Saturday, October 30, 2004

Balcony Falls

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Fall Gauley

It was the last Gauley release of the season so Mark and I decided to head out to Summersville. We had planned to meet Pete on Saturday for Lower G run and then do the Upper Sunday. Unfortunately we got delayed in our arrival and didn’t get to WV till Saturday evening. We camped at Battle Run campground by the dam.

Summersville Lake

The next morning we awoke to a gorgeous sunny day. It was so warm and comfortable sleeping in the truck that it was hard to get up. By the time we got up it was getting late. We couldn’t get a hold of Pete due to poor cell signal so we headed to the put in to drop me and the boats off while Mark set shuttle. When we arrived however, we found not a whole lot of people there. I was getting worried that he wouldn’t be able to get a ride back considering how late it was.

Luckily I ran into Ben who I had paddled with on the Upper Yough the week before. I asked if he and his group would be able to give us a ride. They said sure and asked if we knew the lines. Yeah we knew most of the major lines. No problem, Mark agreed to guide them down. It was another beautiful fall day.

Fall on the Gauley

We had a great run all the way down through Insignificant, and Pillow Rock. Everything was going fine. The excitement began when we reached Lost Paddle. We had a few flips at the beginning but nothing major. After the second drop however things got a bit crazy. Mark went first at each rapid and I followed so I didn’t get to see much of what was happening behind me. Apparently Ben swam somewhere below the second drop and was dangerously close to a major undercut. Mark had caught an eddy nearby and yelled instructions for him to swim the other way. Thankfully he did. He was able to climb up on shore and later a raft came by and gave him a ride down.

Meanwhile the other guys chased after his boat. In the process someone else also swam and hit his head quite hard. We were able to regroup at the bottom and recollect everyone’s gear. The two swimmers where shaken up and we spent some time letting nerves and headaches heal. I felt bad for what happened to both of them and was glad they were okay. But Ben had witnessed my swim on the UY after all!!

Bottom of Lost Paddle

At Iron Ring we scouted and Mark once again led. On my previous runs I was a little too far left both times and inevitably flipped. So this time I made a conscious effort to correct this and go farther right. Well I overcompensated and ended up running it extreme far right. I immediately realized I was too far right but it was too late. But much too my surprise things went well. I ended up sliding up on the rock that formed the river right hole, boofed over the hole and with a good brace continued on upright. It was a cool feeling.

Mark was a ways in front of me and had turned around to look. He watched me perform my move and then watched as every single one of the four guys behind me followed. Of course not a single one of them made the boof and one by one they ended up in the hole. It must have been quite the sight!

Mark and I on the hike out

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Powerful Popper

After my first descent of the Upper Yough, it took a while to return. I had wanted to go again but I missed the September Saturday release while I was in Canada and had a wedding to go to on the day of the October Saturday release. The UY season was coming to an end and Monday was the last recreational release day. Fortuitously it was also Columbus Day, that completely useless holiday that all of us government employees get off.

So who else was a government employee?…Why Ian of course!! So we packed our gear and headed to Friendsville. As we approached western MD we gradually saw the incredible change in foliage. It was absolutely stunning. The colors where amazing. I hadn’t seen anything like this since I moved from New England 12 years before.

We arrived in Friendsville rather early and didn’t see anyone there yet so we got breakfast and chatted with some people at the raft outfitter. Soon a few people showed up including a guy named Ben who I had met on the LY that summer. We put on and floated down the flat water to absolutely beautiful views.

Since Mark had to work that day I didn’t have my favorite guide. Along the way a guy who introduced himself as Kevin started chatting with us. He seemed familiar. I said this was only my second time down and I was a bit nervous. He offered to show me the lines. As Ian was paddling his playboat for the first time I didn’t see any harm in this. Figured it would be good to give him some time to get his bearings anyway.

