The trip leaders were Jesse Hebden, Mike Winchester & Nick Liley… and they were AWESOME!!! On Saturday a group of 1st timers set out and ran the Upper Tellico. The plan was to work the middle and then consider the upper for day 2, but given the level the leaders thought it was best to run the upper and they were right.

The worked us hard through the entire run and ensured that we were safe. After the first ledge myself and a few others started to loosen up a bit and realize that we should be on this river, others probably already knew that. The day went very well and was somewhat uneventful, which was a good thing. I think every 1st timer tried moves they have never done before and we all certainly pushed harder than we thought we were going to when we woke up that morning.

All the rapids were a ton of fun and I realized that at this level I am more confident than I thought I would be on this type of river. We had a lot of smiles and high paddles as one by one we all made it through the various sections.

For me the highlight was Baby Falls! Just something I did not know that I would do for a while. After seeing the leaders make the line look simple and then some first timers rocking out the line my heart rate came back down under 100. I got off line for a moment but recovered and dropped off the falls. In my head I was going to land just like Jesse did, but that did not happen. I went so deep under the water I must have felt I was upside down. I am told I surfaced just fine and upright but then leaned over and went back underwater for some reason… After a poor roll attempt and the vision of getting sucked under the curtain I darted out of the boat. Next time I hope to keep a cooler head (or a dry head 🙂 My second highlight was watching a lifelong friend nail a combat roll in the middle of Jared’s Knee. Bryan Paquette may not be able to roll in chlorine, but he is near 100% on the river and that is what matters!!!

The rest of the run was sweet. I walked Jared’s knee cuz that felt right and I am thankful that I listen to the little voice in my head, always! It did not feel right so I set safety for the group and started thinking of how excited I was for day 2!!!

Day 2 was on the Ocoee. It was my 4th full run and 8th time being in a creek boat. (normally run a play boat) I learned more about paddling on day 2 than I could have hoped for. The river was up, as in over the concrete platform, which had me a little nervous. Luckily it came down a bit and I heard it might have been around 1,700 cfs, but I have no idea.

What an AWESOME day it was. The leaders once again sacrificed some good moves and a few lines to ensure that we all had a great day. There were 3 leaders and 4 newer Ocoee runners. I managed to prove that I can still swim in relatively flat water, but got at least 10 solid combat rolls. I gained some confidence rolling is some super heavy current when it mattered, and that was sweet. I also learned a lot about how to effectively use the strokes I was taught at the right time in the river… All good stuff!!!

The highlight of day 2 was the look on Mike and Jesse’s faces after the section below flipper. Nick had moved down with one student to Go Forth, which left three of us with the other two. I was attempting to make a ferry across to Mike. I got blown down river and ended up flipping over. As Mike yelled down to Jesse, Francheska was behind me and thought my move was cool so she also flipped over also, as I was starting my roll Bryan was not going to be out done so he too flipped. Jesse was looking up stream, Mike was sweeping and all three of us were in various stages rolling between them. The great news is all three of us nailed our rolls and glided into an eddy downstream. We were laughing & smiling but Mike and Jesse were still in shock and trying to figure out what happened. I think that one aged Mike just a little bit 🙂

In summary, this sport is awesome because of the people in it. Above and beyond the traditional boater there are some that extend themselves to help others grow and that is what makes this sport special! If you are a GCA member that is on the fringe and does not get involved much, think about changing that. Whether you are new to the sport and need some river friends or an old pro it is a great place to share something you love with other people you have never met, but are more like you than most of your non river friends! Hope to meet some of you at the Spring Extravaganza!!!

March 23 & 24, 2013
Dan Brady