So, it was the Friday before Christmas and all through the house my kayak gear was stirring but my booties stayed hidden, like a mouse. The Cornelia gauge said 1990 cfs, the biggest I’d done the Upper Hooch. Edward Stockman told me to bring my wood paddle, cause I might need my roll.
The level ended up being too high for a couple of people, though, I’d say over all, the river was still class II/III at that level and all the normal lines were there. I felt like it was similar to the Nanty at that level. We were lucky that we had the three wisemen of open boating with us that day, Edward, Allen and Doug. Edward was quick to school me in the ways of the leaf gauge, and that the Cornelia gauge showed the flow from the Soque River as well.
Several alternative lines open up at that level and Edward showed some of the less experienced boaters those lines. Sit On Top Tom was there, but not in a sit on top! He was in his new Remix which he named “Goldar” for it’s maiden voyage. I must say, it was just great seeing the wide eyed look of nervousness on his face in the eddy trying to handle this smaller, sportier boat. Tom did very well, and had a good run. We ran into Tim and a buddy playboating the river, some of the folks were worried about them, but Tim’s one of the best boater’s I’ve seen so I wasn’t. On down the river, Tim is showing Tyler how to better do a bow stall. Tyler’s so bold he’s not afraid to try these kinds of playboat moves in the middle of the river with no roll…..it was good boat rescue practice anyway….Tyler definitely earns the “aint skeered” award. We were also joined by the Chattooga Wild Boyz, as that river was over 4 ft, a little big…. We all had a good run, when we got down to the play hole at the bottom of Horseshoe Rapid, it was more of a play wave. I had to roll, I blew my first attempt and hit the second one, though, it was mighty sloppy. One of the Wild Boyz had the same problem but it took him like 5 attempts to hit that roll, hmmm, I guess “boring” rivers make your head drift up….. At the take out Tim made the mistake of calling Edward “Ed”. Edward quickly through in the “ward” but Tim kept talking but Edward, kept saying “Edward” until Tim said “I’m sorry it’s Edward” and then it was all good. You gotta get it right when you are dealing with Mr. Stockman,….Siir!
So we started planning a second trip the Wednesday after Xmas to the Upper Hooch, and I was reminded by more folks about the Leaf Gauge. Okay, but I haven’t really paid attention the Leaf Gauge before, so I have no experience to relate with it, like the Cornelia, but I’m trying to do so, but “SIGH” that ain’t good enough for some. Anyway this time the level was around 1100-1200 cfs on the Cornelia Gauge, about 550 on the Leaf Gauge (2.5 ft?), so see, I’m working on it 🙂
We had Todd and Terry the playboaters extrordinare, along with some new folks and the usual suspects. This time my booties stayed home, but I still had neoprene socks, though that didn’t do much standing on rocks or sand, brrrr. I took “Rose” my fiberglass paddle this time, feeling better about the level, and having had a couple of chances to go out to the lake with her. I got a combat roll goofing around at the lunch/surfing spot, a good start. When we got to the bottom of Horsehore and hit the playhole; man that thing is so grabby with me in my big boat! I was getting side surfed and back surfed and braced till I was nearly out of breath. I got a nice combat roll on the my second “surf” so I was feeling really good about my roll, especially since this was my first real river trip with the paddle.
On Friday we headed over to the Locust Fork of the Warrior River near Cleveland, Alabama. Mary Elmore had talked with Paige, who had talked to Vander and some other Alabama boaters to come show us on down. The level was nearly the same as my last trip (4.2-4.3ft). I had loaded up all my gear the night before, but being paranoid, went through all my gear piece by piece after leaving my booties at home on my last trip. It’s a good thing because I had forgotten my helmet, it was still in the shed. We had a pretty big group, 11, I think.
Tyler was showing strong swimming form on this day. I don’t know how well he can read water, but one thing Tyler can do is find the meat of any rapid and plow right into it. If the main channel is a nice wave train, but there’s a beefy pourover hole to the side, well, you know where he’s going! He had 2 or 3 swims above Double Trouble. At the last rapid before Double Trouble he managed to pin his boat between a large boulder and a strainer. The ‘Bama folks had to pull out the ropes to get his boat out. At this point a unanimous voice went up that said Tyler, “Thou Shalt Not Run Double Trouble” as it has a real undercut, covered in wood with real consequences. Luckily there was an alternative channel with all the water and several people took that route. We got to Powell Falls. I flipped at the bottom, and hit my combat roll pretty quickly, which felt good, this was the fastest most aeriated water I had rolled in using that paddle, so now I’m starting to feel a lot better about Rose, though I still need a few more class II/III runs with her before taking her out anywhere big (for me, Ocoee, LRC Chairlift, etc).
Ryan, feeling a little too wide eyed on his approach to Powell Falls flipped and swam above the drop. There he was desperately clinging to a tree with one hand and his boat with the other as his paddle ran the falls. He realized that without a paddle, the boat might as well run it without him. He then made the walk of shame that we all know so well. Tyler ran Powell Falls clean with great cheers from the onlookers (and as I stated before, he went right into the burliest part of the rapid!), but his swimming career was not over, he got at least one more swim in on down the river. John, Mary, Adam, Billy, and Lisa along with the rest of the Georgia crew seemed to really like this river, it’s rapids and it’s scenery. For me, it’s the same drive as the Upper Hooch, but a little bit better river. The Alabama Boaters have been very welcoming and helpful whenever we go over there, I hope I can return the favor some day.