It’s been all new states, new waterways and plenty of paddling for three recent Franklin High School graduates.
Rebels Job Dooley, Jonah Albert and Luke Saulters graduated last month and a day later, the trio embarked on a canoe trip from their backyards on the Harpeth River in Franklin aiming for the Gulf of Mexico.
They are more than halfway to the Gulf currently. It’s the “adventure of a lifetime” as they say, but maybe just the first of many for the three lifelong friends.
“Why not do something like this,” said Dooley, who will be attending the University of Tennessee in the fall. “I think it’s such a cool adventure and it’s just awesome to see these parts of the country from the water.”
Saulters, who like Albert will be attending Mississippi State, said the summer of graduation was the opportunity to truly take in such a trip, which includes paddling through parts of seven different states covering hundreds of miles.
“Later in life, we may not be able to tackle an adventure like this,” he said. “This is a unique time in our lives where we can step away and just take it all in.”
The canoe adventure has endured all kinds of weather, long days of paddling upstream, plenty of hammock and tent nights and naps and even one scary moment when another boater’s wake swamped their canoes. It’s also brought peaceful mornings on the water, pleasant meetings with fellow boaters and even a quick dash to a Waffle House near one city.
“It’s been so nice to step away from normal life and just enjoy nature and some of these beautiful parts of the country,” said Albert, who said each morning begins around 4:30 a.m. and usually includes 10-12 hours on the river each day.
Last year the trio tackled a canoe trip to the Cheatham Dam from Franklin on the Cumberland River, paddling some 80 miles. The trip packed in some strong lessons, but also triggered the urge for more.
“It was kind of one of those things where we wanted to find out how far we can take this,” Dooley said. “So when we finished, we thought, why not the Gulf?”
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Much like their dedication in the classroom – all three graduated with 4.2 GPAs or better – the three teenagers endured plenty of planning and probably even more long talks with parents to make the trip a reality. The teenagers have been on the river system for more than three weeks and are being tracked by GPS locators and resupplied along the route.
“They will have the last leg on their own since they are out of reach for a day trip to resupply,” Dooley’s dad John said. "We'll see them again in Mobile, though."
“It’s been a ton of paddling, but there’s a routine to it all and we have had some great experiences with people along the way,” the younger Dooley said. “It’s been a really awesome experience.”
The trio are in Mississippi currently and plan to reach the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the month. Their journey can be followed online by following canoe_dig_it on Instagram or by checking out a blog chronicling their journey at https://harpethtogulf.blogspot.com.