Kevin told me to follow close behind him and I did. We made it past gap, down the boogie water and to Bastard with no problems. He quickly explained the line and we were off. Unlike my previous trip I was much less nervous and actually understood what he was telling me. I nailed the boof and we continued on. Things where going fine through Charlie’s and Triple Drop and I hadn’t even flipped yet! We stopped at an eddy a good ways above National. Kevin wanted me to run the boof line.

At this point the flotilla of rafts that had been behind us caught up. One raft was having some problems with a few people swimming. Suddenly my trusty guide pealed out of the eddy and started chasing the swimmers. He told me to wait there. I thought it was nice of him to help but was nervous being left there alone. Then it hit me, I figured out why he looked familiar!! He was the guy we talked to that morning at the outfitter! He was one of their safety boaters!!

I watched as he helped the rafters but instead of eddying out above the drop he continued on to the boof line and disappeared over the horizon. He had not explained the line to me. Ian and the other guys were no where in sight. I was all alone. I didn’t know the standard line so all I had to go on was having seen where Kevin had gone. So I took a deep breath and followed. I don’t remember much but I definitely didn’t make the line. I ended up right in the meat of the hole.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I remember Josh telling me that it would spit you out if you just hung out for a bit so I did. Sure enough after a moment I felt it let go. I was tired but ready to roll up. But Kevin was right there next to me ready to help. I wanted to make it up on my own and was rather annoyed that his boat was right on top of mine. But I figured it would make things easier just to take his bow.

View looking up from National

After a rest at National we continued on. Surprisingly Kevin stayed with me. A part of me wanted him to just go away but he was a very good guide despite the incident at National. So against my own better judgment I continued to follow him. He did a great job of leading me from there but it was very fast paced as he needed to keep up with the rafts.

I think that he must have lead me through Time Warp or TW Redux or something as I don’t recall having run the Gun Barrel that day. I do remember following him through some pretty tight slots. It went well though. I was having a good time but was getting pretty tired. We stopped a ways above Powerful Popper. We were barely in the eddy a few seconds it seemed before he tore off again. I had barely had a chance to catch my breath and on we went.

As I followed him I was getting increasingly tired and could barely keep up. I hit a wave and it flipped me. I was so tired my roll failed me. I tired a few times but it just wasn’t working. I felt myself go over the drop (thankfully it is plenty deep) and into the swirly water bellow. Powerful Popper lives up to its name. There isn’t much of a hole below but the convergence of currents there creates strong eddy lines. The water there is actually so aerated that the entire pool around it looks like a giant glass of champagne I was exhausted, low on air and I just could not fight my way out of it.

So yes, after a long swim free streak (it had been over 14 months since my last swim) I was out of my boat. I came up in the pool below and much to my embarrassment found that everyone was right there ready to help me. Ben and Kevin had both been trying to give me a bow but I just didn’t realize it. I came up and grabbed onto Kevin’s boat. Oh and of course Ian had taken my camera and was busy documenting the whole thing!

The rescue was simple; they pulled me and my boat just a few feet to the adjacent eddy. I was fairly angry. The pace was way too much for me. I took my time draining my boat, knowing that Kevin would have to follow the rafts. I was glad to be rid of him. We finished the rest of the run with no further problems.

Me running Cheeseburger Falls

Overall I really enjoyed the trip. I felt like I definitely did very well (especially Bastard through Charlie’s). I felt like my problems where mainly a result of exhaustion. I was very happy to have Mark as a guide again the following summer. I definitely wanted to take things slow next time.

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Ohioplye Beatdown

I joined Mark Saturday night so that we would be ready Sunday morning to do our volunteer work at the Ohiopyle Over the Falls Festival. We put in our four four hours which mostly meant we sat around and talked to people while wearing our falls fest t-shirts over our sweat shirts (it was cold!). I, for the record, was too lazy and to self conscious to run the falls in front of the big crowd that had gathered. After his successful hand paddling run of the UY the previous day, Mark decided to go ahead and do it again. Below is his account of the run:

While thinking about it I got the image of the picture I wanted taken of me running the falls (they had a photographer taking shots right below the falls): boat completely vertical looking at the camera with my hand paddles making moose ears and a stupid expression on my face.

