I arrived at the Middle Ocoee put in at 10 AM ready Nathan Madlock and his son for a Middle run. However, my crew had not shown by 10:30. About that time I saw David Bazemore and Robert Isley lurking near parking area. Robert asked if I wanted to paddle with them. He said it was to be his first trip down the Upper O. It took me about 15 seconds to respond with a wholehearted, hell yeah!
We met up with Allen Pippen, Michael Allison, and David Hucky, loaded boats on my truck, and we headed to the Upper put in. I drove my truck the parking area outside the gate and caught a ride to the lower parking area. As soon as I paddled out to meet the group we started the trip—no warm up.
It was a bit overcast; however, it was a wonderful day to be on the river. Everyone was having fun paddling through the trees. We saw one raft and no other kayakers. It seemed that we had the river to ourselves.
The group eddied above Alien Boof and one by one we ran it. Everyone had great lines, except me. I caught a bit too much rock and ended up flipping. Fortunately, I rolled right up. I was paddling with my old Werner Sherpa paddle because, unfortunately, I lost my favorite AT paddle on 8/11. I was not sure how the Sherpa would treat me, but after that effortless roll I decided that I like it! Robert and two others carried up and ran the boof again before we paddled on to Blue Hole.
Most of the group paddled a bit different line compared to the right to left line that I had run on my first three trips. We ferried from the right side entrance to a middle line, which required that we punch a hole or two—seemed to work well. Then we headed to the Olympic Section. I opted for the left side, as usual. As I paddled left of Humongous, I looked to my right and saw David broach a rock in the middle of the rapid. I tried to eddy below the rock, without luck. David rolled off the rock and hit a roll in the eddy below, avoiding the meat of the hole.
The remainder of the river went well. We reached the Middle put in about 12:45. Everyone opted to call it a day and head home early. That worked great for me. I got home about 3 PM, in time to take my daughter to the airport—good day all around.
Robert had a great first run—well done!