Sunday, November 16, 2008

Video update

It's been three weeks since the Green Race - the last time I paddled. We had a big group on the Lower Cullasaja yesterday. Here are some clips of my most recent footage.

Music by Atreyu
Footage by Chan Jones, Alexis Decosimo, Casey Jones, Rick Beverlin, and Alex Brantley

Friday, October 24, 2008

Clemson Whitewater Club Demo

This past Tuesday night, the Clemson Whitewater Club hosted an LVM 27 premiere at Fike Recreation Building. Following dinner and the movie, Pyranha Kayaks hosted a demo and pool rodeo. Casey and I headed down to Clemson Friday evening from Franklin with a pile of boats and our good friend, Caleb. We were met with a good turnout of folks at the premiere and most blew off homework and other responsibilities to join us in the pool for a bit of fun.

Todd couldn't wait to get in!

Emily practicing her hand roll

Mac throwing a flatwater loop

Most of the time we spent in the pool was for folks to spend trying the different boats we had available but the highlight of the evening was the pool rodeo we held at the end of the night. The prestigious panel of judges decided to keep things simple by having two classes: Funniest Trick and Coolest Trick. There were no rules, as long as your ride involved a kayak and the best thing you could come up with. Some amazing feats of skill and daring were displayed but winners had to be chosen.

After much deliberation by the judges, it was decided that Todd Henry had performed the Funniest Trick – a bouncing seal launch to faceplant off the high diving board. Mac McGee did the Coolest Trick, an airscrew off the low diving board. Our winners walked away with Pyranha shirts, stickers, and other swag, but we brought enough that everyone who attended got something.

Thanks to Brian and Dave at Pyranha Kayaks for hooking us up with boats and swag for the event, to Penstock Productions for the video, to the Clemson Whitewater Club for organizing and promoting the event and getting food, and to Clemson University for hosting the event. We hope to be back!

Until next time......

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bricklayer Falls park n huck

Mac McGee and I recently ran Bricklayer Falls on the Cullasaja River. I've heard about this drop and seen the circulating photos of Pat Keller or Joe Barkley running this drop years ago but never knew exactly where it was. FOUND IT! I understand why this drop isn't run very often. It's a nasty 30 foot drop with a sloping entrance, tricky landing, and a terrible cave at the bottom. As I have paddled the Cullasaja and become better acquainted with it over the years, I've grown used to the steep, manky, consequential nature of this river, especially after I began paddling the section below the big falls. I haven't paddled the upper section of the river in its entirety yet, but everything I've seen and run fits the description above.
Enough talk, here are the goods, as well as a few other shots from that day.





Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Fay

It’s been a dry summer here in the southeast but recently we got a couple of days of water from Hurricane Fay. I was able to sneak out for an afternoon of high-water creeking with the Clemson boys on the Lower Cullasaja. Looking at the gauges, we knew it would be high and we were all fired up to get out and play in the rain. We watched the river at the takeout stay at a juicy level for a while. Thinking the parched ground wouldn’t allow the river to flood, we geared up and rallied to the git-in.

The git-in

Photo by Andy Jordan

Gameface on

Photo by Andy Jordan

I would estimate that the level was at about 6 feet when we put on. Now, I’ve run the Lower at high water several times but after the first rapid, it was clear that this was the highest I had ever been on the river. Then as we arrived at Eclipse, the river started going up. We didn’t see a dramatic wall of water rushing down the riverbed, only a gradual, fast rising water level. Eclipse was not an option, and though Next Time probably would have been fine, we decided to get around these two rapids as fast as we could so we could make some downstream progress and stay safely ahead of whatever water was behind us. Despite having the option to hike out near this point, we made a group decision to continue downstream, as the difficulty of the river decreases from difficult V+ to manageable class IV and V – at regular flows. This is what we found..

Trashcan after I ran it..probably around 8.5 feet here.

Photo by Andy Jordan

Me running Trashcan at a normal high level of about 5.5 feet

Photo by Mac McGee

Mac looking overwhelmed looking into Trashcan and Whale Tail

Photo by Andy Jordan

Whale Tail after I ran it - note the surging pockets and the water going over the rock in the center, making a pourover - it normally doesn't do that!

