Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Reading List

I read 75 books this year.  My favorites were The Lovely Bones, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, People of the Book. The Lace Reader, Shadowland, The Likeness and Sarah's Key.


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  This book is not really a thriller but does have some of the suspense that murder mysteries contain.  The book is well written.  The author manages to take a disturbing subject and make it, in the end, healing.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks.  This novel is about  the working-girl heroine, Jane Rosenal.  This is a coming of age book about awkward Jane that skips to various points in her life.  For me, this book is best described as Catcher in the Rye meets Bridget Jones's Diary.

People of the book by Geraldine Brooks.  This novel is about a book manuscript conservator Hanna Heath is hired to work on.  This religious manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah, is 500 years old.  The novel covers both Hanna's 20th century restoration and the history of the book itself as Hanna discovers a series of tiny artifacts in the codex.  This novel is very well done and this Pulitzer Prize winning author does not disappoint.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.  Set in Salem, Massachusetts, The Lace Reader takes full advantage of the witch trial history of the locale.  This novel grabbed my attention at the beginning and held it throughout.
"There is lace in every living thing: the bare branches of winter, the patterns of clouds, the surface of water as it ripples int he breeze.... Even a wild dog's matted fur shows a lacy pattern if you look at it closely enough."

The Likeness by Tana French.  Detective Cassie Maddox goes undercover to solve the murder of a post-grad in this murder mystery with a unique twist.  This was a hard-to-put-down book!

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  This well-paced novel alternated between Julia Jarmond's modern-day story and Sarah's 1942 situation.  It is also story of family secrets.  I found the novel to be moving and well-written.  In some ways it reminded me of Suite Francaise.

This year I also have a few new categories.

Worst book
  • Amarcord: Marcella Remembers by Marcella Hazan.  I have no idea why I felt compelled to finish this book.  OK, I do.  My mother loaned the book to me.  The first section of this book was very interesting. I enjoyed reading about Marcella's journey from Egypt to Milan and reading about her time at Lake Garda during World War II. She has some very interesting stories to share, especially the one about the skeleton.

    The last 2/3 of the book involved a lot of self serving name dropping and that was considerably less enjoyable. The book became a slog to read. The low point was when she devoted an entire chapter to a child-like criticism of famed food editor Judith Jones.
Biggest Train Wreck

Have you ever seen a horror movie that was so bad that it was funny?
  • Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell.  The book was poorly written and the author's behavior so abhorrent that I wonder why she put it in writing.  Who would want to commemorate that?!  Throughout the book, I kept on thinking to myself, "She knows her mother's going to read this, right?" This book has become a family joke.  Oh look!  Cleaving is now available in paperback!
Most Disappointing
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  Simply put, I wanted to love this book and I did not.   The premise of the book was good but the characters did not develop and the book lacked heart.  It was a slog.
Most Saccarhine
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.  I picked this up after reading and enjoying Magic Hour.  This book was like reading a Lifetime movie.  If there was a cliche to be had, it was employed and every song, food, fad of the 1970's was referenced.

The list
  1. Unaccustomed Earth: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri
  2. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
  3. Amarcord: Marcella Remembers by Marcella Hazan
  4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  5. The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
  6. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
  7. Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane
  8. The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg
  9. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
  10. Twilight (Twilight #1) by Stephenie Meyer
  11. New Moon (Twilight #2) by Stephenie Meyer
  12. Eclipse (Twilight, 3) by Stephenie Meyer
  13. Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) by Stephenie Meyer
  14. Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding
  15. We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson
  16. Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
  17. Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell
  18. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
  19. The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller
  20. East of the Sun by Julia Gregson
  21. Dedication by Emma McLaughlin
  22. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  23. Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin
  24. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  25. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweetby Jamie Ford
  26. Brooklyn    Colm Toibin
  27. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  28. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  29. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
  30. The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
  31. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
  32. Airhead (Airhead #1) by Meg Cabot
  33. Being Nikki (Airhead #2) by Meg Cabot
  34. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  35. Coventry by Helen Humphreys
  36. The Clique (The Clique #1) by Lisi Harrison
  37. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  38. Runaway (Airhead #3) by Meg Cabot
  39. Best Friends for Never (The Clique #2) by Lisi Harrison
  40. Jinx by Meg Cabot
  41. Insatiable by Meg Cabot
  42. My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster
  43. Shadowland (The Mediator #1) by Meg Cabot
  44. A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham
  45. Revenge of the Wannabes (The Clique #3) by Lisi Harrison
  46. I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci
  47. Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger
  48. Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate #2) by Gail Carriger
  49. Invasion of the Boy Snatchers (The Clique #4) by Lisi Harrison
  50. Ninth Key (The Mediator #2) by Meg Cabot
  51. Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock
  52. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
  53. Reunion (The Mediator #3) by Meg Cabot
  54. Darkest Hour (The Mediator #4) by Meg Cabot
  55. Haunted (The Mediator #5) by Meg Cabot
  56. Twilight (Mediator Series #6) by Meg Cabot
  57. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg Larsson
  58. The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2 ) by Stieg Larsson
  59. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium #3) by Stieg Larsson
  60. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  61. The Likeness by Tana French
  62. Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah
  63. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  64. Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.
  65. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  66. In the Woods by Tana French
  67. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  68. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  69. Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten
  70. Comfort and Joy: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
  71. Everything Must Go by Elizabeth Flock
  72. Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3) by Gail Carriger
  73. High Tea by Sandra Harper 
  74. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhonda Janzen 
  75. The Baker's Apprentice by Judi Hendricks 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beach2Battleship half iron distance triathlon

DH and I arrived in Wilmington just before lunch on Friday so we stopped for lunch at McAllister's and went to pick up my packet at the convention center. There was no line for packet pickup.  I enjoyed the Expo and attended the briefing before heading to check out T2 at the Battleship North Carolina and then drop off my bike at T1 in Wrightsville Beach.  Then we stopped for dinner at Mellow Mushroom and had an early night involving me going through all of my bags again.

I got up at 5:30 on race morning and had a bagel with peanut butter and a banana along with a water bottle of Camelbak Elixir. Then I headed downstairs for the bus to Wrightsville Beach. We stayed at the Hilton and that is really the place to stay for this event. The bus went from the hotel to Wrightsville Beach for the start and from the Battleship to the hotel at the end. The sea taxis also went from the Battleship to the hotel. It was a very convenient location.

The bags - All half participants had three bags for their gear. One bag was for before/after items. You know, the things that you want at the start of the swim but don't need again until after you cross this finish line. I had sweat pants that I wore before, a long-sleeved T for after and a sweatshirt for before, Crocs and wetsuit and other swim stuff. The next bag was T1 so bike shoes, bike gear like gloves, helmet, sunglasses, socks. The final bag was for T2 (not the same location as T1) and it had running gear including shoes, number belt, hat and socks. All of the bags went on the bus with me. (Next time, they will be pre-deployed. I'll double bag them if I am worried they will get wet from dew.)

After the bus ride I dropped off my T2 bag and went to T1 to set that up. The bikes were all checked in on Friday night so it was more of a preload the Bento box, pump tires, make a final decision on what to wear (I went with tri shorts and tri top that I wore under my wetsuit and added arm warmers and a 2 gallon zip lock bag under my shirt as a temporary vest.)  I met up with Sherry and Scott from BT and I saw Jerry and Fred from CSH. Once that was all set, I took the shuttled to the swim start.

Once I was at the swim start I watched some of the full participants swim by (the full started at 7:00, the first wave of the half started at 8:30). I went to the parking lot across the street from the start where it was sunny and sat Lisa, John, Stan and Jerry C. We visited. I had a Lara bar while I was waiting. It was actually relaxing -- until the announcer started and then everyone kind of started to freak out. The water was advertised at "mid-60s." When my wave was called, I got into the water -- totally submerged myself when I got in. And it BEGINS.

For me, the swim was uneventful.  I thought 45 minutes on the swim was reasonable so going a minute faster was fine with me!  T1 was slow partly due to cold hands and feet and the run over.  I should have used the wet suit strippers.  All were busy so I continued.  I should have waited 10 seconds and used them though.   I had some minor issues with cold hurting feet on the run to T1.  The way the swim worked, you get out of the channel by climbing ladders and then un down a dock and then run about 400 yards to T1. The sidewalks were OK to run on but I did not like running on the blacktop one bit.

