215 mile Paddle

Yea, you read that right.

A few weeks ago I posted about our trip to Bryson City, North Carolina. If you follow me you may have read it but for any new visitors or those who may have missed it you can read about it here. On our first day at camp we met two other fellow primitive campers who were also camping along the river bank. Once we were set up we had time to ask if they’d had any luck fishing. From that simple question a friendship formed.

Isn’t it funny how some things work out? I do believe that some things are just meant to be. Sometimes my husband will get behind a slow vehicle on his way to work. Naturally he will get frustrated because promptness is his strong suit. But I will explain to him that it’s probably for good reason. Take it as a blessing. Accept it. Everything will be fine. Just be careful.

So for our trip to Bryson City… we weren’t supposed to leave for the mountains until that Friday but last-minute we decided that my husband would take off work Thursday and we would head up early that morning. As we were talking to these two guys we found out they weren’t even supposed to be there at that moment. They were paddling the Tuckasegee River (a week-long trek) and was a day ahead of schedule.

We soon realized these two aren’t your typical paddlers. Not the ones we come across at least. We are standing on the river bank chatting with one as the other dressed in trunks walks down to the river. “Going for a swim?”, my husband asks. Really? I thought he was joking because the water was so chilly. “Yea I think I will.”, He replied. His friend who we were talking to said, “Yea that’s kind of his thing. He swam across Lake Michigan”. Wait what?? Not only did he swim across Lake Michigan, he refused a follower boat and requested that he do it alone pulling his SUP behind him. My goodness, these are people you watch documentaries of. Chris Lechner (his site can be found here), a hand surgeon who successfully reattached a severed hand, also paddles full rivers for fun, swims Lake Michigan for fun and understands the water and how it changes you.

John Sherman, a hospital helicopter pilot and a neurology dept NP, also paddles full rivers for fun. Accustom to tackling these journeys solo, this trip was their first full river paddle together. As we talked we learned more about each other and realized that these guys are doing exactly what we want to be doing. My husband has always been on the river. Ever since we met he was taking me into some kind of adventure like spending my birthday on Davis Island. Leaving our vehicle behind, we commuted by ferry and our rzr, solitude had a new meaning. There weren’t people just doing this. Where we crazy? We slept on the beach, took showers by pouring water for each other, and stood in pouring rain to get relief from the noseeums. We had the shore to ourselves along with the sea. These are the kind of trips we love. The lonely waters.

Where there are lonely waters there are also like-minded people who are brought together by the flow of nature.

We waved good-bye as they got back on the water. Yelling, “Stay in touch!”, we all agreed. Somehow through the rest of our trip, Chris and John continued to come up in our conversations. We talked about how awesome they where, what they were doing was awesome, found out more about their trip, how they walked into town, and how we want to do this same very thing. We want to paddle a complete river in one trip. My excitement is unreal but there is some fear behind it too. Maybe that’s why it’s so exciting.

For our 6 year wedding anniversary we have decided to paddle the Neuse River in its entirety in just one trip. Roughly around 215 miles. 215 miles of just him and I, the river and whatever it brings. We are in the very preliminary planning stages. Deciding daily mileage and over night take outs. We have a lot of phone calls to make, emails to send, and training to do. It’s something that I’ve heard my husband talk about doing for years. And I’m so excited to make this a reality for him. We are looking to make this trek in 7-8 days. But with the right touring board we may be able to do it quicker. The other day we paddled 16.2 miles in 4 hours and could have easily put in 3 or 4 more hours. The boards that we are using aren’t touring SUPs which are heavier and wider. There is no telling how our timing will change once we are paddling a touring SUP.

To our knowledge, the Neuse river has not been SUP’d in its entireity in one trip. It has been kayaked multiple times but we are hoping to be the first to SUP it. Although, someone could have done it and not told anyone. Another reason this is super exciting.

I look at our change of arrival date to Bryson City as a blessing. We wouldn’t have met Chris and John otherwise. We wouldn’t have a better understanding of what a trip like that would look like. From meeting them we now realize our dreams don’t have to be dreams. We can make them a reality and do something that we have always wanted to do. It’s going to be extremely hard and have already agreed not to get divorced at the end — haha! We have run all of the hardships and negatives through our heads and are okay with them and feel strong enough to welcome them and fight through it.

Theres something about a river. It’s magical. It changes you.

I will be documenting all of our planning and training down to the actual paddle. You can follow me on my Instagram @ashehardison for these updates as well. I plan to break down all of our gear set up, what the inside of our bags look like, talking safety and what-ifs, what we’re going to do for food, and our daily schedule. I think writing about this may help me not forget anything. So join us on this crazy wild trip! We would love your support!

“In Gods wildness lies the hope of the world” — John Muir


4 thoughts on “215 mile Paddle

  1. Yes you can do it and it will make your relationship stronger. That is so exciting. So glad you’re doing it. Once committed everything else falls into place, Think of all the people you’ll meet and new friends you’ll make along the way ;). BTW, in our short visit, we also felt a kindred spirit connection with the Hardison’s. Look forward to following your adventure…and seeing you in Asheville someday.


    • Thanks John! We are super excited and have a few other awesome (but shorter) trips planned before then that I will be sharing. So glad we all crossed paths. Looking forward to sharing stories with y’all soon!


  2. Sunshine and I are so proud that you and Silky are living life to the fullest! We are just as excited as y’all are. 👍


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