On the river  

rm_Starfury5 37M
1 posts
6/21/2006 9:43 am

Last Read:
6/23/2006 12:04 pm

On the river

Normally I don't blog, for the simple reason that reading blogs is usually as dull as watching reality TV, and writing them would make me... the kind of schmuck that would want to be filmed all day, every day while I live in a house or on an island or wherever with six strangers.

However, this weekend was exceptional, so I'm going to blog it. If that's hypocritical, try to explain why. I could use a good argument.

We started out at the Nantahala, which didn't get above a class 3. (For those that don't know, shame Rivers are classed from 1 to 6 by difficulty. 4 is generally unfloatable by open boats, but most serious paddlers use kayaks or whitewater canoes with airbags or even covers nowadays. Class 4 rapids pretty much guarantee that water will come over your boat, so open boating is pretty much out unless you actually enjoy bailing.)

Anyway, we met my sister and her bf at the Nantahala. They brought their own boats, and I rented a little inflatable one-man kayak called a ducky. All it needed was a little rubber ducky head on it. The downside is that they aren't very maneuverable and they catch the wind. The upside is that you can't sink them even if you try. Don't ask me how I know that

The Nantahala was a fun trip, several hours of paddling and splashing through rapids. I really need to take some kayak classes, they offer them at RU, and get a job so I can buy a real kayak. We saw a neat new thing, instead of a paddle a couple of guys had gloves with giant palms that they could paddle with. They said it was a lot easier to roll and do tricks b/c the gloves are so much more maneuverable than a paddle, plus you don't have to worry about dropping them.

The next day the five of us (my parents came with us) rafted the middle section of the Ocoee. This was a series of Class 4s and I could see why immediately. The only way to avoid the rocks was to go down in the holes. A canoe would get swamped just looking at it. The only reason our raft wasn't swamped was that we were all packed in so tightly. Our guide thought it was great, he kept taking us through sideways or backwards, having us do spins through the rapids, all kinds of neat stuff. He told us what is officially my favorite whitewater joke. "This rapid is called Neholoke, which is Cherokee for 'where the white man dies'." Dad almost fell out of the raft laughing. I was sitting up front with my sister and at one massive hole he yelled Hey man, hang on! I leaned out over the edge of the raft to see what the big deal was. Suddenly the world turned sideways, as though gravity had decided to try something new. I found myself staring straight down into a boiling cauldron of green foam. The raft plunged into the hole like a swooping eagle and stopped as though the eagle had flown into a cliff. I was hanging by one wedged-in foot, my sister flew back into my mother and almost took them both out the other side. Then we were through. The guide yelled to paddle, I reached down, and I realized we were in another rapid because my paddle wouldn't reach the water.

Rafting dam-controlled rivers is odd. We drove back along the river on our way home afterwards, when the power company had stopped releasing water. It's weird to see a river turned off. All the rapids and channels were gone. Instead there were a bunch of rocks with water trickling through the middle of them, and in places I do mean trickling. We looked at it and wondered how we'd ever managed to get a boat to float. The dam itself looked different without the water pouring over the top.

Today we came home. Along the way we stopped at a neat little bookstore in Asheville to stock up, drove along the Parkway for hours enjoying the laurel blooms and the foliage, and went up to the observation tower at the top of the highest peak on the East Coast. You could see Grandfather Mountain, the Smokies National Park, everything for tens of miles around. Afterwards we stopped by the Ranger station. They had a list of wildlife sightings in the park to warn the campers of what to expect. They included "stepped on garter snake" and "red squirrel seen scurrying frantically across road."

Long story short, whitewater is fun and I want to do more of it in smaller boats. Rocks and trees are also fun. Hiking is more interesting when you get off the trail, it's then you find the cliffs. When we get the pics developed I'll post some. Let me close by quoting a T-shirt:

"You could flip over and get sucked into a hydraulic and die. You could fall out, smash your head on a boulder and die. You could get your foot trapped under a rock, get pulled down by the current and die. OR YOU COULD FALL OFF THE COUCH, CHOKE ON A POTATO CHIP AND DIE. Sooner or later, everyone dies. Get off the couch."

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