Saturday, July 28, 2007

North Fork

This weekend Alden and I headed to the Upper Yough on Friday afternoon and met up with Scott M, Mark L and Bobby for a nice run. With some rain forecast for the evening we were hopeful of catching the Upper Blackwater before the UY Race on Saturday. After spending a fun night at Scott’s sister’s awesome Deep Creek house (err... mini-mansion), we got up early and called around for gauge readings. Sure enough the Upper B was running at a decent level so Alden and I went off toward Thomas to meet up with Don.

The plan was to meet up at the North Fork and set shuttle. But to our amazement we arrived to find the North Fork running! A nice surprise considering the Upper B was just at below 300 cfs and dropping. Only 1.5 feet but that was fine with me for a first run. I’d been wanting this for months!! Certainly did not take much convincing. Plus it seemed like a better choice seeing as we all needed to get back to Friendsville so that the guys would be ready for the UY race and I could meet up with Kathleen to lead her down. The North Fork did not require setting shuttle so would certainly save us time. With some hope that Gluteal would be runnable we put on quickly (about 9am), leaving a note for Geoff who was a bit behind.

Looking up from the put in: Junkyard and Douglas Falls

The North Fork starts off fast, dropping off the face of the earth at 400 feet per mile as soon as you leave the parking area. It felt great to hike down below Douglas Falls for the first time with my boat. I’d been waiting to get on the NF since New Year’s (had a slight feeling of déjà vu spending the night at Scott’s sister’s place just as I'd had done 7 months ago). This time though we were met with a pleasant surprise. We put in just below the first rapid, Junkyard, a manky looking boulder garden. Don did a great job of leading me through the first set of fun ledges and slides and any tension I'd had quickly wore off. I was already having a blast and we hadn’t even gotten to the good stuff yet.


Arriving at Gluteal we found it to be rather low so opted to go ahead and portage. Don showed us how to drop our boats off the right side of the drop to avoid having to carry them down. Alden hiked down while I launched our boats into the eddy below. We’d told Geoff that we’d wait for him there so Alden and I took the opportunity to walk down to scout the next few drops while Don ran back up a ways to check on Geoff. We stopped and spent some time looking at World’s Ugliest, a double boof with some really nasty undercuts lining the entire right bank. The low flow was actually making it look like it would be a more difficult line since there was very little water going over the second drop on the left and most of the flow was actually feeding into the undercut right. Looked manageable though. We hiked back up to Gluteal and were rejoined by Don and Geoff.

Alden Scouting World's Ugliest

World's Ugliest Rapid

Geoff's boat launching off Gluteal

We continued on through a fun series of ledges and on to the meat of the run. I had a good line coming off the first boof at World’s Ugliest with good angle and easily avoiding the hazard. Definitely a very scary but fun rapid. A few of the drops, especially some of the slides were rather scrapey at this level, making things a bit manky, but very manageable. I had pretty clean lines on most everything and loved every minute of the run.

Geoff running Double Indemnity

The North Fork has some of the best rapid names: World's Ugliest, Eye of the Needle, Double Indemnity, Cow Pissing on a Flat Rock, Gluteal Mash, Rainbow Room, and many more. Rainbow Room is one of the most unique rapids I’ve seen in some time. The bright orange stained rocks give it great character. I got out once again and watched as the guys ran it. The move starts off driving from left to right leading into a boof that lands in a corner room. Then the river makes a sharp left turn followed by a quick right, passing by a nasty sieve (which at this level wasn’t really in play but Don got out and set safety for me just the same). I put on made it through with no problems. Way fun.

Don running Rainbow Room

After all the big drops were over I fully enjoyed the last section of boogie water, lots of fun, easy slides that we bombed down quickly. It was exhilarating coming down to the takeout having just finished such a fantastic run.

It was wonderful being on this gorgeous creek, with good friends, and amazing weather. We really lucked out with not only having decent water but low humidity and sunny skies. For the first time I got to see the area lush with foliage (I’d only been here in the winter / early spring before this weekend). It really brought out the beauty of Canaan. Hiking back out also proved to be more pleasant this time around. Admittedly the North Fork was a lot less strenuous than running the Upper B, being a mostly gravity driven run. Nonetheless I felt like the hike was a fair bit easier and even though I once again let the guys all go in front of me, I was right behind Alden the whole way up. I guess hiking up the Flake all summer has done something for me! Having all the leaves on the trees also helped with some depth perception (i.e. the void was lessened so my fear of heights wasn’t as overwhelming! lol). Though the stinging nettles along the trail definitely added a slight challenge!

