Had an absolutely awesome weekend on Roberts Easter Chucky annual GCA trip. Thanks to everyone who joined us. I believe fun was had by all. Mona, Robert and I carpooled to the Nolichucky Gorge Campground on Thursday night. Got rained on, some people got hail, and thanks to the platforms tents and Monas persistence and expertise was able to build us a fire out of wet wood. Joining us in camp were Jay Davis, and Jesse and Jill Hebden, Mike Mcdonough and Wes Dodson.

The Nolichucky was running about 2650 when we left home, but rain overnight brought it up to 6000 cfs by morning when we were joined by Cheryl and Rich Beverly. The Noli was way too high so Robert, Jay, the Hebdens, and Beverly’s went a very high, fast and exciting run of the Lower Nolichucky, normally an easy class 2 but now a class 3 run. The rest of us went to Big Laurel. It was also high at +8 inches.


None had any recent experience here but were blessed to meet Becca Carter and Kimberly Grissop Ebenshade in the parking lot who were willing to lead us down. Nice thing about Big Laurel is that there is a trail beside the river almost all the way that makes scouting and portaging easy and quick. Every one had great runs with an extended scouting of Stair step rapid, where at first glance I said no way and immediately left to portage around it. After seeing another group run it and everyone in our group make it look easy, maybe I should have run it, but old saying—“its better to portage a rapid you wish you had run, than to run a rapid you wish you had portaged”. When we got back to the campground, we were joined by Janet Chisholm, Booby Coombs and Susan Wantland.

Friday night brought very cold temps low 30″s. Saturday morning cold but beautiful sunny skies, and dropping but still too high level on the Nolichucky Gorge, so Mona, Mike, Wes, and Janet headed back to Big Laurel where they were joined by Amy Kinkennion. The level was +6 inches , great runs were had by all and most said the river was a little harder causing several swims. The rest of us, went on a adventure to find the Toe Gorge. Thanks to directions from Rich Ruhlen and map reading by Susanne we found it. A beautiful easy, relaxing class 2+ river. A first for all of us.

Saturday night brought Lee Belnap to our campsite. A good sleep and slightly warmer temps brought us to sunday morning. The Hebdens, Beverlys, and Jay packed up and headed for home, while Robert, Susanne, and Bobby went for another run on the Lower Noli. That left me, Janet, Amy, Wes, Mike, and Lee our last chance to get on the Nolichucky Gorge. The highest that any of us had ever run it, 2450 cfs. It was HUGE. Thanks to great lines from Lee and a lot of prayer by me, we all had a perfect run. In fact we ran the river with very little stopping and paddled the whole 9 miles in 3 hours!!

Robert did an amazing job, even though he never got to run the gorge, but he made sure everyone got to paddle something of there skill level, and a wonderful trip was had by all. Maybe you can join us next year 🙂

Gretchen Mallins
April 9, 2012