Thursday, January 28, 2010


{despite the lack of photos this is going up to keep the news from going stale, will edit to add photos later, Taste It}

I used to think I was a grill master. I grilled all the time and could nail all types of meats prepared to various gradiations. I always cooked on charcoal only. Lately I've been cooking on gas and have had inconsistent results (although one may expect the opposite). And so it goes; sometimes you nail it, some times you come out ok, and others? well, you heal to come back and do it again another day.

Field reports have been pouring in with the rain from Raven Fork and Henderson Creek at juicy flows. When the weekend rolled around we did a road ride which was nice until Mark suggested that we climb Robert's Mill Rd., a notoriously steep section of road that climbs Walden's Ridge. After a few $1 tacos we headed over to paddle Suck Creek a couple of times and grilled up some dirty bird to perfection.

Another front rolled through early Sunday morning. We slowly rallied and met up at the takeout just downstream of the confluence.
The creek started off narrow and busy. The water level was a little high for a first decent and probably a little too high in general. Aside from portages due to wood and water levels the creek was pretty good quality and there were lines on all the rapids. I think it could become a gem; for a first decent found about 15 years after the gold rush on The Ridge it is of great character. It is most certainly class V, not the anticipated Class IV slides that it was sold as. Rock creek after the confluence had tripled in flow since we were first at the take out jumping from 1.5' early morning to 3' while setting shuttle and 6.75' at the end of the day.

JR found Middle Creek after pouring over some topos and online maps. He later went in and did some work cleaning out the creek and made a couple attempts at checking flows until the fronts aligned and provided enough water for this creek that doesn't even appear as a blue line on most maps. The small drainage and lack of blue line status is likely what led this to being overlooked in the past. The access, of course, is of tenuous nature and bit of diplomacy gleaned from the example set by our teacher Ron Stewart allowed us in that day. The likelihood of this being repeatable and consistent is slim, just as all access seems to be in this area of the ridge.
[Caveat: There have been several instances of people not in the know doing things such as riding around the top of the mountain with a bullhorn yelling out the window and telling lies to a landowner's wife with whom access had been negotiated, that shit won't be tolerated and will be met with consequences. In the instance of the lies we talked the landowner down, next time we may just point out which car is yours and look the other way.]

Turner missed the takeout and ran a huge hole that sucked him out of his boat. He Spitz'd it over to the side and grabbed a tree. Coming through a yard on the side of the river a man stepped up and handed him his paddle. After making fun of Turner for a minute he drove the group of three back upstream to the takeout they had missed where he told us all that the hole Turner swam out of wasn't that big. He suggested a couple of locations that we might spot the boat floating downstream. We arrived to the boat ramp just in time to see the boat float around the corner, just a second later it'd have been out of sight and never seen again. Turner stripped off his dry clothes jumped into my boat and took off around the corner into the fading light.

Another group of charges were a little late to the party and opted to explore a different creek for what is very likely another first decent: Clemmons Creek, They put in below the mini-gorge (which was not cleaned of wood and is reportedly nasty looking when there is no water in it) for the CO style creek- boogy, no eddys, large holes and waves and unexpected wood. They reported very high water and expect that at normal flows it would be class IV. Due to the high flows they completed the run in about 20- 30 minutes.

Today as Burrow ran the second drop of Stairway switch he crashed. He hiked out of the gorge spitting up blood. A trip to the doc revealed broken ribs and a broken clavicle. Sometimes you have to put the meat back on the grill and sometimes you have to eat it well done.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Surf and Sportaging

I knew it was going to be a good week last Monday when I opened up my bookmark for the National Weather Service infrared satellite image to see three major low pressure systems with solid cyclonic swirling lined up from the Pacific Coast to Arkansas.  As the three vortices ripped across the states they drew moisture from the Pacific Ocean, dropping the annual rainfall of many southwestern states in a matter of hours.  Tornado warnings in downtown Los Angeles reminded me of that movie "The Day After Tomorrow" and as the atmospheric eddy-line whipped its way east, the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was pulled north in millions of acre-feet and dumped across the gradient rich drainages of The Southeast.  

Last Friday I left work a little early and headed to the Tiney Piney with my surf boat.  We arrived at the Whites Creek takeout and the gage read 3 feet.  JT, Vagina Boobs, The Red Barron, Badams, and Taylord joined me for what is without a doubt one of the best surfing runs on Walden's Ridge.  Mankind is at a loss for good descriptors of waves this good, but let me throw a few haphazardly into the cyberspace: "epic", "sick", and "huyage".