We made good time up the trail and back to the cars. It was barely after noon and we'd gotten in a fantastic run and still had more great boating to come. It had been a long time since I'd actually put on anything that early! We made it back to Friendsville with pleanty of time to spare before the race. Kathleen and I had a great run on the Upper Yough (Sean caught up with us at Lost and Found after having shuttled Bobby up to the Top Yough put in). Congrats to Geoff for winning the race, Don, Alden, Bobby and everyone else for great results!

Summer foliage on the North Fork

I have to say that the North Fork may very well have earned its place at the top of my list for favorite runs. Much more pool drop in nature than the Upper B with bigger drops, but still very much continuous, it was a nice contrast to finally see. Thanks so much to Don and Alden for showing me down! I can’t wait to get out there again, hopefully with a little more water.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Return to Piney Mountain

Well after over two months I finally made it back to Western Maryland and the Upper Yough. Even managed to catch the Top at a somewhat low, but still enjoyable 290 cfs.

Jason, Scott, Alden, Carl and I camped at Piney Mountain after our runs on the UY and TY. It had been over 9 months since I'd been there. It was kind of a homecoming. We had a great fire (thanks Carl!) and good times spent with good friends (not to mention the bottle of Grey Goose).

I woke up early the next morning and while the guys were all still asleep 2 hours after I decided to go for a long walk, do some soul searching, walk of a mild hangover, pick some blueberries and wildflowers. I spent an hour and a half or so exploring the trails off the fire road below the power lines. Really an very pretty place.

The next day I was very happy to get to be there for Laura's first run down the Upper Yough. She did great and I look forward to getting to paddle with her more now that's she's stepping things up!

Laura and Mark on the UY, She's smiling!!

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Race

Photo: Bryon Dorr

After weeks of anticipation the day finally arrived. The Great Falls Race, the most prestigious and exciting event of the Potomac Whitewater Festival. I had decided earlier this summer that I would participate in the race. I didn't have high aspirations of serious competition. Just wanted to be part of this glorious event.

We'd been running the Virginia lines for a few weeks and I was really hoping that that is where the race would be held, as I was quite comfortable there and knew the run well. To my dismay, the week before the even the level dropped down to where it would most certainly be held on the Maryland lines. This only gave me 5 days of practice and after swimming out of Horseshoe I was pretty nervous. But thankfully the level continued to drop and was at a very manageable 2.75 ft the day of the race. I was determined to do well. My goal wasn't go to fast but to just have good clean lines.

Arriving at 7 am at Great Falls park I was nervous but excited. I couldn't believe the number of boaters arriving (especially this early!). This was my first Potomac Fest and I'd never seen that many people and boats there before. It was a great sight. After the pre-race briefing and safety meeting we headed down, scraping over the dam which had reached its boniest level that summer (a good sign for me, Horseshoe would be good and forgiving!). I had decided not to do any practice runs that morning. I wanted to just conserve energy for my actual race run.

I watched for a good while as other competitors did practice runs and was just absolutely in awe of the scene. The weather was gorgeous and the crowded rocks full of boaters looked amazing. I sat above Pummel watching and realized I'd never spent nearly that much time just looking before. It was an amazing feeling.

After a while I became anxious and got in line to do my run. I had mostly clean lines (got a little spun around at the bottom of Z-turn, but otherwise ran everything well) and was very happy to reach the finish line successfully. I paddled steadily, slowing down before Horseshoe some to blink the water out of my contacts. I wasn't ready to really race this time around but next year I hope to get more training time in and really give it my all (level permitting of course). You can check out this year's results here.

After my run I had a great time watching the rest of the runs (with the pressure off my run over I was much more relaxed!). Really such a fantastic time. It was also great to see so many people come in from out of town to enjoy our wonderful river. I also enjoyed watching the freestyle, and wave surfing competitions as well as the boatercross. I even got an award for my participation as the ONLY woman competing in the Falls Race this year: A snazzy pair of Tom Veratti's Noze Bling (pink of course!). Way cool! It was wonderful being part of an event with all of the areas best paddlers (and many non-locals as well). What a great weekend!! Congratulations to the winers and everyone who raced today!!