After much debate over several weeks and frequently checking the weather forecast,  (actual weather data: 52 when I got on the bike, 67 when I got off the bike, hit 70 during the run)  I wore arm warmers and put a 2 gallon zip lock bag under my tri top for the bike.  Also wore bike gloves and mtb socks.  My feet felt funny when I clipped in  -- like there was something in my shoe besides my foot and sock -- but I continued.  It turned out they were just cold.

Great Bike! Exceeded my expectations!

The bike was good. I loved riding on 140. It was FAST! Just after we got off 140, we had the first water station.  My plan was to drink one bottle of Camelbak Elixir before the first water stop.  Dump the empty, move bottle #2 forward and grab a water.  I figured if the bottle grab didn't go well, I had another chance this way.  Got the bottle with no problem.  I was able to execute this plan with no problem.  Shortly after the first aid station I took the baggie-vest out and put that in my pocket to drop off at the next water station. (You are not allowed to litter, the rules call it abandoned equipment.  You can, however, get rid of trash, etc. at aid stations.)

After getting off 140, we took 421 north and jogged over to Blueberry Road where we continued north. We had some headwind on the 421/Blueberry section. Then a turn onto another road for a short while before the turnaround. Ah, a little tailwind! Oh, and that was a false flat heading UP so things are GOOD!

On the way back on Blueberry Road I saw a cyclist down and then I saw an ambulance. I hope the rider is OK.

Overall, I was pleased with the bike segment.

When I got to T2, I remember to removed Garmin, handed bike to volunteer and headed to my gear/rack space. Shoe/sock change, hat on, kept the sunglasses. Where are the portapots? Oh, there is a line. Run to Run Out and GO!

I felt great coming off the bike. There was a line for port-a-pots in transition so ran to first aid station and went there (in other words, run time includes potty break). Ran well for the first bit and faded.  There was a lot of crowd support downtown! It was great!

The run course started off with crossing a Big Bridge, cross a little bridge -- the Northeast Cape Fear River Bridge which is relatively flat, run along the Wilmington waterfront and then head up a hill to Front Street to Greenfield Park. Turnaround and head back.

Just after we got to mile three I was thinking, "Almost a quarter of the way done! Woo hoo!" Then a spectator said, "They have 10 miles to go."

I thought we would never get around the park. We got on the path and kept going and going and going. I had a Hammer gel just before the turnaround. I saw Stan, Lisa and Fred before the turnaround and then spotted John and Jerry after the turn around. Seeing my friends was really nice.

I got water at most but not all water stops. My stomach started to rebel with 3-4 miles to go on the run. 

The run heading back to downtown seemed faster.   I got over the little bridge OK. Then I saw the Big Bridge. Oh my! When I saw that last bridge I wanted my mommy. OK, not really. It just looked very intimidating to me and I kept on thinking that I wanted to run the whole thing so I kept on trucking.

The finish chute was great! I heard the announcer call my name. As soon as I got across the line and they took my chip, I got my medal. It is really cool. Maybe even better than my Donald Duck!

Stan and Lisa were there and I talked to them a little bit. DH was there and that felt great! He got some nice pictures too :-)

I loved this event and I'll be back!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Beach2Battleship half iron distance (before)

Day of event splits are being updated by the event organizers approximately every 30 minutes. I'm number 775.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

le Tour de Femme

Earlier this month I participated in le Tour de Femme. This is a great ride that has really grown over the years. The weekend kicks off with festivities at Cycling Spoken Here on Friday. On Saturday morning, there is the ride followed by a catered lunch. All of the riders are given pink carnations as they finish. Good stuff!
The presentation just before the ride

Sandra, all lined up and ready to go

I had a really good time on this ride. After 7 miles or so, I took my first pull and it was lloonngg -- like 12 miles. I was just going my own pace and having fun and stuff. We stopped a the second rest stop to get water and took picked up some other riders (we were down to two at this point). I continued with them.

The group dropped someone on Big Woods and two riders took off while the rest of us slowed up. I don't want to drop someone right after they took a pull. That's just rude! We continued on and one person wanted to stop at the third stop. We all held up for her and the volunteers said there were two riders in front of us. Yikes! I had no idea that I was in the second group. Kinda fun ;-) Yeah, I know the Tour de Femme doesn't exactly draw the racer types but still.

Me and the ladies that I rode with!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wilmington YMCA Sprint photos

Sign from Two Wheeler Dealer, a local bike shop in
Wilmington that hosted packet pickup

Photo of the swim course. I took this picture from
Sea Path, the swim finish. The swim started at
Blockade Runner. Note the arrow pointing to the start.

My awesome support team!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Catching up -- way past due

Janyne before the start at
Lake Logan

I know that I've been slack in posting here. I've been busy but nothing seemed interesting enough to report here. I completed my second triathlon in August -- Lake Logan International. That one took place in western North Carolina.

The course was fun and I'd go it again. In September I road in Bike MS for the sixth time.

Also in September I completed my third triathlon -- Wilmington YMCA Sprint. That one was really fun! I had a blast! I really wanted to do the event because the swim is similar to the one that I'll be doing for B2B. There were 1500 people registered for the event -- huge compared to my first two triathlons that had 200-250 athletes each. We went down on Friday afternoon and I went to packet pickup at Two Wheeler Dealer. There was one person in line in front of me so check in was super easy. Then we headed over to Wrightsville and checked out the site a bit and then checked into the hotel. We dropped off the dogs and went to the pre-race meeting. I'd guess 50+ people were at the meeting. Then we walked over to Sea Path which was the swim finish and checked that out along with the 300m run to transition. I found my rack in transition and we went to dinner (pre race pizza!). So, the check in process and pre-race day logistics were simple.

Janyne with teammate
David L. before the start of Bike MS
On Saturday, the usual get up at 5:00. I ate while DH took care of the dogs. We got to the site at 5:30. Parked, set up transition, talk, potty, talk, shuttle bus to swim start at 6:30. Hang out at Blockade Runner (the swim started on the Blockade Runner water access), watch first waves of athletes start their swim (waves started at 7:00), talk to people about siting and current. My wave went at 7:55. The bike course was congested and there were no passing zones over the draw bridge. That was the only on course issue. After the race, I had a hard time finding my parents and keeping Kevin, the Girls and my parents under control :-)

The race was good, well run, etc. I would definitely go back. This was the first triathlon that I felt like a triathlete. I hope that makes sense. The others went well enough but I guess I wasn't really in my comfort zone or whatever. I was more nervous excited that nervous what have I got myself into.

Since then, I have mostly been busy training for Beach2Battleship where I am will be doing my first half iron distance triathlon -- 1.2 mile swim, then 56 mile bike and finally a half marathon run. I've been working to improve my swimming and trying to keep the other pieces together as well and diligently logging my workouts.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pigeon and Noli - Liquid Sunshine and Rooster Tails

The Loft
In August I was invited to go paddling with Len and Barbara and stay at Barb's mountain house near Waynesville, North Carolina. Barb's family has large vacation house that everyone in her family uses. Normally I sleep in a guest bedroom downstairs, but for the first time I was assigned to the loft bedroom. The loft is very nice because above the bed there is a large picture window with a view of the mountains and the private bathroom has a chandelier! Barb and Len's friend Steve was in the downstairs guest bedroom because he had to get up early for a cycling event, the Blue Ridge Breakaway.

I enjoy staying at Barb's place because I don't have to camp. It takes a lot less time to load and unload for a trip since I don't have to deal with all of the camping gear. I always make sure to bring a hostess gift with me and Janyne will often bake goodies like banana bread to share.

Barb and Len also invited other friends to stay including: paddling friends Ron, Joan, and Joan's two teenage children.

