Monday, December 5, 2011

Sand Mountain Tornado Update

The weekend started as all good paddling weekends do. Friday was filled multiple phone calls speculating on levels and discussing meeting times. By that evening, I had put together a tentative plan to hook up for 3 runs on Little River Canyon with 3 different crews. All of that changed when the phone rang at 7:30 that night. It was Tyler Phillips asking me what my boating plans were for the weekend. I told him what I had in mind and his answer was, “C’mon man, the canyon, really? Isn’t anything else running?” I was a little confused. Surely, nothing else was running. It hadn’t rained in several days. I looked over the gages, saw that Town was at 600 cfs, and came back with, “We might be able to get a low water run on Flat Rock/Coon but the tornado went right through there.” We made the decision to go check it out and scope out the damage. We made a few calls to see if we could talk anyone else into going with no luck.

For those unfamiliar with this run, it is long. By the end of the day, you will have paddled about 12 miles, 7 of which are flatwater. The drops are characterized by steep congested chutes in large boulder gardens. It has been the site for multiple epics, overnighters, and hike-outs. Tyler had done the run twice and I had done it 3 and a half times (did I mention it is known for hike outs?). We had no idea about the wood situation but were hoping that the high water we had earlier in the week cleaned it out.

We set shuttle and put on at 9:00, prepared for the worst. The level at the put in was scrapey but we were happy to have low water in order to scope out the tornado damage. Within the first mile, we hit the first part of the damage. It was unbelievable. Every tree within sight was snapped off or uprooted. The character of the gorge was completely changed. You could easily see all the way up to the pasture lands on top of the gorge. We continued downstream, able to pick our way around, over and under wood only getting out twice. Once, to portage a log that was there prior to the tornado. The other wood was in a junky class III that pins most boaters. This wood is not visible from the top so approach with caution.

That old log gathered a little bit of debris

Amazingly, the wood cleaned up as soon as approached the steep section. We cautiously picked our way down the rapids, scouting everything we could.

A fun one on Flat Rock

The only wood in play on Flat Rock was in the spout line of eye of the needle. This is not the piece that was there last season and you cannot get around it. It is visible from the top and the right line is still open.

Getting turned around on the right side of Eye of the Needle

Once we got to the confluence with Coon, we felt better about our undertaking. We had made good time, the wood wasn’t as bad as expected, and the level was still low. We walked around the next rapid (landslide?) due to low water.

Sneaking some wood below the confluence

The main portage on the run looked more runnable than it has before. Less water was sieving out at the bottom and more water was in the good line. Even though it looked more doable than ever, we didn’t even think twice before walking.

Tyler drops into the pocket

I chose an alternate line

Another chunky boulder garden near the bottom

We finally arrived at my favorite rapid on the run. It is very out of character with the rest of the river. It starts off with a 4’ boof onto a big boil then slides into a clean, river-wide, ten foot ledge. This rapid had a serious piece of wood in it this is visible from the top. The portage looked miserable so we debated about ways to get around it. Tyler went first and was able to run the first ledge, drive right, wheelchair around the wood, and drive back left for the bottom drop. I followed suit with but had a little wrestling match with the wood on my way by.

The bottom of my favorite drop

With higher water, it might not be avoidable. Immediately below here, we walked around Captain Sherm’s Rapid. It needed more water.

Lead in to Captain Sherm's

We cleaned up the rest of the drops and soon we were exiting the Cave Rapid on our way to the lake.

Typical Coon Creek scenery

Into the abyss

In the backwaters, we entered more tornado damage but, again, were able to make it down without getting out of our boats. We hit the take out at 2:00 and home in time for dinner.

There is a lot of wood in Flat Rock and Coon right now so be careful in there. It will be doing a lot of moving around over the season. Also, with all of the blow down in the area, hiking out would be ridiculous. Huge thanks to Tyler for shooting pictures and getting me motivated. We will definitely be going back soon.

Sam England

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two New Kayaking Videos.....check it out

Check out "killing time"- a whitewater kayaking short with footage from the southeast united states. Featuring a little obligatory Green River Narrows footage, Big Scirum Creek, Rock Creek, Tallapoosa River, and The Locust Fork of the Warrior River. See it all here creek boating, freestyle boating, and even some head cam action.

Music:Pretty Lights

Charlie Simmons, Ray Morton, Zach Sanders, Sam Casuey, Collin Hunt and other riders.

