Sunday, October 29, 2006


There was quite a lot of interest in heading west this weekend when it looked like stuff would run Saturday. A bunch of us planned to check gauges in the morning and head out if things looked favorable. We got up early and waited for the gauges to refresh. Sure enough the TY and LBS were both starting to shoot straight up. Most everyone else had already cancelled earlier when they got up too early and nothing was running yet. Mark, Ian and I debated what to do. Ultimately though we decided we weren't to keen on hitting anything that was spiking, not knowing when it would peak. Plus it was going to be cold, rainy and gray all day. Ian chose to head on to meet Scott M. anyway and later reported freezing blizzard condtions.

We were glad to have stayed home. Relaxed most of the day and headed to Juliana and Eric's Haloween party. Mark once again donned the bunny ears and this time improved upon the costume by adding a stearing wheel (well okay a cheap cover from Target) + keys = Shuttle Bunny (getting ready for his duties this winter/spring).

The next morning we headed out to meet Scott at the TY. It had peaked above 900 cfs, so not too insanely high. But it was still around 500 when we got there which was just fine. We'd never run it that high before so it was cool seeing it at a different level.

Swallow Falls looked a good bit different than we're used to. The rock we usually scout from was under water, creating a 10 foot drop on the far left. It made the drop look even cooler, adding more vertical drop on that side. We still ran the normal right line. In a way it was actually easier as the curler at the top was mostly washed out so there was nothing to railroad you toward the left. The tongue was also better defined. Definitely a faster ride at this level!! The whole at the bottom was also starting to look beefier but still wasn't much of an issue. Super fun!

At Swallowtail we ran the far left away from the main drop. Fun, easy little drop. You just come down and drive towards the left. Don't fall off the drop to the right, you'll land on the rock. Also once you're at the lip angle back right as going too far left will push you into an undercut wall.

The rest of the run was fun as always. But i do have to say that i like it better lower. A lot of the fun little eddies get washed out at the higher level. We also avoided a lot of the holes that are sticky at low levels for fear of them being even worse. The hole just above where Muddy Creek drops in was especially angry looking. We all ran to the left of it. Mark boofed off the rock that separates the two channels, eddied out behind it and just about got sucked back upstream into the hole.

Suck Hole was probably a bit easier in a way if you just right straight down. The sieve is totally clogged with wood creating a nice safe eddy above it. On our first i caught the eddy above the sieve high and decided i'd try to catch the eddy across from it. Unfortunately i misjudged the push of the water and didn't quite make it. I got into the bottom of the eddy and could not paddle back up. I was starting to flush out of the eddy backwards so i turned my bow to try to peal back out into the main flow. But there wasn't enough time to get enough strokes in to make it around the rock below me. I looked back and realized i was about to go through a narrow slot on the far left. When we scouted i had noted that there was a fair amount water going into the slot and had thought to myself to make sure to avoid it. From above it had also looked a good but narrower, likely to pin you. This scarred me as a floated backwards into it, i was sure i was going to get stuck.

But as it turned out it was plenty wide enough and i just dropped right on through into what we usually refer to as "The Room". I felt silly but in a way it had been kinda cool. Sitting in the room now there was no was i was going to make it back into the main flow as way too much water was pounding in through the normal entrance. So i just paddled out the back door and missed the main drop of Suck Hole. That slot would actually be pretty fun and good practice but you do miss most of the rest of the rapid. Kind of a sneak in a way. On our second run i skipped that eddy and ran the meat of the last drop. Still a fun rapid but not as much as as at lower levels.

After our first run Scott's arm was bothering him so he helped us set shuttle again and headed off. There were two other groups on the river and we ran into one of them a few times but it was nice to have one run just the two of us.

