September 2006, Xan & I went to the National White Water Center in Charlotte. We stopped to look at the river before paddling it the next day. It is a amazing fantastic place. We walked along and scouted all the channels. It looked big and fast, but pretty straight forward. I needed to get wet.
Everybody at the NWWC was fantastic, available for questions, and very enthusiastic.
They had space available on the next paddling session. Each session for canoeing or kayaking is $15 for 1-1/2 hours. Xan was going to watch, so she decided to get her PFD, helmet & rope in case things didn’t go as planned. During the meeting before they turn you loose on the water Xan went down stream to set up on the first rapid.
There were no other open boats to be seen anywhere. As the boat entered the “Wilderness Channel” the boat surged ahead on the current. Life is good. The first warm up drop is about 2′ into a large pool. My boat spun into an eddy on river right. Most of the current go the right down the “Rodeo Channel”. I wanted to go to the left for my first run. I had a weak peal out and spun back into the eddy. Reminding myself to paddle I set up to do it again. This time was much better and my canoe almost got out of the eddy. For such a calm pool this eddy was tough. For my next lap on the eddy-go-round I paddled up higher in the eddy with some speed and peeled out. Not a really good start to the run.
Finally headed downstream I went over another small drop and looped around in another eddy. These eddys were similar to Whirlpool on the Nantahala, but not as friendly. I finally decided that I didn’t want to be in these spiraling canoe traps, so I got up some speed to stay in the center of the river. This was working, but I was taking on more water with every rapid. My battery powered bilge pump was getting a workout.
Xan was still ahead of me with the rope, but it was obvious that she was not going to beat me to M Wave. She started running to get into position, but there was no chance of it. M-Wave is about the size of Stegal Mill Falls on the Cartacay, but the water enters through a long narrow channel that is screaming along before a 6′ drop into a massive pile of foam.
Adam is a raft guide for the NWCC and saw Xan was trying to get a rope in place. He raised is throw bag to let me know he would throw it to me if I needed it. Normally, they will not throw to private boaters because they don’t want to encourage boaters to become dependent on them.
In the channel I was finally back in control for a few seconds and paddling hard to set up for M-wave. The drop was huge and I was right on line. The boat got slapped around, but I was still upright. In an instant an eddy-go-round got me and I was backward. I hit one of the river features and flipped. Adam had a good throw, and I ended up waste deep in a dynamic eddy. I threw my paddle up and tried to climb out.
Climbing out didn’t work. The concrete banks are 45 degrees and are still coated in construction red clay silt. My boat circled around because it couldn’t get out of eddys either. Xan threw me a rope and carabiner to secure the boat. While I am screwing around in the eddy all of the extra rope was gently floating laps around my waist. They weren’t tight yet, but that could have changed if my boat decided to leave. I got untangled and worked my way down to a rock river feature to crawl up.
With me boat and paddle finally out, I realized that I had double vision. I wasn’t sick or hurt, but did not feel right. After a while I decide that I would finish the last 300 yards of waves and holes. There is no good place to get into the boat by yourself. The eddys and deep water make it tough to get back into the boat.
After I was in I paddled a few laps around the eddy, and headed downstream. Everything went well until the eddy-go-round just before the last hole before the lake.
I got back in the boat and paddled to the conveyor belt that takes you back up to the put in. Unless things didn’t go well and then it can be the take out too.
Things I learned:
Split your group up between two sessions so you have a few ropes and a photographer.
Eddys are evil.
Plan out the entire route and not just where to hit M-Wave.
Torrents are the only sit-on-tops allowed. This is may change.
Getting out of the river is TOUGH. Several people were shaken up by this.
Class 2-3 is a vague rating.
Rafts stay together and travel a predictable path. You can easily avoid them.