Liquid Sunshine
Saturday morning Barn, Len, and I took a walk. There are a lot of horses in the area, and they all know Barb because she likes to feed them carrots. We had plenty of time since the Pigeon doesn't run until 12:00.
Pouring Rain on the Pigeon RiverWe loaded up all of the paddling gear and headed to the Pigeon. It had started to pour down rain, which is really only a problem when you load and unload gear. I waited at the putin while the shuttle vehicles were positioned. I tried to stay out of the pouring rain as much as possible.

The rain didn't stop until we were at Lost Guide rapid. It doesn't matter if it rains while you are on the river, but it wasn't so good for the people on the bike ride. We found out later that the park service had to close the Blue Ridge Parkway due to the rain and the fog. One of Janyne's cycling friends got hypothermia while going fast in a descent and spent some time in the hospital. The rain wasn't in the forecast, so very few of the cyclists brought rain gear.

Before Double Reactionary rapid on the Pigeon, we encountered a young lady standing IN the river. Apparently she was part of a university rafting group and she fell out of the raft. Lee had her grab onto the back of his kayak and he tried to take her to shore. She must have let go because she ended up swimming through the rapid and was really bounced around. After the rapid, Len had her grab his boat and got her to shore. She was really upset and didn't want to go though the next, and last rapid, accelerator. The problem is, there's not a good way to walk around it, so you have to be in a boat.

We stopped at Pigeon Gorge take out for lunch where Barb met up with us. Barb joined us to run the lower Pigeon. At the end of the run, Barb said that it seemed "easier". We told her that her paddling has improved and is more experienced, so it should seem easier.

After running the Ocoee quite a few times over the summer, the Pigeon seemed so much easier. Of course, any river can be made more difficult by using a play boat, playing more in features, practicing more difficult moves, etc.

We headed back to Barb's place where we later had a great grilled salmon dinner.

Getting the Bird from Roostertail

On Sunday Lee, Len, Bob, and I ran the Nolichucky River. This was my Nolichucky PFD (personal first descent). The Nolichucky is a class III-IV river and is generally considered more difficult than the Ocoee. On our run, the river was running between 1600 - 1700 cfs, which isn't a bad level for a first timer.
Nolichucky GorgeLen and I drove to Bob's house near Asheville and loaded up Bob's big Suburban. The Suburban is really old and beaten up, but it can hold a lot of gear and people. The air conditioning went out years ago, but we didn't need it.

We met Lee at the Nolichucky Gorge Campground. The campground manager, whom I've written about before, was on us before we even crossed the bridge. "$3 a head" he barked. Bob answered with "Well, we have three heads". The fee is worth it though since the campground manager arranged for a shuttle driver, the campground is the take out for the Nolichucky gorge, and we could use the campground's bathrooms and showers. The Nolichucky shuttle is very long and difficult, so it is worth the $20 to hire a driver to bring the car back to the take out.

The Nolichucky Gorge is beautiful because the river winds between the mountains. The run is remote and quite long. The more difficult rapids are in the first third or so of the run. The water was turbid with a lot of silt, but that was due to the recent heavy rains. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but it wasn't too hot.

My first combat roll was in the rapid "On the Rocks". I flipped and did a combat roll right away. Later Bob said that while he was watching me run the rapid and saw me flip he said "NOW would be a good time for a roll...".

We then came to the roostertail rapid. You can't see much of the rapid until you are almost on top of it. You have to go from right to left between rocks and have the proper boat angle. I wasn't quite on the right line. I flipped in the first drop and was banged against the bottom. I rolled up, caught my breath, then was flipped all the way over to the other side. I was banged on bottom again. I rolled up and I thought I was up for good! yea! But then I was pinned against the rock I was warned about (don't get pinned THERE), which then flipped me. After being banged against the bottom a bit more, I had enough and bailed out. That may not have been the best choice because I was banged against the rocks in the swim. I lost some skin on hands and knees, but I DID have my carbon paddle in hand. Lee had me grab the back of his boat and towed me to shore.

We all then had lunch since roostertail marks the end of the more difficult rapids. While talking at lunch, I discovered I was the youngest person in the group. I said how old I was and Bob said "42? I thought you said 32. If you were 32, I'd have you run Roostertail AGAIN."

At lunch Len gave me a great compliment. He said that he saw a huge improvement in my paddling skills, especially reading water and boat control. I wasn't thrilled to have swum, but everyone swims at some point.

The rest of the river is mostly read and run. Lee was in the lead and for some reason was moving really fast when we were in rock garden rapid. Rock garden is a fairly long rapid where you have to dodge rocks and holes. I tried to follow Lee's line, except for when I saw him go into holes I wanted to avoid. After the rapid, Lee admitted that he didn't have a very clean line.

When we were loading up gear, Bob mentioned that he saw me do a couple of "practice" rolls late in the run. I flipped on a couple of minor things and rolled up. I said "Oh, you weren't supposed to see those...".

After loading up the gear and changing into dry clothes, we headed back to Bob's place. The drive along I-26 in Tennessee and North Carolina is gorgeous. There are a lot of large mountains and it is mostly undeveloped.

I had a great time on the river. Lee was a great guide since he knew the river well and always explained each rapid. Bob and Len also knew the river. It will take me several more runs to become comfortable with the river and to know the lines.

Friday, August 20, 2010

WOO2! Weekend of Ocoee 2 - Table Saw's Revenge

Kevin at double trouble rapid, Ocoee River TennesseeOn the Road Again
I had such a good time paddling the Ocoee in July with my kayaking friend John, I wanted to go one more time before John's fall college football work schedule consumed all of his weekends.

Friday evening John was working the Redskins game in Washington D.C. He planned to drive back to Durham Saturday morning and we would leave for the Ocoee from his place. It took him several hours just to get to Fredericksburg Virginia! As a result, we didn't get on the road until 6 pm.

The drive to the Ocoee is nearly 6.5 hours. On our previous trip we ended up at the Chilhowee Campground because there were no campsites at the Thunder Rock campground. Chilhowee Campground requires you to drive further down the highway, then 7.5 miles on a switch back unmarked road up a mountain, something we didn't want to do in the middle of the night. We decided to camp at Smoky Mountain Meadows campground in Bryson City. We called ahead, they told us where to set up, and we'd pay in the morning.

Thunder Rock Campground
The Thunder Rock Campground is across the Ocoee river from the highway. Unfortunately that meant I heard truck traffic all night. I need to pack ear plugs! However, you can't beat the campground's location because you can be at the put in in under five minutes.
Kevin's tent at Thunder Rock Campground, Tennessee
For this trip I upgraded my camping gear. I replaced the Thermarest with a twin sized Eddie Bauer inflatable mattress (which has the battery pump built in). I also brought along a battery powered fan since it was SO hot on the previous trip. When you car camp, you don't have to worry as much about weight.
TVA information for the Ocoee damsBehind our site ran the water that comes out the hydro plant power house. TVA was generating power when we arrived, so the water was flowing quickly. In the middle of the night I heard a noise, and I could tell that the water wasn't flowing any more. In the morning the level had dropped way down and it looked like there was no current at all.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Ocoee
It's not usually a problem to have only one car when paddling the Ocoee. There are so many paddlers around, you can hitch a ride back to the put in.

After I parked my car at the take out for our first run on Sunday, I asked a group if they were setting shuttle and if could have a ride. I got a story about how they "normally" would let people ride with them, but were full and had no room. Hmm...there's PLENTY of room in the cab of the truck AND in the back (and I don't take up much space). A simple "Sorry, but no" would have been more polite. Not a good way to earn river karma points!

It was still fairly early in the morning on Sunday, so there wasn't much traffic on the highway. I waited for awhile, only bothering to put out my thumb for vehicles with some sort of kayak, raft, or open boat (everyone else gives you a funny look and zooms by). Another paddler came over to the side of the road to hitch a ride. I introduced myself. Finally a small car from Memphis with kayaks on top pulled over. Two of us needed to share a single seat, so it was good that I already introduced myself!

For the second run on Sunday, I ended up getting a ride in the back of a pickup truck. I rode in the back with a bunch of kids and another kayaker. Overhead was a raft, which was dripping water. That was fine since I was already wet, it was warm out, and it sure beat walking. After we were a ways down the road, the driver yells out "Don't TRUST the tailgate". So we slid away from the tailgate.

