Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fall is officially here..

..and with fall comes good boating...at least in the east. Gauley Season is back and the creeks sometimes have water. It's been a good season for me so far and I hope it continues the way it has.

Last week I spent a few days doing big water at the Gauley with Jan, Thilo, Felix, Steven, and Mike for the festival. We paddled the Gauley three times and the New once, and we made a lot of good pictures. There was some good playboating with the Xeno on the Gauley and we even had a Topo Duo on the New.

Back in my neck of the woods in NC, I've done some good boating on some of the local runs this week. Sunday, I paddled the Cheoah early in the release at 1,800 cfs. It was a good level, a little bigger, fluffier, and pushier than the 'normal' 1,250 cfs releases that people have grown accustomed to. There were a couple of holes that got downright nasty, including the one at Wilma's Ledge, aka God's Dam, where my group witnessed a boat being recirculated for several minutes after the paddler was pulled out of danger. The rest of the river was just big, rolling fun all the way to the lake. I guess that's what makes the Cheoah such a cool river.

Photo by Casey Jones

Monday, I was planning to make my first run on the Green Narrows behind Clay Wright, but we got skunked on water when the Tuxedo Hydro Plant didn't release a full day. Instead, they released one unit from 6pm until 12m. Clay was pretty confident that we'd have water early Tuesday morning, so we rolled the dice and did a dawn-patrol on the Narrows. When I got to the put-in at 7:20 this morning. John Grace, Jason Hale, Christy Dobson, and others were milling about, and the word was that Shane Benedict had already put on with the kids from Huge Experiences. I got suited up and was ready to go when Clay arrived with two friends. We ended up putting on and tearing through the warmup stuff until Bride of Frankenstein in an attempt to get as far ahead of the water as we could since there was only about 50 minutes of water behind us. Despite the pace we were setting, I couldn't help noticing the fall color starting to peek out in the Green River gorge.

We bombed all the way down to Pencil Sharpener before getting out to scout for the first time. The distance from Frankenstein to Pencil Sharpener really flew by and when I realized where we were, it kind of surprised me that we were already at Gorilla. Thanks to Chris Gragtmans' headcam video of the Narrows on the Team Riot blog, I pretty much memorized Gorilla before I ever had a chance to see the Narrows. The only part of Gorilla that I was a little nervous about was the Notch because I had no clue what it was like in real life and how it would react with my boat. After getting up on the rock above Pencil Sharpener, I saw what the Notch actually looks like and I was cool with it..especially after watching a good direct run of the Monkey. So after handing Clay my new Nikon D50, it was back to the boats to fire up Gorilla.

Strapping in my boat and getting the skirt on, I said a quick prayer and got my game face on, then peeled out and drove hard off the center boof of Pencil Sharpener. My first Gorilla run had started. "Okay, there's the Notch, now drive to the right of the V and boof straight. Sweet, there's the landing, now go on in the eddy. Awesome, now set up for the main drop..get some speed and take a big 'ol lefty off the center of the pad....Ohhhhhhhhh, this is huge!" Then whoosh! The next thing I knew, I had landed and was flying through the rain curtain at Mach 1 staring down the trough into Speed Trap. I got out after being typewritered to the right of the hole and taking a little bit of a stroke off the wall, then I caught the eddy on the left where we listened to Clay's instructions for Scream Machine, Nies's Peices, and Power Slide.

One of Clay's awesome shots of my run:

After a quick stop in the eddy below Power Slide to get my camera back from Clay, we hopped back in and went down to Nutcracker. The end of the release had caught us by the time we got to Sunshine, and the amount of water we had was estimated to be about 80%. I was already in the staging eddy on RL above Sunshine but I didn't know how low the water was until Shane asked me if I was going to come over into the RR eddy just above the drop. At that point, I figured I should just walk it this time, especially since the water was dropping, so after taking a quick peek at the rapid out of the back side of the eddy, I hopped out and helped everyone else with their boats.

After Sunshine, we slowed down our pace a little and didn't worry so much about the water. It was low, but there were still a ton of great moves to be made all the way to the end. Clay showed us the river right line of the All-American Boof and the hero line (right side approach) through Hammer Factor, among several others.

Then, it seemed like just as soon as it had started, the river let up to little ripples that you'd find on a tiny creek and we arrived at the takeout. I had a really awesome day on the river and I hope to be back at the Narrows as much as I can be. What a great river...


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