Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Here we go again...

Blackwater Falls

After spending New Years Eve at Scott's sister's fantastic lake house at Deep Creek, we headed into West Virginia in hopes of catching the North Fork running. It had rained some overnight and we got up early to check gauges. The Blackwater was at about 300 cfs and rising, but it didn't look too promising for the North Fork. When we got there, this indeed proved true as there was certainly not enough water. The level was still rising a little though and we predicted that it would be too high for a first time run on the Upper. I was perfectly content just to hike into the Lower again. I wanted a rematch after last years trip anyway!! So once again i would be starting the 2007 boating season same as 2006... on the Lower B.

As we drove through town the temperature display at the bank read 51 degrees, not bad. It was partly cloudy, but the sun shined brightly in spots. Joe, Pete, Kristen, Rachel and Chris were on there way to meet us so we set shuttle for the Lower, leaving Scott's truck at the bottom. Mark was going to take us to the the top and continue his shuttle bunny duties by picking us up at the end again as well (with that many people we would need 2 vehicles). Scott explained to us where he had spare keys hidden on his truck...just in case.


In the time it took us to set shuttle the weather was starting to get cloudier and the temp dropped three degrees. Didn't seem too bad. Chris, Rachel and i were going to hike in and meet the rest of the gang after they finished running the Upper. It took a while for everyone to arrive and by the time we dropped them all off a the Upper it was 1:30... just like last year.




Packing up the breakdown

I asked Kristen about how long she thought their run would take. She said it would depend on how it went of course but generally speaking there was usually only a ten minute or so difference in the time it took to run the upper and hiking in to the lower. Needless to say after last years run i was skeptical. I was wondering if we'd be paddling out in the dark again. This time i had put a flashlight in my drybag and just in case also threw in a headlamp. As we got dressed the clouds grew darker, things were starting to look slightly foreboding.




We got dressed quickly and started our hike down. Rachel asked if she could leave her keys in Mark's truck. I insisted that at least one of them bring their keys with them or leave them on their own vehicles just in case anyone wanted/needed to hike back out there. Mark walked with us a short way and took some photos. I told him not to worry if we didn't' show up before dark, it was pretty late. He said if we showed up after dark he'd laugh, if we showed up several hours after dark he'd be worried!

The girls setting off

The hike seemed a good bit easier this time around. The flat trail had been cleared of fallen trees so i was able to drag my boat using my tow teather, so much nicer than carrying it. I still had a pretty hard time getting down the final steep trail to the river. My legs were shaking the whole way but i made it down. The hike only took us 35 minutes and we arrived at the confluence a little after 3pm.

We finished getting dressed and chatted with some guys that had just finished the Upper. Then walked over to a clearing and watched upstream for the rest of our group to arrive. At this point we expected them any minute. Sure enough shortly after we saw a boater come down. But it wasn't them. It was Matt's group. I was a bit surprised to see this as they had just driven up to the put in when Joe and everyone had started hiking down. I wasn't worried though as i knew Matt had done many runs on the Upper B. He got out and told us that our group was at least a half hour behind them. We chatted briefly and he took off to join his group to run the Lower.

So the three of us stood there and waited. Looking upstream. It was getting late, it was fully cloudy now and starting to drizzle. We started to wonder if we'd get to run the river at all. After some time we finally saw Pete (or so we assumed by the color of his gear). He was pretty far away and we couldn't tell what he was doing. He'd appear, walk around and disappear again. This went on for a few minutes. The other girls chatted away cheerfully but i knew something was up. There was no good reason for them to be taking so long at this point, something must have happend. I knew we weren't going to paddle. This was going to be a huge step up for Rachel and there just wasn't going to be enough time. I dreaded the thought of hiking back up the horendous hill we had just come down and hoped that everyone was okay.

The view upstream

It was 4pm when we finally saw some downstream movement. I breathed a sigh of relief as i watched Scott, Kristen, then Joe and Pete come down. I scrambled down to the water to find out what was up. Turns out they'd had some problems, some swims and scarry moments. Everyone was okay but they were done. I was very glad i had asked Chris to keep her car keys since Mark was waiting for us at the Lower takeout.

There was some brief discussion of what to do, but it was widely agreed that Chris and Rach couldn't do the run. Someone suggested that we go and run the first two big rapids since they are close and hike back up. No way, i thought, either i'm running the whole thing or i'm hiking back up from here. There was no way i was going to add any more to that hike.

Despite all of this i could see by they look on his face that Joe was willing to continue on. I looked at him and he said he'd go, but we'd had to boogie. I didn't even think twice but dragged my boat down to the eddy huredly got in, and he helped me get my skirt on (which as always is a pain in the ass). Pete looked down and smiled without saying much. Only Kristen expressed any clear disapproval. I knew she was right but i wanted to do this. I knew it would take me at least an hour to hike back out and the thought of climbing up that hill in the dark was more than i could handle (yeah i knew if anythign happened out there then the hike out would be a lot worse, but i was willing to risk it).