Setting shuttle Monday was little trickier. There was little traffic on the highway and no rafting companies had started yet since the water had just turned on (and Monday would be a light day anyhow). My car was the only car in the take out parking lot. Oh, this could be awhile. Luckily a pickup loaded with kayaks in the back stopped. I rode in the back on top of the kayaks, clinging to the bottom of the open window at the back of the cab (I didn't want to get flung off on a curve). From my perch I could see the nearly empty river and saw that the water bubble had reached double suck rapid.

Buzzed By Table Saw
Prior to this weekend, I had run table saw rapid multiple times (several runs at higher water levels) with no problems. On Saturday, table saw decided to teach me a little humility.

On the first run Saturday, I flipped in the hole at the top of the rapid. I ran the entire rapid upside down and was bounced up and down through the big waves. The rapid sent my kayak into an eddy on river right, where I rolled up and caught my breath. John tapped the top of his helmet to ask if I was ok, and I responded that I was.

On the second run Saturday, I made it past the hole at the top. However, I was flipped in one of the waves lower in the rapid. I rolled and went on my way.

Sunday I ran the rapid cleanly. Apparently the lesson was over!

At one point John made the comment that he "Liked my style", referring to the fact that if I blow my first roll attempt, I will try several more times. He was happy that he didn't need to practice rescue techniques.

Not Kevin's Eddy
Flipper rapid is done in two steps. You go over the first drop on river right, eddy out river left, then go over the second drop again on the right. You do NOT go barreling down the center since there's a big drop that will likely flip you (hence, flipper).

John was getting annoyed that I wouldn't eddy out. I would zoom on by and finish the rapid, sometimes on river left for the second drop (which isn't the preferred line). He was going to call the eddy "not Kevin's Eddy". On the second run Saturday, I flipped, rolled, and again went down the left. John said "You SURE don't want to go into that eddy! You'll do ANYTHING to not do it.". He explained how I needed to ride the curler of water, which would do most of the work of putting you in the eddy.

On Sunday's run, I DID eddy out, so I suggested that we call it "Sometimes Kevin's eddy" or "usually not Kevin's eddy".

Did You Know That There's a Hole BELOW Double Trouble?
During week of rivers, I managed to get flipped in a hole that is BELOW double trouble on river left. I wanted to avoid that hole this weekend.

After running double trouble with no problems, I eddied out river left above the hole. I did a bad job of peeling out into the current, went right into the hole, flipped, rolled, and went on my way. John laughed. On subsequent runs I eddied out river RIGHT.

On one run though double trouble, I almost T boned another kayaker that was playing in one of the waves. The rule is simple: the boat in the current has the right of way. If you are playing in the wave, you yield to whoever is coming downstream. This play boater waited until the very last second to peel out, so I missed him by inches. I didn't want to change my boat angle or speed since that would cause me to flip.

Captain of the Swim Team - First Ocoee Swim
Have I mentioned that there's a hole in the center of power house rapid?

I flipped in Hell Hole, which is just before power house rapid. I then took too long to set up for my roll. I rolled up on my first attempt, but went right into the center of power house rapid. I made it through the first part of the rapid, but I flipped in the bottom hole. I was chundered upside down for quite awhile. I couldn't get a good roll, so I bailed out. I picked a PERFECT spot for my first Ocoee swim since it was after the last rapid and in flat water. Perhaps I should have held out for ten more seconds and tried to roll once I was ejected out of the hole. The hole will chunder you for awhile, but it doesn't keep you.

On Monday I also managed to get flipped in power house rapid, but but at least I WAS to the right of the center hole. I was getting tired, so it did take a couple of roll attempts to get up. But I was determined. I was NOT going to swim again.

Monday - Having the River to Ourselves
Monday was a regular Ocoee release, but there wasn't a raft in sight. We wanted to get on the road as soon as possible, so we arrived at the put in before the water came on. When we started, we were the first kayakers on the river.

John suggested I take a video of the river filling with water. I used my new video camera and stood on the ramp holding the same shot. Click here for the video, which is sped up to 4X actual speed.

It was a really fast run. We didn't really play anywhere, there were no rafts in our way, and smaller groups go faster. We were off the water by 11:30 am and on the road by 12 pm.

We stopped at Endless Rivers Adventures on our way back so that John could visit with the owners and buy a river knife. I picked up a nice pair of earrings for Janyne that were made by a local artist.

We had decided to stop at Asiana Grand Chinese buffet for lunch/supper (lupper?). Kayakers rave about the restaurant, but I had never been there. They had a huge selection of items and it was worth the stop (even though the scale may not agree with that).

After that it was time to get home and hang up the gear to dry for the next paddling trip.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WOO! Weekend of Ocoee

Kevin going through double trouble rapid on the Ocoee RiverMy kayaking friend John posted an Ocoee trip on the Carolina Canoe Club's trip list for late July. The trip would only consist of John and I on Saturday and possibly additional people on Sunday. I had been able to get on the Ocoee three times during week of rivers and I wanted to become more familiar and comfortable with the river.

John and I carpooled since there wouldn't be a problem running shuttle on the Ocoee with just one vehicle. The highway runs along the river, so setting shuttle is easy. There are so many paddlers around, it is not difficult or dangerous to hitch a ride.

I picked up John after work on Friday and we were on our way. We arrived at Thunder Rock Campground around 11 pm. When we crossed the bridge over the Ocoee to the campground, we could see in the moonlight that the river was running! Since the flume for the hydro plant is broken and under repair, TVA is trying to draw down water from the lakes behind the dams.

The campground does not take reservations, so it's first come, first serve. Of course, every campsite was taken.

We went to Plan B. I had printed info on some hotels in Murphy such as Hampton and Holiday Inn Express. All of the hotels were full. This exercise did, however, make me glad to have changed cell phone plans to Verizon. John's AT&T phone did not get any reception around the Ocoee.

Now it was time for plan C, which was the Chilhowee Campground. This campground required us to go further down the highway and 7.3 miles up a mountain on a fire road (paved at least). However, it was a lot of switch back turns, which was rough to do in the dark after a long day. The road was paved, but not marked.

The campground has sections A through F. We didn't want A and B since there was no need to play extra for electrical hook ups, so we started at C. All of the sites were full. D, nothing. E, nothing. F, nothing until I came to the LAST site, which I almost went past.

I don't know what plan D would have been.

Friday night's camping wasn't bad since it had cooled down by the time we went to bed, plus it had been a long day. Saturday night, however, was rough because it was hot until about 3:00 am.

Don't Call it Slap Chop Rapid

Run Number One
When we got up Saturday morning, we discovered that John had left his food supplies at home. I offered to share mine since a Cliff bar wouldn't be enough for breakfast. We ended up going out for breakfast at a restaurant in McCaysville Georgia. I had a full spread: French toast, bacon, grits, fresh cantelope, coffee, hash browns.
Ocoee River
On the way to breakfast, we drove along the river. We could see it was really high, especially at tablesaw rapid. The Ocoee was rocking! Saturdays are scheduled upper and middle releases, so the middle usually has around 1500 cfs. We later discovered that the amount that day was closer to 2200 cfs. This was due to the fact that everything was open and releasing water.

But where WAS everyone? Kayakers aren't morning people, but the river was running all night and it was really high. There should be lots of people to take advantage of the unusually high release! What did they know that we didn't know?!

At the put in, John did see one kayaker take his small play boat, look at the water, then go back for a much bigger boat. At the put in we ran into Robert, another CCC member. He looked at my kayak, a Liquid Logic Lil Joe, and said "I'm glad *I* have a bigger boat". uh oh. The Lil Joe is a river runner, so it SHOULD be ok.

After unloading gear, I drove the car to the take out. I got a ride in the back of a pickup with other paddlers.

This was going to be my first time running the entrance rapid, with the added difficulty of a higher water flow. The water was so high, it was pouring onto the ramp you walk down from the top of the dam to the river. It looked even bigger when you were standing next to it versus scouting it from above. I was thinking of Beaker from the Muppets.

The good news was, there we NO rafts on the ramp to contend with. It made starting much easier since you could get in your boat, put on your spray skirt, and go into the current without dodging rafts. In fact, we saw relatively few rafts all day, which is unusual. We encountered a conga line of rafts only a couple of times all day.

