Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nantahala Cascades

Not much to say about this one except it is the creeking training grounds for the lucky folks that live in Wesser, NC. It is roadside fairly safe and can be swam (I have proven this). If you cared to know I am in the yeller boat (el hefe). I stomp this run, only cause it has painfully stomped me in the past.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sometimes just getting there is a bitch!

Ok so here's the rundown. It started with a sidewall blowout at 10PM the night before. I had to meet Kevin in Asheville at 9 am so it was an early start to buy a tire the next morning. Changing a flat in 20 degree weather that night was pretty sweet. Finally replaced the tire the next morning by 8am and was just a little behind schedule. Then at a gas station in Hampton, TN, I rear-ended a little 16 year old redneck kids new truck. Kinda reminded me of myself. Anyway talked him into dealing with it the good ole boy way. Just shelled out about $550 on that one and that's all I really want to say about that.

One more item worthy of mention. My lights would not turn off, so dead battery at the take-out. Knew this was coming. Being in a spastic frenzy trying to focus on the run to come, I left my camera in the car along with all of my safety equipment. Sorry pics are gonna be light, thanks Kevin for pulling thru again.

On to the Watauga river, which really kicks some ass. Arguably one of the best runs in the Southeast. Its about 5 miles of class IV with not much flat water. Kinda reminds me of some stuff in Ecuador. Below is knuckles one of the more consequential rapids on the run, pin potential high if found off-line.

Scout approaching Nuckles, By Kevin Mitchell Scout gettin his lean on, Stateline Falls by Kevin

The photo above is stateline falls, climax/highlight of the run. This is how you get to "Tennessee the Hard way". -Watauga Phil from kevin

Over & out - scout

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

3 SE Classics

Due to a lack of posting I've decided to spotlight some of our local run of the mill classics. They are not necessarily destination creeks, they are destination rivers. One of the closet members of team swain has just rehabilitated one of his shoulders and is back in the game. Having started Team Unknown, which is broken into pieces ranging from Malibu to who knows whatever other awful places. He is who I started to kayak with back in the Ozarks which is... well, it is what it is, lets leave it at that. He showed me the promise land and I haven't looked back. His name, Jason "The Freaky Stick" McClure.
After a period of disciplined physical therapy "the stick" was ready to get back back out there and feel the flow. Off to my personal low water descent of Section IV of the Chatooga River. Below, Stick executing a rock pivot off the left bank where apparently there is an eddy at more normal levels (Corkscrew Rapid).Next up Soc-em-dog rapid. This is one of my faves on the run. It is the conclusion as well.Upper 2 photo credits, Kevin Mitchell
Next up the Little River in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Driving into the Park this late in the year is often a gamble. A gamble we have lost before and will lose again, and lost this day. It was snowing when we crossed Newfound Gap which makes people from Florida absolutely flip out behind the wheel. They close the road, it really does get quite dangerous, and added at least an hour onto our trip home.Sometimes the put-in for the Little resembles a circus as tourist falls is just downstream. If you can take a gander while boofing about 50 cell phones can be seen pointed directly at you. The energy is weird on this one, but the action is chill and super scenic. Tourist falls is also known as the sinks. The next photo is of me punishing the sinks, without remorse.Upper credit, Jason McClure
And lastly the Tellico River. No river strikes fear into the imagination of open boaters as does the Tellico. The river is super scenic and a classic for making the progression of running rivers to dropping the steeps. We left this river after a day of some pretty brutal stomping of the rapids. I bet she hadn't been treated like that in a while Stick said. The next photo is of me at baby falls.Upper credit, Kara Miller
This is the rapid where my nickname was born. I was new to paddling, nervous, and out in front on this thing I had never seen or really knew anything about. Except, that there was a 14 footer on the run. When I was above the drop I jumped out as my buddies where yelling just go. I was informed 'you don't scout baby falls' so the name scout was hatched. That's all for now.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Source.....

Sometimes...a few quick breathes is all it takes to restoke ones inner fire. And it is those same bursts of air that keep the fire burning hot all year...

The Green River runs all year, and for many, offers a constant theatre to perform a few acts of fluid aggression. The green is not necessarily a destination....but the Source.

Therefore, we at Team Swain will continue to contribute visual tributes to that little furnace down in Hendersonville..... we refer to as the Source.

Pictures: (above) Nick, executing a proper entrance_Bride of Frankenstein (below. top-bottom) Eric, floating toward the sun. "Hey nick heads up.....yeah, i know.... it gets steep down there."_ Jason, making his way through the flats. Nick and Jason sharring prawn recipes. Jason heading for powerslide. Nick, collecting nuts for winter_ flying squirrel line. the factor.