Though the surf was good, it left our vertical addictions with somewhat of an itch, and Saturday we woke early and headed to the home of the Scopes Monkey Trials for some marginar on the mighty Morgan Creek, aka "North Pole".

North Pole has some really classic portaging, and this keeps a lot of people away.  In fact, after adjusting for the Portage/Paddle ratio, it might be better described as a "sportaging" run.  Above is the first falls, or rather, the portage around it.  I think Clay gave this one, somewhat unsuccessfully, back in the day.  The maps call it "Snow Falls".

After Snow, there are a few booby rapids that terminate into a sieved out log jam.  A quick jump around these to the left brings you to this little cave slide shown below.

Immediately following the slide above is a small slot into this slide:

Bankfull. The human, not the run.

Then it gets good...  the portaging, I mean.  Here is Taft "Vagina Boobs" Sibley having fun on the lesser walked side of this portage, just above a little clapper drop that goes, sans the current wood situation.

This portage was awesome!  All the technical aspects of a classic:  ankle breaker boulders, sketchy down climbs, and slippery slopes.

The hard work doesn't go completely unrewarded.  With boats and shoes full of detritus, Vagina Boobs lines it up on this little spout:

No portaging required between the drop shown above and the slide shown below!  Don't get too excited.  The days is only half way over...

Nice form Caleb, I can really read those sponsor logos perfect, but next time let me see a little more "claw".

Then comes the innocuous looking drop (emphasis on "looking") that almost snuffed Crazy Hayes.  Merlin of the lowlands made it look quite runnable.  Most portaged.  Below is the next rapid in the gorge; a sweet and sour little boof to boof.  I guess we were really fiending for the portage, because most of the group portaged back up this one to give it a second go 'round.  Double, double boof.

Time for a hike with your chosen craft?  The hemlocks on the next spectacular portage are quite lovely.  This is followed by a couple of photogenic low angle slides.  These will make you wonder why we don't come in here with at least twice the flow. 

A few booby rapids mixed with a little portaging lead to another big ass portage.  You can run a little sneak slide right up to the lip of a mammoth horizon line.  Walking on the right will lead you to the lip of Decapitation.  The scene of Tim Williams running this one in Vertical Addiction always stuck in my mind.  I think it flipped his brim up for him.  Below, Merlin considers testing out his full face:

 and JT approaches the guillotine:

Decap is followed by this.  Its got a kick for sure.  You might remember the scene in "Local Hero"  where Bryan Prince gets knocked out.  It happened here, at "Chili Pepper".  It goes better than it looks, just don't try to run it on the right.

A low angle slide flows into one of the highlights of the run:  a thirteen footer that doesn't land on rock.  Vagina Boobs hates his back, and drops that land in deep pools.  He decided to take the ultra-sib rope swing line:

JT raced him to the bottom:

Sib's Splash can be seen in the lower right quadrant.  Winner: Team Vagina Boobs!

There is one more big portage after this.  The runnout of aforementioned portage can usually be run.  Tree branches in the landing prevented us from having this much fun.  The are some more low angle slides, a couple booby flops, and an eight footer on to terra firma in the runnout.  Richland Creek feels like a back massage when you get there.  Hike up and paddle down for a happy ending.  The next morning I awoke to the sound of a small stream in my basement.  The Captain should be reporting soon with tales of high water first deez, and stairway carnage. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unicoi Ride

Tellico- Bald River- North River January 2010:

Alex and I met up Saturday morning for a 5 hour ride around the Tellico River. Alex assured me that this would not be as difficult as our previous ride which kept dropping us into hanging valleys only to have us climb 20 % grades to get back out only to do it all over again.

Our previous ride in late '09 gave us a pretty good tour of the hollows (pronounced "hallers") and the culture that resides within.

This ride through the Unicoi Mountains encountered less development, more consistent and longer climbs and with the closing of the Tellico River OHV area little to no traffic other than the usual bear hunters.
We climbed for the majority of the ride time through sticky mud and then had one long descent from near Stratton Bald back down to the car at the lower Tellico.
53.5 Miles, 6,105 feet of climbing, 5.5 hrs total time.