By
Hank Klausman

After
probably the driest summer on record, I was glad to “coordinate”
my annual Upper Ocoee GCA trip. We are so lucky to have reliable
water on this world class section, which includes the 1996 Olympic
Slalom Course.

Most
of the group were old time paddling buddies, including David Asbell,
Peter Elkon, Fred Stokes, Ricky Martin and Betsy Darken, plus two
first timers, Tom and Suzanne Welander. We had every type of white
water craft with the exception of duckies with 4 kayaks, 2 C-1s and
two open canoes.

It
had been raining hard most of the drive up, but stopped just as we
put on. It was still cloudy and cool so we all wore polypro and
paddling tops. Tom and Suzanne used the first few class 3 rapids to
warm up and looked smooth. Tom had been one of my video stars on the
Cheoah last year. I had been with Suzanne on her first middle Ocoee
trip about two years ago and she is a very experienced paddler.
Remember she is the editor of the most recent edition of A Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to Georgia.

Suzanne
was not real sure about boofing Alien Boof, but did fine. She said
she didn’t want to mess with the portage back up to ferry across to
run Mikey’s and indicated she would just meet us below. I ferried
across with Tom intending to get out on the center rocks and scout
Mikey’s. There was some confusion as some folks in another group took
out on right bank to scout from shore and Tom went there. So all I
could do is join Fred in the eddy right above the ledge and beckon
Tom to follow. As soon as Tom landed in the eddy, Suzanne was right
behind him.

“I
decide to try it after all,” was all she said. I explained you
need a left angle when going off the ledge to avoid getting slammed
into the undercut rock on right bank and offered to show them. I then
proceeded to land sideways at bottom and fell over downstream.
Forcing myself not to rush my set up, I hit my first roll and grabbed
the first eddy. David came in next to me laughing and flipped my
visor back down. The roll had left it sticking up like a Bubba hat.

At
Blue Hole rapid I think we ran every possible route. I love crashing
through the holes in my creek boat. No one flipped running the rapid
but Fred rolled over playing at the bottom wave and came right back
up. Entrance Rapid on the Race Course was run clean by all and most
of us took out to snack and let the Welanders look at the upper
course. We didn’t realize that Peter and Ricky had stayed in their
boats to try the elevator move at Entrance Rapid. Peter didn’t have
enough speed and flipped. Not sure how many rolls he missed before
having to punch.

We
heard a whistle blow and looked into the river. We saw an upside down
kayak and a swimmer with his PFD up around his ears. I looked at
David, “Is that Peter?” David picked up his throw rope, but
we were so far away all we could do is run down the path watching.
Fortunately, a Good Samaritan kayaker helped Peter to the left side
while Ricky chased his boat all the way below Slam Dunk rapid before
he got it into the eddy. Peter looked pretty wobbly walking to his
boat. The rest of us paddled down to Peter and Ricky to regroup. We
met up with David Ashley who is still recovering from his Cheoah
accident and had agreed to be our official videographer. From this
point on I can prove every thing I tell you with some wonderful
videos and commentary by David.

The
next section was the approach to Humongous, the keeper hole, and you
have to either run through Callahan’s Hole or ferry across missing
rocks and holes to a recirculating eddy above Humongous. Peter did a
practice roll in the eddy and said he was ready. He peeled out, got
off line and ran right into Callahan’s Hole which immediately flipped
him. But he rolled right back up. I decided I needed to get to a spot
below Humongous where I could see the others run and be in a good
position for safety. I ferried to go left of Camera Mount Rock which
is middle of river and at left end of Humongous Hole. Then cut harder
to catch the very first left eddy below the drop. From here I could
watch everyone both approach and run Humongous. Everyone came through
clean, with Suzanne even smiling.

I
collected the group on river right below the bridge to explain to Tom
and Suzanne about Trash Can coming up. After trying to describe the
routes and the holes to avoid, Suzanne and Tom said they would just
follow me and David. We took the hero path where you cut left after
the offset holes at top and catch the left bank. Suzanne was right
behind us, but Tom got snared in one of the holes and had to first
eddy right. He ferried across to join us.

The
next move was to go from left to right diagonally first just below
one hole in the middle, then sneak between a ledge coming from right
bank and the huge hole in center at bottom. Tom got off course and it
put him right into the big wave/hole at middle. He was promptly
flipped as it always does regardless of type craft (I’ve been there).
Tom rolled up, we cheered and the sun came out to congratulate us.

Great
day, great trip, great group!

Published
in The Eddy Line, October 2006