Friday, April 2, 2010

The Best Run in the Smokies that Never Gets Done

When I first moved to Knoxville, two years ago, the middle prong of the little pigeon above the trailhead (commonly referred to as hike up Ramsey) intrigued me as much as any of my soon to be back yard runs. A brief write up on AW described one of the highest quality runs in the Smokies with the best boof in the Smokies. Yet, I never heard of anyone doing this run regularly.

So I had to check it out. After pulling into Knoxville late on a Friday night and starting Saturday off with a quick run down the Big South Fork, I decided to go check out hike up Ramsey for myself. Now, it's always difficult to tell exactly what a run will be like when seeing it with no water, but what I saw looked like the best bolder gardens I'd ever seen. Suffice it to say, I knew I would be coming back to confirm my suspicions.

Unfortunately, I moved to Knoxville in the middle of the drought, and it would be over a year until I got to see how good hike up Ramsey really was. After a midday thunderstorm last July, we rallied a group to hit the West Prong after work. The first sign of high water was having to take an alternate route to the Smokies due to the normal route being underwater. After some detouring, we arrived to find the West Prong at 2', higher than we felt like dealing with that day. So after a short debate about the Road Prong level, we headed over to Ramsey.

After a quick hike up, we sped down the first hundred yards of boogie water. Howard and Caleb were parked in a eddy on the left, so I followed Tony down the first fifteen foot ramp, then boofed left over the nasty little ledge hole, before turning right and off a huge ramping boof. While this might not be the best boof in the Smokies as claimed on AW(it's hard to make this claim when caveman is just over the mountain in NC), you will definitely have the permagrin on after this one.

Hitting the first boof just after sun up. Photo: Tom Janney

From there on, it stays high quality and high intensity all the way down to the takeout. Think West Prong, except steeper, more channelized, and more unique rapids. The run is boat scoutable the whole way down, but be careful for the sieve rapid, which fortunately has a great sneak down a slide river left. Basically, for those one and a half miles, hike up Ramsey offers the highest quality class V bolder gardens in the Smokies.

One of the mellower stretches, but still oh so good. Photo: Tom Janney.

Boofing the entrance to a rowdy double drop. Photo: Tom Janney

Finishing over the big hole at the island drop. Photo: Tom Janney.

All photos are from a return trip in January I made with my brother. After a week of boating some of the best stuff in the SE, including Horsepasture, Linville, West Prong, Henderson, and Raven Fork, we made it up there for a dawn patrol mission just before Tom had to return to Colorado. The gage at hwy 321 read 3.25 ft. that morning, while my other runs have been at 2.75 ft. and 3 ft., although the 3 ft. level was the highest on Ramsey due to Porter’s Creek lack of contribution. When we finished, Tom agreed that hike up Ramsey holds some of the best super steep bolder rapids around, and added that it may have been the hardest run he'd done all week. So be careful up there, it's spicy...

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