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.


Mom said...

Awesome pictures, great story, glad you're out of there!

ryan sherby said...
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Jonh Neo said...
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