Monday, January 28, 2013

10 Days

Until mid-January it had been a pretty bad season for me.  My availability was just not lining up with high water days, which there weren't many of, but I was making the best of it on local favorites like the Tellico, Little, and Obed.  Then, it got warm and rained a lot for about 4 days straight.  I've seen it rain harder here countless times, but never so steady for so long, and it was glorious...

Day 1 - Tellico - 68 degrees in mid January watching the UT kids with their raft was pretty good.
Day 2 - Obed - Low water and drizzle doesn't take away from one of the South's most soulful.
Day 3 - West Prong of the Little - Good when Tremont is too high, but scariest class III ever.
Day 4 - Duskin Creek - Pretty little creek but the Piney River at high water is way more bang for the buck.
Day 5 - Hike Up Porters - Somewhere between Upper Big and West Prong in gradient and difficulty but
            more continuous and full of wood than both, and not quite as high quality.  Still it's pretty damn good.
Day 6 - Crooked Fork - Waterfalls and slides in a quick, close to home package.  If only the water didn't
             smell so bad.
Day 7 - Upper Big - Can it get any better than superman down in an hour with a nice healthy 3.6ish flow?
Day 8 - Overflow Creek - Gotta love those mini gorges and the carnage this thing always attracts.
Day 9 - Chattooga Headwaters - The fully deal.  All the newly legal sections in a day.
Day 10 - Linville - Falls to the lake.  The classic long southeast day.

I'm pretty sure I've done 10 days in a row in my college days (it's a lot easier when not working 40+ hours a week), but it's been a long time between, and damn was it nice to get into that routine again.

Unfortunately, the steady rain and after work quicky schedule was not conducive to taking lots of photos; however there was one day where the camera came out quite a bit, so I'll elaborate a little bit...

I've been wanting to do Chattooga Headwaters pretty much since I moved to the Southeast, which is a much shorter time than AW has been working on access.  Given the history, I was pretty sure we'd never see legal access on this stretch and I had thought of poaching it many times... just putting on way up high in the NC gamelands near Cashiers and going all the way to the lake over 2 or 3 days.  Then last year when they announced legal access, I was sure there'd be an injunction before anyone could legally float the headwaters, and I was right.  I would sure history would repeat itself again this year, and was shocked when no additional injunctions came up this year.  So, when the opportunity arrived, I figured I'd better go jump on it while the getting was good.

Flows were looking great coming into the weekend with 900 and falling on the gauge Friday night (350 is minimum legal flow).  The boys wanted Overflow Saturday and since things were holding so well, we put off the headwaters until Sunday.  Staying in Clayton on Saturday night, things were looking good with 550 on the gauge when we got going.  We decided to do the whole thing from Green Creek to Licklog Creek, which was nearly 17 miles and was a pretty long day with a hike in and out.

The fisherman's trail at Green Creek is not real obvious from the Chattooga River Trail, but I had been there before so we did well finding it.  Section 00 is a pretty good adventure with several cool walled in sections.  Things start picking up as you get down to Bull Pen, which is a great rapid and the start of Section 0.

Section 0 continues with great class IV down to super corkscrew, which is the best rapid on the run.  Think Raven Fork rapids (including nasty spots) but not as steep.  Fortunately it'd be pretty easy to walk on the right if you get out above the lead in rapid if you're not into that kind of thing.  Things petered out pretty quickly from there to lots of class II down to the Burrell's Ford Bridge and for a while below.

Finally we got to Big Bend Falls, which is the big dog on Section 1.  The preferred line on the right was blocked with trees at the bottom, so I tried the left.  I got a little lost on the horizon and dropped over in a non-ideal location, destroying my bow (previously cracked) on the entrance ledge before recovering and finishing the main drop as intended.  After seeing the condition of my boat (gaping 6" crack), everyone else walked (not easy to do) on the right.  After a little more class II, the Rock Gorge got down to business.  This was probably the heaviest whitewater of the trip, and several rapids featured unnerving logs in a few locations, although we ran them all.  Fortunately, the pool drop nature let me and my boat off the hook and I was able to paddle it out (you'd be amazed how fast water comes out of a huge drain hole).  From there out it was about a mile down to Lick Log Creek, which is the end of the legal section.  There are no signs indicating the illegality of paddling down, but at least the creek is obvious as the first tributary river left below rock gorge, which also features a great cascading waterfall.  The hike out wasn't bad, but I'm pretty sure it's longer than signed at the parking lot to the river.  On a side note, it's a shame the 4 mile section from Lick Log to 28 has been made illegal, as it would allow a 2-3 day trip from Green Creek to the Lake, which would truly unlock the unique wilderness potential of the Chattooga.  Hopefully Someday.

Now to the photos, which are all from section 00 and 0, as we were trying to make miles on section 1...

Art Barket in one of the Longest Mini Gorges of Section 00 (Photo: JJ)
Art Exiting a Gorge with the Sieve Portage and a Nice Boof in the Background (Photo: JJ)
Bull Pen Rapid and John Moore, not on Manns for once (Photo: JJ)
Art Finishing off the Same in Fine Form (Photo: JJ)
John Moore Balancing the Chaos of Super Corkscrew (Photo: JJ)

Until next time...


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