Mud to Water
Hours go by; map and compass have failed us. No water. That is until we find a dirt valley that a month ago must have been an arm of the lake. There’s a thin trickle of water. “It’s got to lead to something,” Ben says. So we follow it, going deeper into an ugly dirt-and-rock gorge. Water is just under the surface, as first my feet sink in over my shoes and then the Can-Am goes down to its hubs.
We’re stuck. While Yan and I stare at the bogged-down rig, Ben scouts around a bend, coming back yelling “water, water!” It takes an hour to slog through the next few hundred yards of muck, but sure enough, water is there. We launch, and Ben and Yan go to it while I climb up an 80-foot cliff that used to be a lake bank.
Below me the Sea-Doo is leaving almost no wake, right at home in water littered with rocks and stumps that a wakeskater can bounce, skim or ride on. I wave them off, slide down the mud bank on my rear and drive our now much-lighter rig around to a possible campsite on the other side of this micro lake.
Dusk comes early, what with the time of year, no more daylight saving time and being deep in the mountains. By 4 p.m., it’s bone-cold again, and at 58 degrees the water ain’t exactly balmy either. We make a fire, eat, drink and drink some more. Tennessee moonshine is an acquired taste: It takes us about an hour.
The next day we play until noon, although it’s hard to stop. “Just one more run” always turns into another. Yan’s found a boulder he’s using as a rail and launch pad. We’ve also discovered a new arm of our “lake,” only inches deep but perfect for the Sea-Doo. It’s turned out better than I ever imagined.
After heading back to the paved world, we say our goodbyes and I head home to tweak my off-road boating rig for next time. There’s plenty of underused water out there, and now we know how to reach it.