Saturday, August 11, 2007

Green Narrows

After getting skunked on the Green last month I wasn't too keen about trying to head down there unless there was a really good chance it would actually run. But Bobby had picked out this weekend to plan a trip down there and as both he and Sean claim to be unskunkable I figured it would be worth a shot.

Of course the Green had barely been running at all for a few weeks so things really just didn't seem all that promising. But somehow Bobby seemed confident. Lo and behold about a week before the planned trip date it started running at 100% just about every day. The lake level was up and the temperature was high in the south requiring extra power generation. So Tuxedo hydro was running daily.

Things got a little complicated as I had to be in Atlanta Wed-Friday for a training class. My original plan had been to meet up with my friend Jim who lives down there and head up to the Ocoee for the weekend. But with plans for the Green coming together it didn't take much convincing to get him to do the trip to North Carolina instead. I flew out to Atlanta on Tuesday night (after a nice morning run on the Falls and leaving my boat and paddle with Geoff with high hopes I'd be seeing them all in a few days). I checked the release schedule daily and worked out final logistics with the whole crew.

As it ran every day during the week I had my doubts about the Green actually going on the weekend. But sure enough calling the phone recording Friday morning:

"Saturday August the 11th and Sunday August the 12th Tuxedo Hydro station will be releasing one unit at 100% capacity from 11am to 2pm".

SWEET!!! Best news I've heard in a while!

("Operational schedules are determined daily")

So things were set. I would ride up with Jim and meet the rest of the gang on Saturday morning. I fought my way through horrible Atlanta rush hour to return my rental car to the airport. Jim was waiting for me when I arrived and after dinner and waiting out traffic some we headed north. We drove right by Tallulah Gorge and although it was too dark to stop and see anything it was nice reminiscing some. That night we met up with Margaret and stayed a Jim's friend Denise's awesome house in Franklin, about and hour and a half from the Green. It was nice to break up the already short drive (3.5 hours total vs the 8+ it is from DC) .

We arrived at the takeout at 10 am and met up with Bobby, Joe, Sean, and Geoff along with Jim (from DC). The guys (Jim excluded) were all looking rather wiped after narrowly avoiding arrest after some sketchy camping choices the night before (I was quite happy to have slept in a bed).
We were quite anxious to get on the water so we quickly drove up to the Upper Green put in (we'd decided it would be nice to see the whole run and also avoid both the hike in at the Narrows put in and the need for a "Green Key").

The Upper Green consists primarily of class II mixed into some flatwater pools and about three class III drops. A pretty run but not really all that exciting. Turned out we'd put on a bit too early and kept getting ahead of the water. For a while we played "broach up on a rock and wait for the water to pick you up". We also amused ourselves with various shenanigans including pine cone baseball and "how many trees can i push my buddy into" (I might add i won that game by getting Geoff fully wedged into a tree.. don't worry it wasn't too terribly dangerous) . All along "swim meet" points were beginning to rack up...

Bayless Boof, Upper Green

At the Narrows put in we met up with Ryan who would be joining us for the rest of the weekend. I followed Bobby down most of the way and he did a great job of showing me the lines. We got out and scouted Bride (didn't actually have to but it was nice to get out and look at as this first rapid is really pretty with high cliff walls on the sides), and Frankenstein. Really fun drops with cool moves and great boofs. After Boof or Consequences and some intimate contact with a few undercut rocks we were at Go Left. I couldn't believe the enormous crowd that had gathered. It was a total zoo. Like being on the Upper Yough on a crowded release day!

Geoff running Bride of Frankenstein

We got out to scout and Joe kindly helped me jump over the "Squeeze" so that I could get close enough to see (and by helped I mean literally held my hand cuz I wasn't going to make the jump otherwise!!). I had more or less figured that i would walk the Big Three on my first run. But standing there watching it did not seem like the move was that hard: Boof off the log with left angle, punch the hole and go through the slot. Of the Big Three, Go Left had always looked the most doable to me. After watching just about everyone have pretty good lines I decided that this was something I could certainly do. So I got in my boat and waited for the okay to head down (there was such a crowd that we were basically waiting in line for our turn and people on the rocks were giving a thumbs up when the rapid was clear).

