PHOTO: Preparing for their canoe trip to the Gulf of Mexico are 2019 Franklin High graduates (from left) Luke Saulters, Jonah Albert and Job Dooley. / Photos submitted
By JOHN McBRYDE
At the end of their junior year at Franklin High School in 2018, three lifelong friends took a canoe trip on the Harpeth River all the way to the Cumberland River and to Cheatham Dam, about 80 miles away.
One year later, just a day after high school graduation, Jonah Albert, Luke Saulters and Job Dooley set off to extend that trip from last summer just a bit farther. They’re now a little more than halfway to their summer of ’19 destination, the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s like something out of Huck Finn’s river travels, only with a blog and an Instagram account.
“It’s been an incredible adventure so far,” Albert said by phone Saturday as the travelers took a break along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway near Aberdeen, Mississippi.
“The best part is the freedom it gives us, and being able to make every day our own unique adventure of a lifetime.”
According to a blog that’s being kept, the travelers are averaging around 25 miles and some 10-12 hours of river time a day. They’re expected to reach the gulf on the Tombigbee River just south of Mobile, Alabama, by the end of June.
The three teenagers are no strangers to the river. The Harpeth is near their homes, and they took advantage of its proximity by canoeing and kayaking on it while growing up in Franklin. To commemorate their summer heading into their senior season, Albert, Saulters and Dooley decided to put their river enthusiasm to the test.
The Harpeth River flows just beyond the Dooley family’s backyard on Old Hillsboro Road, so the trio set off from there to their destination in Cheatham County. That was the ticket, Albert said.
“We just got bit with the bug,” he said. “So last fall during the school year, we thought about doing another trip. We thought it would be awesome to start where we left off from last summer’s trip at the Cheatham Dam and take it to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Friends and family have been helping the travelers along the way, giving them breaks and assisting with supplies. They had a chance to settle into a room at Pickwick Inn to recharge some after having reached Pickwick Dam through 190 miles of padding upstream. Mostly, though, they’re camping in tents or on hammocks wherever the waters lead them.
And it’s not just the waters that tie together the trio. Each will be majoring in chemical engineering when they enter college this fall, Dooley at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Albert and Saulters at Mississippi State University.