Check out some class V kayaking in western North Carolina's Jocassee Watershed (Gorges State Park Area).  Including Horse Pasture River, Upper and Lower WhiteWater River, plus a little freestyle footage to glue it all together!

Music: Pretty Lights

Charlie Simmons, Charlie Mix, Sam England, Sam Causey, Zach Sanders, Andy Hobson, Collin Hunt, Jordan Sherman, Tyler Phillips, Will Dowling, King Charles, Ben Bernhard, and other chargers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The 'Bama Boys searching for goods.

2011 has started off well here in Alabama. It began with a 12 hour moving ordeal New Year’s Eve involving Andy Hobson and myself into our new house in Jacksonville, AL. Andy is here for nursing school and I am here to finish my Master’s. A solid prediction of rain in the forecast was enough motivation for us to do two days of moving in one. After a fun night of celebration and unpacking, we awoke to more rain and rising rivers. We loaded up my V-Dub and off we went for some charging.

We met up with Adam Goshorn for a quick lap down the local favorite run, Johnnies Creek. After we were warmed up, we headed up to Little River Canyon Falls for a run on the center line. The level was somewhere around 5,000 cfs, probably the most water I’ve seen in this waterfall with my own eyes. The line involved negotiating a class IVish rapid above the lip, breaking over some big holes, standing waves, and a curler above the just before lining up the horizon and boofing the 40 feet through the air over one the biggest holes I’ve ever seen. Burly indeed. I went first, and stomped it. Andy went second, over boofed, landing stern first, and looked at me with pain in his eyes. I remember him saying to me, “I can’t tell if I’m hurt or not, I’m getting out.” He paddled on down while I set safety for our boys Kevin Schaffer and Ben Bernhard who had good lines as well. After the falls, Kevin and I went back to Johnnies at sundown, which was juicing around 4 or 5 inches (the high side of almost epic) and still rising. We finished the last half in the dark and good lines were had.

LRC Falls at 5K. No other pics thanks to a dead battery.

Just so this doesn’t get too long and boring, here are the highlights that followed after New Year’s Day:

-Getting shut down on Rock Creek, scouting DeSoto Falls, and then bagging two laps on low water Johnnies.

-A quick lap on the home run, Little River Canyon, at 12 +/- inches. (Best level for the run in my opinion.)

-A solo run down Little River Canyon the following day, including the falls. I haven’t done much solo paddling, so this really sticks out to me.

After a couple days for rest, and Andy concluding that his back was not broken and was well enough to go kayaking, we went back for a chill day on our beloved canyon which was running on the low side of 0”. Once we got up there, Sam had already been looking hard at the far right line of the Falls. This line has been run several times, mostly back in the day. Local knowledge says Corran Addison knocked off the first D back in the mid ‘90s or so. More recently, a year ago some slalom boaters fired it up . These are really the only two stories that I myself have heard of people running. If my understanding serves me correctly, they both occurred a nice cush 6” or so on the former Hwy 35 Bridge gauge.

I’ve always wanted to run this line and felt like it would go at an extreme low level, like around 0”. It is however very marginal. One must start his approach and negotiate and tricky entrance that has a weird S-turn with a curler that tries to kick you off line. And you better be online, because you have about a two foot window to hit. The crux involves boofing a small kicker at the lip and landing flat in a shallow pool from the 35 feet up. The landing zone itself probably is not more than 5 feet wide with a car sized boulder to the right, some more broken rocks to your left, and the pool is no more than 4 or 5 feet deep. Marginal indeed.

Sam and I both agreed both to fire it up, with Andy opting to shoot photos and motivating obscenities due to his back injury. I volunteered to go first. I was kicked off line a bit by the curler, corrected best I could, boofed the kicker and twisted in in the air. I landed flat and my right side, and felt the rock with both my torso and my boat. Although not a direct hit, it was just enough for the rock to remind me it was there.

Sam went making corrections accordingly to the line we had discussed and he crushed it. We paddled on down LRC on a sunny beautiful Alabama winter’s day stoked not only by the previous week, but what is for sure to come this season.

Charlie Mix on the right line.

Sam crushing a boof off the kicker.

A note about the right line: Yes it obviously goes at low water, but do not even consider it unless you are prepared for the consequences if something goes wrong. These include a broke back, neck, or legs etc.

Hope everyone has good lines in 2011.

-Charlie Mix