Joe Going Left

Geoff running Go Left or Die

I got a good boof off the log with good angle. The hole slowed me down a bit which was actually a good thing as it set my up for the slot nicely without being shot through it at mach speed. I did flip at the bottom but pretty much just right in the pool. Awesome rapid! We continued on through Zwick's and Chief and eddied out above Gorilla. I had already decided I was definitely walking that one. I was quite content with this decision as the low summer 100% (about 6.5" on the stick gauge) was not making the main drop look very appealing. We all hung out for a good while so the guys could scout out their lines. Ultimately only Bobby and Geoff ended up running it that day. Surprisingly few people were running it overall due to the low level.

Geoff running Pencil Sharpener

Geoff approaching the Notch

Geoff running Gorilla

Geoff's run was the first to really accumulate some serious "swim meet" points. He had good lines through Pencil Sharpener and the Notch but flipped coming off the Flume and hit his head and shoulder hard. We were all rather concerned as he rolled up in obvious pain. He was able to complete the last two drops (Scream Machine and Nies's Pieces) and returned an "okay" signal from the bottom.

Looking up towards Gorilla

The rest of us (except for Bobby who had already completed his run) quickly gathered our gear and seal launched in below the Flume. I had a good run through Scream Machine and Nies's Pieces but ended up too far right at the bottom to make it to the left eddy. In attempting to do so I realized I was getting swept downstream so I turned to Ryan for a quick description. He told me where to go and off I went, running Powerslide somewhat blind. It was way fun though and I had a good line. Ryan joined me at the bottom and we both hiked back up to check on Geoff and everyone else. I watched as they all started pealing out to run the slide. I was thinking they were all rather close together. Sean got slowed down by the hole at the bottom causing Jim, who was probably way to close to behind him to get surfed in the hole. I watched, slightly concerned, as Geoff was unable to avoid collision and once again hit his head, this time against the hull of Jim's boat. Ouch!! Two head injuries in the span of just a few minutes. not good. He unfortunately spent the rest of the run in a fair bit of pain but recovered quickly and had no problems paddling the next day (but did earn a whopping 100+ "swim meet" points).

Powerslide : Imminent collision

Next came Rapid Transit, a rather junky slide from what I could tell of it. I screwed up a bit and ended up going far right against the wall. Nice and scrapey. I actually ran it to the right of the rock at the bottom. lol. We portaged Nutcracker and ran the middle line next to Groove Tube (at the low flow the tube was just not at all inviting). We watched Geoff, Joe and Bobby run Sunshine and the rest of us portaged. The enormous roostertail off the rock pile at the bottom did not make me want to run it in the least bit. An intimidating drop for sure!

Maggie running center line at Groove Tube

Joe running Sunshine

At this point we were starting to run low on water. All that scouting cost us some time and we ended up having to scrape down some of the boogie water at the end. Hammer Factor was very easy at this level. Overall though the run was great fun and I looked forward to doing it again.

That evening we ate a big dinner while waiting for my new Burn to be delivered to me (as luck would have it I found someone selling one in Hedersonville) and then headed out to to Pisgah National Forest (near Looking Glass Falls) to camp. It was great camping weather and sleeping under the stars with the occasional heat lightning illuminating the sky was awesome.

The next morning we drove to the takeout and found a rather incredible surprise. The river was running... on natural flow! We walked down and watched the brown water flow past. We met up with Rob who suggested running Big Hungry creek into the Narrows. This is the creek that comes in right at the put in. So we headed on up.

Big Hungry starts off with a big slide below a dam followed by some class II-III and flatwater ending in another enormous dam / wood jam. Next comes another slide (this one didn't look like enough for to me so I chose to seal launch below it). After this the creek drops on down toward the Green with a handful of fun class IV drops. Definitely fun.

