Grove took a few minutes to share his experiences during a recent stop in Cherokee County. He pitched his tent on a concrete slab in the picnic area of Weiss Mart Marina where he spent the night. He plans to kayak the entire length of the Etowah River, the Coosa River, all the way to Mobile Bay.
Grove is a native of Maryland who grew up in West Virginia. He served in the Navy for 11 years before he resigned his commission. From there, he moved to Atlanta where he worked as a remodeling contractor and built shopping centers throughout the area. He also did some remodeling of homes.
I decided to semi-retire, said Grove. That is when you have just enough money to live the rest of your life off of and not work too hard, but work every once in a while. So a little over two years ago, I took my nephews kayak and went down the Chattahoochee River to the Gulf of Mexico. The trip was 486 miles and it took me 26 days.
Said Grove. It changed into a real love story somewhere along the way. For people who are brought up on lakes and rivers that is just second nature. And I was kind of a West Virginia hillbilly. I grew up swimming in creeks and rivers and stuff. It kind of took me back to the good old days.
And I figured maybe I should do something to pay the river back for that wonderful trip. So my goal now is to bring awareness to creeks, rivers, streams and lakes.
Because I am doing it in a kayak, I draw more people to paddle sports like canoeing and kayaking, said Grove. And then, because I am a 58-year-old grandfather, I dont really want to hear a lot of excuses out of people for not doing it.
Upon his arrival on Weiss Lake, Grove had traveled 209 miles. The total distance for the journey from Dahlonega is roughly 843 miles.
When I finish this trip, I will have seen the water from the actual start to finish, said Grove. I went up into the mountains where the spring was and moved some leaves and stuff so I could actually see the water coming out of the ground. Then I walked 4.1 miles down the river until I could actually put a kayak in the river. And then I kayaked 13 miles down river.
Grove commended Jerry and B.J. Culberson, operators of Weiss Mart Marina, for their hospitality. He said he has enjoyed the friendliness of the people he has met on these trips.
You get to talking to people and they tell you all about this, all about that, said Grove. They tell you all about the about the crappie fishing in the lake. You get kind of a history lesson that a lot of people never even knew about. A lot of people around here kind of take these things for granted, but for an outsider like me, its a great trip. I cant tell you. I could never explain how wonderful a trip like this is, especially when you make it by yourself.
Said Grove. You are alone. When you are just one person, youve got all the time in the world to stop and think, nobodys talking to you while you are paddling down river, so you are not scaring anybody away. If you are paddling with people, somebody is constantly talking. So you miss half the wildlife and everything along the river. When you are just one person, you are kind of received a little bit differently. You are not a threat to anybody.
But the trip hasnt been entirely smooth sailing, Grove said. His first night on the river he encountered a powerful storm.
I had a new tent and had not tried it, said Grove. My tent collapsed on me at 3:30 in the morning in the middle of that rainstorm. I was soaked from head to toe. Everything in my tent got wet. My sleeping bag was soaked.
One day last week I paddled through a hailstorm, said Grove. The wind was blowing from left to right. It started blowing pretty hard and I figured I would go over against a tree. Then all of a sudden it was like hurricane-force winds. The rain was almost blowing parallel to the ground. All of a sudden the trash started coming out of the trees. The leaves were coming with sticks, branches. I figure, Well, maybe I better get on the other side of the river. This is probably not a good side to be on. All of a sudden it was like, Dang! This rain hurts! And I looked down at the bottom of my kayak and it was covered with hail. Ive paddled through rainstorms, lightning, storms, thunderstorms. I thought I had traveled pretty much through everything except snow.
Grove feels the trip will be worth the hardships, however, when he steps ashore near the Gulf of Mexico. Grove estimated he should arrive the second week of November. But he isnt in any big hurry. He may meet people along the way and find himself engaged in a long conversation. Or of he decides to check out the scenery more closely, then so be it!
Life is a one-shot go-around, said Grove. When you are dead, its over. Its final. So all you get is this one shot. You better enjoy it. You better stop and smell the roses while you are here.