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.

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