Posts Tagged ‘rafting’

Neal Wickham’s New Dream

October 10, 2013
Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon  by the  Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids.

Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon by the Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks?  WIckham thinks it's a good idea.

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks? WIckham thinks it’s a good idea.

First, the dream.  Enter Neal Wickham, retired outdoor supplies retailer, environmentalist, and naturalist.  John Turner, the driving force behind developing the whitewater project on the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City  credited Wickham with the idea of  breaching the cotton mill dams.  Wickham didn’t deny it. He told me he first made the suggestion back in the 1970s when then Ledger-Enquirer Editorial Page Editor Billy Winn wrote an editorial saying Columbus needed an “it” to promote the area.  Wickham said he wrote to Winn that breaching the mill dams would provide that “it. ”  Turns out he was right.

Turner said the whitewater project is succeeding in getting Columbus the kind of attention it needs to attract people from all over the country.  He said now when he tells people he’s from Columbus, Georgia, they say, “Oh, that city with the crazy river running through the downtown area.”  

Well, guess what? Neal Wickham has come up with another dream that could cause a lot of talk all over America.  He told me today that a zip line attached to the Eagle and Phenix Mill smokestacks crossing the  Chattahoochee River would be a huge attraction.  He is probably right.  Wonder if they are stable enough for elevators to take people to the top to hook onto  the the zip-line.  I’m pretty sure it would be easy to get an expert on such things to find out.  Just imagine what it would be like to zip over the Chattahoochee rapids from Columbus to Phenix City.  As someone at today’s Rotary event said, Wickham would be probably the first to do the zipping.  At 83, he was the oldest Rotarian to ride the rapids in a raft today.

Adjusting for High Water

June 19, 2013
Running Heaven's Gate at High Water

Running Heaven’s Gate at High Water

When the river reaches flood stage, which it did today, Whitewater Express continues to operate, but only at Heaven’s Gate, and I do mean right there.   The put the rafts in at the Eagle and Phenix Power Plant, run the rapid, paddle back and do it again. They don’t do the long river run, and they don’t do the more challenging Cut Bait on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee.

There are a couple of advantages to doing the short run over and over. For one thing, as a guide told me, “You do improve with practice.” I noticed that was the case. The first time the raft I was watching did a couple of about-faces during the run. The second time it went straight through with no wabbling around. But, the next time, the raft flipped. When I commented that getting the swimmers back on the raft took up time, Blake Quinney, Assistant Director of Operations for Whitewater Express said “They are having fun.” Indeed, it did appear they were.

Another advantage is the rafters get to run Heaven’s Gate as many times as they can get in an hour and a half. The long river runs do it twice. A drawback could be that there are more different rapids to run on the long run.

Blake was pleased with the amount of business they have done so far. Four- thousand people have rafted down the Chattahoochee since the end of May, and he expects to have served as many as twenty-thousand rafters by the end of August.



Cooling Off Like the Rich Folks

July 5, 2009
Gotta get outta this heat and humidity.  What to do? Do what the rich folks do. Go to Highlands, North Carolina.
Viewing area on the way up the mountain to Highland's, NC

Just getting  there is fun.  Riding up those curvy mountain roads, the view is beautiful.      



Once there, the high is 76 degrees.  That’s 76 compared to Columbus’ 98. 


 Downtown is picturesque, with lots of quaint old stores that sell high price stuff.


And there are plenty of fun side trips, things like a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  You board the train at Bryson City, NC.

  GSMRR 2 

07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1069 

Not many train rides offer a view of  folks rafting, but this one does.



Just miles and miles of beautiful views along the Tuckasegee River and Lake Fontana.


That ride brought back memories of when passenger trains were a common mode of transportation, and one of life’s highlights was eating in a nice dining car.

 07 02_HIGHLANDS NC ETC._1076

So I got to beat the heat the way rich folks do… for three days.