Ravens Fork, NC

There is no better place to be in the fall than Western NC...We are very proud of this. And if ones desire is to witness the fine fall foilage that is presently in full bloom, there are a couple of destinations that one might not find in the average guide book. We took the opportunity to do a bit of leaf watching at one of our favorite locations. It started out as just another warm fall day. It was in the upper 70's, sunny, and we had recieved several inches of rain the evening prior. As it turned out, we weren't the only folks trying to embrace the fall colors. When we arrived at the Ravens Fork Trailhead, there were a baker's dozen of the usual suspects. The water had dropped out a lot quicker than was anticipated, but no one cancelled their tour despite having minimal water. here are a few leaf shots...Enjoy!

Pictures: (above) Joe Barkley, doing what he does best...making s#$t look easy_Big Boy. Joe, low water put-in. Steven_Razor Back. Nick, taking a gander_Big Boy. Jared, amongst it_Big Boy. Steven Matz.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Upper Santeetlah, Joyce Kilmer

As tornadoes were ripping thru the midwest we wondered if any of that action would actually make it over to the mountains of the east. The weathermen didn't seem to think so...and thank god once again they were wrong. After a night of continual rain and thunder we awoke to our typical routine of a turbo espresso infested fog-socked morning. Then the consulting of the Advanced Flood Warning System rain gauges in the vicinity ...over 2 inches of rain reported.

In Graham county NC there exists huge tracts of public lands that are way out in the middle of nowhere that seldom get visited. We decided to try and get on the Upper Santeetlah. The watershed is undeveloped and protected in its entirty minus a few forest service roads. Old growth pockets ly within the gorge as well. I had been to the put-in twice before after rains only to find the level too low. So once the caffine buzz was at the desired level we started calling the regular Swain County boys who normally are ready to go in a seconds notice, only to find they were all at the Gauley Festival in West Virgina. Some vulgar messages followed later in the day as they were not happy at the news of the local shit going off. So it was Jay Gifford and I. No shuttle team so we brought the running shoes, something we like to call the man challenge.

The next photo in the sequence is called the hallway. Rumored to be a 100 foot slide. I had some pre site visit nervousness over this one. Upon scouting it I decided to walk, unless Jay was going to get in it and make it look easy. About half way down he threw the fist pump and hollered.

I was blinded by the positive energy and like a reflex walked to my boat eddied out and ran it.

The next drop we looked at a good bit. I was puzzled by the fact that all my fear and anxiety was nowhere to be found. I asked Jay if he read it like I was, he concurred, so off I went. It was my turn to repay the enery boost.

The rest of the run never really let up. The continued gradient was very surprising. It was a perfect day in Joyce Kilmer, she finally decided to throw a bone to the Swain kids.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pride of Swain Co.

Just a short drive outside of Cherokee, NC is a creek that is unrivaled in quality. Steep bedrock rapids fill this fantastic gorge with some of the most amazing rapids in North Carolina. The Raven's Fork of the Oconaluftee flows out of the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park before entering the Cherokee Reservation.

Access to the Raven's Fork requires passing through private property that is wihin the reservation. A very nice man named, Emanuel, lives at the takeout. His father accuired the property sixty-one years ago when Emanuel was only seven. He has lived there his entire life, Between a tour in the military, college, and a twenty-seven year carrer with the fish and wildlife deptartment. He has a great sense of humor, and alwasys seems to have a story. He allows paddlers to park at his house and access the park via roads on his family's property. We dropped off a couple cases of beer, which is the prefered medium of bartering around Emmanuels', And set off up the trail. We ran into another goup hiking in and offered them a ride. A steep dirt road travels for a mile or so which is accessable too some trucks. From there you hike for a mile through chest high stinging nettles before arriving at the take out. The trail was overgrown, due to the fact that there had only been a handfull of descents in the previous months. After making our way through the slimy rockslides and massive nettles we eventually arrived at the river.

Once on the river, the character of the Raven's Fork becomes immediately apparant. We ran a few drops above the typical put-in. But within less than a minute we arrived at Anaconda, which consists of a a series of different drops that snake there way through the bedrock. After watching both Craig and Joe get slapped around in different sections I opted to snake my way around this rapid. From this point on the creek becomes very steep and continous. Big rapids seperated by small pools characterize the next few hours of paddling. Everyone was having smooth lines as we made our way through: First Drop, Second Drop, Third Drop,Headless Horseman, Razorback, Mortal Combat, Jedi Mind Training,and Wet willies.

