Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Weather Advisory

Typically December is great month to be a kayaker in Alabama. Frequent rainfall and mild temperatures usually result in lots of river days without much discomfort. However, December 2010 started out with a deep freeze that swept mercilessly across the southeastern United States. Alabama is typically around five to ten degrees warmer than the rest of the southeast paddling scene, but even here nighttime temperatures dipped into the single digits and daytime temperatures stayed below freezing for days on end.

What’s a paddler to do when the water is low and the weather is unkind? The same thing we do the rest of the year, of course! Go kayaking! The lack of rainfall has left many rivers too low, but Little River Canyon in the northeastern corner of Alabama remains runnable at quite low flows. A trip down Little River Canyon at higher flows is usually characterized by pushy water and big holes (lots of fun in its own right). However, at low flows it channelizes between the huge boulders and creates a run that is more the style of a low volume creek and is a local favorite when most other rivers in the region are too low.

The follow video features Little River Canyon at around 250 CFS. This is about the minimum flow that all the rapids can still be paddled, portage free. Although Terminal Eddy is often walked at such low flows (risk to reward ratio is a little off on that one). The video also features all the mandatory elements to EVERY paddling video you’ve EVER seen… sped up footage of the sky/shuttle/hiking, shameless gear plugs, slow-mo boofing, post credits bonus footage, and even a little carnage. Formulaic, I know, but there is a reason paddling videos follow such a predictable path, because paddlers like them that way.

Additional footage of winter paddling in Alabama is featured in latest issue of LVM, which is available now. See a preview and order LVM 35 “Love Thyself “ here.

Until Next Time…

-Adam Goshorn

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Alabama Awakening: Fall 2010

The fall of 2010 has been especially dry in the southeastern United States, leaving boaters to rely on dam release runs we waiting for the rains to return. For north Alabama, the fall of 2010 has been the exact opposite of the fall of 2009. In 2009 the rains came back in force in mid September and provided consistent natural flow into early June 2010. However, at the end of the first week of June, things dried up and there have been very few natural flow events since… until this week!

Early this week, northern Alabama received around four inches of rain over the course of two days. By Tuesday morning the ground was thoroughly saturated and the rain was still coming down in copious sheets. Despite the formerly low water table, rivers and creeks everywhere sprang to life. Flows in Little River Canyon went from 50 CFS to 8,000 CFS in less than a day. As the rivers emerged from there long hibernation, so did the network of boaters across the southeast. I think I received more calls, e-mails, and text about boating in two days than I did in the previous two months combined; everyone was beyond amped!

Leaving work a little after noon I met Cliff Knight at the put-in for Chinquapin Creek, AL. The classic section of Chinquapin drops a whopping 350 feet over only 0.75 miles as it falls into Little River Canyon. The last time I had paddled Chinquapin, I wondered about what the creek may contain in the couple of miles upstream of the traditional put-in. The gradient was milder, but the upper sections other local creeks all had favorable bedrock features so I had to wonder why no one had ever checked it out. Cliff and I debated for a few minutes before concluding that anything was worth doing once and the only way to really know what was there was to go paddle it!

My expectations were pretty low as we put on, but I couldn’t help but feel that excitement that always comes from paddling into the unknown. I love exploration and finding out what is around the next bend, especially when you really have no idea what you will find (in this situation, I was fully expecting to find a tree choked portage fest). As it turned out, we were presently surprised to find that Upper Chinquapin was a fun class III-IV run with no portages for wood. A mix of bedrock slides and small boulder style rapids reminded us both of the characteristics of Johnnies Creek AL (only a couple miles away), but significantly easier.

We made our way down in less than two hours, mostly boat scouting with a couple of bank scouts at blind rapids. After our successful run of Upper Chinquapin Creek we followed it up with a quick sprint down Upper Teddy Bear Creek (just a couple of miles north), finishing shortly before dark.

The following day my friend Kim shot a little video of me taking my lunch break from work…

Until Next Time...

-adam goshorn