Monday, August 15, 2011

Life Back in the Kayaking Slow Lane

So the last 11 months has been a serious struggle. I won't go too much into the details, but last September 11th I dislocated my shoulder in Kentucky of all places. It had rained over 4 inches around Cumberland Falls and there were a few tribs that had interesting looking waterfalls in their final descents to the Cumberland. Eagle Falls was a bust, but Dog Slaughter delivered, leaving only Bark Camp to check out. After a few short slides, the north cumberland gnar gnar showed up, but Kirk and I pressed on. I didn't give the final drop enough respect, and it flipped me on my head, leading to a dislocated shoulder in the slot immediately down stream. After doing my best one armed Mark Spitz, I waited in the eddy while the fellas pulled my boat out of a sieve before they came to quickly reduce the dislocation (much to my surprise, I'd never seen a first time dislocation dealt with so smoothly). Fortunately we were already at the hike out point and 1/2 mile later I was snarfing Jeff's chips ahoy and ODing on vitamin I.

Within a week I had an MRI and less than 3 weeks later I was under the knife to repair a torn labrum and bicep tendon. The recovery sucked. Once the local block wore off the pain went Richter (only surpassed by the life jacket removal at the original scene) for a few days where sleep was pretty scarce (it would be nice if I responded to narcotic painkillers). It was about a month before I could sleep in a bed and another few weeks before I could start moving my arm and starting rehab. I got in a kayak for the first time about 12 weeks after surgery (although I would call what I did floating). From then on the goal was simple: explore as much new (to me) whitewater as possible while my shoulder recovered and gained strength. I'll just let the photos tell the stories from what turned out to be a great spring in the Southeast.

JJ bombing down some slides on Upper Snowbird Creek. We put in just above this set after 4 miles of hiking. Beautiful creek, hopefully someday I'll see it with enough water to run it from the top (Photo: Alex Zendel)

D. White finishing the same set. This one might get rowdy if you ever caught the creek with some water. (Photo: AZ)

JJ boofing on Bald River. We did this as a hike up while the Tellico was running about 3 ft. to avoid a terrible shuttle. Pretty little section but it would be better with more water to clean things up. Watch out for this drop, it's right above suislide and dished out a few inverted landings. (Photo: Jeff Moore)

The crew routing down the low angle stuff early on Roaring Creek. This season was really about the plateau, and this is one of the best class IV creeks Walden Ridge has to offer. (Photo: JJ)

The slides start to steepen up as you get further along. (Photo: JM)

Sean Camp about to do a little hole bashing. (Photo: JM)

Sean finishing up the last slide on Roaring Creek, below which Brush Creek enters in mega-cascade fashion, signaling the start of the run out. (Photo: JM)

Jeff Moore boofing a little sneak slot in the sunshine early on Big Brush Creek in the Sequatchie Valley. This run was like a mix between Daddy's and Caney Fork but with bigger harder drops than both. (Photo: JJ)

JJ boofing the entrance to another nice boulder rapid. This run has more mid-size slot boofs than most. (Photo: JM)

Mr. Robert Keeble, now of Bozeman, greasing the longest rapid of the run. (Photo: JM)

Keeble airing it out over some plateau ugliness. (Photo: JM)

Although not a new run, the Chatooga, specifically in overnight format, is one of the finest boating experiences in the Southeast. Here is smokeless Steve contemplating the narrows of section III in the fading evening light of day 1. (Photo: JJ)

Those are just a few photos from a few days of a spring that saw us exploring a lot of the class II-IV runs that surround Knoxville (and yes, I need to bring the camera more often). The shoulder's continuing to improve and has done well on some high water days in the Southeast this summer (Big Creek, Thunderhead/Tremont, and Crooked Fork) as well as a road trip to Quebec (photos and words... someday). Hopefully next season will be a good one around Knoxville, because we've definitely got some things planned when the rain falls again.

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