John started first so that he could get high in the eddy and be in position in case I blew the ferry. I looked at the fast flow, swallowed hard, tried to be sure I had a good boat angle, then took off. I knew where I needed to be and I didn't mess around. You have to make a couple of ferries across the fast moving water and get to river left, or you could end up in a monster hole known as Grumpies. The water was very pushy so I didn't try to eddy out before Grumpies. When I headed down, John said to himself "Well, there he goes..."

John gave me kudos for leading most of the way down the river that day. There are only a couple of rapids that you need to scout, and we sneak those. The rest is read and run. You just don't follow the raft lines because they purposely go into the bigger holes.

I had six or seven combat rolls on the first run. John was very happy that I go to roll practice since I came up every time. The water was pushy and there were only the two of us most of the time, so a rescue would have been tricky. A long swim would be likely and you'd could lose gear. The eddies were also smaller and more squirly, so it made for a fast run.

Before we got to the slice and dice rapid, John said we needed to modernize the name and call it "slap chop". John went through first and said later that he flipped and rolled. I came to the last part of the rapid and I'm sure I was airborne a bit before being flipped. I held on for a bit upside down for things to calm down, then rolled back up. The rapid must not want a new name.

I made the required ferry to avoid double suck, but I managed to get flipped in the sneak. I banged against the rocks, so I may have put more scratches on my helmet.

Below double suck it became a raft convention. Rafts were all over the place! They blocked the way we would normally go, so we ended up a little more river center. John went through a hole and said to himself "Oh, that wasn't good". I came into the hole, and it grabbed the back of my boat and wouldn't let me go. I paddled like mad, but it pulled me into the hole and flipped me. John could hear me saying "sh*t, sh*t, sh*t". The hole didn't keep me, so I rolled up and went on my way.

Next was Hell's Half Mile, where you normally dodge rocks and holes. There was a lot more water, so there were no rocks, just holes and even bigger holes. It was a fun, wild wet ride. I punched through quite a few holes and was stern squirted a couple of times.

We came up to tablesaw, and it was huge. It was a big water roller coaster where you went up on the huge waves. John said there was a displacement wave since it moved him several feet to the side.

Hell Hole was quite big, so I only clipped it. Below Hell Hole was a wave train of large waves, guiding you more to the center of the river and into a big hole in the center of the next rapid, powerhouse. I love wave trains, so I rode them too far. I ended up in the big hole, flipped, was chundered awhile, then was let go. I rolled and went on my way.

After doing the long flat water lake paddle at the end, we loaded up gear to do a second run. We stopped at Go Forth creek for lunch since it had shade.

Run Number Two
The water level did go down slightly for our second run. We again were lucky and didn't have to contend with rafts on the ramp at the start. I ran the entrance rapid, but this time I was a little too far out into the current. I made the ferry, but wasn't quite where I wanted to be.

In the second run, I only had two combat rolls. The second combat roll was the important one since it was in a clutch situation. I somehow managed to flip while entering the eddy above tablesaw. I didn't have my nose plugs on, so I got a full nasal flush. I KNEW I HAD to roll, so I blew first attempt because I rushed it. I rolled up on the second attempt and could see I was already in tablesaw, but not on the correct line! John apparently was yelling something like "Run it", but I never heard it. I got to the right where I needed to be and ran it fine. But it was an "oh sh*t" moment when I rolled up and realized where I was.

I decided not to ride the wave train this time above powerhouse, and got to the right. This kept me out of the big hole.

After loading up gear and changing into dry clothes, we headed to dinner in Murphy. We went to Brothers, which serves up everything from steaks to pork chops. Many paddlers shun it because they can't serve alcohol (Cherokee may be a dry county), but that's not a deal breaker for me. I'm more concerned about the food. I had one of the specials: a bacon wrapped fillet, baked potato, and lemon cake for dessert.

We made the trip back to the campground. The switch backs up the mountain are a lot easier in the daylight.

Did You Know That There's a Large Hole in the Center of Powerhouse Rapid?

Paul from Atlanta joined our intrepid group on Sunday. We wanted to get on the road as soon as we could, so we met at 9 am (ungodly early for many paddlers). He came with a play boat even though we told him how big the river was. He ended up having a few rolls and one swim for the day.
Ocoee RiverI made it through the big waves at double trouble with no problems. But I managed to flip and roll in a hole below the rapid.

John attempted a move called the Wautauga Move. He didn't have enough speed, so he flipped. He blew at least one, maybe two, roll attempts, then rolled up. I asked him if was adding a "swim" element to the move. He gave me a sour look, insulted that I would suggest that he would swim. Note: everyone swims at some point. It's just a matter of time. The better you get, the longer the time between swims. But it DOES happen eventually.

In tablesaw, the waves spun me around so I ran half the rapid backwards. John said I was showing off. I turned around before I hit the rock at the bottom of the rapid.

The eddy normally above diamond splitter wasn't really there, so I ran through diamond splitter. Paddlers weren't allowed to hang out below diamond splitter. The TVA was blasting and inserting bolts to stabilize the mountain near where the flume was damaged by a rock slide. They had nets up to try and stop rocks, but it wasn't a place you wanted to stay. I went though the next rapid and waited for John and Paul.

We had a running joke over the weekend, which was "Hey, did you know that there's a huge hole in the center of power house rapid"? Every time we drove past the rapid on the highway, we would say that. We told Paul about the hole. And of course, he went into that hole, flipped, and rolled. We warned you Paul!

Paul took us back to the put in and we were on our way by 1:00. Should we stop for lunch, or have a snack and go to the popular Chinese buffet in Asheville? Herbs BBQ was on the way, but were they open on Sunday? We came to Herbs, and not only were they open, they were jam packed. We were hungry, so we stopped. Herbs is listed in Our State Magazine as THE place to eat in Cherokee county. When we got the menus, the Sunday special included: THREE main course entrees, three sides, AND dessert. This was WAY too much food. I looked around and could see many of the regulars may have had the special too many times.

Vice Sqd?! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!

We drove through rain almost continuously from Asheville to Winston Salem, sometimes in downpours. There were many accidents, so traffic was bumper to bumper most of the way. We still managed somehow to make decent time.

While sitting in the bump and grind, I noticed some really stupid vanity plates. A mini van had "vice sqd"? WTF (or Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. All weekend John was using military call signs for letters in acronyms)? "We're L8", again on a mini van. Well, so are WE!

I had a great time on the Ocoee. Since I was comfortable running it at a high level, the normal releases shouldn't be a big deal.

Click here for additional photos. I didn't take very may photos since I was busy most of the time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week of Rivers 2010 - Days 7 - 9

Fog over Nantahala RiverThe Nantahala - It's so Cute

At the 8:30 club meeting on Friday, we were introduced to Aidan and Mary, who were from New Zealand (Mary is originally from Florida, so she has an American accent). They were going to be he Jackson Kayak reps for New Zealand. They were in the US for a few weeks and were traveling around the east coast. Before coming to week of rivers, they went to the Jackson factory to pick up a couple of kayaks. They had small play boats since they had to fit inside the rental car.

My plan was to run the Nantahala on Friday. From 6 to 8 pm Friday evening, there would be a big sale at the NOC store and it was only open to Carolina Canoe Club members. All core paddling gear was at least 20% off. I wasn't going to miss it.

Aidan and Mary decided to join the Nantahala trip. I had room for two more kayaks and people, so they would ride with me. The trip was led by Bob, who has a teen age son Bob who would be in the group (the Bobs). There were at least 12 people in the group, which consisted of open boaters and kayakers.

We got to the put in, and I realized that we didn't get river passes for Aidan and Mary. I explained to them that the Nantahala is the only river in the area where you have to pay for a pass. If a ranger stopped them, they needed to act innocent (and Aidan would need to use his Kiwi accent). I just assumed that by July, everyone would already HAVE a Nantahala pass. When we stopped for lunch at Ferebee Park
, park rangers came by checking passes. I have never seen rangers check! While the rangers were talking to Bob Sr., I signaled to Aidan and Mary that we needed to leave NOW. We were able to discreetly get in our boats and head out.

