Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fallen Leaves, Naked Trees

Alexander enjoying the last pile of leaves

The leaves have fallen, exposing all the parts of our surroundings that remained hidden for the better half of a year. The change is welcome and with it has come steady rains, making our local waterways good fodder for picture taking. I have a new Canon SLR and have been embarking down the road of photography, seizing every opportunity to play around with the manual settings on the camera. Through this process I am quickly learning that lighting is everything, and not just how much, but where it is coming from.

I am really getting into the mission of searching for good shots, both by considering the angle of the creek to the sun's path, time of day, and camera angles. There is so much to learn, but the best thing that I can do is shoot, shoot, shoot. So here are some shots and thoughts from the last few months. Enjoy!

There are always runs that I have on the list waiting for the right opportunity, and Gee Creek was one of these. It takes a lot of water to get up, and is short and drops out fast, but I finally found proper flows one afternoon while waiting for some friends to show up to the Tellico area.

This one's good!

And this one would be great....

If it didn't flush directly into this box culvert of death.

So while some new runs end up living up to the adventures you hoped them to be, Gee Creek was a reminder that they all can't be diamonds. With the whole last set driving right into a culvert, and those drops comprising more than half the run, I decided to bail back down the trail and get on something a little longer. There are some cool drops on this creek, and it is really pretty, but it is probably a better hiking/fishing destination than a paddling hot spot. Maybe one day we'll go back.

With big flows in the area, we went to Conasauga Creek for a nice quick trip through some low elevation wilds. It was a good low flow of around 18-20 inches.

Cool guy

Mikey "Hammertime" Hamrick

Umpteenth Descent of the big falls in the middle of the run

Conasauga Falls was first run by duckists in the 90's.

Finished up the day with a quick solo run on Wildcat, and I was quite relieved to find some friends at the last good drop and get a ride back up.

Kool Whipp below Icing

The smokies have had good water lately, and it's pretty much all about boofing on the north side of the park. Here are some shots from Tremont and Elkmont.

Hey Hey, it's Nicky B!


John "World Wide" Webb can do it too.

Nick Reinholds Mess'ner up real good

One minute...

The next.

Laura Eddlemon running the melting pot on Hike up Elkmont

My wife can boof.

The Tellico serves up a few good boofs as well. Here is Nick Reynolds showing us that he is at least in the 90th percentile in boofs executed.

Nick was an honor student, AND beat up your honor student.

There are only so many rivers in the southeast of any great size that still have enough gradient left over at the end of the day to give the big water western feel. The Watauga, Linville, and Chattooga are a few, but the Pigeon through the gorge below Harmon Den is one of the best for sure, with really good stuff at higher water.  Between the interstate, Walters Dam, and the paper mill in Canton, this river has been raped on all fronts. It's a big loss for whitewater paddlers too, for if the dam wasn't there, this run would go twice as often as the Watauga, and twice as big, an hour from both Asheville and Knoxville.

We lucked up this winter and may end up getting as many as 3-4 months of flows in the Dries due to Progress Energy replacing the screens on the intake at the bottom of the lake. Untill the job is done, they are forced to spill all natural inflow to the lake. So whatever is on the USGS gauge at the powerhouse minus a little from Big Creek, is charging down the unstable and choss laden streambed next to the interstate. It's too bad the interstate is shut down due to the rock slide, because this would be THE hangout for Asheville/Knoxville paddlers for the duration of the spills. As is, it is a long shuttled mission best done occasionally, though if you can acquire a driver in Hartford, the ride up the windy gravel road to Harmon Den is well worth getting to taste some serious volume to gradient interaction.

Here are some shots from a cold Sunday when we did a double on the river at around 1500 cfs. Highlights include many melters off Nowhere to Land, and a chorus of cheers from the scalers on the rock job hanging high above the interstate when they noticed us floating through.

Caleb coming into Nowhere

Hold your breath right about here

Boofing into the approach

Failing to ride the ridge

Justin Cullars illustrates the myriad macabre that is Chinese Arithmetic

Second run, Nowhere to Land

He does this alot.

Indiana Jones, bettering all of our lines.

Steve Krajewski in a great shot

This wall is beautiful and the wavetrain at this level is big fun.

Even school teachers know how to represent. Boyee! We don't need no trust fund to fire up the brown claw.  (editors note: Caleb is cooler than all of you)

We love hanging out at the powerhouse for hours waiting for shuttle.

After reviving a dormant classic from the heavy slumber of being badmouthed and improperly handled for a few decades, we finally got to make another run on the elusive and exotic Pocket Creek. This time we had a good group of folks to turn on to this most excellent stretch of whitewater. With the same gauge reading as before, but slightly less tributary inflow, we had another glorious day on Pocket Creek. It was refreshing to get some core boaters in here to get their take on what is quickly being reputed as one of the top 5 runs on sandstone from Birmingham to Breaks. I would personally put it in the top 3 with the Bear and Henderson. Supposedly Allen Creek runs tightly behind in 4th with Cain/Chick rightfully holding the number five spot.

View of the Chimney Gorge where most of the bedrock is.

Chimney Formation from river level. This is one of the coolest spots anywhere.

Several fast slides from the put in is Pocket Rocket.

Ted Hayes weighing the idea of going back in for a spin or two. I had to bare hand this one after losing my paddle for a minute in the long lead in. Luckily my stick was waiting for me in a sieve at the top of the drop.

The crew below Banana in my Pocket.

Jeff West and Matt Wallace making a suprise addition to our crew at Hot Pocket. They had just dropped Greeter Falls in the Savage Gulf, and were blind-dogging all the way to this point, high on what had been done earlier.

Jeff West on Pocket Pool

Here is a three shot series of Pick Pocket taking it's first name. This hole is soooo sticky!

Jeff standing it up at Pocket Pussy

Warren Stallings, clutched fist

This is one of many lead in drops to Pocket Pussy.

Down near the end of the run, this is the only drop to not be run to date. Get ready right below here for one last seriously stacked boulder garden that will suprise the shit out of you.

Bald River is a fun huck into the Tellico, but the run above is an amazing little gorge that follows a tortuous path on its way to Bald River Falls. Nick Reynolds and I took a nice 20 minute hike from the put in bridge for the Ledges up and over a ridge for a mile and a half of great paddling on Bald River. This is the way to do this thing. What a great little 2 hour adventure. We got a decent class 3 paddle in before we hit Shallow Falls and Suislide.

Nick on Shallow Falls

Looking out from the lip of Suislide. This thing doesn't look friendly.

We portaged down the middle, but high flows will probably create a decent line on the drop. Portage left if not. Then right below is a good mile stretch of enchanting canyon walls and class 3-4 rapids before you hit the big horizon line above Bald River Falls. The best way to deal with this obstacle is to just carry down the left side and drop into the pothole for the last 20 feet.

Hitting a nice boof on one of several good series of rapids above the falls.

Nick sliding down the last pitch.

That's all for now. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas. It may not be a white Christmas, but a wet one is even better!

No comments: