the river is wild

Protip: you can always click on these pictures to make them larger.

We (Hodge and I) put our kayaks in the water at 12:30 PM, just after a lunch of sandwiches and granola bars. Had we known what was ahead of us, we’d have packed & ate a lot more food, and wouldn’t have left our grill in his truck.

We had a 15+ mile trip ahead of us that we assumed would only take a few hours.  We knew that as long as we averaged 4MPH, we would finish around 4 or 4:30 PM.  What we didn’t count on was how shallow the river was going to be.  At times depths would reach 5-6 feet, and at other times, the times we had to carry our gear, the water wouldn’t make it past our ankles.  It’s not a stretch to say we had to get out of our kayaks and drag/carry them 100 times.  This is not an exaggeration, if anything it may be an underestimation.
In addition to the times we had to get out and drag everything we’d brought with us, there were another 100 times where we were too stubborn to get out of our boats.  We pushed and pushed with our paddles while we were stuck on sandbanks, essentially turning our kayaks into gondolas.  Over the course of an afternoon, this would eventually wear us out.

Hodge “Gondoling” down the river.

At 3:00, an unexpected thunderstorm rolled through, thoroughly soaking any dry areas left on our bodies.  We were at least smart enough to keep our tents/sleeping bags stowed away in dry bags.  Around 4:30, I pulled out the GPS, checked our maps, and realized we weren’t even halfway to the end point, the place we had all of our food and remaining supplies.  If we were going to make it by nightfall, we needed to paddle faster.

Around 6:00 our arms had turned to rubber and we had no idea how much further down the “river” we needed to go to get to the truck.  The water was as clear as any we’d ever seen.  If there was something below our boats, we could see it.  We saw copperheads, fish, turtles and birds all along the river, but we never saw another person.  After 7 hours of continuous paddling we began to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn, perhaps we had branched off into another fork and were lost somewhere in Bankhead.  But there was nowhere to go but downstream.

You can see just how shallow the river was.
One of the many areas we had to get out and drag our gear.

By 8:30, it was getting pretty dark, and dangerous to portage.  One step in the wrong direction could result in a broken ankle. We had to make a decision to camp, or continue on in the dark.  After weighing our options, we agreed that continuing on would be a mistake.  We found a place to set up camp, tied our kayaks off, and tried our best to dry out.  One piece of information I wish we had known about the Sipsey beforehand is there are no places to camp.  It’s a river that’s cut a gash through the North Alabama limestone and created canyon walls anywhere between 50 & 100 feet high.  The campsite we settled for, was a flat rock jutting out onto the edge of the river.  It was flat because most of the year, water flows over and smooths it out.  However, since the water level was so low, it was exposed enough to set up camp.  It was just big enough to for a pitched tent to fit, and only inches from the water.  If the water level rose in the middle of the night, which was a real possibility given the thunderstorms that had passed to our north, we risked waking up soaking wet and losing all our gear.  We laid out our clothes to dry overnight, climbed inside the tent, and attempted to sleep.

Steep canyon walls.
Nope, can’t camp here.

With humans usually being in short supply, the local bullfrog population had no reservations about approaching us, or giving us an impromptu concert.  If I had to guess, this particular breed of bullfrog was prone to vices such as smoking because they were extra hoarse, and extra loud.  Sleep finally came around 11 and lasted until midnight.  Once you finally figure out a way to comfortably lay on a rock, it becomes uncomfortable, and you toss and turn all night, and you listen to bullfrogs sing about flies and crickets.  I flopped all around the bottom of the tent until 5:15 the next morning.  It was one of the longest nights I can ever remember.

At 6AM, after all of our gear was packed, I located my clothes.  They were as wet as they were the night before, and it was 20 degrees cooler outside.  I hadn’t packed a change of clothes because I had assumed we’d get back to the truck before we made camp.  This proved to be a bad decision on my part.  I had to will myself to put on soaking wet clothes on a 59 degree morning, wade through the water and paddle an unknown distance on virtually no sleep and no energy.  It was awful.

We set off downstream, and much to our dismay, found deeper, faster flowing waters.  It was the easiest mile and a half of kayaking I’ve ever done.  This is where we should have put in to begin with.  It was frustratingly easy.  We pulled into the sandy beach where we’d parked, dragged our gear and kayaks up a 100 foot incline, loaded up and headed out.

My only real regret is not taking enough pictures.  Everything was so wet, and I was afraid of ruining my phone.  Reading over this, and describing it to other people, it sounds miserable.  But I can’t wait to go back.  This time 20+ miles, and with more people tagging along.

