Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fusion Summer - Part I: Hells Canyon

Below: Adam Goshorn by John Kern
Early in the spring I really thought I had my summer plans all figured out.  A friend had won a permit for a June launch on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and I had accepted the invitation to join her for a 5-day, self-supported run.  I planned to extend my time out west by following the trip on the M.F.S. with another self-support run with my brother the following week.  My brother had been learning to kayak over the past few summers and was very interested in doing his first self-supported river.  Wanting him to have a low-stress trip for his first overnighter, we set our sites on obtaining permits for a couple different easy multi-day runs in Utah. 

Below:  Roadtripping by John Kern
Things seemed to have come together nicely, but then they fell apart.  A couple weeks before our departure, the permit holder for our Middle Fork of the Salmon trip had an irresolvable work conflict.  Without the permit holder, the trip was off.  In addition, neither of the permits my brother and I applied for in Utah had panned out and we realized we had just missed the two-week deadline for obtaining a permit for Cataract Canyon, our back-up plan.  Everyone involved had already scheduled their time off from work and some had even bought plane tickets.  So, we spent the next week scrambling to put together a plan for creeking trip in CO in the same timeframe.  However, last winter’s extremely light snowpack left outlook for quality creeking in Colorado looking pretty dismal. 

Below: Clouds by John Kern
A mere six days before our departure, our plan made another dramatic about-face.  I had been monitoring the Four-Rivers-Lottery website in hopes of a cancelation opening up a launch date for the Middle Fork of the Salmon.  No launches became available for the M.F.S., but one did pop up for Hells Canyon of the Snake River.  I didn’t know much about Hells Canyon, but after a couple minutes of internet research I decided to snatch it up while I had the chance!  Hells Canyon is not as much of a wilderness trip as the M.F.S., but four days of big water class III-IV sounded like a good time to me!  Only a couple hours later, my brother called me to say a cancelation opened up a launch on the San Juan for the following week and he quickly obtained that permit for us!  It was quite the rollercoaster of events with-in only a few hours and now that we knew exactly what we were going to do, we hurriedly made our final preparations.

Below: Sunset by Matt Jones
After making the long drive to Idaho, Matt, John, and I found ourselves to be somewhat of an object of fascination at the Hells Canyon put-in. People seemed a bit surprised and a little skeptical that there were only three of us and that we were self-contained in our kayaks. It is a skepticism I have grown accustom to after self-supporting other traditionally raft-supported runs, including the Grand Canyon in January of 2011. As raft groups sorted their mountains upon mountains of gear and organized their crowds of participants, I was quite happy with our small group and the simplicity of our set-up. After receiving our gear check by the ranger, we set off downstream, planning to cover the 78 miles to Heller Bar over the next four days.

Below: Adam Goshorn by John Kern
Despite the name, Hells Canyon is not an especially difficult river.  The rapids are large, but not overly complicated and avoiding huge holes is the main concern.  The biggest rapids come early in the run and not wanting to blaze all the best ones on the first day, our plan was to paddle down past the first big rapid (Wild Sheep) and camp above the second big rapid (Granite).  Wild Sheep was big, certainly on par with the biggest of the rapids in the Grand Canyon.  We almost ran it blind because floating on 29,000 CFS we covered the first seven miles so quickly we almost didn’t realize we were already arriving at Wild Sheep.  We paddled very close to entering the rapid before realizing the steepening river and roar of the rapid was much larger than anything we had encountered up to that point.  As we eddied out on river left, the well worn scouting trail confirmed for us that we must be at one of the biggest rapids on the run.

Below: John Kern by Adam Goshorn
We scouted Wild Sheep from a trail high on river left.  We all agreed on the preferred line and ran the rapid one by one, snaking our way between the holes and crossing the boiling eddy line to exit the current at the bottom.  Everything went well at Wild Sheep and after a few more miles we camped just after Granite Creek entered on river right and a little ways upstream of the rapid of the same name.  Granite was the second biggest rapid on the run and would be our after-breakfast treat the following morning.  We set up camp in the middle of the afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing, fishing, and enjoying the awesome landscape around us.

Below: Matt Jones by Adam Goshorn
Breaking camp early on day two, we packed our boats and paddled a little ways towards Granite before getting out on the right to scout.  Due to the size and length of the rapid, scouting required exiting the river almost a quarter-mile upstream and hike down to a large rock about twenty feet above the main part of the rapid.  Matt and John were hanging out on the rock, scouting the feature known as the Green Room.  I hung back on the trail to take some photos of some pictographs on a cliff above the rapid.  As I approached the scout rock, I also paused to shoot a few photos of John and Matt scouting.  I finally joined them and just as I started scout, John’s boat suddenly appeared upstream, unmanned and heading right for the meat of Granite! 

