Monday, December 31, 2007

A Great End to 2007. a trip report

A good slow rain fell on the Southeast late Thursday night and all day Friday, Dec. 28th.
I was able to get out of work early enough to catch one run on Suck Creek. Suck started running around 2:00 Friday afternoon so most folks were able to get several runs in.

With most of the rain hitting the Smokies and NC, as usual, we made plans to travel for the weekend.

I headed towards Knoxville on a solo mission to meet up with Andy Dodson to paddle the West Prong. The place was packed with boaters and tourons. The weather was a beautiful sunny day but I didn't take the camera since photos don't seem to do this run justice. We met up with Blake Turner and Nick U. for a run down the upper section. Eichhorn and Bryce, who had decided earlier in the day that they weren't going to go kayaking realized their foolishness and headed up to the mountains to meet us for a second run.
This was my first run on the West Prong and I thought it was everything it is made out to be. I think its best described as an amped up Foss or Money Creek or a really tamed "bottom 9"
The scenery is spectacular there are lots and lots of tourists. We saw some big old ravens at the takeout which Blake Turner proceeded to tell me were only black birds... how did that run on the other side of the mountain get its name? That must have been Blake talking, not Mr. Turner.

The next day, Dec. 30th, we headed through the clouds to the other side of the mountain to run Raven Fork. Raven Fork always seems to run around New Years. We found a good level to take a couple of first timers down. The gauge at the bridge was 9" brushing up to the 10" mark. It had rained a little that morning and the night before and although we didn't check the gauge on the way home it felt like the river came up a little bit, maybe to 10", 11" or more, evidenced by the Oconaluftee USGS gauge

Things Fall Apart

Taking first timers into the Raven Fork is always fun. Sunday was no different. The amount of fog in the gorge only added to their anticipation as it was difficult to see the rapids from the trail on the way in. A slight misty drizzle kept the gorge dark.
There is new wood in the small slide below Headless Horseman, stuck right against the wood that was there previously. Wood also warranted a portage of Mortal Combat.


We made our way around Big Boy and showed Taylor and Eichhorn how not to run Mike Tyson's Punchout. I came down the last part backwards, flipping upon the landing, I tried to brace back up right, at the point that I was about halfway back up I saw myself heading for a pocket in the right wall. I got stuffed in the pocket and went under the wall. I'll spare the reader all the should've, would've, could've that goes through someone's head after they decide to pull their skirt. The end result was that I grabbed my, paddle, camera, boat and the tree trunk coming down off the river right wall. The boat proved too heavy to hold onto and still be able to hold onto the tree trunk so I let that go. I wonder if my Perception airbags that crapped out about 8 years ago had been replaced if I would have been able to hold onto the boat? It washed into the eddy on the bottom right of the ledge below. So it was just me, my gear and the tree. Andy was in the eddy and I looked over at him and wondered why he was watching me still in his boat. Andy had landed at a strange angle and pulled his ribs. After some kind words from me Andy struggled out of his boat and up onto the rocks on the river left where he made a weak toss of the throw rope which landed like a Oregon State field goal kicker's kick, too short. A situation like this is why its best to have more than two people in your group. Bryce was able to get a rope to me and I swung over to shore above the ledge that was just downstream. I got my boat drained, and Andy got ready to hike out with injured ribs.

Eichhorn sliding right

We continued on downstream living up to the motto that started off as a joke, "Always Leave a Man Behind" The remaining rapids went well and everyone met up again at Mr Watty's house.

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