Rod Hardee, a GCA member who was primarlily a flat water canoe/camper for a number of years, recently purchased rec kayaks that his wife Susan and he paddled for the first time with us over the rocks on a recent GCA trip on the Towaliga. He wondered what it would be like to paddle his kayak on a river with a few shoals AND water.
After a good March rain, I suggested the Copper Mine section of the Chestatee river near Dalonega. We listed the trip on the GCA list and Jack Taylor, Karen Saunders, Kelly Harbac, Xueya Hauge, Leif Hauge, Mark Holmberg, and Dave Leigh met Rod, his son Spencer, Jim Simpson (Rod’s Pastor for about 10 years who and this turned out to be pretty near perfect for our paddle. Rod and his folks did not know that they needed helmets for this section, but since there was only one Class 2 rapid listed below Copper Mine, we decided that we could share helmets on the rapid.
We got to the bridge where we unloaded and portaged our boats to the put-in below Copper Mine rapid. This was a long, hard portage, made even more difficult because they had a couple of crews working on the bridge, so we had further to carry our boats. In addition, the recent rain made the very steep bank even more difficult.
It probably took us close to an hour to unload and carry our boats to the put in. By this time, I think some of the group were wondering why in the heck I chose this section to paddle. However, after viewing Copper Mine rapid from the bottom and paddling about 100 yards through a canopy of rhododendrons, we all agreed that it was a good choice and will really be a beautiful paddle when they are blooming in a couple of months.
We immediately reached some small rapids that are always fun for new paddlers and some of us old folks who paddle Class 1 and 2. There were several nice little rapids to negotiate and folks that had not paddled this section were commenting on the beauty and why it isn’t paddled more. To me, it is the most beautiful river in North Georgia that I paddle. A little over half way down we reached a rather challenging rapid that we all pulled over to the bank to scout. At first we thought that we had reached Blasted Rock Rapid, but after closely checking it out, Jack said that this was not the Blasted Rock that he swam several years back. We all enjoyed this exciting rapid with no swims.
After our lunch break we soon reached Blasted Rock. Again we scouted the rapid and I got out on a rock at the rapid to point out the line. Kelly & Karen paddled through and set safety at the bottom. All went through safely except Jim who had never paddled whitewater before.
Since I had loaned my helmet to one of the paddles to make the run, I used the excuse that it was too much trouble to get my helmet so Jim and I sent our boats down and we walked the shallows. It was a very good run and we only had one boat that had a little problem half way through the rapid with a rock. The paddlers won this one. We had no swims here, but did have a couple of swims at another rapid.
I was really happy that our Preacher friend Jim made the complete trip without swimming, no thanks to his ex-parishioner and old friend, Rod Hardee, who had borrowed a 12 foot Old Town Dirigo kayak for Jim to use. It was almost impossible to turn the boat in swift water, much less a whitewater, but somehow Jim made it. (Perhaps divine intervention?) At any rate Rod thinks Jim has forgiven him and is still his friend. It was a great day on the river with a fun group.
by Lamar Phillips
From The Eddy Line, May, 2008