Upper Ocoee Trip Report 8/17/14

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!

April 26, 2014 Cheoah River Trip Report

I start by saying that a paddler died on the Cheoah River Saturday afternoon. There has been a lot of conjecture about what happened and I will not add to it. We learned of the incident Saturday evening after we returned to camp. Suffice it say that when a paddler dies on a river, it is a true tragedy. I have though a lot about the accident and the rapids on the lower part of the river. I’ll think long and hard about paddling below the bridge to the Falls and beyond in the future.

Louis Boulanger and I put on the river about noon on Saturday, April 26. We paddled Louis’s shredder. David Peak, David Jr., Karrie, and Micah paddled with us. Shortly after putting on, class 2 and 3 rapids started off and quickly picked up to class 3+ with an occasional class 4. The dam release was scheduled for 1000 cfs. Louis and I agreed that the lower 850 cfs release would make it difficult for the shredder, at least in the upper section of the run.

As we approach Wilma’s Ledge, aka God’s Dam (class 4+), we noticed sever people setting a Z-Line, trying to remove a pinned boat below the drop, which resembles a low head dam. Evidently, a boater swam, made it safely to shore but the errant boat pinned. We were able to make it safely by the activity and our group continued downstream.

We had road scouted most of the class 4, 4+, and 5 rapids prior to putting on; however, things looks very different while paddling. All I remember was several big drops, holes, and big wave trains. All went well, as we took out at the bridge above the Falls for a break. Karrie wisely decided not to paddle the big stuff from the Falls downstream. The rest of the group paddled on through the class 4+ entrance and class 4+ falls. Louis ran that in good shape and we took the class 4+ left side of the island below falls that included several big drops. We ended up getting broached on rocks just upstream of a strainer. It took several minutes to free ourselves and then we ferried hard to avoid the strainer.

More class 4+ rapids including Tapco Lodge Rapid and Yard Sale was followed by a mile or so lake paddle. As soon as we carried the shredder to the top of the ramp, I felt great relief. I also realized how tired I was after paddling 8+miles through constant rapids.

Feed your soul

The story goes that a Cherokee grandfather is teaching his grandchild about life and tells his grandchild this story:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the child. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil: he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continues, “The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”

The child thinks about it for a minute and then asks solemnly, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

His grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

For centuries, coming out of the monastic tradition, Christians have adopted something called a “rule of life”—a pattern by which a person feeds the holy and human parts of themselves. A rule is a consciously adopted pattern of prayer, study, rest, and work that feeds “the good wolf” while at the same time withdraws energy from all that the “bad wolf” represents.

What we feed in our life matters. What we spend our time and energy on shapes who we are and the choices we make.

Various (2011). Walking with God Day by Day: A Year of Meditations (Kindle Locations 480-492). Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.

What Do You Paddle?

During most river or ocean trips we see a wide variety of boats: canoes, kayaks, C1s, duckies, sit-on-tops, standup boards, and rafts. The boat we choose to paddle seems to identify us. Our paddling friends are used to seeing us float in a specific boat or at least a certain type of boat. So, when one considers paddling a different type boat, the whole identity thing is at stake.

With the plethora of paddling related social networks, dear friends readily share comments. As most readers are aware, I most often paddle a canoe—sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. So, when I made what I thought was a benign post on the GCA List that I wanted to demo a kayak, several friends responded:
Jim Albert wrote: “The dark side …not you… What’s the world come to? It really may end next year.”

John Holley wrote: “I am shocked and speechless. When some one spreads libel and calumny in The Rabun Fish Wrapper, I took it in stride. But, when those who only pretend to share the bonds of fraternal amity engage in some horrendous betrayal it makes me weep. Shocked. Saddened. Speechless. Say it ain’t so!”

Yes, open and honest sharing. But, perhaps they are holding back a bit?

Then, there were the more encouraging comments: Christine Blumberg wrote: “Mark!! I’m sooooo proud of you!I I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for a boat you could demo.”

Lisa Haskell wrote: “Mark – it’s not the dark side!You’ve just seen the light!
Well, thanks all for your heart felt comments! Seems there are dark side and see the light comments. I may be in the twilight zone. I will not give up on the open boat. Yes, I may go both ways.

Well, ok

Well this thing is worth the extra money, and yes I was really skeptical. A first for me—a Mac Book Pro. And have been known to get really mean when I think I’m being taken and end up paying too much for something. After all, I am always perfect and seldom, if ever make a mistake that inadvertently cost someone additional money. Ha, no way. But attention to my shortcoming is not the mater of my attention. I become obsessed with driving the deal and finding a bargain. If or when I feel like I’m loosing control, I react and utter unfortunate expletives.
This really pleases anyone who happens to be in the immediately vicinity, such as my wife Cindy. Her memory and tendency to recall every ugly detail pleases me to no end. Regardless of any inclination to attempt amends to all involved, I soon realize that often it’s too late because I cannot take back a single word uttered in vain.
Ok, enough talk of my behavior. This thin has sucked me in and has converted this Dell PC user into a Mac man. The OS operating environment will take some getting used to. It’s not completely different form familiar Windows, just different enough to cause me frustration. Not frustration to the hostile breaking point, just to the less amused, but still determined point. I’m looking forward to cashing in on my pre-paid torturing.

