Taking a trip up the creekPublished 10:55am Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By Jim Plott
Special to The Outlook
Ladnier was one of 80 floaters in the first Hatchet Creek Festival, a weekend long floating and camping event that stretched from U.S. 280 to U.S. 231 in Coosa County.
“I didn’t expect it to be quite as heart-pumping as it was. It was great.” said Ladnier, who was experiencing the creek for the first time.
The added exhilaration came because heavy rains Friday and Saturday provided some extra momentum to the flow and caused the creek to turn a dark toffee.
The heart-pumping feeling extended to a lot of other people, but for different reasons, particularly Roger Vines, the county extension system coordinator for Coosa County and the organizer of the event.
Vines, like a lot of other people, wondered if the event could be pulled off after what was a 20 percent chance of rain become an uncontrollable certainty accompanied by thunder and some lightning.
“For the longest time, I thought I was going to be the only one there,” said Vines. “Then they started showing up and even though everybody was soaking wet before they hit the creek, I didn’t hear one complaint.”
Buddy Goolsby, who along with several friends from the Atlanta area, had no complaints.
“They have done a good job, particularly for the first time,” Goolsby said. “The water level might have been a little high, but they couldn’t help that.”
Danny Nelson of Alexander City took first place in the event’s canoe race on the first leg of the trip by doing in an hour and half what usually takes at least three hours.
“The water level was really a plus for me,” said Nelson. “When I started paddling I didn’t look back until I was at the finish rope.”
Paddling the creek was nothing new for Rockford resident Callie Thornton, who basically has the creek in her backyard, but the overnight camping trip added an extra adventure to the trip.
“It’s awesome,” said Thornton, who placed second in the kayak race. “I haven’t seen anything to complain about. The food has been excellent and the camping spot is ideal.”
From the beginning the event had little trouble attracting participants. Within weeks of its announcement, organizers had a full enrollment.
Participants in the kayak and canoe races also had a chance to make money with cash awards going to the three top finishers in each race.
Vines said the event was spawned from a map-making project of Hatchet and Weogufka creeks two years ago.
“Hatchet Creek is a treasure for Coosa County, but not a lot of people know about it.” Vines said. “Even after coming up with the maps, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to know about and paddle the creek so we came up with the festival as a way to do that.”
Vines said it couldn’t have been done without a lot of support.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out,” Vines said. “With all the rain and the wet conditions of the roads it could have been a disaster, but a lot of people, including our volunteers and the Coosa County Sheriff’s Department, came through and we were able to pull it off.”
It there was a hard part that couldn’t be overcome, Vines said it was setting a cutoff limit on the number of participants.
“It was difficult to tell people we couldn’t take them. I really hated to do that but we had to,” Vines said. “We had a limited area and for our first time of doing this we wanted to keep it to what we thought was a safe and manageable number.”
Vines said a decision will be made later in regards to holding a second festival.
“When we first started we were kind of hoping that it will turn into an annual event,” he said. “Right now we have to look at some things including our funding because a lot of this was paid for through a grant. We know now a lot of things that we did right or wrong and so we do have that foundation if we decide on future festivals.”