Now more than ever, members of the Soggy Bottom Kayak Club in Tellico Village are seeking adventure and relaxation in the great outdoors.

Members of the club participated in a five-mile journey Friday morning across the Little Tennessee River into Citico Creek. Club members Melanie Harmon and Dee Prickett served as paddle leaders.

The group launched from the scenic Harrison Branch Recreation Area in Tallassee.

“Oh, that’s a nice paddle,” Harmon said. “It’s close to Punkin Center on U.S. 129 where the Foothills Parkway ends at U.S. 129 before you go up The Dragon. We’re going on the Little Tennessee River and then up Citico Creek, and that’s cool because we’re going to go up Citico Creek as far as we can. It gets more and more narrow, more and more mysterious, and we will actually go up until the creek from the mountains is hitting the backup from the river and you can’t go any further because its Class 1 rapids.”

Harmon is an avid hiker and kayaks to get a different perspective of trails.

“It’s really cool because I hike a lot through here, and it’s cool to see the different hiking trails from a different vantage point,” she said. “It’s just so beautiful out here and as soon as you hit the water, all of your stress and everything just goes away.”

Prickett has been a member of the club for 10 years.

“It’s just getting to know all the people and how adventurous they are,” she said. “The joy of just being out in the open at any given time. We don’t mind if it’s sprinkling a little because if we get wet, we’ll get wet anyway. It’s a great thing now with everything that’s happening in our world, and it gives us such a great piece of mind to be out. I think we all need that.”

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, club members have learned to appreciate the numerous waterways in and around the community. The group typically holds two or three paddles per month starting in April and running through October.

Kayaking is a great way to exercise, socialize and enjoy nature while maintaining social distance.

“It’s providing a physical release from being sedentary, or let’s say more sedentary than one might normally be,” Harmon said. “The physical release is one of the best combatants for stress there is. I think very importantly, it allows one to slow down and decompress because they’re in nature. They’re getting away from all the heaviness and the burden of many things, including the pandemic. They’re outdoors and they’re connecting to all that provides for us, so that just refills us, re-centers us and slows us down.”

“It’s good exercise, but it’s good for your mind, your heart and your soul,” Prickett added. “That’s one of the things that I think we think about it.”

Wendy Payne recently moved into the Village from the District of Columbia and joined the club to get out and make new friends.

“I joined the club just a few months ago, and the club has been a great opportunity because my husband is not able to physically paddle with me so this gives me an opportunity to go a little further away from home and enjoy the water,” she said. “It’s been fabulous, and it is an incredible core and upper-body workout. Honestly, we didn’t expect to enjoy the water. We are people who were trapped in the city for career reasons and just being out in the country is what drew us here. Having close neighbors and the social aspect has been wonderful.”

The next scheduled trip will be at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Guinn Road Park in Knoxville. The paddle is five-mile roundtrip excursion along the Clinch River and Beaver Creek, and a lunch will follow.