Dropping into Z-turn, Photo: Thilo Rusche

At the start

At the top of Pummel

Pummel, Photo: Thilo Rusche

Heading toward Horseshoe, Photo: Thilo Rusche

Horseshoe, Photo: Jim/Monique Hubshman

Ryan, Scott, Maggie

Ryan, Maggie, Bobby, Joe at the start

Heading toward Horseshoe, Photo: Jim/Monique Hubshman

Pummel, Photo: Bryon Dorr

Check out all the great photos from the weekend:

Miscellaneous Photos including mine

Photos by Rick McNamara

Photos by Peter Guion

Photos by Thilo Rusche

Photos by Jim and Monique Hubshman

More Photos links posted on the PoFest site

and check out the Gazette article

and for additional entertainment check out the Team Riot video from Potomac Fest

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Friday, July 13, 2007

My True Love

Launching off of Pummel

Finding myself single for the first time in my adult life (yes really), I finally realized my one and only true love: The River. The river doesn't judge, and it rarely disappoints. It is always there when I need it. Makes me feel better when I am down, and gives me something to look forward to every day. This summer I've found nothing more rewarding than spending my time at my favorite place: The Falls. Sure there are tough moments. But the highs are really high, and the lows are rarely that low (much unlike my most recent relationship).

A friend joked that I was "dating" the Falls (admittedly I had replaced my ex-boyfriend's number on my speed dial... with the number for the Little Falls gauge reading).

Dropping into the void that is the Spout

(Thanks to Eric for jumping over the Crack to take this shot)

Eddying out in S-Turn

The Spout

U-Hole, Middle line

Check out more great Photos of the Falls here
More here

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Monday, July 09, 2007

"Eventually, the Horse will get us all...."

I never much liked that statement, true or not.

After weeks of running the VA lines, the river had dropped down to about 2.8. Reasonable MD lines level for me to try the entire run again. Higher than I'd ever run the whole thing before. I debated running Pencil Sharpener but decided to look at it from the bottom first. I was pretty tired and wanted to conserve some energy so decided just to do Z-turn which is a pretty easy move. Got out, scouted Horseshoe, it had been 9 months since I'd run it last and never at this level. It looked good. Joe had already run it and climbed up next to the drop with a rope. So off i went, my line was good, but not perfect, got slightly endered off the drop, but not big deal.

It was about 98 degrees outside, the water is getting into the high 80's and the sun was beating down hard, even at 6pm. Plus i was pretty damn tired already after driving back from NC the night before. So i decided to walk up and do one more run on Z-turn and then Horseshoe and call it a day. I planned on coming back to run laps on Horseshoe the next day.

So i walked up and watched some others run Horseshoe then went the rest of the way above Charlie's. That hike there is actually really easy compared to hiking up the flake to VA lines or up to Pummel. I decided not to bother doing another lap on Pummel as it would have required climbing up farther and i was tired. Decided to also forego a run on pencil sharpener, best to save it for a lower level, looked fairly beefy from the bottom.

Ryan had showed up a bit late and needed someone to show him the line on Horseshoe as he'd never done it before. No one else was around so i got out with him after running Z-turn. "I'd show you by running it,but i don't know if i'll do it right" I half-jokingly told him. Talk about self fulfilling prophecy....

At this point only Ryan and Sean were around. Ryan standing there with me wanting to watch someone run it, and Sean had gotten out on RR above the drop. I was kinda hoping to have someone in the water with me before i went, but everyone else was still up at the top running
Pummel. I looked at Sean and signaled for him to grab a rope since he was standing there anyway. He waved back at me "nah, you don't need it". Fine. So i put in and pealed out.

The ferry over to river right isn't particularly difficult. But the current is moving fast and it is easy to get turned if you're not careful. I came down, angled right, but didn't quite making over far enough. It is a very fine line between being too far right (and hitting that little f-u rock) or being too far left and falling into the seam. Well i was definitely too far left . I probably went off about 4 feet from the launch pad well off line. Immediately got backendered and flipped into the right side, just below the launch pad. That part doesn't have that much water going over it and i was able to roll up and surf it. Working hard to try to get out.

But the boil line is way downstream so this was mostly a fruitless effort. In fact it probably just made things worse cuz as i was trying to work my way out of it i was gradually getting sucked into the meat of the hole. As soon as i felt myself slide in there i knew that was it, no way out. I hadn't gotten much air and i knew that time was limited. I wondered how much time i had exactly as i dropped my paddled and pulled my skirt.

The boat filled with water instantly and as soon as i was clear of the cockpit i balled up as tight as i could. I held my breath as tight as i could, feeling as if the monster was trying to suck every last ounce of air out of me. It pushed me down deep and i felt myself hit the bottom. I pushed off and waited, wondering how long i would be in there. I was probably fifteen feet underwater, no air in sight. As soon as i hit the bottom i was pretty sure i was okay, i was in the greenwater. I crawled over some rocks and may have kicked off the bottom some for good measure.

