Some of the best parts of kayaking happen on the way to the river. Take this past Saturday as we drove to the Cheoah, located on edge of the Smoky Mountains. We stopped by to support a seven-year old continue developing as a paddler and left inspired by her determination.

“Stop here,” Amy said, pointing to the turn for Werloom Honey located just outside of Robbinsville. “There’s a seven-year old selling lemonade to raise money to buy a new kayak.”

We lined up to buy cups of lemonade from Abby who has been paddling for a year.

Abby told us why she wants a new boat. “I took my Fun 1 out and couldn’t fit into it anymore, my knees wouldn’t cram in there.”

13528111_10153690180716299_5299062171466075942_oAbby decided to set up a lemonade stand for paddlers coming to town for the Cheoah release. She’ll use the money earned, along with the proceeds from selling her current boat, to purchase her dream kayak – a pink Dagger Axiom.

Abby participates in the Kids Club, run by the Nantahala Racing Club. They meet once a week on Thursday afternoons to paddle. They work on skills ranging from stroke technique and t-rescues to peel outs and eddy turns.

“What’s your favorite river?” Amy asked.

“Hmm,” Abby took a minute to think about it. “The Little Tennessee. I like paddling the Tuck too.”

Abby told me she got up early to get her stand ready. We stopped by at 11:30 on our way to the river and when we drove by five hours later, Abby was still out in the hot sun selling lemonade to paddlers.13528462_10153690180911299_157463508397735457_oHer dad told us that he’s making sure she keeps it tame for right now, and doesn’t want her to paddle anything too hard, although she has paddled portions of the Cheoah on non-release days. For safety reasons, Abby paddles without a sprayskirt, although sometimes her kayak fills up with water.

Rhett Flowers bought a round for everyone. “I seldom see adults with such clear dreams and the tenacity to achieve their goals that was immediately evident when I met Abby.”

Abby was so excited to have paddlers stop and talk with her, and was blown away that some people would stop by and giver her money without even wanting lemonade. She ended up making just shy of a hundred bucks. 

We thanked Abby and said good-bye, leaving with lemonade and filled with hope for a girl, a kayak, and the possibilities that await her downstream.