7:30 wake up alarm, coffee brewing, Bart in the shower (the sound of the day — rushingwater). As I sipped my first cup of coffee on the front porch, thoughts of last night’s weather forecast loomed inmy head. Scattered showers, thunderstorms,with a cold front coming into north Georgia later in the day. My coffee’s steam reminded me of hills with vapor rising skyward. The morning was humid and gloomy.
We discussed wimping out of the trip on the Upper Chestatee with Jim and Maggie Griffin. This, being our first engagement with the GCA, we decided to battle the elements and packed up our Explorer for the hour drive to Lumpkin County. Upon meeting up with five other hearty river trekking enthusiasts, wetook off for Copper Mine, minus the 12 or so other canoes and kayaks who were supposed to accompany us.
Once we put in at the pool below the Copper Mine Rapid, it became evident that Jim had somemisgivings about the run down the river. The rapid above us was engulfed in heavy, swift moving water, with onlya few of its many boulders showing through the waters that may have been hurricane Opal’s, which had been hiding in some creek up in the north Georgia mountains.
As the water made its way into the pool, many limbs and logs accompanied it. Jim’s concern was becoming more obvious. His group consisted of somewhat newcomers tothis sport — Charlie and Belle, who had never paddled together before, Tim who was trying out his kayak for the first time, Bart and I who had limitedexperience but had done the river before, under more forgiving circumstances.
Jim let us paddle in the ever changing currents of the pool for about 15 minutes then gathered the boats together, announcing that he had never paddled this river with such a volume and was not sure what to expect down river since the hurricane’s devastation in and around Atlanta. With this knowledge, it was up to us to decide if we still wished to partake in the float. No one backed out; we all decided to take the challenge of the river.
Setting off in the drizzle, we followed our leader down the swift moving river. No problems were encountered till the bend before Blasted Rock Rapid. Jim scouted ahead, taking out on the other side of the river, instructing us to tie up and look beyond the hill. As we tied up our boats, a chill came upon us, maybe more from the cold front moving in than the sight which lay over the hill.
Upon reaching the top of the hill and looking down at Blasted Rock, I could tell this was a beast to be reckoned with. It was not the scattering of rocks with the definition of a couple of months ago. Now it was only a few rock tops with volumes of water flowing over hidden hazards.
We watched Jim handle the rapid with ease, after which he set up a line on the island lying dead smack in the middle of our course after the rapid. Our instructions were to veer sharply right after coming through the rapid.
Bart and I were the first boat down. We made the rapid,though later I was told by Jim that at one point I was 3 to 4 feet in the air. Next thing I remember was taking on water and broad siding the island. Bart told me later that we might have made the sharp right if I would have paddled instead of doing an air brace.
Next down the chute was Tim. Though a little too far to the left, he made it over the rocks only to also broadside the island on a rock. Charlie and Belle were next. Having not paddled together before, they had a fine ride through the rapid, only to end up in the same spot Bart and I had bumped the island. I notice that they took on no water as I bailed.
Last but not least, our co-leader Maggie headed through the rapid with a hoot and a holler,only to get turned around near the tip of the island, heading down stream backwards to the left of the island. She recovered while slipping out of sight around the island. Had Maggie found the correct route? Now one-by-one the new island inhabitants unstuck ourselves and headed once more downstream.
With the thrill of Blasted Rock behind us, the paddle was safe and easy to the Rte. 52take-out. Though upon seeing the take-out, Jim stated that the river had risen some 2 feet since the start of our trek. Having not stopped for lunch because of the looming skies, the seven-once-strangers met at a restaurant in Dahlonega for a toast and some fine pasta.
When Bart and I reached home, put the wet clothes in the washer and stowed away the gear, we sat on our bed, warmed each other and watched the Braves win the National League pennant. Thus a fine end to a fine day which started out with a lot of doubt.
Trip Date: October 14, 1995
By Cathee Gallant
-From the Eddy Line, December 1995