The weather was absolutely perfect too. All you guys that chose to stay home sunday missed a really awesome day. The high may only have been in the mid 40's but the sun was super bright! The partly cloudly forecast wasn't true and it was fully sunny the whole time. Couldn't have asked for a more gorgeous day. :)

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Mark on Fishladder Boof, Photo by Roy Sewall

Mark running Pummel, Photo by Pete Guion

Maggie and Mark on MD lines, Photo by Pete Guion

Mark running Pummel, Photo by Pete Guion

Mark running Pencil Sharpener, Photo by Pete Guion

Mark and Maggie at Pummel, Photo by Roy Sewall

Virginia Lines, Photos by Maggie

Maryland Lines, Photos by Pete Guion

Maggie and Mark at Horseshoe, Photos by Roy Sewall

Mark and Maggie, Photos by Roy Sewall

Mark and Maggie running Fishladder Boof, Photos by Roy Sewall

Maggie running Fishladder Boof, Photos by Roy Sewall

Maggie and Mark, Photo by Roy Sewall

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I'm not sure if it's condemned like a rickety old building or like a prisoner sentenced to death but it feels a bit like both!

I have a date for my surgery, November 15th. The doctor says he can fix me, 93-95% chance that it will never happen again, however I couldn't be more unhappy. Between my phobia about surgery and the 4-6 month recovery time I think I'd be happier drifting toward Big Splat offline, without a paddle and my boat full of water.

The doc says that basically in 3 months I can maybe do flat water but no rolling and could MAYBE start running something and rolling after about 4 months (in other words I'm going to attempt to lie and get to that point at 4 months in anyway possible).

So I WON'T SYOTR, at least not after the 15th and not for a while. There goes the big plans of the North Fork this winter and the Green this spring/summer but hopefully it won't be too much of a set back. Maggie seems to think this is all a good thing. My shoulder better be a strong as steel after this!


I will post updates throughout Mark's recovery process. In the meantime there's still a few weeks left so come paddle with us while he still can!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Great Falls Videos 2006

Maryland Lines:

Maggie running Horseshoe. This wasn't my best run ever but it was also the first so i was pretty damn nervous. After that my runs were a lot better!

Maggie running Horseshoe

Mark running Horseshoe. This was his very first run. Very nice!

Mark running Pencil Sharpener

Mark running Horseshoe

Scott running Horseshoe

Maggie running Pummel. Figures that the one video of this drop that we have and it's my worst line ever! Oh well i only sort of landed on my face!

Virginia Lines:

Mark on an early morning run, U-Hole

Scott running the Spout

Maggie running S-turn. This is a very short video of me running the very bottom of S-Turn

Scott M hand paddling U-hole

Mark running U-hole

Maggie running U-hole. Unfortunately the whole thing didn't get recorded.


Mark running the Fishladder boof

Brett running the Fishladder boof

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Monday, October 09, 2006


Columbus Day, perfectly timed for both Upper Yough and Gauley releases. Plus I get the day off! Great time to do a long weekend trip and hit two great rivers. Mark and I took Friday off as well and Ryan joined us for the weekend's adventures.

Friday was cool and gloomy with some drizzle mixed in. Not the most uplifting way to start the weekend but the fall foliage on the Yough brightened things some. The fresh air and fall smells were wonderful. After a busy week of work, running the Falls and biking I was feeling fairly worn out though. My strokes were sluggish and the dreary weather wasn't helping.

We got down to the bottom of Charlie's with no problems, ran the slots line and eddied out below. Here the river is broken up by several large boulders, creating some channels to choose from. The usual line I've been used to is to head down the right channel, an easy sloped drop, and head back left. The center line involves boofing off the left edge of one of the rocks over a sticky hole. I'd done this several times before with no real problems. I looked at my choices and thought better of it, my boofs hadn't been well timed all day.

But I thought to myself, what the heck, it's not that hard, no big deal. I paddled hard towards the boof, ready for a nice launch. But my timing was off and I didn't get close enough to the rock. Went over the edge, took the stroke, but to no avail, penciled straight into the hole below. The level was 2.3 making the hole extra sticky. I probably hadn't run that line above 2 feet before. Immediately got flipped, and sucked against the rock. I tried to work my way out, but couldn't even so much as roll up. On each attempt I'd just get slammed back against the rock. As Mark later pointed out, it would have been useful to have tried my off-side. Doh!! I don't know what I was thinking! I felt pretty dang dumb afterwards. I didn't have much air, and getting slammed against that rock was making me rather claustrophobic. I wasn't feeling great and that moment of desperation hit... so I bailed!! Ugh so mortifying. I swear this river has got it in for me! No where else have I gotten so many swims, scrapes and general beatings (now granted I've also been on it more than anywhere else so odds or that would happen).

