If we’re lucky, we can make up for time lost to the perpetual rain that dominated the summer, washing out one weekend after another like a sharpshooter picking off toy ducks in a shooting gallery at the county fair.
The older your kids get though, quality family time becomes a harder and harder sell. So here’s a new strategy: Take them out in a boat.
River or lake, canoe or raft, it doesn’t matter. The point is, they’ll be trapped in a boat with nothing better to do than actually talk to their parents. Mention off-handedly what a catastrophe it would be if the boat tipped over and everyone’s phones fell in the water, and hopefully they’ll conclude on their own it’s best to leave them locked safely in the car.
The Little Tennessee River is a good, gentle choice you can easily float yourself with virtually no paddling experience. You can rent canoes or kayaks from the Great Smokey Mountain Fish Camp near Franklin in Macon County, complete with a shuttle.
If you aren’t sure about moving water and would rather tool around on a lake, you can rent canoes or kayaks on Lake Glenville in Jackson County from Lakeshore Pontoon Boat Rental. At Lake Fontana, you can rent canoes and kayaks from Fontana Marina.
If you want to keep it super simple and super cheap — i.e. you have little ones with a short fuse when it comes to being still in a confined space — you can just take a spin in a paddle boat on Lake Junaluska.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, try any number of outfitters on the Tuckaseegee River in Jackson County that rent various and sundry types of floating devices you can ride in and on.
Every year, we have the same conversation in our house about buying a canoe. How many times a year would we actually use it? Given the cost of renting one, and the few times we would actually go out, we conclude we can rent a canoe a few times a year for the next 10 years for the cost of buying one. But still, buying one would be nice — one day.
I’ll admit I’m a safety nut, but it’s just plain smart to make your kids wear lifejackets, no matter how good a swimmer they are. My husband and I even wear them as well in case we have to jump in after a kid. It’s hard to hold up even a small child if you’re in water over your own head. Try treading water with a couple bowling balls sometime and you’ll see what I mean.
A final tip: Brush up on the lyrics to “This Land is Your Land” before you go and belt it out should things get dull. Hey, turn about is fair play after all, and this time, you get to drive them crazy. There’s nowhere they can go but overboard.