Below: Matt Jones by Adam Goshorn
We knew that when the dam upstream started generating power we would get a big pulse of extra water and we had all pulled our boats up on shore what seemed like a reasonable amount, but obviously it wasn’t enough.  An instant after we spotted John’s boat, it flipped as it hit the first huge wave as we took off running upstream in a full sprint.  I was running with my video camera in one hand and my still camera in the other.  I tried to keep up with Matt, but he quickly expanded his lead.  When I caught up to him he was shoving my boat back onto shore and he told me later that it was floating in the eddy when he arrived at the put-in.  Matt and I leaped into our boats and took off downstream toward Granite.  I hadn’t really scouted the rapid thoroughly, but the left side looked easiest and Matt went first with me following him; paddling full speed into the second largest rapid on the run. 

Below: Adam Goshorn by John Kern
We both emerged from Granite upright and continued in a full sprint for the next couple miles until we finally caught up to John’s boat floating in an eddy.  We towed it to shore and despite having run several large rapids unmanned, the gear inside the hatch was still nice and dry.  Unfortunately, there was no sign of John’s helmet or the Go Pro camera that was mounted on it.  He had left the helmet in the seat of the boat when we went to scout and it was nowhere to be found.  As we had shoved off to run Granite, a rafting trip was just pulling over to scout.  Luckily, John was able to catch a ride with them.  Eventually they caught up to us and had a helmet they were willing to loan John so he could continue.  Disappointed to have not found the helmet, but happy to have found the boat, we continued downstream scanning the shoreline the whole way hoping to find the helmet, camera, or both. 

Below: John Kern and Adam Goshorn by Matt Jones
About twenty miles later we pulled over to check out an old ranch on river right.  After exploring the ranch for a while we were back at the water and about to continue downstream when a boat pulled up and one of the occupants asked, “you guys missing a helmet?”  Amazingly enough, the boat’s occupants had found John’s helmet, with the Go Pro camera still attached, in a eddy just below Granite.  They had been rushing downstream all day trying to catch up to us to return it.  On top of their good deed in returning the helmet and camera they also insisted on sharing their generous supply of cold beer, solidifying their good karma for years to come!

Below: Matt Jones and Adam Goshorn by John Kern
After the excitement of the second day, the third and forth day went by without a hitch.  We continued to enjoy the superb scenery, camping, and fishing.  As we continued downstream, we passed the confluences of the Rondo River and then the Salmon River.  Combined, the flow that these two rivers added basically doubled the total volume and we found ourselves floating on over 50,000 CFS by the time we approached the take-out.  As we rounded a bend on day four, still easily a half mile or more from the take-out, we could see my truck being dropped off by the shuttle service.  It was perfect timing.  We were ahead of schedule and luckily our shuttle drivers were as well and we arrived at the take-out just a few minutes after them. 

Below: Adam Goshorn by John Kern
It has been said that a trip is not a real adventure until something goes wrong. I’m just glad in this case that our little adventure ended with all the people and gear that we started with. A big thank you goes out to the group that found and returned John’s helmet. An equally big thank you is also due to the group that gave John a ride on their raft and loaned a helmet to a stranger in the middle of no where. It is a special thing that the river community shares and it is great to feel the love of the wider river community even when far from home.

Until Next Time…

Adam Goshorn

Below: Matt Jones, John Kern, and Adam Goshorn after Hells Canyon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Remembering Jeff West

In the early morning hours of Wednesday September 12th, while I was still asleep, I heard the buzz of a text message reaching my phone which was sitting on the night stand beside my bed.  Assuming it was something unimportant, I ignored it and started to drift back to sleep.  Suddenly the buzzing of another text, then a third and a forth...  I grabbed my phone to find that several friends were had sent me the terrible news of Jeff West's death on the Stikine.  Over the next few hours and days the news of Jeff's death sent shock waves through the southeast paddling community.  The feelings that week brought up memories of others and I couldn't help being reminded of the death of Daniel DeLaVergne how it too rocked our community in a similarly huge way.