– bc

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now my feet won’t touch the ground

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for keeping my dad in their prayers.  There’s a couple of things that are certain in this life, one of them being that anytime your phone rings at 5:00 AM, you know it’s bad news on the other end.  I’ve gotten too many of those lately… but hopefully this will be the last for a long, long time.

This morning we left Houston at 3:30 AM and headed to Memphis to see my dad.  We arrived just after 3:00 PM.  I’m not sure if it was the long car ride or what, but Sarah’s been feeling pretty bad today.  Hopefully she didn’t catch something while out in Houston.  We headed up to see my dad, and he looked tired and weary, but also very confident.  I think more than anything he’s just ready to go play golf again!  We visited with my parents for a little while and finally reached home at around 7:00 PM, 15.5 hours after we first piled into the Xterra this morning.

I feel like I needed to finish up our mini-Expidition with a final rundown since we haven’t updated since Monday.  We visited Minute Maid Park (home of the Astros) where we walked on the field, hung out in the dugout, saw the clubhouse, and saw some pretty neat stuff that not too many other people get to see.

We swung by the Houston Aquarium, which in addition to fish, also had a White Tiger exhibit.  They have four total Tigers which they rotate every couple of hours.  This particular Tiger was obviously underfed.

If not for the protective glass, Sarah might be an only child.  They also had a Sting Ray petting area. Weird, but I definitely had to partake.  Sting Ray’s enjoy being petted, who knew?

We also stopped by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where they had Dino Bones, Mayan Artifacts and stuff they’d drug up from the Titanic.  They even had a Crystal Skull similar to the one from latest Indiana Jones film.  The History Majors in Sarah and I always push us to this type of stuff.  It never disappoints.

That’s about it from Houston.  It was a great trip and we met some great people.  Glad we finally got to see where Joe calls home.

Enough can’t be said about how blessed and thankful we all are for the prayers extended out for my dad.  He obviously is a little discouraged about being in the hospital again, but we think being at Memphis will really help get to the bottom of what’s wrong.  Whatever the outcome may be, we can’t say it enough, THANK YOU for your thoughts and prayers.

Sarah and I go in for our 3D/4D Ultrasound on April 3rd, and when we get done, I’m sure Sarah will be back to post the first ever pictures of Robert Deegan Cooper.

Until next time…

– bc

galveston, oh galveston I still hear your sea waves crashin’

I figured the title for this post was appropriate, considering Beau and I went to visit Galveston, TX this morning.  Not only that, I drove Beau crazy singing the Glen Campbell song pretty much the whole time we were there.  I think the thing that probably made it worse though, was that I only actually knew one line.

Beau and I left for Galveston this morning after my “happy” breakfast of cuties and a banana. (picture to follow) We decided that Galveston had some pretty cool tourist attractions, and was actually very well prepared for the whole beach/vacation thing.  The only thing they were lacking was a beach.  You may ask, “But I thought Galveston was a beach city, how could they not have a beach?” Well, technically I guess it can be called a beach because there is a coastline and a little bit of sand, however, we have apparently been spoiled by our Alabama beaches because there was no comparison.  It made me remember that our state has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, so I guess it’s not really fair to compare.  I do have to give Galveston credit for what looked like a pretty great water park called Schlitterbahn.  It’s known for being one of the best water parks in the country.  Beau was also excited to see that the local elections had him running for Mayor of Galveston.  We would appreciate your support in this campaign.
After Galveston, we came back to Houston and had lunch with Joe at a place called Ninfa’s on Navigation.  Apparently, you have to eat at the one on Navigation or it’s not even like eating at the same restaurant.  Even though it’s a Mexican restaurant, it’s known for having the best burger in the entire city.  It’s called the Fiesta Burger, and instead of ground beef, they use fajita steak.  As for the best burger in Houston?  I’ve only eaten this one, but it would be hard to beat.  They do have plenty of authentic Mexican dishes as well.  I compare it to a local Rosie’s Cantina like we have in Florence, except this place was good.  Sorry to those of you who like to eat at Rosie’s.  I’m about to burst your bubble:  Rosie’s is not good.  This place however, was very good!  We were also able to go by the church after lunch and meet all the people Joe works with.
Tonight, we all went to see The Hunger Games.  It was great!  I think it may have even convinced Beau to read the books.  🙂  Imagine that, the first books Beau will have read since High School!  Tomorrow, I think the plan may be to see the zoo and the aquarium.  We’re just kind of playing it by ear.
– Sarah

sounds like hallelujah

Beau has been updating the blog for the past couple days, so I suppose I’ll give him a break.  This morning we visited Joe’s church:  Christ the King Presbyterian.  It was great to finally see where Joe works and plays.  And when I say play, I mean play.  It must be great to have a job where you spend half your time testing out fun games and ideas.  We enjoyed the service and being a part of the youth group for Sunday School.  It’s great to see Joe do what he loves.

