Saturday, March 18, 2006


March is such an unpredictable month. One week its nice and warm, with 80 degree temps here in DC and its beginning to feel like summer before spring has even arrived. The next it is bitter cold with snow in the forecast.

The forecast for Friendsville showed sunny skies but the high was predicted for about 35-40 F. But it looked like the UY would hold so I convinced Mark and Ben that a day trip would be worthwhile. My experience with winter boating has been pretty limited. I’ve paddled in cold water when temps were warm. I’ve paddled in 20 some degree air at Dickerson where the water is 50+. But I’d never really done a river trip with both cold air and water. Generally I preferred to keep my combined temp (air + water) to at least 80.

As we arrived in Friendsville the air temp read 29 degrees (the wind chill was making the “feels like” temp more in the mid teens, it would get to a high of 38). But it was indeed bright and sunny. Although we could have waited a bit for temps to warm up we wanted to make sure to have as much water as possible (the level was slowly dropping). So we geared up quickly. We ran into another group at the put in and all 7 of us headed down.

It was a gorgeous day and the level was decent (about 1.7 on the bridge gauge, the lower end of normal release levels). Still not very pushy but fun nonetheless. I was getting a little cold paddling the flatwater but once we hit the rapids I was fine. A relatively fast pace and a little adrenaline helped a lot and we had a good time. A girl in the other group flipped at the top of Triple Drop and ended up swimming after running the whole thing upside down. We felt bad for her, not a good day for swimming. Her friends were able to help her to shore quickly. Her boat got pinned near the top of National but they were able to pull it off fairly easily.

In the gorge we were protected from the wind and the bright sun helped a lot as well. After National we continued on at a reasonably leisurely pace with no more mishaps. When we hit the flatwater I started cooling down a lot. The paddle out was fairly miserable. Paddling flatwater in the cold doesn’t really help you warm up much. Really the only advantage of paddling hard was to get to the takeout quickly.

So I guess now my limits are getting bumped down a little. I can certainly handle both cold water and cold air. But the run definitely has to be something technical with no significant flatwater between rapids. It has to be something busy enough to keep me warm (so no 20 degree Cheat runs for me!). Sun also makes all the difference!

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