When I relocated from Virginia almost a decade ago, one of the main factors in my decision was that I wanted to be closer to a reliable, dam-released river so that I could continue to feed my paddling obsession year-round. I ended up settling in Mentone Alabama about an hour and a half from the Ocoee River in Tennessee. It wasn’t long before I met one of the Ocoee’s most famous sons, Jeff West. One day, a mutual friend pointed out Jeff while he was playing in Hell Hole in his Perception Lucid (a boat that never looked quite as good with anyone else paddling it!). Later we were introduced at the take-out and Jeff’s smile and easygoing attitude made an immediate impression on me and our paths crossed frequently over the decade that followed.

Over the years I can’t think of a single time when Jeff and I actually made plans to paddle together. We ended up on the river together plenty of times as groups of mutual friends would merge or as we would stop to talk and catch up with each other. Jeff was always willing to take the time to talk and we would trade stories about whatever paddling adventures we had each had recently. I don’t think Jeff realized the inspiration that I drew from those talks or how much I looked up to him in many ways. Perhaps he did realize it, but was so comfortable in his role inspiring others that he never acknowledged it or used it to boost his own ego.

Jeff was atypical combination of someone with extraordinary paddling talent who devoted the majority of his days on the river to instruction. In any given year, I would guess the ratio of days Jeff spent teaching others verses paddling for his own recreation was easily 5:1, probably more. It’s a rare combination indeed considering how capable he was of running hard whitewater and how much he loved doing so. I don’t think it’s a secret that top-level paddlers often have top-level egos to go with it. Running difficult whitewater requires high levels of self confidence. The harder the moves and the greater the consequences the more confidence required in yourself and your abilities. Too often as top-level paddler’s confidence grows, so do their egos, but not with Jeff. I don’t know of anyone as capable who was so uninterested in pursuing external validation.

When he wasn’t instructing, Jeff was interested in pushing his own limits, not one-upping others, and not shopping for sponsors. It was just as true when he was doing attainments on the Ocoee as it was when he was seeing how many laps he could do on any number of class V creeks. Jeff’s interest seemed mainly in pushing himself and measuring himself against his previous personal best.  I imagine it was that interest in pushing himself and testing his own limits that led him to attempt the Stikine solo.  Jeff had run the Stikine previously (including a descent last year in an amazing 7 hours), I can imagine that for him, a solo descent was just the next step in pushing himself.  A vision quest to combine his years of training and achievements.  Had he come away unscathed we would all have been impressed, but would not have been a surprise.  Instead we do not know exactly what happened.  The potential for things to go wrong in such an environment is high and small problems can multiply quickly and lead to disaster.  Somehow it would be slightly easier to accept his death if I knew he had broken a paddle or backband, or perhaps his skirt imploded.  I like to think that it was gear failure and not just the difficulty and dangers of the whitewater paddling.  Maybe that thought is more comforting to me because if it was not gear failure than the dangers of whitewater paddling can take any of my friends or me, and that isn't something any of us like to think about.

In the early days of his paddling instruction business (Ace), Jeff was working other jobs to make ends meet. As the business grew over time he was able to spend more and more of the year on the river and support himself doing so. I’m sure he knew the path to monetary wealth was not through paddling instruction. His interest and motivation was to introduce others to the sport that he loved so much. Jeff was a paddling evangelist, preaching the virtues of the river life to anyone who would listen. Sure, he had goals for his business, but he also knew he would never be monetarily rich from his chosen career path. However, for those of us who measure our wealth in days on the river, nights by the campfire, and laughter shared with friends… Jeff was one of the richest men I’ve known. We should all hope to have a life as rich.  Rest in peace Jeff, you will be missed.

Until Next Time...

kayak session

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pyranha Shiva Review!

Photo below by Shannon MacMichael

When I first heard Robert Peerson was joining the design team at Pyranha I immediately texted a good friend of mine who paddles for Wave Sport to tell him the news.  All he said in reply was… “Shit”.  It is no secret that Robert Peerson is a talented designer and his playboats have been especially well received around the globe.  Everyone at Pyranha was clearly excited for him to come on-board and I was too.  I had tried out most of Peerson’s playboat designs over the years and liked them a lot.  However, I have to admit that when I heard that his first design for Pyranha would be a creekboat, I had a few reservations.  Not because I had doubts about his ability to design a creeker, but because I’m a big guy and the last creekboat he designed simply wasn’t that big.  Even the largest size of his last creekboat design was just not big enough to be a real option for big guys like me.  However, when the stats for the Large Shiva were released, my apprehension turned to pure excitement!  Not only was the Large Shiva much larger than Peerson’s previous creekboat design, it was the highest volume creekboat Pyranha has ever made… I was beyond pumped!