Here’s a quick run-down of the events of today:
– After church, Beau, Joe, and I ate lunch and drove around Houston for a tour.  Joe said Sunday was a good day to do this because we’d be able to avoid the usual weekday traffic… but I still saw lots of cars
– We found out where Roger Clemens lives and drove by his house.  It was easily recognizable from the giant C on his front gate and the giant Texas Longhorns flag fluttering above his front door.
– After the tour, we caught up on some NCAA basketball we had recorded on the DVR.
– Later, we went back to the church for the evening youth activities.  We watched everyone play a game called “GaGa” which is actually Israeli Dodgeball.  Then, we listened to Joe’s second lesson of the day, both of which were very good!
– After church, we picked up some chicken wings from Wing Stop.  Mine were the garlic parmesan flavor so I could avoid the inevitable heartburn that would surely follow buffalo flavored wings.
– We then caught up on the rest of our basketball games.  All three of our brackets are basically worthless now,  Thanks Tarheels.
I know this has not been very long or overly entertaining, but I am very sleepy and it’s past mine and Baby Cooper’s bedtime.  Tomorrow, we’re headed to check out the beaches of Galveston, and possibly the Houston Zoo.
– Sarah

rivers and roads

If you’re from Louisiana, or currently call it home, you might want to skip these next 2 paragraphs.

The state of Louisiana (at least the part along I-10) is one giant litter box filled with rusty 1984 Chrysler Lebaron’s, burned down EZ-Cash stores and smoggy oil refineries. If I saw one smokestack today I saw 10,000.

90% of the state smells like a toxic mixture of swamp gas and rotten fish.  BUT, they did do at least one thing right.

I know this will sound strange coming from me, an Alabama fan, but you guys nailed it with Baton Rouge. I’ve been to most SEC campuses and so far, LSU’s is my favorite.

I was taken aback with the abundance and beauty of the Spanish-styled architecture. The campus was large, yet comfortable and the Live Oak lined streets gave the entire place the feel of a turn-of-the-century plantation. The campus was spotless, and walking up to Tiger Stadium felt like I was approaching a grand cathedral. You guys did good when you put together your Capitol.

Oh and New Orleans. You did pretty good with New Orleans too.  Although I feel like asking for forgiveness just from glancing at the Bourbon St. sign, I can’t ignore how special the rest of the city is.

One of the first stops we made today was Chalmette National Historic Park. Here, we walked the battlefields where General Stonewall Jackson defended New Orleans against the British in one of the final and most decisive battles of the War of 1812.

Afterwards we headed into the city and stopped at Jackson Square for breakfast and a look at some local art.  We visited the New Orleans Jazz Historic Park in the French Quarter, visited a couple of local shops and headed out. We did swing by the Superdome on the way out of town which was already decorated for the Final 4.

Didn’t do too much else today since we had a ways to drive. We did stop at a rest area in Grosse Tete that housed a live Bengal Tiger. And We stopped in Orange, Texas and took a walking tour of Blue Elbow Swamp.

As we were traveling west on I-10, we passed a couple of Bandidos bikers. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Gangland you’d know why I was terrified of even being within 20 feet of these guys.  It was a harrowing few minutes as we approached, then passed these nefarious characters. For the next 20 miles I obsessively stared  in my rearview mirror knowing without a doubt the Bandidos were coming to hunt me down for looking at them funny when we passed. I made eye contact with one of the guys and it was like staring into an endless pit of terror.

Maybe most of that last paragraph was just my delirious sleep deprived mind playing tricks on me. But we really did pass some Bandidos on the interstate.

We arrived in Houston around 6:00 PM well traveled and worn out.  It’s 11:45 PM now, and after watching DVR’d NCAA tournament basketball, it’s time for bed.  Although to be honest, I am a little worried about going to sleep you guys. I’m afraid the Bandidos will terrorize me in my dreams.

– bc

another one in the dark

An arbitrary list of the top 5 Worst Cities I’ve ever visited. (Written at 1:33AM)

1. Cairo, IL
2. West Memphis, AR
3. Slidell, LA
4. Cody, WY
5. Green River, UT

But Slidell you say? It always seems so nice. Jim Cantore seems to love visiting every summer during Hurricane season.

Nope. It’s the pits. Only took one picture in this crummy town, but it sums the whole place up nicely.

