Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Spring That Never Ended

This year has been by far the best year for water in the Southeast since I arrived 5 years ago.  As we now approach August, there have been natural flow options from back in mid January nearly every day through to now.  In addition to generally high background levels, there have been quite a few days of so much water that you are searching for things that are low enough to run.  This led to some great days and some days of endless driving with very little kayaking.  Below are a handful of snaps and stories from along the way...

C. Paq heading into Asleep at a the Wheel.  And yes, he caught the eddy in the cave directly in front of him.
C. Paq soaring into the best boulder rapid on Allen Creek.
The whole drive down, we had been planning on hitting the Bear.  The level was a good high (24" if I recall correctly) and despite knowing that the best creek in the SE was running at an optimum flow, we chose to go exploring.  While close by, Allen Creek took forever to get to.  While not quite as quality as the Bear, Allen was a great trip and it was well worth missing out on the best to go check out another cool canyon.  Lots of good slides up to lead to low volume boulder drops and then high volume boulder gardens once the two tribs arrive.  Incidentally, there were 2 other groups at Allen that day, which probably marks the most people ever on the creek.

Ohman on the best rapid above the Chimney Tops trailhead.
Ohman on the great boogie between Decision and Dinosaur.
The West Prong of the Little Pigeon is the classic Knoxville class V run.  It has more action packed into 7 miles than pretty much anything else on the East Coast.  Nothing huge, just non-stop goodness with no portaging baring wood.  On this day, I was thinking we'd be taking a chill day at the Little so I brought the beater boat.  Mr. West Prong Howard Tidwell called us on the way up to let us know it was running.  Needless to say we went and my beater boat was a sinking ship before too long.  Good thing it was relatively warm and I was dumb enough to keep going.

My parents in a cool little cove off the Clear Fork.
My parents usually come to Knoxville every spring to do a little paddling and hiking.  This year was no exception, but high water made it difficult to find an appropriate destination.  We decided on doing White Oak Creek into the Clear Fork, which is some of the best class II around.  It was high (like 3000 on Clear Fork) and was really zooming although not too difficult.  We had a great time soaking in the plateau canyon before sneaking in a little hike at Honey Creek.  Great Day.

C. Paq on the slide below the big one on Mill Creek in the Cohuttas.
It started off as an early day with good prospects.  We were putting onto our first creek in a deluge at 9 am.  The creek had risen an order of magnitude by the time we reached the first rapid.  While we were scouting it came up another foot and almost swept the boats away.  We hiked out and it was a sign of things to come.  Everything else on the plateau we checked was too high too, so we went down to the Cohuttas.  Mill Creek was running perfect and was a great break from what was otherwise a long day of driving.  We were still hungry so we went to Big Creek and Go Forth Creek, both too high. Then we went to Yellow Creek.  Perfect level but the wood we discovered in the falls had us hiking straight back up to the truck.  Oh well, sometimes it's just the way it goes.  At least we got to paddle something.

The Elusive Upper Snowbird Creek with good water.
Middle Falls on Upper Snowbird Creek.  John dropping, C. Paq gawking.
The day started off early, just like the previous weekend's day of driving.  Weary of the high water skunk, we headed to the Cheoah Headwaters area where things rarely get too high and come down fast.  We checked Upper Santeetlah first and it was high, if not too high.  Since it was still raining we decided to try to do Snowbird from the top.  After setting shuttle and getting changed it was 11:00 when we started hiking from Hooper Bald.  We got lost and did a short loop ending up back where we started.  We started down again at Noon, finding the put in after a few miles walk in the rain.  The flow was optimal and the whitewater was better than expected, and the run was a great adventure.  We finished with plenty of light left so C. Paq and I headed over to Santeetlah for a quick run.  The gate was closed so more hiking ensued.  The level was perfect and the creek was just great.  We finished at dark and did a little bashing through rhodo to find the road.  It was almost 9 pm when I started jogging shuttle.  It was a great full day of kayaking.

Well, that's it for photos and quick stories from another great Spring of paddling.

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