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.
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.
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