After getting in the boat and running the short, but pretty fun, entrance rapid I got to the large eddy above the falls and decided that it was pretty blind from up there (there’s a rapid right above the falls that hides the falls from the eddy above). So I waited and watched where another person went over the horizon line into the rapid above the falls. After getting the go signal I peeled out and went over the drop, I remembered from looking at the shore that I would want to maintain a little left angle and punch a hole just before going over the drop so I did that and the next thought I had was…..I need to make sure I get my shot.

So without any concern about the landing or running the drop correctly I stopped paddling (no boof or control stroke here) and just stuck my paddles next to my head and pushed the boat completely vertical! We got a video, and it’s a beautiful image, me sailing out into the air, paddles next to my head, and boat penciling in hard right into the curtain. Slamming into the water I went deeeepp….I had a moment to reflect and realize that I probably should have at least given a moments thought to how this plan was going to affect my landing…but too late now. I came out pretty much how I went in…vertical right under the curtain.

The hole below the falls began kicking me to river left and I felt a moment of calm so I decided to roll up, just as I was almost completely up I slipped under the second heavy section of water coming over the falls, feeling no unlike a being hit by a bag full of foam covered hammers this one imploded my spray skirt and ripped one of the hand paddles off of my hand. The boat instantly filled with water and I immediately disappeared into the foam. As I again went down I was laughing the whole way realizing how hilarious this must look from the shore. Based on the video I was down for about 13 seconds before the float bags in the back of the boat finally brought me back up to the surface, my first great mystery move, I may yet be a squirt boater!

This time luckily I was beyond the falls, with my one hand paddle and water laden boat I rolled up to many cheers. On the video you can hear one guy on the observation deck yelling “oh my god he’s still in his boat, he’s still in his boat!”. I got the pleasure of waving and laughing as people around cheered me as I SLOWLY paddled 60 gallons of water to shore. I even managed to get my other hand paddle back! So my first priority was…the shot! I had to see it! It was perfect I knew it would look awesome. So we waited until they had processed the pictures and we went to look. After about 20 minutes of going over all the pictures….and going over them again…..and again, I found out there was no shot…he had missed me! In all my glory (and I’m told the only hand paddler that day and one of two for the entire weekend) penciling into my certain beatdown it would have been beautiful! But alas it was not to be! I got a video so at least there’s graphic evidence of my beating complete with gasps from the crowd, but nothing to hang on the wall! Just my luck!


View the VIDEO here (warning: 14 MB)

Mark post run - still in his boat

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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Hand paddling the Upper Yough

The Ohiopyle Over the Falls festival had been postponed from September due to high water. Mark and I had signed up to volunteer. Unfortunately I had a wedding to go to on Saturday so I could only be there for part of he weekend. He decided to go run the Upper Yough. Bellow is his trip report from that day:

Well the weekend started with a new challenge for me. Which is exciting as I haven't had anything really challenging in a while (save for maybe that pour over on the upper Gauley hahaha). I was going to hand paddle the upper Yough! Having used my hand paddles on the Cheat Canyon, then the Maury, then North River gorge and then finally back on the Maury I felt that I.........hadn't really done anything that proved to me I could use them on the Upper Yough so it was going to be a fun day! The excitement was further compounded when NO ONE from EITHER of the two groups I was planning on paddling with showed up. One group wimped out and went to the Lower Yough (some excuse about bringing a newbie) and the other one (Bobby Miller aka Zone Dogg) was sick and the other was MIA (still don't know what happened to him). Luckily I know about half of the boaters in the east (or at least it seems like it sometimes when everyone says hi to me and I have no idea who some of them are!) so I just found someone else I knew and went with them.....trying to decide if it was an omen for what was about to happen.