Creativity, or lack thereof

The information available via the Internet is more a curse than blessing. With the click of a mouse, we can find pages of alleged information on any subject imaginable. However, the mind numbing stream of links to various Web destinations does more to distract and waste time than feed imagination and creativity. Information and software choices are billed as time saving enhancements. However, for some of us, these marvels of technology give us a false impression of productivity.
The thousand plus hits on a given search subject makes it difficult for me to decide which one to open first; although, 99% of the time I seldom get beyond the first page of links. If I happen to go deeper, persistent Web sites manage to list their links repeatedly on page after page; so, the number of real hits is less than advertised by Google, Bing, or any number of search engines/advertising platforms. More often than not, I come away from my searches only wasting time with no more real knowledge than when I started. If I think I find something useful and do not recognize bias and spin in the guise of objectivity, I am ultimately drawn into the web of advertisement disguised as information that permeates online culture.
In fact, I find that write less, surf the Web continually, and feed my proclivity for procrastination by messing with technology. Creativity, for me, requires some modicum of concentration. It’s too easy to be drawn to an e-mail when the incoming tone sounds or to check my frequently visited Web sites. Distractions give me the excuse that my mind craves, a shift to natural and away from of work.

Feel the Excitement

I had not slept well Friday night. At 6:00 AM on Saturday I gave up, put feet on the floor, and began gathering the stuff I would need: clothes, food and water. I do a similar drill almost weekly and usually the night before is no big deal. However, this particular river is different—I seldom sleep soundly knowing where I am headed to the next day.
I had arranged to meet John at 10:00 AM, which meant that I did not have to leave the house until 8:00 or so. I used the time to read the description of each rapid on the American Whitewater Web site and to mentally paddle the six mile stretch river. I was desperately trying to remember the “sneak” lines in order to avoid a possible bone jarring swim in shallow, pushy water. The last time I was on the Middle Ocoee River, I made a mistake at the first rapid and swam over Grumpy’s ledge—not an auspicious start to that day. What bothered me the most was it would be just John and I paddling together, and he had never paddled the river before. On previous trips I knew that members of the group knew where to go and where not to go. Today it was up to me to choose the safest line. Plus it’s never a good idea for two people to paddle together, as the rule says: “One is a fatality, two is a witness, and three is a rescue.”
John had arrived even before I had, which meant that he probably did not sleep well either because his drive from Macon was at least two hours longer than my leisurely two hour drive from Marietta. He had a chance to look at the entrance rapid, Grumpy, and the consequences of blowing the ferry from river right to left above the ugly hydraulic below the ledge. Plus I had told him the tale of my swim through Grumpy several times and I had shown him the scars of the episode. My wife would add to my story that when I arrived home that faithful evening I looked like I had been severely beaten, which was essentially what had happened.
I pulled in the parking lot at the put-in about ten minutes before 10:00. There were several vehicles there, but the lot was not near as full as a typical summer day. The temperature gage in my Blazer read 45 degrees. It was a crystal clear fall day with highs predicated in the mid seventies. The steep slopes were a patchwork of bright yellow and red. However, I was focused on the faces of boaters unloading gear trying to find someone familiar that I could ask to join John and I. Alas they were all strangers, many obviously as nervous as me, because they avoided eye contact, intent on making sure they had everything needed for the upcoming journey.
John and I joined he drill by unloading our boats and paraphernalia. We dressed for the cool fall weather and set off to park our cars at the takeout. We had decided to try to hitchhike back and flagged a ride in less than five minutes.
John had decided that he would avoid Grumpy by carrying to a put-in about a quarter mile downstream. I relented and joined him, relieved to avoid the first must-make move. We jumped in, paddling through waves on our way to Staging Eddy where six to eight boats were waiting to surf first play spot or just resting in the calm water watching.
When I looked a John he looked sort of like a deer in headlights. He said that he did not seem able to make his canoe to go where he wanted it to and that the current seemed especially pushy. I told him that it may not bode well if he was not able to make ferries and eddies and, yes, the Ocoee is pushier by far than anything that we normally paddle. A touch of fear mixed with his dazed appearance.
“So John, you wanta surf the wave?”, I asked.
“No, I think not today”, he replied
After ferrying across the main current we head downstream to Gonzo Shoals and Broken Nose, which we negotiated without incident. However, John was still complaining that his boat was not responding favorably.
Fortunately I remembered all of the lines that kept us out of harms way, for the most part. We paddled the left slide at Double Suck without incident and made the ferry to river right, avoiding several rafts.
One rapid that took me by surprise was Double Trouble. I missed the eddy on river left and ended up paddling through the meat of the waves. I turned sideways trying to make the river right eddy—not the best of all possible moves. I took a short swim into the eddy. John followed a few minutes behind. Several miraculous braces kept him in the boat, but completely full of water, he had a difficult time making the eddy.
After lunch we made our way around Flipper and few more shoals to the Doldrums. John said, “I have never been so happy to paddle flat water.” We made a brief stop at Go Forth Creek before making our way to Table Saw.
Again we negotiated the rapid in good shape. However, we both had to dump water form our boats. For John, this was at least the tenths stop for him. He said, “I take on so much water that there is no way I can bail it out.” My pump had suddenly stopped working, so I was in the same boat, so to speak.
Cats Pajamas, Hell Hole, and Powerhouse all went well with several boat dumping stops for John along the way.
As we paddled the flat water to the takeout, I congratulated John on a dry hair day and said he was now an experienced Ocoee paddler. He said he was looking forward to paddling Lake Juliet on Sunday.
By the way, I slept like a baby on Saturday night/Sunday morning.