Photo by Andy Jordan

With the worst behind us and decreased gradient ahead, we enjoyed some mad bombing, only needing to eddy out to scout or portage logjams. We arrived to the takeout to find the river lapping high on the pilings of the bridge at Peaks Creek. Big day! In the words of Daniel D, this was on the "high side of good".

Boaters like us rejoiced as rivers throughout the southeast went off on this day. As the waters rose and subsided, there came many stories of high-water runs, epic swims, mass hike-outs, and nights spent out in the woods. Sadly we also lost a friend on this day. By now, this is no new news to many of you. We'll all miss you Isaac.

Be safe out there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"It's kind of like an IQ-test, and we failed"

Sunshine Left - Photo by Dave Deggendorf

The last two weeks I have spent on my brief summer break. Nursing school at SCC goes year-round, with short breaks during the spring/summer, summer/fall, and fall/spring semesters. My class schedules usually keep me extremely busy, so I resolved to spend as much of this break paddling as I physically could. As you'll see, I certainly got my money's worth!

The southeastern class V creeking staple, the Green Narrows, was the only water available for the first week of my break. I usually paddle every week while school is in session, whether it's at the Green or on natural flow somewhere. I decided to go spend a few days in Saluda tangling with a big monkey, and got four days in a row on the Green. The only photos I managed to get during this break are from these few days at the Green, so enjoy.

Six in the Green River Eddy!


Gorilla a few days prior

Groove Tube

The next day, Chris Harjes and I headed down to Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms to do a bit of surfing. We heard there was a swell on its way toward shore and decided to go for a brief change of scenery. I brought along my 420 in case conditions were less than ideal for my beginner surfing skills, which turned out to be a good thing! Harjes and I spent two days at a friend's house and had 5 or 6 good surf sessions. I managed to get several good rides but the wind changed and I started having a hard time paddling out, so I switched to the 420 for the remainder of the trip. The waves were nice and I got some good aerial rides. After our second morning session, we headed up to Sumter to watch Chris's cousin graduate from nursing school, then headed on to Asheville.

No sooner had I unpacked my stuff from the beach, had Chris called again about another road trip. I missed his call and he left me a long, detailed message about his idea for pulling this trip off, complete with what he thought would be good and what the water levels already were. The next morning I was on my way back to Harjes's and soon we were on 26 N toward whitewater. 15 minutes outside Asheville, Eli Smith called and said he wanted to go with us, so we turned around and picked him up. At this point, it was almost mid-day, and we were going to be super late to do any sort of paddling. As we drove we called everyone we could think of and eventually got Bryan Kirk's number. He was about to board a plane in Reno after finishing the rodeo there, but he gave us Brian Jenning's number, whom we met when we arrived in Fayetteville later that afternoon.

When Brian finished in a meeting, we met up and headed to Mill Creek for some high-water action. The level was around 2 feet, which is apparently on the high side of good for that run, though YMMV. We made a couple of laps and were joined by David Hughes on our second. Sorry, no photos from our trip, as we were burning daylight and wanted to get as much paddling in as possible. However, here are a few to enjoy, courtesy of the AW page for Mill Creek.

John Warner, Mill Creek Falls, Courtesy of American Whitewater

Powderhouse Falls, Mill Creek -Courtesy of American Whitewater

The next morning, we discovered that the Dries of the New were in, so we went kayaking there. The Put-In Waves weren't in, but we got some incredible playboating anyway. Too bad my playboating skills have gotten rusty! No photos from that trip either..sorry.

Since the day was still young, Eli, the Bryans, and I decided to go run the Gauley. Before reading more, check out the gauge height for May 13th (the day we paddled it).

We got to the put-in for the Upper and found water squirting out of the tubes..about 15,000 cfs worth. The ground shook. It took us around 20 minutes to work up the nerve to put on, and when we did, it was on. I could not recognize any rapids, only where the big ones are supposed to be at normal levels, from rocks on the bank, etc. The smaller rapids usually lasted around 100 yards and had 8-10' wavetrains, waveholes, or holes I wouldn't want to surf.

