Thursday, May 20, 2010

Smokies Double Dip

No time for many photos, just this one of the author finishing Big Tree on UWP.
Photo Kirk Eddlemon from

I'm a little behind... this epic day only happened about 2 months ago.

After a slightly too late night with slightly too much shit talking, 5:30 am came a little too early, followed shortly by Caleb's truck pulling in. We rallied up to the West Prong to get to the first half of the day’s mission started. Leaving a truck at the first walkway above Sugarlands, we headed up to the loop with a nice low-medium 1.3 ish on the gauge. From there on it was classic West Prong in the early morning haze. Just good boofs and steepness.

At the halfway point, we traded out Todd, who had to go to his brother's live in ex-girlfriend's son's birthday party, and Kirk finished the rest of the run with us. The lower went quickly and we were at the take out at a little after 11 with relatively little carnage (normally on a top to bottom West Prong run, there will be some action) and plenty of time for round two. If you have the time and a decent water level, adding the last half of Walker Camp, from the loop to chimneys trailhead, and the mile below Campbell overlook to just above Sugarlands adds a few great rapids and makes for about 7 miles of continuous bolder boofing. Normally, this would be a pretty full day of boating, but not today.

Heading over the mountain on 441, we made a few calls and Bone and Mc'Lovin would round out the crew for round 2. A perfect 11ish inches greeted us for one of the greatest runs on the east coast. After a little bit of sunshine poked through as we were putting on above Lord of the Rings, the drizzle quickly kicked in to slicken up the already polished walls of the Raven Fork. I was nervous putting on, but the first few paddle strokes didn't feel too fatigued and my run was smooth the whole way through. It was sort of odd, but the Raven Fork felt so in control and smooth compared to the non-stop action dished out on the West Prong. The same can't be said for the rest of the boys, as there was certainly some undercut action at Headless and some creek boat rodeo at Jedi, but everything worked itself out and all too soon we were trading stories with Manuel and his buddies.

Fortunately Kirk and I didn't stick around too long, as we were the second to last car back over 441 before the park closed it due to the inches of snow our “drizzle” was dropping at Newfound Gap. After meandering our way through Floridians who ended up in the ditches on the side of the road, we were glad to make it back to K-Town with only a slight delay instead of hours finding a road back to Knoxville not blocked by a landslide. It was good to know that after a winter of bringing myself back into the swing of things from a torn MCL suffered in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I could again push myself pretty hard out there, although next time I plan to actually back up the shit talking by following up a top to bottom West Prong, instead of putting in at Lord of the Rings, by hiking over the mountain.

Keep pushing...