The sun reflects off of the sand and makes surface of the water an opaque shimmer. The white hot light of mid-day almost blinds and forces me to avoid looking below the surface of the water rushing through the inlet.
The Boynton Inlet breaks a narrow strip of land and links Lake Worth and the Atlantic Ocean. Twice daily tides rush in and out the channel and the current rests only briefly between tides. When the moon and sun align and wind blows from the northwest violent currents occur on an ebb tide creating formidable six to ten foot waves at the inlet mouth. Boats captains that choose to exit the inlet defying the white cap obstacle must negotiate a narrow channel that turns southeast along the beach exposing their boats broadside to the waves. Over the years there have been countless boats run aground or capsize attempt to run the ebb tide gauntlet. And if the waves at the mouth are not enough, a shallow, four foot deep rock ledge on the south side of the inlet channel can shear a prop at low tide. It’s like threading a needle.
At the inlet entrance birds wait for an opportunity to pluck a meal from the water, unaffected by the shimmer and current. Predator fish—snook and bluefish—drive small pray fish near the surface and to shallow water. Just as the mullet and pilchard think can breathe having survived pressures from below, diving gulls and pelicans swoop to pick them off. And the predators lay waiting for prey to return to deep. All of this seems to conspire against the schools of baitfish, yet their numbers seem to stay constant. There’s enough to feed both bird and Barracuda.
When I was young I spent weekends fishing from the jetty at the mouth of the inlet. Fishing always seemed best on an incoming tide with bright blue-green water rushing in. With the sun partially obscured by clouds, I could see silver flashes; fish truing in the current while feeding then returning to refuge from the tide to the rocks.
I understood the flow of swirling in and out of the inlet. I felt in control of the tide when I hooked a fish in that wild water. Although fear of falling in, forced to sink or swim, to be bait or swim with the predators was always in the back of my mind. Could I survive that?

The Pledge

The long awaited Republican election platform revealed today, “A Pledge for America,” is designed to not only resonate with its core constituency, rich white guys, but also reach out to disenfranchised poor people and, yes, minorities. It is obvious that the rich white guys really need tax cuts so they can keep more of their millions. But, just what do the Republicans offer to those who will loose the Obama Socialist health care protection that the GOP pledges to repeal? Well, that’s where we have to dig a bit deeper.
The “Pledge” offers a simple and familiar trickle down economic promise. So, all the rich white guys that benefit most from tax breaks will be more than happy to help those on the fringes of society by hiring a bunch of poor unemployed minority people part-time at minimum wage. Now, this massive hiring spurred by rich white guy tax cuts will stimulate the economy and reduce the deficit because all of those newly part-time employed minimum wage workers will now be paying taxes. It’s shear genius.
Well you may ask: Why did that trickle down stuff not work under presidents Ragan, and the Bush boys? The answer is that they did not have the government takeover of health care to deal with. Just consider all of the money that will be saved by undoing all of the reforms that would have helped the minimum wage workers to afford health insurance. After all, they have been used to having no health insurance. The minimum wage workers will actually save money when the GOP repeals the Socialist health care program because they can simply show up at emergency rooms in acute distress and not have to pay for a thing. The GOP good ole days will return, you have our “Pledge.”
And the GOP will not stop with these “Pledges,” no sir. Steven Colbert, a GOP strategist and comedian (yes, it's hard to tell politicians and comedians apart), has begun to define the party’s plan to deal with its root fear of immigrants, Muslims, gay people, and robots. This fall the GOP will “Keep Fear Alive.” Yes, the best is yet to come!

Our daily lives just skim the surface. The stream of continual information offers only a cursory glance, and defies real understanding and questioning. If we believe only a portion of what we read, hear, and see our minds slowly fall into the void of the Internet and twenty-four hour news shit—nothing more than half truths, distortions, and outright lies. Once the process starts, our defenses are rendered impotent. Knee jerk reactions to deal and the desire/need to “show them,” whoever “them” is, draws us down to the level of the depraved psychotics that pissed us off in the first place. We cannot recognize prevalent sickness—it looks normal.
When younger and less drawn into the shit, I could not understand how people could live that way and vowed not to be sucked in. It happened.