Pillow, Lost Paddle, and Iron Ring were horrifically big and the noise in the rapids was deafening. I remember paddling hard into Pillow, vaguely making out the top of Pillow Rock, and cresting a breaking 10 foot wave that stopped me...just before a 25'+ wave caused by VW Rock collapsed on me and ripped a hand off my paddle. I got absolutely chundered by that wave but rolled up and got away from a terrible looking 8' pourover 1/4 mile downstream. The freeze-frame image of that house-sized wave about to crash down on me still sends chills down my spine!

Lost Paddle and Iron Ring were also huge but they went well. The line in Lost Paddle was pretty much the same as it always is, except we had to scramble to get left of the submerged Mail Slot. Sweet's Falls was a hole about 8 or 10 feet tall, and Postage Due rock had about 2 feet of water going over it, creating a horrible hole. The quote of the day came from Bryan Kirk: "It's kind of like an IQ-test, and we failed."

We paddled on down to Wood's Ferry, surfing huge green glassy waves, pulling aerial tricks, and took out 16 miles downstream of the dam, 2 1/2 hours later.

I don't think I'll paddle big water like that too often, as I don't like being in the middle of a huge rapid with no eddy options or any way to to get help in the event of something going wrong. Lots of stuff relying on luck in those situations.

Here are some photos of a quick session at the NOC wave in my new Rev M-Long.
Photos by Casey Jones
Good lines out there

Monday, February 11, 2008

Raven Fork!

Razorback - Photo by Andy Jordan

I recently began running the Raven Fork, a tributary of the Oconaluftee River that flows through the Eastern Cherokee Reservation here in Western North Carolina. Previously to running this creek, my favorite run was the Green, though it is still a close second. Remote creeks are the best but the Raven Fork clearly stands far above and beyond the other places I have paddled a kayak. Anywhere there is information on the Raven Fork, you will notice talk of how steep the run is. What does not always come through in Raven Fork lore is the pool/drop nature of the creek and its very long window of runnability after a rain for a stream of this type.

Though similar to the Green in that you can bite off as much as you want in the way of whitewater, the Raven Fork takes this analogy to a whole different level. The difficulty is strong, full-blooded class V for the duration, with a consequential 30-foot drop in the very midst of the gradient storm, known as Big Boy. The quality of the water, bedrock, and the rapids is unbelievable! Add the incredible beauty of the gorge this creek lies in, and you have a winner!

Fortunately, I live near enough to the Raven Fork that running this creek often should be possible, even while I’m in nursing school! Paddling here leaves me up on cloud nine for days afterward – this run will take precedence over most others every time it rains for me.

Now for a plug for Pyranha. The Burn is a great creek boat that I thoroughly enjoy paddling…but hello Everest! The Everest loves this type of river! Loaded with equipment, it paddled beautifully Saturday afternoon. I feel like the Burn M is a little small for me with the equipment I usually bring along on trips like these but the way the Everest handles it is fantastic! Without feeling too big, the boat rides high and resurfaces quickly in all situations. The combo of a flat hull/beveled edges allow you to zip around and make moves without being trippy like the H:3 or at times, the Burn. A true class V machine! I look forward to continuing to paddle this boat!

**As a side note, last weekend Emmanuel’s driveway was blocked and some boaters “wore out their welcome”. Everyone likes company but sometimes it’s easy to for company to wear you out. Please be considerate and respect Emmanuel’s wishes, and don’t forget the gift!

I’ll leave you with a few photos of a recent trip.

Chan in Headless Horseman - photos by Jacob Black

Jacob in Headless Horseman - Photo by Chan Jones

Sliding into Razorback - Photo by Andy Jordan

Jacob Black in Mortal Kombat- Photo by Chan Jones

Chan Jones in Wet Willy - Photos by Andy Jordan

Chan Jones in Wet Willy - Photo by Jacob Black

Big Boy doesn't look so bad from up here...

The crew at Big Boy - Photo by Jacob Black

Gorge below Big Boy - Can you name the rapids?

Chan Jones in Mike Tyson's - Photos by Jacob Black

Andy backwards off the last drop in Mike Tyson's - scary, but turned out fine

Chan Jones running the entrance to Caveman - Photo by Jacob Black

Jacob Black sticking the boof at Caveman - Photo by Chan Jones

Garen Stephens in Caveman - Photo by Chan Jones