26 October, 2016

Victory Vicariously

This past weekend my roommate and I took our friend, Patrick, to the USNWC in Charlotte. Patrick had been on two trips of the Upper Green with me and two trips on the Lower Green with Alec over the summer. He’d also been with us to the Center once before and even managed to get his first combat roll and making it down Sunset on the Wilderness Channel twice before swimming M-Wave.

Patrick on the Upper Green.

It felt to me that Patrick wasn’t paddling confidently early on and after two swims at Entrance Exam he chose to practice his rolls in the upper pool while Alec and I made a few laps on the Wildy and Comp Channels. Eventually we went to check on him and see how his rolls had been, but found him drying off. He did get back in his boat and a small adjustment managed to help him fix his inconsistent roll. It took some convincing, but he eventually agreed to try the Wilderness Channel again. For the third time this year I told him he could get out before M-Wave. For the third time this year I didn’t actually mean it when I said it.

We took our time through the channel, taking breaks in the eddies and prepping Patrick for what lay ahead. By the time we made it down Sunset, Patrick was having fun again. Even as he ran into the meat of M-Wave sideways he managed to keep his head together and get a solid roll attempt in before punching his skirt. Unshaken he talked about how much of a success the day had been and told us he was going to get out. We convinced him to try the Wildy one more time and to just get out after Sunset if he really wanted to… You would think he would have realized at this point he was going to go through M-Wave.

On his final lap Patrick managed to take a decent line on the right side of M-Wave and punched right through. From the eddy river right I shouted words of encouragement such as, “You’re good!” and “You got this!” when he found himself stuck on top of a plastic bollard. But he managed to make through M-Wave, Sunset, and Biscuits and Gravy upright. It was awesome watching him finally make it through the Wilderness Channel which I knew he really wanted to do. I was also super stoked to see Patrick push himself forward when he could have easily allowed fear to keep him from trying. Now we just need to look forward. Once he gains more confidence in the Wilderness Channel and his ability to roll there, we will get him to take a closer took at the Competition Channel.
Looking Forward - Big Drop (Class IV)!

12 October, 2016

The Intangibles

As a good friend of mine knows, sometimes you look back on something you’ve done and think to yourself, “That was dumb!” This is what was running through my head this past Saturday as I sat on the side of the road for my roommate to come pick me up. The two of us had just paddled the Haw River at 10,000cfs… while Hurricane Matthew continued to unload rain and wind across the eastern half of North Carolina.

Waiting at the Take Out.

After we got off work we threw our boats on his car and made our way east, to the Haw. I had been looking forward to running the Haw at higher water and that was exactly what I got. Sticks and logs accompanied us on the 1.3 mile float trip. The rapids were great fun and we both had a blast as we made our way down them. Gabriel’s Bend, which is easily the signature rapid of the run, was incredible. The extra water made it somewhere around a Class III+ rapid. I had heard a few of the rapids, Moosejaw Falls and The Slot, merge together at high water becoming a large pour-over. I was caught off guard at just how much they had merged at flood stage, even spilling over into The Maze to the far left. The entire trip was an intense roller coaster of waves and I am happy that I had kept my head on me to avoid waves that I knew were forming from water passing over trees from the flooded islands.

After reaching the takeout, Alec began the hike back upstream to grab the car and come pick me up. As soon as he made it out of sight an incredibly nice Park Ranger walked into the parking lot and offered me a ride up to the main road because trees were down near the take out so they were going to lock the gate at the end of the road. It was only after he dropped me off at the main road that I started to think about what we had just done. We had hopped on a river that was still rising while high bursts of wind continue to batter the the trees around us. While it was definitely an enjoyable experience I won’t soon forget, it is also (retrospectively) an unnerving experience that I won’t soon repeat.

In the future I will be able to wait through the heavy storm and hop on the rivers as they fall. It’s a little unfortunate I missed the chance to run the Little River (Eno tributary) or the Deep River as the levels fell into manageable ranges, but there will always be a chance to run them safely in the future.

01 October, 2016

Making Use of Evan's Hard Work

Around a year ago Evan and I started looking for potential Whitewater projects in the piedmont of North Carolina. We found a few decent spots in the area and began scouting a couple of them. One of the places we found and were pretty stoked to run was the Lower Haw. Unfortunately, Evan’s big move came before we found time to run it. Luckily, I noticed the rivers in the area were all flooding this past Thursday and managed to catch the Haw the next day for a Personal First Descent after it came back down.

I had talked to my friend, Josh, the day before about coming with me to try out Whitewater Stand-Up Paddleboarding on the Haw. So we made our way to Pittsboro and hopped on the river while Jamie shuttled the car for us.

The Lower Haw is only about a mile long so a single trip down, but has a healthy mix of Class II and III rapids. It’s a big river with multiple channels to take making it impossible to hit up every rapid in a single trip. I had heard Gabriel’s Bend was the signature rapid on the run, a long wave train that runs alongside a rock bluff. It didn’t disappoint. Probably one the most interesting things about the run was the last section. You have four rapids you can run and I ended up running The Maze without knowing it.

I didn’t get to run every rapid on the run and even missed one I had been excited to look at, Moosejaw Falls. I had confused The Maze, The Slot, and Moosejaw Falls. That just means it will be worth the trip to check out the Haw again. At 2,150cfs the river was okay, but a lot of the surf waves weren’t really there and a few of the rapids were boney. I am hoping to catch the river the next time it raises up again and hopefully will catch it for a couple laps around 6,000cfs. Its supposed to be more of a Class III+ river then and I'd love to see that!