As soon as I was clear of the hole I swam hard for the shore and quickly climbed up on the rocks. Ryan went after my paddle and Mark got the boat while I scrambled along the rocks, cursing to myself the whole way. Luckily they were able to gather my gear quickly and I was able to get back into my boat and run Triple Drop.

Earlier in the run Ryan had pointed at a pourover that he thought would make a good boof. I had warned him that it was pretty darn sticky and that I had once swam out of it and now stayed for away from it. Ha ha, I may be adding another one to my list!! The rest of the run was uneventful with me running only standard lines (needless to say I did not run the National boof that weekend!).

That evening we headed down to Summersville. Got to bed early in preparation for the Upper G. The next morning Ryan brought some cheer to another gloomy start with great little dance in his fleece boof gear. Hee hee... had to put this picture in:

Mark dropped us off at the put in while he went to set shuttle. It was still rather overcast and cold. We sat there in the parking lot shivering as it started to rain. Eventually we each hung out in the bathrooms using the hand dryers to dry our gear (which btw was pretty effective). We were both getting rather worried, we hadn't even put on yet and we were both already freezing. But once Mark returned and we all put on we were pleasantly surprised to find how nice and warm the water felt. There was a light fog hanging over the water, warming the air on the surface as well. It felt great go get in my boat. Soon after the clouds burned off and we had a great run. The nice sunny weather definitely boosted my energy level.

On our previous Gauley trip this year I had discovered that I was rather uncomfortable paddling my playboat. Prior to that I had only taken it down the Cheat and the LY once each all year. I'd mostly been paddling my creekboat (with the exception of play on the Potomac of course) so I just simply wasn't used to the low volume and edges! That first trip I felt pretty out of control. This time I was doing a lot better though did still feel a little off here and there. I was still flipping a bit but did get clean lines on most of the rapids at least once over the weekend.

We were also pleasantly surprised to find the flow to be higher than we'd run it at before. Instead of the standard 2800 cfs release they were pumping out about 3300 from the dam and another 400 cfs was coming in from the Meadow, bringing the total to about 3700 cfs. I honestly didn't really notice the difference on most of the rapids, though here and there it was clear that the level was definitely a good bit higher. On Sunday the level dropped down to about 3500 cfs.

Ryan continued his quest for things to boof. I was still feeling pretty shy towards anything resembling a pourover. But he had few reservations and worked on hucking himself off of any ledge he could find. Early on in the run on Sunday he found a small but sticky little pourover and spent some time working his way out. Next he went for a couple of underwater loops in the top hole at Insignificant. I think he was just trying to make me feel better about the swim on Friday! :) Thanks buddy!

Overall we had two great runs on the Upper G, I sure do love that run. Not to mention the obligatory stop at Dirty Ernie's in Fayetteville for some excellent BBQ ribs!

Monday we were back on the Upper Yough again. I was pretty well worn at this point and decided I would continue to take it easy. We met up with Scott and some friends and this time had a group of six. This time the weather was gorgeous and the leaves were even more magnificent. I really do love fall at the Yough.

We paddled down leisurely, stopping along the way to take some pictures. I was determined that this would be an uneventful trip. At Triple Drop we all piled into the eddy on the left. I was high up so I waited while most everyone took their turn. I watched as Mark caught the little micro eddy on the right, pealed out and headed down. That is such an awesome move. I'm not quite ready to try it yet though! I watched as another guy headed down. He was angled towards the right but was heading down way to close to the center. I watched him flip at the bottom. I headed down myself and took a deep breath. Never good to watch someone get beat down right before your turn. But I thought to myself, I've never had any problems here.