Putting on I quickly figured out I was the only hand paddler on the river that did I find out? Everyone, and I mean just about everyone, made a comment! It was actually funny as person after person walked/paddled past me and asked if I had forgotten my paddle. The best part of that was I actually had my breakdown packed away in the back of my boat, so if I lost the hand paddles I would just have to break out the paddle (which for some reason still feels backwards but funny). After the grueling flatwater (not too bad with a paddle with hand paddles it's kinda like scooting up hill on your butt just using your hands!) we finally arrived at Gap Falls. Being pretty much continuous except for three or so pools until the flat water starts back up again I knew I was going to find out quickly how the trip was going to go.

I opted away from some of the fun lines that I would normally run while getting used to the rather dramatic loss of power. After a little while I found myself back to my normal self trying anything stupid I could find that I hadn't already done. Before I knew it we were at Charlie's and the site of my first problem of the day. I ran the first two parts of the rapid as I always do and then arrived at the slot line on the right of the bottom drop. I had decided that I could still do the pillow bouncing line here even without being able to muscle the line like I normally do. Just as I dropped into the slot I decided to pad the line a little and catch the micro eddy that's halfway down the slot to move myself a little higher so I could catch the eddy at the bottom more easily, as I hit the eddy someone dropped down right into were I was planning to go next so I had to start back paddling to keep from having a collision in the middle of the convergence of the two tight slots. I quickly realized this was not that kind of eddy, I hadn’t intended to stay in and didn’t even really think you could….and I couldn’t. I immediately began sliding out of the little 3x2 foot eddy…not that there was much to slide out of so I was face with a choice, run a line that I had never run before and didn’t know was safe or run my normal line backwards and MAYBE avoid that rock that looks like it could pin you. I picked the new route because it sounded like more fun in my head. So I slide out pointing to river right and powered as hard as I could toward the drop that I hadn’t even noticed being there before that day. As I hit the horizon I realized the drop went into a small slot that angled to the left so I had to quickly redirect my boat to the left to avoid slamming into the rock wall that made up the side of the slot. The problem is I was already going slow and taking a left boof meant I didn’t get out beyond the edge of the hole that the 5 foot vertical drop created…so in I went. During my short flight I had seen that I was pretty much in the clear as soon as I was clear of the slot I was in. So I just laughed as being stuck in another pour over and practiced something I had thought about a the last time I used hand paddles….I paddled the boat upside down. Which you can kinda do with hand paddles. I moved myself to the edge of the hole, rolled up and paddled hard to move myself the rest of the way out. I got some cheers by two guys sitting at the bottom of the slot, one saying he had swam out of the same hole I was just in. Overall a very fun new line to take the next time I’m there!

After that it was just more of the usual until we got to National Falls. I got ahead of my group so I waited in the river left eddy as they all went by running the left side. I haven’t run the left side since my first trip down the UY and I wasn’t about to let hand paddles scare me into it! So I peeled out and began working….against the odds. Hand paddles are remarkably slow…at least compared to my paddle. I quickly found that there was much more push in the water than I remember there being and I wasn’t able to move to the right side of the river nearly as quickly as I normal would have. I had to make something up fast! I saw that I could either turn left and make for the sneak or…..catch the back wash of the hole above the drop and ride it to the right then peel off and make for the boof. So that’s where I went, I was driving as hard as I could straight down the center looking like I was going to try and punch the hole (good luck) and I think that’s what the people on shore thought I was going for because I heard some cheers already! Unfortunately I disappointed them and managed to hit a very hard right thanks to the help from the hole above the drop, maintain my momentum heading toward the boof rock and then slammed into the eddy. The guide in a raft sitting below looked at me, laughed and said “that was a hairy line man”, all I could do is laugh back and think WHEW made it! After that not too much excitement, had my best line a Lost and Found (or F-Up Falls) ever, catching the little micro eddy on the right side of the drop but otherwise just a fun day. The paddle out (flat water again) was hell…after completely losing everyone else in group I decided to simply float my way down river and not take another unnecessary stroke.


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