Sometimes there’s a grace that complements our interaction with nature, one that validates our presence, that beckons us onward and affirms our place in the world. The give and take of calling a responsive turkey in the spring, the satisfying crackle of a campfire well laid, the feeling of belonging that comes as we watch day give way to night or night yield to day come to mind, but perhaps none may be so readily reproduced as the feeling of gliding on water in a craft all our own.
The simpler the craft, the fewer the distractions, too. The motor can’t break down if the boat doesn’t have one.
Taking to our state’s blue highways armed with an ice chest and a paddle in a craft able to float the shallowest of waters may be one of the most peaceful departures we can arrange.
It’s a departure Davis Lovelace began planning at age 16. A Jackson native, he traveled 263 miles on the Pearl River from Byram to Picayune over the course of nine days in a canoe he’d built alone, by hand, finding a quality of silence not otherwise easily located, but one there for the taking all along.
“I had a cousin my dad’s age who did a similar trip with his father and uncle,” Davis said. “He wrote an account of the trip and I read it and it sounded like a great adventure.”
Four days down to Columbia Davis traveled with his dog as sole companion, past Georgetown and Monticello, past Oma, Wanilla and White Bluff, through stands of mixed hardwood and planted pine. His best friend, then recently back from Iraq, joined him on the five day run from Columbia to Picayune, passing Jamestown, Cheraw and Angie, past Hamp Island, Bogalusa and Crossroads. They picked their way through a 75-yard log jam, portaged around a low head dam and passed close inspection by a 14-foot alligator.
“I saw maybe 10 people the whole trip, most of them south of Columbia,” he said. “My favorite part was just being there on the river with the wildness of it all, the solitude, survival, reading and listening to what the river was saying to me.”
Comfortingly, that’s a conversation available to us anytime. No boat ramp battles, no congested waters and no crowds, and anyone we encounter is only a temporary distraction because, just like the river, we’re only passing through.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.