First off let me say that this was not a scheduled GCA trip. As we headed up to the Cheoah for my fist descent, I was full of anticipation. The intensity of the river wasn’t enough, the dense fog that surrounded us almost the entire way up I was told when we put on to just keep paddling. The first part of the river was a bit of tree dodging similar to the Upper Ocoee. Unfortunately, i dont know the names of most of the rapids, they all ran together for the most part.

The water was huge. As we made our way down the river, I saw the fear in several faces of newbies, which made me grateful to be paddling with such a great group. On every approach to each rapid, we were somehow able to find an eddy (rare to come by) and Mike would break down the rapid for me. I followed his line and was successful everytime, except for the entrance to Bear Creek, where I flopped over on the eddy line. I guess you could call it a successful combat roll. That was my first roll on the river, but not my last.

As we approached the entrance rapid to Bear Creek Falls, Mike had turned to me and said “This is where it’s gonna get real s*#@y”. I thought, “what did you call all that I just went through?” I had told my wife at the lunch break spot that I was going to do the double drop at Bear Creek, but I couldn’t resist the big drop when I got there. As I peeled out of the eddy, I could feel the adrenalin hit my veins. As I reached for the ledge to plant my boof stroke, I looked down below to the pillow of whitewater (though I was told not to look down) at that moment a thought crossed my mind – “Holy crap, that’s big!”. And I went over my first class IV+ drop. It was like landing on a pillow, then a white-out, then immediately being pushed down the river. This was a feeling that I had never experienced in my life.

The river really picked up it’s pace from here. The other notable rapid I distincly recall was Yardsale. I had to pull over in the eddy above the rapid to empty out my boat since a lot of water had leaked in over the course of the day. A boat full of water is difficult to roll. Mike had informed us about the top hole and how to avoid it, but he intentionally omitted the second hole so that we wouldn’t admire it as we were pushed into it. Luckily I never even noticed the second hole was there until I saw Terry head straight for it. After a couple good brace strokes, he was successful in escaping the boat eater. Ruthie followed behind with a succesfull combat roll in the middle of the rapid and missing the hole. I think all together, we had 4 rolls between all ten of us and thankfully, no swims. I was impressed how well everyone did on the river and kept their composure.

I believe everyone regardless of experience, walked away with a sense of achievment that day. Someone else will have to take pictures next year beacuse my wife’s comming with me. Thank you Jill for the video and pictures taken throughout the day, and of course for the shuttle. Happy boating everyone, hope to see you on the river soon.

Jessie Hebden
November 2011