When we getting ready to start at the put in, it took awhile to herd the cats. I quickly saw that this trip could end up being a fuster cluck. Bob Jr. had a habit of cutting you off and not paying attention to other people. One of the open boaters T boned me, and yelled "watch out" only a second before hitting me. And when you have a large group, people that want to play boat (like Aidan and Mary), would get very little time to do that.

I talked to Bob Sr., and said we would peel off from the group and to not worry about us. That was a great decision since I could show Aidan and Mary many of the play spots on the river. The Nanty is a read and run class II-III river, but it is still good to know where you can make some fun moves and where the play waves are located. The only rapid we got out to scout was Nantahala Falls, but even that may not have been necessary since Aidan and Mary are very skilled boaters.
Aidan play boating on the Nantahala
I did run the falls without being flipped, but as is usual for me, I didn't get quite close enough to the top hole and ended up in part of the bottom hole. My bow came up a bit, but I could paddle through it.

The rest of the group we were in had passed us, so I assumed that I would have to find my own way to get back to my car at the put in. You can usually get a ride, but it gets more difficult later in the day. When we realized how late it was getting, we started moving quickly down the river. Luckily we caught up with the big group, so I could use their shuttle. Whew.

Six of us needed to load into Ruth's Lexus SUV. Three people were crammed into the back seat and they had to sit on a plastic camp table cloth to keep water off of the leather seats (which is why I always have a lot of clean towels in my car). I had to share the front seat with Bob Sr. AND three canoe paddles, which prompted the following:
  • Me: Is that a paddle or are you happy to see me?
  • Bob: I am NOT happy to see you.
I only had half a seat to sit on, so I had to put my left arm behind the driver's seat:
  • Me: I'm not getting fresh.
  • From the back in unison: We are WAY beyond being fresh.
While we were heading up to get the cars at the put in, the skies opened up and it poured. Bob dead pans "I'm glad we didn't bother getting into our DRY clothes". I said "Oh, I see you have a dry sense of humor". This elicited a groan from everyone and I expected to be let out for punning.

I got my car and headed back to NOC. We loaded up gear in the rain, which of course stopped when we had everything loaded. We finally changed into dry clothes.

We were all very hungry, but didn't want to go far since the NOC sale would be starting soon. We went to the River's End restaurant for dinner and had pizza and beer. I introduced Aidan to Fat Tire and Highland's Oatmeal Porter and Gaelic Ale. Highlands is a local brewery in Asheville, and all of their beers are great. Aidan discovered that there actually ARE good beers in America! Aidan and Mary paid for dinner as a thank you for me being a river guide and for shuttling them around.

The sale at the NOC was a huge success. The place was swarming with CCC members and things were flying off of the shelves. I bought a new spray skirt since my current one leaks a bit. You want the skirt to be as tight as possible in order to be water proof and they do stretch over time. I got a small waist size, so I can't gain weight.

Middle Ocoee - Super Sized Hell Hole
Broken Nose Rapid, Ocoee RiverOn Saturday the upper and middle Ocoee were releasing water, so the middle would have even more water. I convinced Aidan and Mary that they HAD to run the Ocoee to experience some big water. Our friend Rick would be in our group, and he runs the middle Ocoee several times in a single day. Rick was a great guide since he was able to give great advice to Aidan and Mary. We had several flips and rolls in the group, but no one swam.

I was very happy being in my larger river runner kayak, a Liquid Logic Lil Joe. It saved my bacon numerous times since I could punch through a lot of the holes and waves.

The waves in Table Saw were MUCH larger. A wave towards the end essentially flung me into the eddy on the left.

Hell Hole was huge. I was flipped and rolled, but by the time I rolled back up, I was already in the next rapid: power house. The waves there were also huge, so I flipped and rolled again. At least I was to the right and avoided the largest holes.

We parked the take out vehicles along the highway to avoid having to do over a half mile of flat water kayaking in the lake that forms after the power house rapid. We were parked on a narrow shoulder, the river down below (I had visions of the CR-V tumbling into the river). We appreciated missing the flat water, but loading gear along a busy two lane highway was a bit tricky.

When you drive back to the campground from the Ocoee, you drive through the Nantahala gorge and along the Nantahala river. After running the much larger Ocoee, Aidan looked at the Nantahala and proclaimed "The Nantahala is so cute". Aidan and Mary had big smiles on their faces all day, so they were very glad that they had the opportunity to run the Ocoee.

Mandolin Orange
The Carolina Canoe Club arranged for Mandolin Orange to perform Saturday night. Mandolin Orange is a folk duo from Carrboro North Carolina and they are incredible. Mandolin Orange normally performs at music festivals and in concert halls, so it was amazing that they came to our intimate setting under the club's tent (with no microphones, which they loved). They performed at week of rivers the previous year and were thrilled to come back. Just like the previous year, they performed many new songs for the first time. They are in the process of recording a new CD. It was funny to hear how excited they were to now have a mini van to tour around in. Saturday night after the concert would be the first time they were going to try sleeping in it.

The club couldn't afford to pay them very much, so we passed a basket around. I put in $10 and also bought their current CD.

Heading Out
Saturday night I loaded up all of the gear I could so that I could get on the road quickly the next morning. Since we were back to the campground late in the afternoon on Saturday, I was able to get most of the gear dry. That would make for a much more pleasant drive home!

I set my alarm for 5:15 am, which was actually
before the butt crack of dawn. I packed up the remaining gear and took down the tent in the dark, shaking off as much of the mountain dew I could. I was quiet, but didn't stress too much about it since some yahoos were making a racket well past 2 am (and "quiet " time is 10:00 pm).

On my way out of the campground, I saw that Ian was also packing up. He waved as I went by.

I made good time, and was greeted at home by Janyne and our two dogs Hannah and Emma. The funny thing is, Hannah, a 15 year old lab, knew I was home long before our 8 year old Golden Emma did.

It was a wonderful week of paddling and getting together with paddling friends. I met/exceeded all of my goals which included:
  • Become comfortable with the middle Ocoee. Since I ran it three times, I now know the important sneaks and the lines through most of the rapids.
  • Run Nantahala Falls and not get flipped in the bottom hole. I never get close enough to the top hole, which had given me a beat down in the past. So I end up in the bottom hole and flip.

Week of Rivers 2010 - Days 4 - 6

Mountain Biking in Tsali
After three days of paddling, I took an "off" day by mountain biking in the Tsali recreation area. Tsali is regularly cited as having some of the best mountain biking trails in the east. This is a bit controversial though since some people think they are overrated.

The Tsali trails can be used as bridal trails or for cycling. There is a schedule that identifies which trails can be used for cycling on each day.

Since it was Tuesday, I rode the Mouse Branch Loop and the Thompson Loop trails, a total of 14 miles and quite a bit of climbing. I worked my way up to the Mouse Branch Overlook, which gives you a view of Fontana Lake and Smoky Mountains National Park.
Mountain bike in Tsali at the Mouse Branch overlookView of Smoky Mountains and Fontana Lake from Tsali
The reward for all of the climbing was several miles of screaming downhill riding at the end.
Tsali elevation chart
I headed back to camp to shower and have lunch.

After lunch, I headed over to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I hung out by Nantahala Falls to watch the carnage. I enjoyed watching kayaks and rafts approach the falls and predict which ones wouldn't make it. On woman in a kayak came along and she look shaky "Oh, THIS is gonna be good". Sure enough, she went right into the top hole in the falls, flipped, didn't even try to roll, and went swimming. There are people stationed at the falls, so several ropes were thrown out for her.

Later a two person inflatable raft, a ducky, came along. Usually you can't mess up in a ducky. Well, these two people went into the top hole sideways and got stuck. They were riding the hole for a couple of minutes. The woman on the ducky seemed more concerned about their cooler than getting out of the hole. I yelled out "PADDLE!". They eventually managed to get out without flipping.

Later, a NOC instructor and a kayaking student came along. They stopped in truck stop eddy above the falls and stayed there for a LONG time. The student kept talking, talking, talking to the instructor, hanging onto the rocks the whole time. He looked shaky, so I figured there would be a flip. Finally the kayaking student peels out and is not on the right line and goes right into the bottom hole. However, he was in a large kayak and punched right through.

