Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tis the Season

Creeking season has arrived in the Southeast. Many years, there's a lull between the warm predictability of damn release season and the frenetic variety of creeking season. Fortunately this year they overlapped with the first good fall rain arriving before the final Tallulah release weekend. And, while the damn releases are great runs, the repetition just makes one yurn even that much more for some honest adventure.

It's the gorge that makes Tallulah Special (Photo: JJ)

The Amphitheater from Above (Photo: JJ)

And with short days and no shortage of water, the cup of adventure is easily filled and often overflows. The past few weeks have featured great quick runs of Hike Up Elkmont and Island Creek with darkness looming as well as a failed attempt at Sam's Creek (I never thought I'd see it too high, but it was a fun hike burdened by carrying a 40 lb piece of Tupperware) and a near epic on Wildcat Creek (We finished but it was too high, too full of wood, and too dark and a smarter man would and did hike back out).

Which brings us to this morning. Tight work schedules forced a quick mission and with extremely high water from a few days of rain we decided to give Bruce Creek a quick look at dawn. Even with all the rain, I fully expected Bruce to be too low. How does a creek with a 1.5 sq. mi. drainage hold when it hasn't rained a drop in the previous 12 hours. Still, it's less than 40 minutes from the house, so it was worth a look.

I arrived late, as usual, and ran up the flooded trail to have a look at the main event, a clean but stacked set of waterfalls going about 12', 16', 22', and 8'. Note that these waterfalls are not a geological wonder, but rather a gift from TDOT, who decided to blast clean lips and nice pools when rerouting Bruce Creek to make room for I-75's climb up Cumberland Mountain. Before I even got a good look I knew we were on from Ohman's excited whooping (folks don't whoop for nothing before sunrise). The level looked good. Maybe a little low but the lips were clean and pools aerated. After all, how much water do clean waterfalls require?

So back down the trail we go, quickly gearing up and returning. After a little discussion of the small tree we'd be boofing through on the biggest drop, we decide holding a right stroke should block the tree away from face contact, so I head up to drop in. A quick warm up and 4 boof strokes later and I'm at the bottom, having avoided potential tree to face contact and loving life. Now Ohman heads up and is quickly loving life too with 4 boofs and no tree action. The rest of the creek back to the car was a little scrapey except for the 12fter above the culvert (we didn't have time to mess with the culvert, but it looked good). After a quick departure, I rally to work on time with one hell of a way to wake up behind me.

A Boof I've been Thinking of for Years (Photo: Ohman)

Ohman had never heard of Bruce 12 hours earlier (Photo: JJ)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dog Days to Another Missed Green Race

After Quebec, things really wound down around K-town as the dog days of summer kicked in. We had a few good days here and there (Juicy Crooked Fork, Thunderhead into Tremont), but in general it was Ocoee and mountain biking time. I even had some time to sneak a few good hiking trips in there.

Acadia National Park from Schoodic Mountain.

The Smokies have some great creeks.

This unpaddled one has plenty of bedrock.

Smokin' Steve Rappin' through an Impressive Place.

Since I hadn't paddled with my brother in forever, I decided to kick off September with a quick hitter to Colorado. The 4 day trip yielded Gore, the Black Canton of the Gunnison, and Bailey before I had to hop right back on the plane. A few notes from the trip:

- Gore rocks and makes me wish the Pigeon Dries would run again.
- Whether or not you run the super gnar, the Black is good for the soul.
- The portaging and hike out of the black are much more enjoyable with fully functioning lower appendages.
- Coloradans carnie as much as southeasterners do on predictable damn releases close to town.
- While gear dries much faster out west, the gate area in the Denver airport is still suboptimal for rapid drying operations.

Trying to Avoid having my Balls Crushed (Photo: TJ)

Gettin' my stomp on before gettin' my portage on (Photo: TJ).

Rolf droppin' into next gen, which was sick above 1000, although it's sick under 1000 as well (Photo: TJ).

TJ styling the move that led to my torn MCL in 2009 (Photo: I don't know)

When I returned home it became evident that the dry southeast I has left had since been saturated. Unfortunately levels receded quickly as the parched earth soaked it up like a sponge, but CPac and I were able to sneak in an after work West Prong as flows dropped out. It was even better that both the upper and lower were portage free other than major wood residing in big tree. The rest of September on in to October continued to deliver with runs on the Blackwater, Gauley, Green, Gragg Prong, Wilson, Russell Fork, and Tellico (never even took the camera though).

Unfortunately the last Sunday in October I tweaked (tore some scar tissue?) in my surgically repaired left shoulder in Boof. I was still able to complete the run and another race pace run, but come Monday the pain and swelling kicked up. After a week of going easy on my shoulder rehab work, I got to test it the day before the race on an after work low water Lilly to Nemo run. The results were not promising and after waffling for too long I made the smart decision to miss my third straight green race with an injury. Demoralized by the decision and not being much of a spectator, I decided to push myself in a different way: by hiking from Sugarlands to snowy Mt. Leconte (about 22 miles round trip with 5200 ft. of gain). The views were spectacular from Myrtle Point and my only advice is wear good shoes or your feet will hate you.

Looking down into some of the best creeking on the east coast.

Gotta love those Smoky Mountain Vistas.