As Joe and i pealed out of the eddy i thought to myself, man this is stupid. No one else was coming with us. As i followed Joe down i heard Kristen yell "Maggie... noooo!!" or something like that. She blew her whistle at us and continued shouting but at this point i couldn't understand it anymore. I needed to keep up.

The run started off pretty similar to what i'd remembered even though it was a good bit lower (about 320cfs instead of around 500 last year). We bombed down the initial boogie water with no issues and it was actually nice not to have bright sun in my face this time. We arrived at Krakatoa in no time, eddied out and Joe asked if i remembered the line. I recited what to do quickly, he gave me a nod of agreeance and we were off.

At The Ledge (aka The Boof, aka Boof or Consequences) we eddied out again, Joe explained the line (which i already knew) and again we hurried on. I got a sweet boof and a great landing. Really fun drop. More boogie water with tons of sweet boofs followed. I think a lot of them were underwater last time. You definitley want to have your boof on for this run. Rock n Roll, one of the more intimidating rapids of the run, was a lot more technical this time at the lower water level. But the line came easily and i breezed through it with no problems.

After more more boogie water i started keeping an eye out for the site of my first swim last time (where i pined on the log). Joe reminded me of it too but i was already scanning the horizon for wood. In fact during the whole run i was making sure to keep looking ahead, watching what was directly in front of me, Joe and the more distant horizon at the same time. I didn't want any surprises! As we can around a bend i could see where the river split around an island and knew this was the spot. A large boulder split the right channel. Even from a distance i could see there was another log on the right side of the boulder. This time we stayed on the left of the channel and easily avoided both boulder and log. This time it wasn't much of an issue as there was barely any flow going tothe right of the boulder. Just the same i will always be weary of that spot!

Throughout the run i was feeling really solid, making just about every single move as intended, and even keeping up with Joe pretty well. For the first few miles my arms were screaming at me but after the big stuff i was warmed up and was able to loosen up as well. The run was fantastic!

The hole i had swam out of last year looked like not much of anthing this time around and i finally got to run all the rapids that i had either swam through or walked last time. At "The Waterfall" we ran the far right line, a ten foot drop onto a shallow slide. Really cool move, you boof out right and then immediately get shoved along the slide to the left. After that we continued through more new-to-me rapids, including one steep hole that had looked huge at higher water.

Once all the big stuff was over i knew we were doing well on time as there was still plenty of daylight. We ran the last few miles of class IVish boogie rapids (if this was the Upper Yough they'd have names). The nicest part was that finally got to actually see the rest of the run (considering we'd done it in the dark the last time). Some cool slides and lots more great boofs.

I felt like i had a near perfect run. Didn't even get the top of my head wet! We finished the full five miles in just a little over an hour and even reached the takeout with some daylight left. Everything felt quite easy despite the fact that we were moving at mach speed. I felt confident and in control the whole time and actually had a really good time. Through the whole run we only eddied out probably about five times and only very briefly. The only other rest was a few short breaks while floating down short stretches of flatwater.

Mark was waiting for us at the takeout and was somewhat bewildered to find that only the two of us were there. We explained the situation and quickly changed and packed up to meet everyone else. Joe found the spare key on Scott's truck (good thing he'd told us where to find it) and we headed out. We needed to hurry since everyone had left their dry clothes in Mark's truck and Rachel had her keys there too. The temperature had dropped to the mid 30's and it was starting to sleet.

Luckily we actually ended up running into them along the road. They had all managed to pile into Chris's truck since Rachel had left her keys with Mark (chances are if we'd all hiked out there wouldn't have been enough room for everybody and it was rather cold to be left standing outside). I was worried that they'd be mad for having to wait for us but as it turned out they'd only just finished hiking up themselves. So our run barely took any longer than the hike! Thankfully everyone seemed to be in reasonably good spirits over dinner with just a few scrapes and bruises and one lost paddle.

The Blackwater is truly a fantastic river. I look forward to seeing more of it soon. I think that i am going to put the Lower B on my list of favorite runs. Can't wait to go back again!! Unfortunately there was barely time to turn around and look at each rapid we ran so i didn't get a single picture. One of these days we will actually start this run early in the day!! Joe later told me that the two times i'd been with him were his longest runs on the Upper B... hmmm.....

For more of the photos we did get click here: Blackwater Photos

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1 Comments:

Blogger sikdrop said...

Very enjoyable writeup Maggie and way to kick ass on the Lower!! Upper next??? :) Oh, and for those wondering that breakdown was never used, silly hand paddlers!

Joe

11:19 PM  

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