Sunday, September 19, 2004

Journey on the River Styx...

... or "Sticks" in this case.

After a great weekend on the Sandy and Cheat I decided to visit Mark at his place in VA. It poured rain as I drove down and we had a few options. The first day we ran the Maury. The second day Mark wanted to check out a river he had heard about that was not far from where he lived: The North River Gorge. It is rated class II-IV on AW and he had heared good things about it. We ran the whitewater section of the run described on AW. Mark decided to hand paddle once again.

The run started off as eeasy class I-II. It was pretty but not at all exciting. The river is narrow with dense forest on either side. After a few leasurely miles we were begining to doubt the class II-IV rating. We hadn't see a thing above class II yet...

But there it was, as we came around a dark bend we saw it. A river wide strainer. Mark was ahead and signaled that there was a way through. He continued on and I followed. But the poor lighting confused me and I saw a gap where there was none. Someone had indeed cut out a section of the log, just not where I was headed.

As I got close I realized the huge mistake I had made. It was too late, there was no time to react: I was going straight for the log. My boat hit the log and I grabbed onto it. I heard Mark yelling something but it was useles at this point. I couldn't hold on for long as the boat was quickly sliding underneath the log which had many vertical branches hanging down into the water. Since it was taking both hands to hold on to the log there was no way for me to pull my skirt.

So there I was thinking "god damn it I am going to die on this crappy class II river!!". I had somehow managed to keep my paddle grasped under my arm. I took a deep breath, let go of the log and maneuvered my paddle parrallel to my boat so as not to get it snagged if possible. I'm not sure what I was thinking it seemed logical at the time. The boat slid under the log and I was certain it would stop (According to Mark's description later it did jam briefly). But miraculously it did slide out: me, boat, paddle and all came out on the other side. The branches where just far enough apart to squeeze by. I rolled up quickly and floated down to an eddy below while trying to get my wits together.

Mark rejoined me a moment later quite relieved. He had taken off his hand paddles and pulled his skirt and was about to jump out and run up river to me. I had no idea how he had time to do all this as the whole thing seemed to take mere seconds. After that we continued on to find more of the same: tons of river wide strainers. We portaged no less than half a dozen more trees.

When we arrived at the "rapid" we finally had a good laugh. What was supposed to be class IV was no more than a short class III- ledge. It was quite pathetic and dissapointing.

The "Rapid"

I was glad to be done with this run and glad to have come out safely. We will most certainly NOT be returning to this one. The rating must have taken into consideration the wood. The strainers certainly made it class IV+!!!

I-81 crosses the North near Harrisonburg. Each trip down to Mark's after this was an unwelcome reminder.

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