Tag Archives: Harpeth River State Park

Things I Think While Kayaking

22 Jun

Several weeks ago, my wife and I hiked some trails around the Harpeth River. As we walked, we saw people kayaking, and she has been wanting to kayak ever since. Yesterday, we decided to spend some family time on the water, so my wife, my stepdaughter and I headed out for a day of outdoor adventure. Unfortunately, there are no pictures for this post because we were afraid out phones would get wet. I only have this emblem from the kayak company to break the monotony of words.Foggy Bottom

Luckily, we called ahead to Foggy Bottom, the kayak renting place, because it was packed with people on a waiting list. Within a few minutes of arriving, we were on a van filled with anticipation. When we arrived at the put in spot, I helped the driver take kayaks to the water while my wife and stepdaughter stood on the bank arguing over who was going to get the cool one that they saw. That is when a guy told them that they could stop arguing because it was his personal kayak.

The driver told us that we would get out at the bridge, and, with that information, we shoved off into the great unknown with a ton of other people. We paddled for a while. We floating for a while. It was all very relaxing, and, when I get relaxed, I start to think. That is why I do my best thinking when I first get into bed.

The first thing to hit me was a song.

“Rock the Boat” by The Hues Corporation

When that one came to mind, they started flooding in.

“Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner. It is better than the CCR version.

“Big River” by Johnny Cash

“Old Man River” by Paul Robeson

Somewhere Down the Crazy River” by Robbie Robertson. I wrote a terrible post about it.

“Take Me to the River” by Al Green but made famous by that mounted fish.

“We Shall Gather at the River” by various people in almost every John Ford movie.

I was having so much fun that I started to sing a few of them. My wife looked at me warily. When I wondered aloud about how many songs are about rivers, she looked at me like I was crazy.

My thoughts were interrupted when we hit our first rapids. Well, they were not really rapids. It was more like water running over some rocks. Embarrassingly, I got spun around. More embarrassingly, it happened each time we hit a little rapids. My wife and stepdaughter were a lot better with the wild and raging waters.

It was during one of these spins that I started thinking about Native Americans. I teach about how many of the tribes lived along the rivers and how those waterways were their interstates. In all of those lectures, I never realized how hard that would have been. I am sure they used the Harpeth, but they also used rivers a lot bigger and wilder than this one.

Then, it happened. The clouds began to build up, and we heard thunder. Not long after, we saw lightning in the distance. Around the same time, we hit another small rapids, and I got stuck. My wife and stepdaughter, in an attempt to outrun the storm, took off. Once I got myself unstuck, I was paddling alone as the clouds darkened.

There I was. Clouds darkening overhead. Lightning flashing all around. Me sitting on a little boat in the middle of the water. I decided not to worry about it because there was nowhere to go. Lightning would probably strike the tallest thing around, and that would be some tree. If I stayed in the middle, then a falling tree would not hit me. Certainly, this is the plan that a Native American in a canoe would have followed.

It started to rain, but I was already wet. I made the decision to paddle until I caught up with the rest of my family. That took a while.

Eventually, the rain went away; I caught up; and I began to ponder some of the things that we had seen.

Along the way, there were several places where people could stop their boats and get out. We did not do that because my stepdaughter was focused on getting to that bridge. However, I watched the people as we floated by.

They skipped rocks.

They fished.

They drank beer. Actually, it must have been a lot of beer by the looks of some of the bellies on the guys.

There was one couple making out on a log where they thought they could not be seen.

Where there was a road access, people pulled up in their pickup trucks.

That is when it hit me. We had been floating through one of those Country songs that you hear on the radio all of the time. It was almost like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World, where you ride a boat and watch the animatronic pirates attack a town. The pirate song plays as you go from spot to spot.

This was the Country song version of that with real people on the banks. When those guys get in their tight jeans and jump around on stage, this is what they are singing about. However, it looked different from I imagine when I hear one of the songs on the radio.

When the guy sings about riding to the river in his pickup truck and the girl has her bare feet on the dashboard, I picture a good-looking girl that you might see in the video. Yesterday, I did not see her.

It brought to mind a story I once heard. This guy was telling his friend about when he first got married. His wife had a butterfly tattoo on her butt. He asked his friend if he would like to see it. Then, he yelled to his wife, “Come here and show us that Screamin’ Eagle on your ass!”


To the relief of my stepdaughter, we made it to the bridge and a throng of people trying to get on vans. We thought it was going to be a struggle, but we made it out rather quickly. My wife and stepdaughter crammed into a space for one, and I hopped in with the coolers in back.

We made it back home but were worn out and sore. I picked up a pizza, and we spent the rest of the night trying not to move. I cannot wait to go back again. Kayaking was really fun. Next time, I want to stop at one of those spots and see what it is like to take part in a Country song. That good-looking girl I imagine will be with me because I married her.



Narrows of the Harpeth

5 May

My wife came up with the idea to go hiking, and I thought it was an excellent suggestion. We have done a little hiking together before. The first time was the Alum’s Cave Bluff Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains. Another time was around a volcano in Costa Rica. Those were hikes while dating. This was our first hike as a married couple.

It was up to me to find a place close by, and I settled on the Narrows of the Harpeth Trail in Harpeth River State Park. It would be new territory for the both of us.

The park is just past Pegram, which is west of Nashville. That is opposite of us. I plugged in the GPS, who I fondly refer to as The Bitch, and headed west on Interstate 40. I have to give The Bitch credit. She took us to within a few hundred feet of the trailhead.

The Narrows is a rock outcropping that sits in a narrow bend of the Harpeth River. It is mostly used as a place for people to fish or begin a kayaking excursion. The bend is so narrow that the river almost comes back and runs into itself. Other people may fish or kayak. We were going to hike.

The first part of the trail is an incline that takes you to an overlook. From this perspective, you can see the surrounding landscape. Immediately in front of us was beautiful farmland.image-22

There was also a great view of the river below.image-23

After making our way back down, we walked to the other side of the bend and walked along the river bank.


At the end of this trail, we found something historic, and everyone knows how I like to find something historic. To put simply, it was a tunnel with water shooting out of it.


However, this was not just any tunnel. It is one of the oldest manmade tunnels in the United States. Montgomery Bell, a wealthy industrialist, used slave labor to dig a diversion tunnel as a power source for his ironworks, Pattison Forge.

Watching the water surge from the tunnel, I thought of several things.

There was once an industrial complex at this site, and, now, it is a nature trail. I wonder what Bell would think of his investment being totally gone. This tunnel is all that is left.

Also, people have a misconception of the life of slaves in the antebellum South. They think of people working in a cotton or a tobacco field. However, slaves were forced to work in other economic areas, as well. I cannot imagine the hard work and suffering it took to dig a 290-foot tunnel through solid rock. These people were not forced to work in agriculture. This was big industry.

As we walked back, I thought about a story I once heard. Some former students were kayaking in an inebriated state and went into a forbidden tunnel. I heard the story of their terrifying ride through darkness without knowing where they were headed. Suddenly, the water fell away and only air was underneath them. Suddenly, it hit me that this was the tunnel.

We decided that on our return trip we would kayak instead of hike. However, I am not going to make my way into the tunnel. I believe the best view of the tunnel is from the outside. The slaves who built it and the students who ventured into it would probably agree with me.