In the steepest section of the gorge is a drop called "Big Boy" which is follwed by a series of portages before entering "Mike Tyson's Punch Out". After a few minutes of scouting Joe and Craig both decided to make their second personal descents. I roped my boat down below the waterfall, and then climbed down to set safety. BigBoy is a very technical waterfall, consisting of a tricky entrance into a 35 foot drop with a very small landing zone. Once, i was in position i signaled to Craig that i was ready. Joe fired it up first and landed perfect. A few minutes later Craig entered the drop perfectly as well. But, in the landing he submurged below the big rock in the landing zone hitting him square in the chest while trying to immerge.

Excited with everyone's clean lines we began portaging around the next section. Mike Tyson's Punch Out is the next rapid. The rapid has a an eight foot entrance drop which leads into a warp vector slide. At the bottom of the slide there a series of holes, that due to the speed of the slide didn't seem to be much of a problem. At this point the rapid takes a turn to the right and over another twenty foot steep slide.

A rapid called "Caveman" caps off the steep section, with one of the best boofs you will ever dream of. After portaging around "The Mangler" we took a chance chill before paddling out through the boogie water. Portaging the Mangler I sprained my ankle which gave me the opportunity, at the takeout, to hear some of emmanual's stories over a cold beer while Craig and Joe walked back up to the car. Swain County Rules!

Pictures: (Above) Joe Barkley entering "Wet Willy's". (Below) Joe admiring all the nettle. Joe entering the second drop in Anaconda. Craig third drop in Anaconda. Craig entering "Headless Horseman". Joe seal launching into "Razor Back". "Wet Willy's". Joe taking a gander at the "Bg Boy". Joe firing the s#$t up! Craig entering "Jedi Mind Training." Joe working on his Jedi skills. Craig entering the warp vector slide on "Mike Tyson's Punchout" Taking out at Emanual's.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Return to the Apurimac

So, last week we had a chance to return to the Apurimac. The river had dropped several feet which offered a different feel on the water. Especially, considering our first time we didn't know where to go. This time i was paddling with some of the local boys. Two brothers, diego and Santiago, whom are part of Peru's most notorious paddling family. They both had the river wired, were great paddlers and were determined to show me all of their favorite lines between droping into huge holes on the fly. The few days we spent on the river were great. Diego and Santiago paddled play boats loaded with overnight gear which was impressive. Though, they didn't seem to think much of it. Getting to the river this time was much smoother than i was used too.We were able to coherese one of the local rafting companies to give us a ride, which was much more comfortable then our alternative.

So, we put on the water mid afternoon and bombed down into the Purgatory gorge. The Purgatory gorge is the most dramatic section of the Apurimac. The river constricts dramatically and provides a long section of continous whitewater amongst smooth rock walls. The bottom drop of Purgatory is a small slot where the entire river pinches between two walls. the left side is not an option and on my previous trip we had walked the whole thing. Diego and Santiago assured me, that at this level it was fine. Diego dropped in first. his entrance didn't look pretty, but we could see that he exited the bottom hole. Santiago followed with not as much success. The entrance is about a five foot pourover that is four feet wide and boxed in. after the ledge there is a twenty foot long flune that slightly twists before pouring into the bottom hole. Santiago dropped in and instantly was backflipped. The backwash held him and for the next minute he withstood an honorable thrashing. Eventually, he caught a bit of green water and flushed out of the top hole while splatting the right wall. But he wasn't able to gain full control before he fell into the bottom hole. He subsequently signed up for another proper ass whooping and eventually swam out of the bottom hole. I wasn't sure if he was out of the bottom hole, as i couldn't see anyone downstream. I waited about another thirty seconds before entering the rapid. Assuming that they were both pushed around because they were in fully loaded playboats. I belived a bigger boat shouldn't have as much trouble. So, i dropped in and was able to jump over the first hole. The backwash made me hesitate and i was immediatly thrown into the right wall. moving through the flume i was able to move off the right wall, but entering the bottom hole i was also backfliped. After a few scramble strokes i exited the backwash to see Santiago on shore. We both laughed, but i could tell that Santiago was mad that he had just swam. Diego quckly emgerged with Santiago's paddle and began to kid his younger brother that he had to buy beers tonight. That evening we stayed at the purgatory camp. Built a bonfire and enjoyed the quality of life that the Apurimac seems to naturally offer.

The next morning, we began to make our out of the gorge. At this level the Apurimac is loaded with great play features that are dispersed between incrediable rapids. Diego and Santiago did not hesitate to take advantage of every spot. There were a few spots that had eddy access, where we could unload boats and trade off. Big waves and Peruvian sunshine...Another incrediable trip down the apurimac......

Pictures: (Above) Santiago below the first portage. (Below) Santiago hunting for waves. Diego catching a little air...self support style. Purgatory Camp. Exiting Purgatory. Diego at the water fountain. Santiago and another great wave. Diego entering "last laugh." Wavelicous.....

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