Well that did it!! I totally jinxed myself!! lol. As I paddled down I was initially online just fine. But about half way down I guess I lost my angle and ended up too far to the left. What I should have done was to just paddle hard and punch the hole. But I thought I had enough time to make it back over right. I turned my boat and before I knew it I dropped into the hole sideways! Doh!!

Man that is an angry little hole!!! I was getting side surfed pretty hard so I started digging around with my paddle and trying to throw my bow around as much as I could. I managed to do a pirouette of sorts but it just resulted in a change of orientation. Still stuck firmly in the hole. I got window shaded a good bit. My paddle got violently ripped out of one hand and i ended up doing an underwater paddle twirl before i was able to grab it again. Eventually I just stayed upside down, trying to reach for some green water. Turns out that the hole is also partially guarded by rocks. At one point i stuck my paddle out and it got caught on a rock and was held firmly in place until i managed to yank it back out. In the process i was quickly loosing air and getting dang tired. I thought i was going to have to swim for sure.

No way!! That's it... i was pissed! No way was i going to let this river get me twice in one weekend!!! I pushed hard with my legs so that i could get my head around the side of the boat to get some air. I was sitting so far out that it looked to everyone like i had swam! But no! I was going to stick this one out. Once i got my gulp of air i tucked in and felt the hole let go! I rolled up and paddled to a river left eddy, opposite from everyone else. I looked up to see the guy who had flipped before me holding his head. Apparently he'd taken a pretty hard hit. A few others had some issues with this rapid that day. Seemed like Triple Drop was handing out a two-for-one special on beatdowns!

The rest of the run was just fine. Ryan once again thought i'd feel better if he sharred in the beatdown fun so he bravely boofed right into the hole at National. A few cartwheels and underwater spins and he was out. Perhaps a more appropriate title for this post would have been "Chundered". But it was such a nice weekend overall that i just couldn't do it.

And now for the actual title of this post. At the takeout i got a great little surprise. Mike found a little buckeye nut on the ground. Buckeyes are very similar to horsechestnuts. You'd probably have to be from eastern Europe to understand why this is exciting. As i kid i'd collect the chesnuts and play with them. They were great for sticking together and making little sculptures out of. Mark thinks i'm crazy but really its a great little fall tradition. I searched around and quickly discovered the source of the buckeyes, a tree next to the parking lot by the liquor store. We went over and collected bunch of the pods. Unlike the horsechestnuts i'm used to, the buckeyes grow in smooth pods that you can easily break appart with your fingers (the chestnuts have sharp spikes on their pods). Mike took some of the pods home for his kids to play with and i got a pile as well to use for decoration.

If anyone knows of anywhere that there are buckeye or horsechestnut trees around Rockville or the DC area i'd be really interesed!! :)

Mike identified our buckeyes as Yellow Buckeyes using this cool site that let's you identify trees by the leaves or the fruit: Identify Trees

The images below are from that site:


Yellow Buckeye

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National Videos

Mark running National boof, Upper Yough

Ryan running National boof, Upper Yough

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Great Falls, Part II

After all summer of looking at it the level was once again back to 2.9, great time to run the VA lines of the falls. Wednesday we met Scott and headed out to the Flake to scout. We walked down to the Spout, checking out U-Hole and S-Turn along the way. We had the lines pretty well figured out on our own. Joe joined us as we got back to our boats and went over a few key points and we were on our way. Scott went with Mike and eddied out at the bottom. Joe, Mark and i waited in the eddy at the top and i decided to go first. I came down the first ledge, got a great boof off the top drop and slid right along the rock that separates the drop from the U-hole. Hit the bottom straight on. It was a perfect run! I got to the bottom and saw that Scott and Mike had eddied out too far down to have seen my run. Joe and Mark were behind as well. So no one saw it! poop! At S-turn i was doing well but underestimated how far left i'd get pushed at the bottom and didn't work hard enough to the right. I hit the pillow at the bottom and flipped, rolled right up, no big deal. This time i had gone last though and of course everyone saw that!! Figures!! I got out and scouted the Spout. I'd been really nervous about it. Something about that rock under the curtain that made me pretty uneasy. My run wasn't great, i pencilled in too much and got a good nasal douching. Overall though i had a great time and felt pretty good.