Ryan running first slide on Big Hungry Creek

Joe on Big Hungry Creek

Sean on second slide of Big Hungry Creek

When we arrived at the confluence we found the Green to be running quite high, 15 inches on the stick gauge, so over 200%. I was a bit nervous but Rob assured me it wasn't going to be any harder and promptly assumed the job of leading me down (and did a great job at that!). At first it did not look like the same river. But once we got to the rapids i didn't find much of anything to be any harder, in fact most of the rapids were a lot better with more padding. We ran through to Go Left with no incident.

Go Left looked thoroughly gnarly and I immediately made the decision to run the sneak, which at this level actually provided two very fun boofs. Rob, Sean, Ryan and I ran down and waited while the rest of the group scouted. Ultimately only Geoff chose to run the main line (making it look good but still not for me!) . Here the change in water level was actually pretty dramatic. The pool that had existed below the drop was now a huge swirly mess and the eddy recirculated continuously. Potomac style foam floated around as well. Quite the odd sight. We ran the sneak line at Chief this time and eddied out above Gorilla. The volume flowing into the Notch was impressive. I hiked my boat part way down (no way I was running it at this flow either).

Geoff running Go Left, 200%

Joe running the Squeeze, 200%

Bobby at Chief, 200%

The gang below Chief, 200%

Once again we spent a good bit of time at Gorilla so that everyone could decide if they were running it. This time Geoff, Bobby, Joe, Rob and Ryan all chose to fire it up with mostly good results.

Joe watches Bobby run the Notch, 200%

Maggie at Gorilla, 200%

Geoff running Scream Machine / Nies's Pieces, 200%

I put in below Nies's Pieces and throughly enjoyed Powerslide and Rapid Transit with the extra water (even at 200% I thought that Rapid Transit was rather bony though). This time we were able to run Groove Tube with no problems. It's a super cool drop.

Bobby Running Powerslide, 200%

Groove Tube, 200%

Rob assured me that Sunshine was good to go right down the middle at this level so I decided to go for it. Unfortunately I didn't get quite enough of a boof off the lip and pitoned slightly, putting a dent in my bow (which popped out within a half hour so no big deal. As a matter of fact the dent in my bow also popped out this weekend, the Green truly is a magical place). We hung out there while Geoff, Bobby and Joe all did a couple of runs. Also got to witness one of the most heinous swims I've seen in a while (no one in our group thankfully). With the extra flow the rest of the run was much more enjoyable than the previous day and we continued on down to Hammer Factor where I received a fair bit of a beatdown but eventually was able to roll up.

Geoff running Sunshine, 200%

A few locals commented on how lucky we were to have caught the Green at that flow. Amazing what a little localized rain can do! So I guess not only are Bobby and Sean unskunkable but their presence actually brings on the water. Good job boys! It was definitely interesting to see the difference between a low 100% and a high 200% back to back like that. It was truly a fantastic experience and I look forward to going back again soon! Thanks to our runs on the Upper Green and Big Hungry I didn't get to experience the hike into the Narrows... maybe next time.

Bobby running Gorilla, 100%
Geoff running Gorilla, 200%

Gorilla, 100%

Gorilla, 200%

Geoff running Pencil Sharpener, 100%

Bobby running Pencil Sharpener, 200%

Pencil Sharpener, 100%

Pencil Sharpener, 200%

Go Left, 100%

Geoff running Go Left, 200%

Sean at Hammer Factor, 100%

Sean at Hammer Factor, 200%

More Green photos at 100%

More Green photos at 200%

Check out Chris Gorman's video at 200% - That's me and Rob running Groove Tube

After the run on Sunday we parted ways with Ryan and made our way back to DC, arriving at about 4 am. The next morning we drove right back out again to paddle with Scott on the Upper Yough for his last day on the East Coast before heading to Oregon the next day. A great finale to an already fantastic weekend!

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