Boat Stats: Large Shiva
Length: 8’8”
Width: 27”
Volume: 92 gal
Weight: 55 lbs

My Stats:
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 275 lbs.
Inseam: 30”
Feet: size 12

When reading a review of a boat or other gear, it is as important to know some background on the reviewer as it is to know their physical stats or anything else. Knowing a little of their background allows readers to take the review in context and see their opinion for what it is. I started paddling canoes with my dad in the 1980s, got my first whitewater specific canoe in the mid 1990s, and then moved on to kayaking in 2000. Having entered kayaking after the introduction of edges and flatter hulls, the majority of the boats that I have owned have had semi-planing hulls and I have had a well developed bias towards boats with a harder edge. However, I do love to try out different boats and try to understand their design and performance differences. Everything is a trade-off and I’ve grown to appreciate different design traits in different circumstances. Since the release of the Shiva a lot of people had been asking my opinion of the Pyranha’s latest creek machine, so when I got one at the end of January, I was committed to spending some quality time in it to be able to evaluate it accurately and develop an informed opinion.

Photos below by John Kern

At the time of this writing I have paddling the large Shiva 2-3 days a week since the end of January 2012. I’ve had a chance to paddle it on a variety of runs ranging from steep, low volume creeks to higher volume rivers, including Tellico River (TN), Cheoah River (NC), Tallulah River (GA) Town Creek (AL), Short Creek (AL), Johnnies Creek (AL), and the West Fork of the Little River (AL).  In addition to those runs, I’ve spend the most time on Alabama’s Little River Canyon (my local favorite) at levels from 200 CFS to 1000 CFS. Little River Canyon's character varies greatly depending on the water level. At lower levels it is a super-technical creek run while at higher levels the rapids become pushy and can develop stomping-big holes. A wide range of water levels and the different characteristics provided by each provided a great opportunity to test the Shiva out in a variety of situations.

Photo below by Jay Howard

When the stats for the Large Shiva were released, the size alone grabbed my attention and before I even had the Shiva in the water, one of the first things I noticed was the large amount of volume in the stern of the boat. Once I had it on the water, that extra volume kept the stern riding high and dry and unaffected by tricky cross currents. Overall it floats me higher than most creekers and I have to admit that alone is a big plus for the Shiva in my book. Another thing I noticed in my first few days in the Shiva was that I kept feeling like my bow was a little low. At first I had left the seat in the factory position (centered), but once I moved the seat back, I immediately felt at home in the Shiva. From that point forward I found myself become more at-ease in all different situations on the river and my confidence (which had been battered some in recent months) seemed to return more and more each day I was on the water.

Photos below by Matt Jones

Other than playing around, doing enders, I didn’t even flip over for the first couple months I owned the Shiva. It is quite forgiving and has awesome secondary stability. The result is that those deep braces that often precede flipping are instead able to bring it back upright! When rolling is necessary, the Shiva it does so quite easily, a feature to be appreciated by beginners and experts alike. Personally I’ve found that that I can successfully hand-roll the Shiva much more often than I ever could in the Everest. The Shiva’s overall speed doesn’t seem faster to me than the Everest, but its ability for quick acceleration allows for more confidence in boat scouting. More and more lately I find myself floating into the top of a rapid, waiting until I can pick out my line before making the move, confident in the ability to accelerate quickly enough to make the move. I’ve only had a chance to run a few waterfalls in Shiva so far, but those that I have resulted in quick, controlled resurfacing, another great feature. Overall, the Shiva is simply very forgiving and as a nice bonus the flat cockpit design creates a very dry fit for skirts. I’ve been using the XL deck IR Klingon Empire skirt on my Shiva and commonly finishing runs with almost no water in my boat.

Photo below by Shannon MacMichael

The only cons for the Shiva are the same as every displacement hull creeker. Simply put, a round hull is going to get pushed around more in high volume runs and will not provide the snappy handling of boats with a harder edge, like the Everest/Burn/etc. However, the slight edges on the stern of the boat do seem to make the Shiva hold a line better than most displacement hull creekers and seem to help with driving where you want to go in pushy water. In other words, while it does display some of the same design trade-offs as other displacement hull creekers, the Shiva’s design minimizes them while keeping the positive aspects and advantages of the displacement hull design.

