08 May, 2017

Big Laurel Creek

It’s clearly been a long time since I last posted. Well, at least I’m not as bad as Evan! The past two months I have been active- but I’ll get to that in another post. Right now, I want to talk about my Personal First Descent of Big Laurel Creek.

The story begins a couple of weeks ago, when my roommate, Alec, and I went and paddled the Deep River. It was a nice warm up for the year, but definitely left a hunger in our stomachs. We painfully watched the river levels over the next week-and-a-half. Everything had water, but we were too busy with work and school to go paddle. Finally, the opportunity arose where Jamie and I would be in the mountains near the rivers; we had found our window.

To make things fun, Alec, Jamie, and I invited our friends Patrick and David to join us. Alec and I were hoping to get everyone out on a river that would be a step harder than what they had done in the past, but still be fun for everyone. We had been planning on the French Broad, section 9. A few days of rain before the trip brought that idea crashing down with a flooded river that we weren’t committed to taking three new paddlers on.

We then turned our eyes to the Green River. Jamie and Patrick both have been down the Upper Green a few times now and it seemed like they were going to add a notch to their belt. Luck was on our side because water was spilling over the dam to Lake Summit. If the lake level reached at least 100.6% we would be able to paddle the Dries.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I called and checked the lake level: 100.63% Perfect! The Dries had enough water to get us down, but not so much water that Jamie, Patrick, and David couldn’t join us. Not wanting to get stuck on the river after the water release shut off I made sure to find out about the scheduled release times. “No Scheduled Release.” What I didn't know then, was that they were running the dam all day long. No shutoff time!

I made the decision that we would go to Big Laurel Creek. It was a river I had been wanting to paddle for quite some time, but hadn’t been eyeing because I thought it might be a little too much for some of the others to handle. They proved me wrong. Jamie, Patrick, and David all did great! David managed to get his first two rolls on a real river- and managed to stay in his boat the whole time. He even got his first Class IV that day. And even though Patrick and Jamie both swam some, I was very proud of how well they did. Their resilience was very inspiring.

Big Laurel is probably one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve paddled, and just what we were looking for. It started out at a great pace. A slew of Class II's to warm up on before picking up the pace. Plus, getting to run a creek style river that dumps into a Big Water river was an interesting experience for everyone. Switching from the steep rapids on Big Laurel to the last couple miles of French Broad, section 9 was a hoot! FB9 was pumping at around 5,500cfs which made Kayakers Ledge (normally a Class III) into a super beefy double drop with sticky holes on both. Frank Bell’s was a solid Class IV and super fun!

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