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.