Photo below by Jay Howard

For the first time since the release of the Everest in 2007, a new boat has won me over. Since getting the Shiva, my Everest has not seen the river and sits lonely and dry in my basement. I plan to keep the Everest around for pushy, high volume river running and creeking, but the Shiva is my new go-to boat for the low-volume steep runs that make up most of creeks in the southeastern United States. While there are many quality creekboats in today’s market, there are none more competent than the Shiva. The Shiva’s capability on steep creeks is incredible and confidence inspiring. A few quick strokes bring it up to speed, it boofs like a butterfly, and it blows though holes with a vengeance! It rolls with ease and its forgiving nature takes care of my wrecked body and degenerated joints. After a lifetime of paddling and over a decade of creeking, it is exactly the kind of boat I need to take care of me when it counts and give me the confidence to continue to paddle the runs I love.

Photos below by John Kern

Until Next Time…

Adam Goshorn

Photo below by Matt Jones

kayak session

Friday, March 30, 2012

Unknown Alabama - Part II: Yellow Creek

The day after our exploration of Hurricane Creek there was still plenty of water on Lookout Mountain. Ben Bernhard and I had been talking about making a run on Yellow Creek for quite some time, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was not a first descent, we knew that it had been run before, but not often and not by many and it was the mystery of this rarely-run creek that called to us. While setting shuttle at the take-out we couldn’t help but gaze across the lake at Yellow Creek’s confluence with Weiss Lake and the massive Yellow Creek Falls visible through the trees. We didn’t know much about the rest of the creek, but it seems obvious that we would be spending the day in one of the most beautiful mini-canyons in Alabama.

Below: view of Yellow Creek Falls from the take-out, photo by Adam Goshorn

Yellow Creek flows east off of Lookout Mountain a short distance south of the ultra-classic Johnnies Creek. Historically, Yellow Creek was also tributary of Little River (just like Johnnies Creek), but in modern times it flows into Weiss Lake, as does Little River. Who knows what historic Yellow Creek rapids might be buried beneath the waters of Lake Weiss, but what remains above the lake is a short, steep section of creek that involves several beautiful portages... and some runnable rapids as well.

Below: water level at the put-in bridge, photo by Adam Goshorn

After the short drive to the put-in, we hurriedly dressed out, hoping to put on before encountering any local landowners who might question our actions. We were spotted by a couple of passing cars, but they seemed uninterested in us as we accessed the creek. We quickly put on, ran the first rapid, and paddled out of site of the road, glad to have the potential human conflict behind us and able to focus on the creek in front of us. The first few rapids were series of small ledges with easily discernable lines in the main flow of the creek.

Below: Ben runs one of the early rapids, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben runs the rapid above The Crack, photo by Adam Goshorn

After several easy ledge rapids we found ourselves scouting and portaging two rapids in a row. Both rapids were somewhat strange and different than most of the other geologic features found on other creeks on Lookout Mountain. The first was a two-foot wide, bedrock crack that was in the middle of the streambed and swallowed the entire volume of the creek. It looked possible to run it, but it was also barely a boat-width wide and undercut on both sides. We choose to take the an easy portage over the exposed bedrock on river left.

Below: Ben scouts The Crack, photo by Adam Goshorn

After making a quick portage of The Crack, we arrived at one of the main reasons we were so intrigued by Yellow Creek in the first place, V-Falls. We had heard of an unrun falls that was over 20-feet tall and we had wanted to see it for ourselves. Standing there in person, two things were quite clear. First, it was obvious why no one had previous run this falls, despite the deep pool it had a tricky shaped lip and undercuts on both sides at the bottom. Secondly, it seems clear to both of us that with a higher water level, this drop will surely see a kayak descent. After a long scouting session we both decided to portage again and found our way around some large boulders on the left and scrambled down a steep gully back to river level.

Below: Ben Scouts V-Falls, photo by Adam Goshorn

After V-Falls, we were able to boat-scout several easier rapids in a row. It was nice to make such easy downstream progress, but we knew we had to be getting close to Yellow Creek Falls, a massive drop requiring a mandatory portage. We ran one more easier rapid and caught a eddy on river left above what seemed to be a dramatic increase in gradient. Upon exiting our boats it was immediately clear we were at the main attraction. In front of us was a sliding drop that started out steep, leveled out briefly, and then fell off the face of the earth!

Below: the slide that leads into Yellow Creek Falls, photo by Ben Bernhard

Below: the lip of Yellow Creek Falls, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben at the lip of Yellow Creek Falls, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Yellow Creek Falls from the portage route, photo by Adam Goshorn

The first step to portaging Yellow Creek Falls involved leaving our boats behind while we walked along the top of the cliff seeking a place that might allow us to descend. After a short time we found an acceptable route and retrieved our boats from the lip of the falls. In one place the portage route involved removing our PFDs to pass through a narrow crack in the rock. In a couple of places we also used throw ropes to lower boats down broken sections of cliff. The terrain was steep, but we both agreed that now that we know where to go, the next time we paddle Yellow Creek we could easily portage in half as much time.