Nonetheless, after a few seconds i was just about getting worried, i didn't have much air. And then suddenly i felt myself start to rise. Things were calming down and i was pretty sure i was clear of the hole. But i still had a long ways to go to reach the surface. i was way too worn
out to try to swim up, so i just stayed balled up and waited. After a few seconds i finally popped up, about 40 feet downstream of the hole. Ryan didn't even see me come up. He was expecting to see me closer to the hole.

After getting my first, much needed gulp of air (and some water) i started swimming. I was clear of any real danger but did not much like the idea of swimming O-Deck. For a class III rapid it's got some pretty big pourover holes in there and i didn't want to get beat any more. I swam to the river left wall and eventually was able to find a foothold to brace myself on while i climbed up the wall. Good thing too as the RL side of O-Deck also has this little flake at the bottom, fun
to bounce off of in your boat, probably painful to run on your ass.

I climbed up and watched as my paddle floated on downstream. Started hiking up and met Ryan who had run down to check if i was okay. "Your boat is still in there!" he said. Sure enough there was my poor Solo was bobbing around in there like a cork. We watched it for a minute or
so before it finally came out. Sean had gotten in his boat and was able to corral it over to the RR eddy and eventually ferried it back over to me. Ryan let me borrow his paddle to go search for my own (which had washed up in a nice pool of muck below Fisherman's Eddy).

Overall i just lost one piece of foam but nothing else. Glad to have made it out of there okay. It wasn't nearly as bad as i would have expected. I think that i lucked out a fair bit. I was only
recirculated in the hole sans boat for a few seconds and the beatdown wasn't nearly as violent as i would have thought. Definitely the scariest hole i have ever been in though. 2.8 is still a fairly
forgiving level it seems. Several people said they were glad i got all my gear back. "Fuck the gear, i'm glad to be breathing" I said.

I was very thankful to have escaped relatively unscathed and definitely had one simple fact well reinforced: The Falls are a legitimate class V run, not to be taken lightly. The drops can be very forgiving at times, and very unforgiving at others. The river certainly has the power to beat you down and is easily very humbling. "More dangerous than it is difficult"... This has proven true many a time.

It took me two days to "get back on the Horse" so to speak. But couldn't let this get to me.

(No worries, I still love the river, see my next post)

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


Maggie on Bear Creek Falls, middle line

After a fun time at Triple Falls, the Lower Whitewater, and Lower Santeetlah we finally made it out to the Cheaoh. Saturday’s run provided some carnage with one dislocated shoulder and a dented boat (thank goodness for Fluid plastic, as it easily popped out). Overall though we ended up with two good runs. I finally got to run all the lines on Bear Creek Falls (had only run the right line last year). I have to say though that the Cheoah definitely needs more water to be really fun. At 1300 last year it was a good bit better. 1000 seemed low and 850 downright boney. Still a beautiful run. It was nice hanging out with new friends and running into some old friends as well.

Check out Jason's trip report and also the great video he put together of our trip:

SE Trip Video

Maggie at the Dam

Maggie on Bear Creek Falls

Checking out the carnage video

Check out the full Cheoah gallery here

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lower Santeetlah

After our first day on the Cheoah we needed to find a place to camp. Most of the campground were filling up quick and after meeting back up with John and Dave after their return from the hospital (John had unfortunately dislocated his shoulder that afternoon), we found options limited. After driving around to a few places we were running out of options. But low and behold opportunity presents itself as needed. Driving down the road near the Santeetlah we found the perfect spot. A nice big patch of grass next to what probably used to be a scenic overlook with great parking. Seemed unlikely that anyone would bother us here so we opted to go ahead and set up camp here.

On the way up we had also noticed that the Santeetlah had some water it it. Looked like the afternoon’s rains had brought the level up to something boatable. After getting John’s tent set up we left him to guard our spot while we headed of for a quick dusk run on the Lower Santeetlah. It did not seem like the upper sections would have enough water, and we didn’t have enough daylight anyway, so this quick class III run seemed like a good choice. We arrived at the put in to find a wedding taking place there. We set shuttle and put on quickly to avoid attracting too much attention.

The flow was low but definitely runnable. There were a few spots we had to scrape over but overall it was a nice run. A few ledge drops, one low head dam, and very pretty scenery.

That evening, not being able to make a campfire given our location we got an incredible view of the nights sky… leading to an argument over which star is the North Star exactly?

Polaris more commonly known as The North Star, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor." And FYI, the spout of the big dipper (Ursa Major) points directly to the North Star. So sorry Jason, but I definitely won that one!

