Tuesday, May 31, 2016
MWA Southeast Beginner Trip
I had seen stuff on the MWA Southeast Beginner Trip last year, but had other commitments with moving jobs, buying a house, and trying to sell a house. This year I tried to block it out early and actually probably committed mentally before the clinic.
We watched the MWA message board about the trip in our efforts to prepare. On May 27 we left early for the NOC. Brock had encouraged us to drive the Tail of the Dragon while there so we took the northern route and came down the dragon. Several times I thought Zack was going to get sick. I might drive it again in the fall to look at the leaves, but otherwise I'll stay off that road.
I like the NOC campus with it's atmospheres and activities to enjoy. Zack jumped in on a few with some other kids.
Several in the group had arrived earlier and ran the Nantahala on Friday. That translated to the group heading to the Pigeon on Saturday. We ran from Walter's Pumphouse to the NOC Outpost takeout. It was a fun day and the biggest water I had experienced in a kayak. There was 25-30 in our group so safety was abundant.
Zack got hung up on a rock above Lost Guide. Rafters and kayakers were gathered in the eddy below watching rafts and boaters come through and wondering when Zack would get loose. Zack had my throw bag so I got one from Coop and headed up the bank. After getting his attention my first throw was horrible. The rope fell out of the bag into the water and stopped forward motion. The second throw was better, but showed me the rope was too short to reach him.
Finally he shifted his weight enough and down he went to the cheers of the gathered crowd. He said that he figured someone would throw him a rope or bump him with their boat. He did very well staying calm and was the talk of the river for a bit. This may have also been his first experience at getting bumped out while going through Lost Guide. There's not much of worry about it flipping, but the big waves can toss him out. He got bumped out, threw his paddle out, and jumped back in a smooth motion without missing much of a beat.
Further downstream we pulled to the side upstream from Accelerator to empty a boat. While there we took a look and watched several run the line. This was the last rapid of the day and the biggest we encountered. I thought I was through, but went over at the end. Two attempts to roll went absolutely nowhere so I punched out.
I survived the day with one swim and a banged up finger. Zack had done very well navigating the river and I was thankful that we had practiced duckie re-entry the weekend prior.
Sunday was the Nantahala. Zack had paddled it in a duckie when he was 8 so I wasn't worried. I'm not a fan of the cold water, but this is a nice splashy trip until Bump and Nantahala Falls. The last time we were here our guide told us to avoid Bump. I ran the hole with no trouble but Zack stayed clear. I ran the falls without incident and took the river right eddy to watch Zack. He did great catching the eddy above the falls and came through the falls nicely. He did get bumped out again, but was quickly back in the boat.
The talk for Monday was to stop at the middle Ocoee on the way home. I was a bit hesitant, but thought we're here, we've got safety, why not. The night before there was discussion of starting downstream of Grumpy, but after looking at it from the dam I was confident I could make the move.
I did, but got tossed in the turbulence below. In retrospect it was kind of like running Accelerator on the Pigeon from the start. I took some nice finger scrapes, a strawberry on my left elbow, and some rock rash on my right shoulder -- at least this was my assumption. It was confirmed after taking off my shirt at the take-out.
Two days before we were on the Pigeon and to that point it was the biggest water I had done in a kayak. The Nantahala was a step down, but now we had definitely stepped it up again.
I swam on another rapid after an unsuccessful roll. We avoided Double Suck. At Table Saw (the most turbulent spot on the river) I was center right rather than center left. The boater in front of me went over and in my attempt to get around them I got tossed. It was a tough swim, but with the help of a fellow boater I rode Diamond Splitter hanging on to the back of a boat. I got on a rock on river left in time to see my kayak being pulled on a raft well downstream.
My hands took a beating in Table Saw so I stayed on the rock for a while to stop the bleeding on my left thumb. Zack had gotten bumped out of his duckie on Table Saw too, but reports say he hung on to his boat with a smile on his face the whole way. This was the first time he lost grip of his paddle though.
After getting to my boat we had a nice finish to the trip. Zack was too far right at Hell Hole and went out again, losing his paddle. He ran Powerhouse hand paddling.
His safety for the day towed him across the lake while he napped in the duckie.
I hope we're able to do this trip again next year and know what I need to work on to improve my paddling skills. I'm not consistent on III+.
A big thanks to the MWA for sponsoring this trip, Di for being trip leader, and to all those experience boaters who helped us and kept us safe.