The Dirty Bird and Boiling Cauldrons of Goodness
Wednesday's plan was to paddle the upper Pigeon. The Pigeon is the "dirty bird" since there is a paper mill upstream in Canton, which affects air and water quality. It's still a fun section to run since it has lots of play spots and a few class III rapids. It's also a very easy shuttle to set up since it runs right along I-40. It's a short run, so it's often nice to do multiple laps.

My friend John's car broke down the previous Friday and his car was still in the shop. He needed to get a rental car since he had to go back to Raleigh to teach a class (he had a Tuesday/Friday class, which made it hard to be at week of rivers). The rental car had to be returned to the Asheville airport Wednesday afternoon. John paddled with us on the Ocoee on Monday, so we took his kayak back to the campground with us Monday night. On Wednesday I loaded his kayak on my car, drove to the Asheville airport, picked up John, and we headed to the Pigeon.

I was not able to find a group at the campground that was planning to go to the Pigeon Saturday, so it was just John and I. At the put in I was able to arrange for a ride from the take out to the put in with counselors from a summer camp for girls in Brevard. This was a three week kayaking summer camp for girls, and this was the advanced group.

We essentially had the river to ourselves. There were very few rafts and very few kayakers. It's much more crowded on weekends. This allowed us to do whatever we wanted and not be rushed.

I paid to park my car at USA Raft, which allows you to use their showers. We planned to go out to eat in Asheville and really wanted to get the Pigeon funk off.

John had not heard from the auto shop and hoped that his car would be ready. When we got to the shop, they said they didn't call since they knew we would be on the river. The car was not done, but would be done the next day. John really, really wanted to run the Ocoee again, so we arranged for an after hours pick up on Thursday (it's a good 2.5 hour drive from the Ocoee to Asheville).

It was over 95 degrees outside, which is very hot for Asheville. This was still better than Raleigh, which hit 102. Janyne said it was "hotter than the surface of the sun".

We then headed into Asheville to eat at Salsas, a Mexican/Caribbean restaurant. We started with Jalapeno poppers, which were incredible and very, very hot. I washed it down with a very spicy bloody Mary ("Do you want your Bloody Mary Spicy?" "yes, of course"). We were both sweating like crazy.

My main course was a chicken/mushroom molcajeta. This was chicken, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc. in a spicy, boiling chile/coconut broth. The whole thing is in a lava rock bowl, which we called a "boiling cauldron of goodness". John bought my dinner as a thank you for shuttling him and his gear all over the region.

Middle Ocoee - Unintentionally Running Double Suck
Thursday we headed back to the middle Ocoee. It was a scheduled release, so there would be more water than on Monday.

We had two Ocoee first timers in our group, a father and son who were also from Apex! It turns out they live in the neighborhood right next to mine, but I have never seen them at roll practice.

Again we put in just below Grumpies. Getting around Grumpies isn't supposed to be difficult, but if you don't do it correctly, you will have a very bad day. There was a lot of raft traffic to deal with, the rapid isn't all that interesting, and we had first timers, so skipping it was the best option.

We were going to sneak around Double Suck again. Double Suck has an evil hole at the bottom, a hole we videoed someone getting a beat down in on Monday. The sneak isn't difficult, but you have to ferry to river center and go to the left of the big rock in the river. To the right of the rock is Double Suck.

I was behind Dan, the dad in the father/son team. He got stuck on rocks while ferrying to the sneak. Do I try to go above him or below him? The water was pushing pretty hard, so there wasn't much time to decide. I went for below. Very. Bad. Call.

As our friend and Ocoee addict Rick pointed out later, there really isn't an eddy by the big rock. I was pushed right into Double Suck. To make matters worse, no one else had gotten through the rapid yet, so if I swam, it could be a long swim and no one was around to gather up gear.

I was committed. I didn't know the correct line. My "plan" was to point straight downstream and punch the holes.

I made it though the first hole. Then I was in the evil hole. I was halfway through, then lost ALL momentum. The hole had my stern and was pulling me back into the hole. My bow was lifted out of the water. I paddled like mad and made it out. I eddied out below the rapid and I was the only one there. John then comes through the sneak and says "HOW did you get here?" I pointed to Double Suck and said "Through there".

We came to Double Trouble and John set up his video camera again. I came into the rapid and saw how ugly the big haystack waves were. I skirted them to the right. In the video, John added chicken clucking sounds when I did that. However, it was good that I was still in my boat. Robert came next, was flipped, blew his roll, and was swimming. He had his boat and was getting into an eddy, but his paddle was being swept away. I chased after it and got it before it disappeared down the next rapid.
kayaker on the Ocoee riverI had a very successful day on the river. I did not have a single flip all day even with running Double Suck. On the way back to Asheville, I stopped in the white water center's gift shop to buy an Ocoee T-shirt.

I drove John and all of his gear back to the auto shop in Asheville. His car was ready, so he loaded it up and headed back to Durham so that he could teach his Friday class.

Click here for video taken on the trip. I am at :15 and 2:03. The 2:03 segment is me running Table Saw. Note that I almost eat it at the top of the rapid.

Click here for more photos.

Week of Rivers 2010 - Days 1 - 3

Bayless Boof Rapid, Upper Green RiverEvery year the Carolina Canoe Club organizes Week of Rivers (WOR) for the week that includes the July 4th holiday. People come from as far away as Texas and Iowa to paddle the various rivers in the region. This year there was even a couple from New Zealand. Week of rivers is a great opportunity to try new rivers and to meet new paddling friends.

Since I was there all week, I will post several entries.

Help from the Ladies

I left home late in the day on Friday. It's a solid five hour drive to the Smoky Mountain Meadows campground and I wanted to have some light left to set up camp.

Since I was going to be camping for a week, the thought of sleeping on a Thermarest wasn't very appealing. At Target I saw an Eddie Bauer queen sized air mattress that came in it's own bag AND has a battery powered pump built it. I must have it! Janyne said it would be good to have if I injure myself again at week of rivers. Of course, it won't fit in my small two person tent. So we also got a Big Agnes four person tent. It is large enough to hold the mattress and all of my gear plus I can stand up in it.

When I was driving near Sylva North Carolina (close to the campground), it started to rain. Rain was really needed since it had been so dry, but it's not fun to set up camp in the rain.

I arrived at the campground and paid for a spot in the field for the week. Tent camping in the field was only $7 a night.
Camp site at Smoky Mountain Meadows campground
It hadn't started raining yet, but the dark clouds were coming. I quickly moved into the field.

I passed a campsite and recognized Wendy, whom I had paddled with back in April. She waved as I pulled in. I quickly tossed out the tent and started setting it up.

Much to my surprise, Wendy and three of her lady friends (Jeorgia, Nicky, Amy) came over to help set up the tent! We had the rain fly on just as the first drops of rain started to fall. It turns out Wendy had the same exact tent, so they knew how to set it up already.

Janyne had baked butterscotch blondies and pound cake for me to share. After I had everything unloaded, I went over to Wendy's campsite and the baked goods were well received.

Dalton was camping next to me had seen how the ladies came out to help. "Dang, you had that up in under five minutes." I think he was jealous. Other people who had small single person tents were also jealous of my "pimped out" pad. Janyne suggested that we pimp it out even more next year by adding a cool recliner from REI.

The Morning Routine

The routine was the same every morning:
  • Make coffee with my Jet Boil and its French Press attachment
  • Have breakfast
  • Gather up gear
  • Pack a lunch
  • Add ice to the cooler if necessary
  • Attend the 8:30 meeting
The 8:30 meeting is where you find out what rivers are running and what trips will be announced. A lot of times there are also unannounced private trips. If you don't find a group to join or start your own, you will be left at the campground.

Is that Screaming Left Turn Ahead?!

On Saturday I was asked to join a private trip to run the Chattooga section 3.5 (parts of section 3 and 4). This was quite an honor since this group consisted of very skilled paddlers including the club's president. Our group consisted of eleven people.