That was taken outside of our room at the La Quinta Inn. (No we didn’t stay. No way I was letting my pregnant wife anywhere near asbestos.) We got our money back and looked for somewhere else. I guess the management isn’t real keen about the long term health of its guests. No need for repeat customers in this town!

New Orleans tomorrow. And hopefully a well rested, non-grumpy pregnant wife.

– bc

we’re just praying that we’re doin’ this right



It’s been a while since my last blog post, and honestly, I don’t even know yet what I’ll say in this one.  My brain seems a little foggy since waking up from my 2 hour nap.


I don’t normally take naps, and some of you may think, “being pregnant will make you take more naps” or “just wait until you’ve had that baby…you’ll want to take a nap.”  True, true; and while I have found that pregnancy has made me more tired, I try not to take too many naps because I’m the type of person that feels unproductive when I nap, and that drives me crazy.  Yes, I know I’m strange.  So, I chalk this long Sunday afternoon nap up to a combination of baby and losing an hour with the time change.  (Yes, I do have to have a legit excuse for myself when I take a nap).


I’m 24 weeks and a few days pregnant now.  Little Robert Deegan Cooper (in case you haven’t yet heard the name) is doing well and kicking fairly often.  It’s not too much kicking; just enough that it’s perfect for a little Mommy/Baby bonding time…and when Daddy’s around we let him feel the kicking too. 🙂  Deegan’s 24 week appointment went great.  There was not an ultrasound with this one, but we still got to hear the heartbeat.  It’s still going strong at 154.  At our 20 week appointment we did have an ultrasound and we’re still on track for a due date of June 29.  He was growing right on track.  It was so fun to be able to see him kicking too!

 
 

In other news (as if there really is any other news, since Deegan is all I ever think about all day), Beau and I are planning to go to Houston, TX for a few days over my spring break in a few weeks.   We finally get to visit Joe and see what his big city life is all about.  On the way, Beau and I plan to stop in New Orleans since I have never been there before.  I’ve never even been to Louisiana, so I will be knocking another state off my list! Take that Beau Cooper.


Beau has been busy working on a water system mapping project for his job.  He goes out to Double Springs, AL almost every day out of the week for this project, and he always has some interesting stories and facts about the little town and the surrounding Bankhead National Forest.



 

Beau and I have recently been working on a project.  My mom had this old, tarnished chandelier at her house that she replaced with a new light fixture.  So, I took the chandelier and spray painted it a Jade color.  After much hard work, my very smart husband was able to install it in our front hallway.  I have to say, I am pleased.  I think it adds a little character to that hallway.
 
 
 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ll go enjoy the rest of my 4 day weekend (yes, I did say 4 day….I love when built in snow days aren’t used at school).  If it doesn’t rain tomorrow morning, I’ll have tennis practice with my tennis team, and then….who knows?  That’s what’s so great about days off!

– Sarah

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s almost Christmas! School is out, there’s family, friends, all kinds of yummy food, and- in typical Alabama fashion- lots of rain instead of snow.  I have officially finished Christmas shopping, and I am more happy about that this year than I ever have been.  You see, I have found that I have less patience for crowds and traffic this year than I ever have.  I can only assume Baby Cooper does not like crowds either because we were both pretty irritated during our last couple days of shopping, and he/she was reminding me often of how tiring shopping can be.

Speaking of Baby Cooper, here’s a quick update:  our 12 week appointment was on Dec 14.  Everything still looks great!  The heartbeat was 170 bpm; still strong and healthy.    I think I have determined that heartbeat is the best sound I’ve ever heard in my life.   My next appointment is three weeks from yesterday.  In the meantime, I think I am over the sickness I had between 10 and 12 weeks, and now can enjoy all this wonderful Christmas food! Beau has been teasing me because at every Christmas party we’ve been to this year, I’ve been first in the food line.  But, here’s my theory:  people always hesitate to be first because they don’t want to look like a pig, when in reality, everyone loves when someone starts the food line because then they can get in the line too!  Also, I’ve found that being pregnant not only makes me too hungry to wait on some brave soul to start the food line, it gives me an automatic reason to start the line.

I do believe Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Lots of family time, lots of laughter, lots of catching up. So far, my family has spent time sharing memories and playing Balderdash (best board game ever).  The guys talk about football, movies, and share random facts that nobody needs to know, but we all find them interesting anyway.

