Monday, July 12, 2010

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.

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