Below the lowhead dam

Jeff running the lowhead dam

Jason on Lower Santeetlah

A little ELF boating

The lake

Our most excellent campsite


Check out the rest of the Lower Santeetlah gallery here

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Lower Whitewater

After a watching the guys do their huck fest at Triple Falls we all headed into South Carolina to check out the Lower Whitewater River. There had been some discussion of it on Boatertalk in recent weeks. Someone had posted photos of running some of the drops. After getting some beta we decided it would be cool to check out and maybe huck some.

The run was described as consisting of three main drops. The first a set of teacups were of low consequence. The second, a 28 foot drop with serious piton potential on the bottom left. The third a series of slides ending in the final must-make eddy above a 300 footer. I didn’t really see myself wanting to run much of this, maybe just the teacups, but it sounded like another fun thing to go look at.

The main piece of advice we got about heading out there was not to go after ANY rain. High emphasis on that. So what happens? Of course it starts pouring as soon as we start heading that way. But since we’re almost there we decide to go ahead and check it out anyway. To get to the river you have to drive onto Duke Energy property so access is mildly sketchy. We needed to keep a low profile as not to attract too much attention.

From the parking lot it was a half mile hike to the put in. We decided to go ahead and just hike in with our boats. We arrived at a bridge crossing the creek and could see the first horizon line. The view was amazing. Probably one of the most incredible places I’d ever been. From the bridge to the base of the main falls the run drops a good one hundred feet in just a short stretch (and yes that final horizon line in the photo above leads into a 300 foot drop). Next to the big drop was the largest pothole I’ve ever seen. Probably 20 feet tall and fifteen across with a deep pool inside.

We got out and started trying to make our way down to scout the drops. But of course the recent rain had made the bedrock incredibly slick. We found it downright impossible to walk down. No matter, we were determined to take a closer look. So we pulled out as many ropes as we had and linked them together to get down. Mostly we ended up sliding down the rock, holding on to the rope for dear life. Once we got to the bottom of the big drop it was difficult to see the line (which is on the right) from the left side. So Jason was going to try to walk along the edge of the next drop (which barely had any water going over it) to take a look (hold onto a rope of course). But after a few minutes of attempting to get over there decided it was way too dangerous and not really worth the risk. It also turned out that Carl, in his excitement, had gotten ahead of everyone, slipped and fell into the giant pothole. Then got up and slid down again, closer to the big drop. He stood up screaming at us to stay way.

Ultimately we decided that hucking just that middle drop wasn’t going to be worth the risk. It was difficult enough just trying to walk around, let alone doing it with boats. So we chose to scrap the plan and just get out of there. Nonetheless it had been worthwhile go get in there and see this amazing place. Afterwards we headed up and checked out 500 ft tall Upper Whitewater Falls from the overlook. The water was coming down brown and we could tell the level had risen a good bit. We were happy with our decision to leave as it could easily have flashed on us. Still, a wonderful experience.

The largest pothole i have ever seen

Making our way down the slick rocks

Upper Whitewater Falls

The gang at Upper Whitewater Falls

Check out more photos of the Lower Whitewater here

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Triple Falls

So I’d had my heart set on getting on the Green Narrows for some time. Unfortunately this being the middle of a rather severe draught the chances of it actually running on the weekend were looking pretty slim. No matter, we had other alternatives. As I’d been looking forward to a good, stress free, trip for some time I was determined to go one way or another.

Scott and I headed down to North Carolina Thursday afternoon and met up with Jason Hilton and the Got-Boof crew (Dave, John, Carl, and Jeff) near the Nolichucky. From there we caravaned on down to Asheville and enjoyed late night sushi, helicopter landings, and a nice campfire. The Cheoah would be running Saturday and Sunday so we just needed some way to amuse ourselves on Friday.

After checking the Green operating schedule message and finding it to of course be scheduled to run at 60% we opted for plan B. Turns out you can definitely plan on Jason to come up with a good alternative. We’d already discussed the option of checking out the Lower Whitewater, which had been discussed on Boatertalk recently. But to add more options to the mix, Jason suggested doing a park-n-huck at Triple Falls in Dupont State Forest first.

It was a beautiful day. Hot out, but the walk up to the falls was shady, draped in gorgeous flowering rhododendron. We walked up first to scout it out. After some inspection we determined the first and third drops to be unrunnable (at least with the limited amount of water there was). I personally took on look and decided it would not be worth my effort to try hike up the steep hill to the falls. It just looked like boat abuse to me, certainly photo / video worthy though. Ultimately I decided my time would be better spent to hike up with my SLR rather than my boat and I had a blast just taking tons of great photos of the guys hucking off this 40 foot sliding drop. Everyone had mostly good lines. One backwards run but no carnage to speak of. Just a fun time. Certainly a beautiful place as well.








First drop


Jason and Maggie

Check out the full Triple Falls Gallery here

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