Sunday, October 04, 2009

Balling the Burlfest

Soon after my last update/rant, the heavens once again opened up, releasing the liquid that brings us kayakers so much pleasure, and sometimes, so much pain. Summer creek boating can be very elusive here in the South East corner of US n A because of our water chugging lush vegetation. Therefore, even after a serious downpour, some creeks may not come to life as the trees, lawns, and pools tend to hogg all the water. Nevertheless, a Chattaboogie local creek did get enough rain to bring the Dragon out of its Lair long enough for a few Chargers to take a ride on Falling Water. By the time Team Jib rallied its senses and launched our blessed kayaks, the water had fallen significantly, leaving us with a medium-low flow of 1.5' on the bridge gauge. Wielding our Werner swords, we entered the Lair and defeated the Dragon without hindrance. The sun fell quick to the West and we were forced to evacuate the gorge via a steep and treacherous trail back up Waldens Peak, arriving at our take-out higher than where we put-in, a rare scenario Bryce Evans so eloquently pointed out during the hike. I believe we were the only ones to capture some sweet free- flow this day, as many brave kayakers were skunked by this strange band of storms.

The week to follow would include a sojourn in West (by God) Virginia for the annual Gauley Fest. I returned to my roots on this trip by taking my Dad's open boat down the Upper on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised to have a righteously smooth run without a dip in the drink. This adventure was also especially special because this is when I began my life as a Grease Bandit, always on the prowl for a good, dark, clean, trap to stick my hose in and suck the liquid gold that fuels my 82' Benz veggie-wagon. Woody and I are on completely different wave-lengths b/c I got knocked out of Ro-Sham-Bo (SP?) in the first round every time, and then I made the mistake of trying to wrestle the Beast that is Woody.

Luckily, all the ritualistic activities of G-Fest must have appeased the River God, as another huge band of rain came ripping through the South, bringing many waterways to wicked nasty flood levels that would alter some creeks forever. I was tempted to stay around Asheville for some super ultra micro creeking, since everything else was off the Richter scale, but upon receiving word that the Bear was high and on a rampage, I rallied back to Chattanooga for some Local Suck to get me prepped to do battle with the Bear the following day. The Bear receded quicker than expected, forcing us to rally early and take a stroll down the Stairway to Heaven at slightly lower than recommended juice. However, the run is almost completely free of wood, allowing us to Charge all but one minor boogie rapid due to a log being laid across the creek.

A certain creek like none other in the land received torrential amounts of rain from the previous storm, and I got word that it was going to be good-to-go the following day. After filling up the Benz with Soy Oil from our local Panda Chinese restaurant, I was rolling down the road headed towards the land of waterfalls with high hopes of paddling the Toxaway river near Cashiers, NC. Sleeping at a school-bus stop is not a good place to catch some sleep, as the energetic children find a veggie smelling wagon interesting before they get on the bus for school early in the morning. So, I got going early and picked up a Subway 12'' veggie patty before checking the level above the mighty Toxaway Falls. The gauge read 2'', and after conversing with our members of previous descent, decided it was still good-to-go but pretty high for some newbies. I had heard that you want more water than less on this run, and decided to Charge the massive put-in slide without really thinking about how all the water pulsating in the eddy below would inevitably feel pretty big in the gutter-like gorge that thundered downstream. My buddies Tim Collins and Chad Pickens joined me in the white-knuckled gallery as we were blown away by the Burlyness of our first experience in the Toxaway gorge. Billy Jones, Adam Bixby, and Dustin also concluded that the water felt significantly pushier than previous 2'' runs, but we were still able to keep it safe in there and discover some incredible changes to the geology of the riverbed. A giant landslide deposited a boulder into the middle of what was known as Minigizer, creating a new line we dubbed the Mini-Landbridge. However, the hole at the bottom of Minigizer looked awful hungry, and the pungy stick was dangling down right where you wanted to be, so we portaged down to Energizer. Dustin fired it up and had a good line, and inspired me to run the stout. Rocketing into the flow after a high-speed seal-launch, I decided to bust a 180 into Switch mode and take a rodeo ride in the rowdy hole at the bottom for extra style points of course. After almost stepping on a silent, deadly, and super-camoed Copperhead, we found another landslide below Landbridge that deposited some unfriendly looking trees into the run-out rapid after Landbridge. There wasn't really a landbridge at this level or an eddy below the drop; so, we decided to push back into the jungle for yet another burly portage. We all stared long and hard at the monster that is known as Wintergreen, and some decided to Charge while others chose a slower route. The boogie section below Wintergreen is no joke as is the 4 mile hike-out. In the words of Mr. Hilleke after his leisurely hike-out of Yucca Point in the 7 rivers expedition, "If you're not beat down now (After the Toxaway)... I can't help you"!

I got some pretty good vid from these recent adventures and decided to put together a little glimpse into what I refer to in the recent weeks as a Burl-Fest. The Liquid Logic Grande has been an excellent craft during the festivities. Take care and never hesitate to CHARGE!

Peace-- Will Pruett

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