This
was the season’s first of the three Ocoee weekday GCA trips I try to
coordinate each year. The weather was great, the water level was in
the “normal” range, and the water temp was good for early
June.

I
had considered discontinuing these trips after last year because the
turn-out was low enough to make it almost not worthwhile. But I
decided to give it another season and see how it went. Well…. I got
15 sign-ups, all fifteen showed up at the put-in, but one had to
leave before we embarked due to an unexpected business call on his
cell phone. I think it pays to turn off your cell phone at certain
times.

So
the trip began with 14 boaters. I mention this because somehow my
Ocoee trips never end with the same number of boaters they start
with. I don’t really LOSE people, stuff just happens. Most of us put
in at the ramp, but two people decided to join us at the old raft
put-in below Grumpy and another would be meeting us at Double Suck.
So in the beginning we were 11, but quickly became 13, then soon 14.
I’ll get into the attrition part later.

I
had heard through the rumor mill that the big land slide above the
put-in last fall had washed a lot of debris into Grumpy, altering
the ledge in such a manner that you now could run it virtually
anywhere without fear of getting stuck for an interminable surf or
recirculation. I didn’t mention this to any of the participants
because it was strictly rumor until I could see it for myself, and I
didn’t want to give anyone a false sense of security. I figured I
would check it out on my way down following the left side route I
usually take.

Long
story short, Grumpy didn’t look much different to me from inspecting
it on the fly from the left side, or from the eddy just below it.
I’ll leave it to someone braver or more foolish than me to take the
middle line and test out the theory. I’ll even set a rope for anyone
who wants to try it. Some of the water above Grumpy did seem a little
different — some of the waves seemed a bit smaller, as did a couple
of the eddies, but nothing really striking.

Two
of our crew were Ocoee first timers, but very solid paddlers, and one
was returning after a long hiatus caused by illness. The rest of us
were relatively seasoned Ocoee boaters, so I didn’t expect a lot of
carnage on the trip.

From
above Broken Nose I asked one of the more experienced boaters to run
ahead and set up rope safety on the island where he could cover both
the right and left side runs, as there were people who were favoring
each of the routes. I also assigned someone to lead the way down the
right, and I led down the left. Events unfolded, as events sometimes
do, in a rather unexpected manner. There were suddenly three boaters
in the water on the right side route, and only one safety rope
person.

Fortune
smiled that day and Broken Nose was kind enough to surf one swimmer
with boat into the eddy on river right just below the second
ledge-hole. Another boater took the rope throw and was pulled onto
the island without boat — the boat was recovered below and a
helpful open boater from our group gave the swimmer a ride down to
the wayward boat. The third swimmer made it to the island on his own
and his boat cooperated by following him very closely to a point
where the rope thrower was able to grab the boat as it went by.

The
rest of the trip was not uneventful. There were some other
out-of-boat experiences, and some really good combat
rolls by kayaks and open boats, but no more simultaneous
choreographed swims. We had scheduled lunch at Double Trouble, but
once again the fates interfered with our plans. Everyone made the run
through Double Trouble OK, but one boater had a swim ferrying across
to river right where everyone was unpacking lunches and getting ready
to eat. A couple of others who were still in their boats went after
the swimmer and boat, but by the time they got them over, they were
too far down to comfortably work their way back up to where the rest
of the group was eating. And since I had lunches for the three of
them in my dry bag, I opted to paddle on down and join the swimmer
and rescuers for lunch. Every-one else stayed at Double Trouble for
lunch.

After
lunch, one of the group who was having a less than stellar day
decided to take off at Go Forth, and two others decided to leave the
group and paddle the rest of the way to the take-out on their own,
because things were going pretty slowly and they had other things
going on early in the evening.

So
then we were back to 11 boaters, the same number who put on at the
ramp, but down from the maximum of 14 at lunch. The math was
beginning to be almost as much of a challenge as the river. The rest
of the run was relatively uneventful. At the take-out everyone was
reunited with their vehicles, loaded up and we were on our way. I was
thankful to have survived the challenges of keeping track of how many
trip participants we had on the trip at any given time.

Thanks
to all those who participated — Mike McDonough, Jackie Pickett, Tom
Keller, Donna Tawzer and Andrew Little in K-1; Gabriella Schlidt,
Barry Smith, Mike McGinnis, Edward Stockman, Dave Vezzetti, Dorethy Vezzetti,
Warren Little, Wade Lucas and myself in OC-1. Thanks to all those who
ran lead, who ran sweep, and especially those who helped with safety
and rescue, and to those who helped with the shuttle. I’m looking
forward to the July weekday run!!

From The Eddy Line, July 2006
by
Allen
Hedden