina on Mobile Bay. We finished our trip down the Tenn-Tom Waterway late yesterday afternoon. It feels like summer again!)