The Chattooga is designated as a wild and scenic river. Because of this, no paved roads can be within a quarter mile of the river. The put in and take out require at least a quarter mile schlep. It is a beautiful river since there is no development. The water is clear and you can see to the bottom. On our run we saw an Osprey that had a fish in its talons, and the fish was still wiggling.

Most of us had been on this section before, but it would have been nice to know which rapids were coming up. We were in the middle of the Screaming Left Turn rapid before I realized where we were. Oh, THAT is the rock a canoe was wrapped around last year. I need to run a river several times before I memorize the landmarks and rapids.

Linda on Chattooga

We came to Bull Sluice and got out to scout it. This rapid is featured in the movie "Deliverance". A couple of people in the group looked at it and decided to carry their boats around it. However, I wanted to run it. I wanted to run the boof line on the left rather than the evil looking double drop down and around decapitation rock. I came into the eddy, lined myself up, and went over the pour over of the left. I made a perfect landing at the bottom. Yee ha!

A little later we came to what looked like an innocuous hole. However, I managed to go into it sideways. It flipped me over, then it made me go vertical. My bow was sticking out of the water, but I was completely under water. I was then spun around several times, doing a pretty pirouette. Then I was upside down in the hole, rolled up, then went on my way. It looked like planned rodeo moves, but it was an "unintendo".

We came to the last rapid of the day, Woodall Shoals. The middle of the rapid has a class 6 hole, but you can't see it from the top. We stayed FAR to the right and bounced over the rocks. One lady in our group who had never been on the river looked up and said "WOW, THAT is an ugly hole!". From then on we had to pick our way around rocks and holes to reach the bottom of the rapid.

We then had our 1/4 mile carry uphill to the take out cars. Once at the take out vehicles, I offered butterscotch blondies, which were a hit.

After loading up gear, we headed to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Paddlers go to Mexican restaurants a lot. I suppose it's because it's cheap, fast and they usually sell beer.

On our way back to the campground, the police had a check point set up. I only had diet Coke with dinner since I was driving and because the beer selection was poor. Mexican beer? Budweiser? Blech! The license/registration were all current and we were wearing seat belts, so we were quickly waved through.

Nothing But Air

Sunday I joined a group that would paddle the Upper Green River. We had ten people in our group, including several open boaters.

The upper Green is a class I-II with a couple of class III drops. The river goes through a beautiful gorge than has waterfalls that flow into it. You do need to know where the take out is located because if you miss it, you are in the gorge, which has class V rapids.

The water is dam released for a hydroelectric plant, and on Sunday was only running from 7 am to 12 pm. We had to get the group moving. Lee was leading the group since he knew the river and has a key to the take out parking lot. The take out is private property and you have to pay $60/year to have a key. Lee reminded us NUMEROUS times that we needed to get moving early. The irony is that we waited for him at the meeting point for over 30 minutes.

My friend John was with us. John's car broke down on his way up to week of rivers Friday evening. When this happened, John called Lee since Lee lives in Asheville. John was able to stay at Lee's house and they dropped off John's car at a recommended auto shop. However, this meant John had to run the Pigeon on Saturday and NOT the Chattooga, which is what he really wanted to run.

The road to the put in is a hard left turn from the highway. I said it was a "screaming left turn". John gave me a sour look and said "Was THAT a Chattooga reference?!" "uh, not on purpose..."

We set off down the river. When we came to the first big drop, Bayless Boof, we got out to scout it. You go down river left down a chute, then boof off the rock, but you must have a left angle since there is a big rock to the right. But the chute wants to point you to the right.

John was set up below the rapid with his HD video camera. It was my turn. I went way too far to the left and got caught up on rocks. I freed myself and went into the chute and off of the pour over. I went flying into the air, landed in the water below, and hit the rock since there was a loud "CLUNK". I then did an air stroke (nothing but air), which flipped me. I then rolled up.

Later we came to the next big drop, pinball rapid. I discovered why it is called pinball rapid. When I went, I hit the pinball rock, which bounced me against other rocks, then flipped me over. I was banged against the bottom of the river several times (there are many rocks down there) before I rolled up. Unfortunately, my upper left arm was sore after I came up and it bugged me all week. All of this is on video other than the roll at the very end.

Click here for video John took. I am at 1:07 and 3:52.

We reached the end of the run and then faced the .6 mile carry to the take out cars. I zoomed up first since I wanted to get it over with. After I had all my gear up, I went down a couple of times to help other people in the group. We had several open boaters (white water canoes) in the group, and it's a lot easier for two people to carry up a canoe.

That night a caterer came with BBQ. There was only one guy running it, so we stood in line for awhile. The BBQ was worth the wait and we ran him out of food. He was coming another day during week of rivers and would bring more food and help.

Comedy Canoe Club - Middle Ocoee Run Number One

Monday we got a group to go to the Middle Ocoee. We decided to put in below the initial rapid Grumpies. This would help us avoid a lot of raft traffic at the start, plus the lines changed after a rock slide earlier in the year. Cathy and Kevin were leading the trip and promised a "vegetarian" run, which means we wouldn't have any meat. We would run the sneaks around the uglier rapids like Broken Nose and Double Suck. It also turned out that the water level was a little lower than a normal release for the middle Ocoee.
Diamond Splitter rapid on the OcoeeWhen we came to Broken Nose, our group got a little too close together. We had a mixed group of open boaters and kayakers, which can be a problem. Open boats are much bigger and move faster, so they can run you down.

We got bunched up and Cathy was stuck on the rocks. I yelled out "Which WAY do I go?!" I didn't really get an answer, so I found my own way, most of which I did backwards.

Broken nose is identified by a couple of large rocks in the river. The sneak is to stay to the left of the rocks and the rapid (and holes) is to the right.

We came to Double Suck, which has an evil hole you want to avoid. You know you are getting close to Double Suck when you first see the water flume for the hydro plant HIGH above the left bank of the river. There is a large rock in the center of the river with plaques on it. The rock contains an endangered plant and the plaques are warnings to stay OFF the rocks.

Most of us did the sneak, which is to stay to the left of the large rock. However, one person that joined our group on the river wanted to run it. He wasn't on the right line and went into the hole. He got a major beat down. He was window shaded, banged on the bottom of the river, and when he tried to roll, he was window shaded even faster. He bailed out of his boat and we had to rescue him and his gear. We were all thinking "whew, I'm glad that wasn't me".

Hell's Half mile is a long section of class III boogie water where you have to avoid rocks and avoid or punch holes. I flipped and rolled once in that rapid.

We came to Double Trouble, which is a pair of large hay stack waves. They have curlers on top that want to flip you over. John went first and setup up his video camera. Bret came first, and he's in a kayak. He hit the top wave and surfed the wave for nearly a minute. He could have been there all day,but had to clear out when the rest of our group came down the river. In the next group, all but one of the open boaters flipped and swam. Robert in a kayak was flipped and rolled. I was last and ran a perfect line. The video is funny, so we called ourselves the "comedy canoe club".

We came up to Table Saw. The last time I ran Table Saw, I was flipped at the top and ran the entire rapid upside down and rolled up at the bottom. This time I ran it perfectly. There are lots of large waves with reactionary waves that want to flip you. You also have to deal with several large holes.

I eddied out at the bottom and was watching other people run the rapid. I was in the open and easily seen. A raft came into the eddy really fast and slammed me into the rocks. I stayed upright by did get out a few choice words. I wrote my name on my helmet with a Sharpie, which came in handy. The raft guide said "sorry about that Kevin".

The last rapid on the river is Power House. It has lots of rocks and munchy holes in the center and left, so you want to stay right. A raft got in my way, so I ended up going more in the center. I had to fight my way through the rocks and holes, but I made it. Later that night at dinner (MEXICAN AGAIN!), I told Bret that I was in the center. He said, "Oh, you don't want to be THERE." I replied, "Yeah, I know".

Click here for video taken on the Ocoee, which includes all of the carnage at Double Trouble. I am at 2:13 and 3:09.

Later that night my friend Ian showed up for week of rivers. It was a perfectly clear, star filled night. Since there is less light pollution, you could see MANY more stars in the sky. We sat back and had a couple of malted beverages.

Click here for more pictures.