Monday, February 4, 2008

The Road Prong - my first Smokies run

Airing out the new Everest off the kicker of the Road Prong's 30 foot Skyline Falls
Photo by Joe Barkley

January started well for me with an awesome paddling trip in Tennessee and Alabama but after the holidays passed, the skies cleared and the reality of my school load set in – a sad time for a kayaker. The last year, the Green has been a main staple of my creek boating diet but January passed and for most of the month, the dam was shut down or running at a meager 60% release.

Thankfully we got a good storm near the beginning of the month and I was able to run the Horsepasture River with Chris Gragtmans, Chris Galloway, Rob Tompkins, and Brad Kee. We put in much further upstream than most folks do, adding a lot of flatwater and two or three excellent drops to an already fun trip. Other than uncalled-for harassment from landowners upstream of Turtleback Falls, we had a great trip – and the river to ourselves at a medium water level. It’s a beautiful river with awesome rapids and I’m always glad to run something new but I probably won’t head back to the Horsepasture as often as other runs in the area.

On the Highway to Heaven, Horsepasture River - Photo courtesy of Catalyst Media Blog

After the Horsepasture trip, the rest of January was dry. The Green didn’t run either, so I didn’t paddle for three weeks..then the skies clouded once again and we were blessed once again by liquid sunshine. My homework has been piling up recently so I planned to stay close to home and run the Cullasaja so I could take care of some other things as well, but the river reached a pretty high level and other options became available. I was heading to Overflow Creek for a high water run there with the Clemson crew when I called a friend to invite her along. I ended up scrapping my plans to paddle Overflow in favor of joining LVM at the Raven Fork. Several calls back and forth later, we decided that since the rain hadn’t been in the area long and the Raven Fork was already at 22”, it would be prudent to go elsewhere. Luckily the Smokies are peppered with great whitewater, so a quick trip over Clingman’s Dome, and we arrived at the West Prong.

Me and the boats at the put-in. Photo by Adriene Levknecht, courtesy of LiquidlogicLadiesLounge

We found the river very high when we got to the put-in but it didn’t take long to decide that we were destined to the Road Prong today. I had no knowledge of the Road Prong other than that it was the steepest creek I have heard to exist in this area, complete with rapids with names such as Dr. Kevorkian, Oncoming Traffic, and Skyline Falls. The steepest mile of this creek drops 710 feet in all runnable drops! Again, because my camera is broken, I failed to bring home any photos of our trip, but thanks to John Grace, Nick Urquhart, and Joe Barkley, there are a few photos and some good video to be had. At the top of this post is one of me.

Other than this creek being the steepest freaking thing you can imagine, the quality of the whitewater, which Grace accurately describes as being like ski moguls, is amazing. There is some badly placed wood in a few rapids but we ran all but a minor drop that had a big tree across the river in the pool just below. I headed home that evening with a new favorite creek.

The next morning I headed off to school hoping to get a run on at least the Cullasaja in the afternoon. I ended up getting a much better treat after Clay Wright called and said he was on his way to the Raven Fork! Photos and more on that later…