It
seemed like a great way to celebrate my 38th birthday and a nice
first trip as a new GCA member. It was a beautiful day, 65 degrees
or so and the river was a clear green.

I
had done quite a bit of paddling in the last three years on the
Chattahoochee, and read the guide book about this section of the
river and the “easy class II rapids”. It sounded like
something my friend John and I could handle.

About
ten minutes into the trip we realized we were in over our heads,
literally. We flipped it on the first rapid we came to, and the
water was about 45 or 50 degrees. We were well prepared…. wearing
jeans and T-shirts…. oh yeah…. good one guys….

Bart
Keith, the trip coordinator, came up in his canoe and said “Keep
your feet up!” I remember thinking, “Oh yeah….”
(This was something I had heard a bunch of times, but for some reason
I had forgotten while I was sampling the flavor of the Chestatee.)
Then he said while helping us get the water out of the boat, “I
just realized you guys don’t have float bags, so every time you flip,
your canoe’s gonna fill up. You really ought to have float bags in
that boat.”

I
certainly would have had float bags if I had known this was a white
water (mild for some) trip. It was one of those things where you
paint a picture in your mind of what you expect it to be, and
underestimate what it is. I thought it was going to be relatively
calm with some ripples and a few tricky parts….

We
dumped it three more times, and I noticed by the third time our
audience was much bigger, so I think we provided some good
entertainment, especially since there were no fatalities. One spill
we took was next to a rocky bank and there was a tree limb hanging
over the water with two copperheads on it!! I think even they were
laughing at us!

Another
spill had John scrambling over to the bank and I was stuck in the
middle of the river, on a rock, chest deep in rushing ice water until
a canoer could get situated and throw me a line to get through the
deeper water towards the upside-down-full-of-water-canoe. As we were
dumping out the water, he said, “You guys really ought to get
some float bags.”

Still
another time we came up to a rapid and I asked John (in the bow) if
he could see the “V” and he said no. I said, “Where
are we going?” He said, “Damned if I know.” I said,
“Paddle backwards!” We did and looked at the rapid and
didn’t have a clue. I said, “Ya wanna go through the middle?”
He said, “OK.” So we paddled like crazy straight into the
middle of it, but the current had other ideas, and whipped us over to
the right side, straight into some rocks.

At
this point John said very quickly, “Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!”
which wasn’t much help at all… We bounced on the right against
some rocks, and then the left and then the right and then the left,
etc., kind of like a pinball game, until we crashed through a couple
low hanging branches, and finally landed in an eddy with sticks in
our hair — but we didn’t swim!! A kayaker watching the whole thing
said very dryly, “Well, that’s one way to do it….”

On
the entire trip there was much discussion about Blasted Rock Rapid,
which is an easy class II or an easy class III, but for John and me
it may as well have been a class 20. Just above the rapid Bart said,
“We’re coming up on Blasted Rock; you guys might want to
consider portaging this one.” John and I were nodding are
heads, “Oh yeah.” “Definitely!”

We
each grabbed a line and let the canoe float in the water, (it was
nice to see it actually float), and climbed along the rocks. About
halfway through, the rocks ran out and there was no where to go
except into the water or into the boat. We had to get in the boat in
the middle of the rapid and paddle through! And, we actually made
it!

The
trip mellowed out for the last mile or so, and we also had figured
out how to stay out of the water pretty good by that time. When the
water is that cold, it is a great incentive….

At
the take-out, I asked Bart about the shuttle back to the put-in, and
found out I somehow had missed the announcement about the shuttle at
the beginning of the trip, planned that way so everybody would have
their vehicles at the take-out. Phew…. as if I didn’t already look
like a major bonehead…. So I caught a ride back to my truck with
Jason, and on the way we were talking about the trip and he said,
“You know, you guys would probably do all right if you had some
float bags in that canoe….”

Many
thanks to everyone on the trip, for the constant life-saving rescues
and the excellent advice, and patience. I think I’ll probably do it
again as soon as my broken thumb heals, and it’s about 90 degrees
outside, and oh yeah…. I get some of those float bags!

by
Bill Kahler
3-23-97