Below: Ben portaging Yellow Creek Falls, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Yellow Creek Falls from below, photo by Ben Bernhard

Below: Adam finishing the Yellow Creek Falls portage, photo by Ben Bernhard

At the water level we had for our descent of Yellow Creek, the first two rapids below the falls were an ugly, sieve infested pile of boulders, but it seemed that runnable routes might be possible at higher water. The third and forth rapids after the falls, which were coincidently the last two rapids before Yellow Creek’s confluence with Weiss Lake, both had runnable lines and were incredibly picturesque as Ben made his way down the rapids with Yellow Creek Falls visible in the background.

Below: Ben on the 2nd to last drop, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben on the last drop into the lake, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben on the last drop into the lake, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben on the last drop into the lake, photo by Adam Goshorn

After the short paddle across the lake, Ben and I found ourselves back at the truck having completed another great day of exploring close to home. The take-out for Yellow Creek is a mere 30 minutes from my house, yet I had never even seen the falls, much less paddled the creek. After paddling Hurricane Creek and Yellow Creek on consecutive days, my interest has become more peeked for further exploration into the unknown parts Alabama. My topo maps keep seeing more and more notations and markings, as more and more creeks are calling to be explored… perhaps if it would rain inches every Friday, every weekend could be as productive as this one was!

Until Next Time,

-adam goshorn

Below: Adam paddling out across the lake, photo by Ben Bernhard

kayak session

Unknown Alabama - Part I: Hurricane Creek

The winter is always a great time to be a paddler in Alabama and so far, the winter of 2011-2012 has delivered! Saturday morning January 21st, at the end of rainy week, another band of thunderstorms rolled across Lookout Mountain at just the right time. Everything in the area was already primed from the rain earlier in the week and this final band of storms brought locally heavy rainfall on top of already saturated soil. With so much water on the mountain, it was the perfect time for some local exploring!

Just after the rain stopped, Matt Jones, Eric Allsup, Chuck Holbrook, and I met at Blue Hole, just upstream of Little River Falls. They all seemed a little skeptical of my idea to explore Hurricane Creek (a small tributary of Little River), but they also shared my attitude that any creek is worth doing once, so away we went. Upon reaching the put-in on Oak Hill Road near Fischer AL the water was nice and brown and the level looked acceptable. We quickly launched on the upstream side of the bridge and one by one ran the four-foot ledge on the downstream side of the bridge. There were smiles all around and I couldn’t help, but feeling that giddy excitement that I feel every time I am about to paddle a new run. I feel it every time I paddle a run for the first time, but especially in a situation when we have no idea what is downstream!

We knew that this run was not extremely steep and we also knew the majority of the gradient was concentrated in middle of the run. As expected, after the initial bedrock ledge, the first part of the run was mostly battling strainers in class II. We pulled ourselves over, ducked under, and beat our way though a multitude of brush and trees that blocked our path. Eventually we could see a horizon line and an abrupt increase in gradient. We had found what we came for… it was time for a scout!

As the topo map foretold, the majority of the gradient was concentrated in the middle of the run and started out with a stack of five large rapids. The first of the set was a low-angle slide which led into a fun, nine-foot boof. We took our turns one by one off the first drop, but unfortunately we had to leave the next three drops unrun due to unavoidable hazards. The second and fourth of set were blocked with large logs and the third drop clearly needed a higher water level to avoid a bad sieve on the left.

The final of the set of five was really a three stage affair with a large, but avoidable, sieve on the left after the first part of the rapid. Eric and I portaged the first two-thirds of the rapid, putting in below the second drop to run the last ledge. Matt and Chuck elected to slide into the second drop below the sieve and off a low volume boof. With our group reunited at the bottom we made good time was we finished the run out to the confluence with the Little River and on downstream to our vehicles parked at Blue Hole.

Hurricane Creek is only a small line on the map, but one I had wondered about for a few years. It was great to finally check it out and we all came away presently surprised with what we found. It will never be a classic run in an area with so many high quality runs, but when there is an abundance of water on Lookout Mountain it does provide another option for those looking to get off the beaten path. Its proximity alone makes me sure that I will return for another descent. The put-in is a mere five-minute drive from my house and after all, there are still three more rapids that are yet to be fully run!

Until Next Time…


kayak session