Friday, April 07, 2006

Sunset on the Tennessee [CCR]

Tonight I am eating dinner at a restaurant on Laguna Beach watching the surf, sunset, and the kids playing volley ball. My company has me on the road again and most people think being here in California would be nice. And in a way it is, but for me it doesn’t match the sunsets and sunrises I’ve watched over Bear Creek or the Tennessee River. One of my favorite slides is a picture I took while at “The Point” near the Cherokee water filtration plant. My dad, uncle, cousin, and I had camped out on the banks overnight and had been fishing. I got up just before daylight and took pictures of the sunrise. The orange reflection on the soft ripples of the river accentuated the beauty of the lush woods around us.

I guess most of my memorable sunrises involved fishing trips. Of course growing up in the Shoals meant fishing was one of my more practiced sporting activities. On many summer Saturdays Dad woke me about four in the morning and we packed the boat with bait, drinks, and maybe even bologna sandwiches. We both knew the best fishing was over and done by ten so we had to get moving. Often we stopped at a fishing camp near the Riverton Rose Trail and bought a bucket of minnows to lure the crappie. At sunrise you would find us somewhere near the railroad trestle fishing. Nothing fancy. Our gear included a simple cane pole with a small minnow. Dad used a single boat paddle in one hand to glide us along the creek while holding his pole in the other hand. When the crappie began to bite we found little time to ponder the beauty around us, but it was there. I bet I could find some of these fine folks here in Laguna Beach to pay for that tour.

Sunsets were often spent in many other ways. Sometimes you may have found me back out on the water fishing but at other times I might have joined some friends and built a fire on the banks of the river. The ripple of the sunlight on the water was soon replaced by the firelight. The crackling of the fire as we roasted our marshmallows under the final glow of the day set the mood for a wonderful evening. We might be laughing and talking about the swimming and skiing that day or we might be in a small church group and strike up a few songs to close the evening.

The other light I often saw on the Tennessee River was the moonlight. During my teen years many fall evenings I would get a call just after sunset. Mr. Thompson would soon be dropping by to carry me on another coon hunt. Dad and I also often joined Mr. Maxwell and his son, J. D., on coon hunts. Some of those cool evenings would find us chasing the masked critters along the banks of the Tennessee. If the moonlight didn’t help us find the way a barge churning up the river might help by shining his light to see the commotion on the banks. Breathing in the cool crisp fall Alabama air brought refreshment because after the coon gave us a good run we recovered quickly after spying our prize hanging on a limb over the water. We might get home late, but we slept well and I made it just fine through school the next day.

As I wrap up my grilled salmon and the sun makes its final peak over the Pacific Ocean I can’t help but be a little homesick. If only these people really knew what they were missing they might soon book their trip. I guess I am a little hesitant on sharing our secrets here for fear of the crowds that would surely ensue. Take a trip down the Riverton Rose Trail this weekend and find a nice place along the banks near the mouth of Bear Creek. You won’t find any beachwear shops or ice cream stands. But if you watch the sun as it slowly slides below the horizon and provides its final glow along the water you will understand we don’t need the fancy shops or restaurants. You will then realize why I never really had to travel far from home to consider myself on vacation.