“Paddling takes me to wonderful places, beautiful places. It demands that I be totally there. It’s a most fascinating thing for an active mind. To allow me to just focus on the river, how can I play in this moment?
Bunny Johns is something of the grande dame of paddling in WNC. Originally from Atlanta, GA, she was part of the early Bryson City paddling community, first coming to the area as a camp counselor at Camp Merrie-Woode in Sapphire, NC, a valid outdoor camp for girls, in the early 1960s. In fact, that was her introduction to paddling. She taught swimming at camp, and her students, in turn, taught her to paddle the lake in a canoe. She quickly turned her attention to canoeing, graduating from paddling lakes to whitewater, at that time section 3 of the Chattooga River. Eventually, as she became part of the early community of Nantahala Outdoor Center she took the plunge and moved full-time to Bryson City, working as a manager in the kayak school. “At that time, the philosophy was, everybody did everything; clean rooms, kayak and raft guide, cook. After I burned the trout the got me out of the kitchen.”