Monday, January 23, 2006

Cabin Fever

Jay, Ryan, Jason, Laura and many others have left the sanctuary of the Southeast for warmer climates and warmer water. I'm currently in the Southeast relaxing before I leave for my next trip. The southern US has been in a drought this past fall and winter. Due to low water I started to develop a case of cabin fever. Thanks to 4+ inches of rain this past week my cabin fever was cured.

Last weekend parts of the southeast were blessed with 4+ inches of rain. Last Monday I met good friend Jeremy, a.k.a Herm, at the West Prong for some Great Smoky National Park kayaking. Upon arriving we found the gauge above 2ft and rising. This is a high level and with rain still falling from the sky we decided to head upstream to the Alum Cave stretch of the West Prong. This is a busy class IV stretch with 1/2 mile of non-stop class V/V+ whitewater. We paddled down to the last rapid and decided to call it a day. After taking off the river and changing into dry clothes we realized the water had rising another two feet on the gauge. Tuesday I met up with Swain local Little Joe for some boating. The two of us decided to make the long drive to the Elk River to meet up with some buddies. The Elk was at a primo level and delivered some of the best whitewater I have seen ever. The run starts off with a 50+ foot waterfall that we decided against running. The waterfall has a reputation for causing more trips to the hospital than not, No Thanks! After about 1/2 mile of warm up the fun started. The first rapid was a double drop that was kicking ass and taking names. I passed through without mishap however the double drop was beating people like a drum. For the next stretch of river there was eight of us lined up like baby ducks following Adam and Caleb down the river at a fast pace. Before we knew it we were through the first stretch of river and found Twisting Falls. Twisting Falls is a gigantic rapid with an impressive Waterfall, canyon rapid in the crux. As of now Twisting Falls is considered a mandatory portage. This portage got my heart going just as much if I were to be in my boat paddling through the rapid. We hiked our boats high along the cliff walls then lowered them back down into the river below. Just downstream was a series of three more drops including a meaty ledge hole, a 15 foot waterfall and a 35 foot waterfall. We made our way downstream to the "big one." I was the last one in the eddy above the waterfall and hopped out of my boat for a quick look. As I "peaked" over the edge it felt like somebody just poured a 50 gallon drum of excitement over my head. My scout was greeted by seven loud ass boys cheering for my to fire it up. I got in my boat and told myself one last time to turn my face and don't land flat. In the eddy I visualized my line one last time and then I was past the point of no return. For those who can relate to running big rapids I say, "the point of no return is my favorite part of kayaking." What a feeling! Slowly drifting over the edge I spotted the landing zone and pulled the slightest stroke and tucked for impact. Before I knew it I was at the bottom upright and on top of the world. This waterfall was not a hard move but it was big compared to what I have run before. From here to the takeout is a mile of class III boogy water, a wonderful way to cool down from the day.

The next day I hooked up with some other friends Chris, a.k.a Sawed-off, and Zuzana for a trip to the Horsepasture. Sawed-off gets his name because he prefers to kayak with only 1/2 of a paddle. Weird! ;-) At the river we met another friend of ours and C1 kayaker, Scott. This was every ones first time down except Chris'. Chris explained the lines and would start off his explanation with, "do ya wanna trust me?" Well I can't say this for everyone but I do trust Chris and his rapid explanations. For those of you who know him, you know he reads water on a different level than most of us. We made our way down the river and everyone was having the time of their life. This was the most fun I have had in.... since yesterday. My favorite rapid was called stairway or stairstep. This was a serious of five consecutive slide/waterfalls. This day was just pure fun. The horsepasture is a beautiful river with some really big rapids. When we finished the river we had lunch at the best lunch spot in the world, Windy Falls. Check out the photo. After lunch we started the wonderful four-mile uphill hike back to the car.

The next day feeling a little tired and not real motivated due to the hike with a boat the day before I decided to travel with Zuzana from the gorge to the Tellico River. The Tellico isn't super hard whitewater however it is a classic. Zuzana is training slalom and she did her workout while going down the river. The two of us decided to get our money's worth so we ran the river three times. Baby falls is a great rapid to work on waterfall technique and big boof technique. After three runs we were both exhausted and made the drive back to Swain.

This week of kayaking was awesome. I had the chance to paddle four classics and got on three new rivers. This area of the world has unbelievable amounts of quality whitewater. This is why I call Swain County home. I always enjoy traveling to other parts of the world but it is always good to come home. Tomorrow I leave for Chile, look for updates at Ciao!

No comments:

Subscribe in a reader