I love Christmas with Beau’s parents too!  We have a tradition with them that we open presents, eat some good food, and go see a Christmas day movie.  Christmas with the Coopers also made me understand why Beau is so bad a keeping surprises.  He and his mother are so much alike 🙂  So far, Susanne Cooper has given me three of my smaller Christmas presents that she was planning to give me Christmas day, but couldn’t wait.  You might think that I would get less presents on Christmas because of that, however, Beau has informed me that she will simply go and get more presents to replace those three on Christmas day.  It makes it sound like she’s just forgetful, but I believe she is one of the most giving people I have ever known.

Most of all, with both mine and Beau’s family, I love the fact that Christmas is focused on the sole reason for the holiday.  I love that we were both brought up in amazing families whose traditions revolve around the birth of Christ our Savior.  And I love that our baby will be able to share in those same traditions next Christmas.

I pray that my family and yours will have a blessed Christmas this year, and that we never forget why we celebrate. 

the heart of life

     Well, I’m sure you’ve all heard we are embarking on our biggest, most exciting expedition yet… Beau and I are going to have a baby!  We are so excited! Let me give you a little back story…  On October 20th, we found out I was pregnant.  That same day, I scheduled my 8 week appointment at the doctor.  This was to be the appointment that we were hopefully going to hear the heartbeat for the first time.  I quickly informed Beau that, besides our parents, we do not need to tell ANYONE until that appointment is complete and everything looks- and sounds- like it should.

     And so began the most difficult test my husband’s patience has ever endured.  At least once a day for the next three(ish) weeks his favorite thing to say was, “So, can we tell people yet?”  We were counting down the days.  Those of you who know our family know that this is how it went:

Beau:  Can’t keep surprises, so this was worse than Christmas, my birthday, and the desire to spoil a great movie ending all wrapped into one.
My Mom (Anne):  Also wanted to tell pretty badly but as an alternative, already started thinking of Grandmother names and bought me a diaper bag
Beau’s Mom (Susanne):  Almost as bad as Beau when it came to wanting to tell.  Her quote was, “the second yall start telling people, you better let me know cause I wanna tell everyone too!”
My Brother (Joe):  Couldn’t tell his best friend John, so instead he told the next best option- a dog.
My Dad, Beau’s Dad, and Myself (all can be lumped into one on this):  While we were all VERY excited and glad to share the good news when the time was right, but we were able to keep the surprise.  There was no anguish in keeping a secret, simply the knowledge that we would share when the time was right.

     We all did, however, survive the wait.  On November 16th Beau and I went to the doctor and luckily they didn’t make me wait long.  Almost as soon as the ultrasound showed up on the screen, we got to see all 1.52cm of our baby.  We got to see it’s little heart fluttering and we got to hear all 176 beats per minute.  I also got to hear the nurse say, “That sounds like a good, strong heartbeat for 8 weeks.”  That was probably the best thing she could’ve told me at that moment.

     The rest of the day was spent telling our family, friends, and co-workers the good news.  We told the same story and answered the same questions about 1000 times.

 “When’s the due date?” – June 29
“How long have you known?”- About 3-4 weeks
“How are you feeling?”- Pretty great.  No real morning sickness.  As long as I don’t let myself get hungry, I feel good.
“When do you find out if it’s a boy or girl?” – Probably the end of January or beginning of February

     There were many more topics of discussion, but Beau and I enjoyed discussing this topic as much as everyone wanted to. 🙂  We also want to say to everyone, thank you all for your kind words and excitement and most importantly, prayers! We are blown away with how blessed we are to have so many people in our lives who love us so much!  And please know, that we love you too!  Let the countdown for baby Cooper begin! 🙂

in between days

To summarize…

Fall arrived and it came with some color.

 

Went to an Auburn game and I didn’t hate it.  They beat Ole Miss 41-23.  They moved up from my 12th favorite team in the SEC to my 11th favorite team in the SEC.  Way to go wife, you pulled one over on me.  Plus the free tickets, free food and free place to stay didn’t hurt either (we had free skybox tickets!)

 

Sarah and her mom started a photography business.  Maple Leaf Photography.  I designed the logo, pretty proud of that.  They’ve also got a facebook page, so check ’em out if you’ve got a spare minute.

 

Went to Arkansas for the Inaugural Oldtee event.  Still not 100% sure what that means, but it did involve good friends, camping, memories and a little bit of cold weather.  Plus the Park Ranger told us to quiet down.  That’s the official sign of a good time, getting threatened to be shut down by Johnny Law.  We even successfully cooked biscuits over an open flame.  #goodtimes

Again with the ugly field.  Adam took us to a UCA game and the sunset actually made the field bearable for a few short seconds.  Had to snap this shot.

I bet I see you sooner than you expect….