Saturday we went out for a second run. Another great line on U-hole (although i did end up a little too far left at the bottom, and eddied out right above the undercut, a little unnerving but not a big deal, kinda a cool move). S-Turn also went well this time. It was weird though cuz i got splashed really hard in the face at the top and my eyes were so blurred that it was like paddling through a white fog. I was able to visualize the line though and made it to the bottom without incident. S-Turn is probalby one of the longest and most involved rapids on the falls. I still flipped on the Spout but no nasal douching this time. So my first two runs weren't perfect but they were good. Mark had good lines and was also enjoying getting to run another part of the falls.

Scott had a pretty sketchy line on U-hole Saturday morning and Sunday we were all kinda nervous about running it. We got out and scouted again, just to be sure. My run was perfect again and that took the edge off. A little too much I guess cuz I let my guard down when I got to S-turn. I screwed up my boof stroke (okay so I keep taking a right stroke instead of a left where its really obviously a left stroke move, worked out the first 2 times... I know better now though!!).

I came off the drop, hit the reactionary on the left, flipped, tried to roll, hit another wave/hole and got pushed back down, the water is pretty chaotic there, smacked a rock lightly with my shoulder, not too bad, smacked my head lightly, also no big deal, thinking I can hold on easy till it calms some... Then... BANG!! It felt like somone threw a brick at me. It hurt so bad there was no way I was going to roll and not flip again in that swirly water, so I just held on tight to my paddle, waited for the pool, and hoped there would be no more rocks. There weren't. I felt myself hit the final wave/hole at the bottom and knew I was at the pool above the final 20 foot drop and rolled up fast now, gave Scott the okay and floated into the eddy above the Spout.

Mark came down, asked if I was okay to run the last drop. He'd seen me flip but didn't know what happened much after that. He asked if I needed a break and I said I just wanted to get down to the bottom. I hurt but could still paddle. There's really no good way to climb out of the gorge at this point anyway. So I took a moment to breathe, let the guys go first, waited for the okay whistle and went. Paddled from right to left as hard as I could but I was pretty well worn and my back/shoulder hurt as I moved. I didn't make it as far left as intended and went right off the middle of the drop.

As I came over the lip I had this moment of panic, I thought was going to hit the rocks on the right, I'm not sure if got a boof stroke in or not or if it just shot me out on its own but I landed fairly flat and in the middle of the big soft boil at the bottom. The landing was perfect, felt awesome (well except for that ache in my back), I don’t think I even got my face wet. So after the beating I got my first clean run on the Spout so that felt really good, I felt somewhat redeemed. Afterwards Scott was going to do a second run so we climbed up the flake with him to watch. Probably wasn't the best idea but I felt reasonably well and didn't want him up there alone.

Later that day were were supposed to be going to the Dickerson whitewater course (Mark was demoing a new creekboat). I was initially going to just go and watch but after a few hours of rest I felt pretty good, took some ibuprofen and was able to paddle for a few laps on the course. Could't make all the moves I usually go for but still was able to have a good time. I'm thankful it wasn’t worse and will definitely be taking that left boof stroke from now on! And shoping for a new pfd.

So no serious damage done, just a bit bruised. I hit just below my shoulder bone right about where my pfd ends I think. I really like my Astral vest, I was actually thinking about upgrading to a newer model (have had mine for 3 years or so). But I just really feel like I need more coverage and none of them seem to provide enough.

The VA lines are a lot of fun. The moves aren't super hard but the consequence of mistakes is pretty serious. It's pretty incredible being in the gorge that is formed there. Once you commit to it you can't see the rest of the falls at all. It's almost like being on a completely different river. People say that the VA side is far more forgiving but so far its given me one of the worst beatings yet. Nonetheless i look forward to more runs soon!

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