Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Sequatchie Valley Pocket Rocket: Now With Water!

Most consider the southeast as a somewhat extinct area for exploration and new descents. That probably isn't too far off. But I would not use the word "extinct". I would use the term "dormant" to describe the situation in the southeast. For there are still hidden gems that lay in wait for discovery, but more often RE-discovery.

Pocket Creek is the best example of the idea of rediscovery that I have seen lately, though not the last by far. Second hand backstory tells the tale of a creek that was paddled once too low and once too high. It was done too low around 1995 and written off as having some good bedrock drops, but losing the water midway through the run after the bedrock. There is alot of limestone in the Sequatchie Valley. Some paddlers returned a few years later at the flow we had, and deemed it maching high and hiked out early. So for the past decade, this thing has laid dormant and unvisited by the Chattanooga contingent. Afterall, it is a solid 45 minutes to an hour from downtown. Why disrupt the Suck-Chick-Bear routing chart? What else do we need?

Pocket Creek. So, in my honest opinion, it is A+ quality, and easily one of the top 10 runs in Tennessee. It is a little harder than Cain/Chick, and as if not more quality. If you morphed the Bear into a class 4+/5- run, Pocket is what you would get. I think as far as quality it tops Little Possum easily and difficulty aside, contends with runs like Bear, Henderson, and Cain in overall quality of experience and classic nature. As for my personal taste, it is my favorite 4+ on sandstone, anywhere.

It was one of those days where everything was blowing up. I had our decision narrowed down to a few options: Falling Water, Deep into Soddy, Woodcock, Stone Coalbank, and Little Brush. After meeting in Signal Mountain, we drove by the raging Middle Creek and Suck, both at nepalese levels. We figured if we got skunked in the Sequatchie we could still get on Falling Water, which is another project we are keen on doing.

We got to the put in bridge and found a level of 1 foot. Thanks to Mark Cumknock for painting the gauge. It looked decent, so we dropped the jeep and drove back up and put on.

After some flats there was a sketchy log encounter in the blind entrance to the first slide.
And so it began. The first half of the run is an enticingly continuous and linked up series of bedrock slides and drops as the creek wraps it's way around Chimney Rock, an amazing butte of sandstone laced with arches and overhangs.
There were 7 or 8 rapids, with 3 of them being sizable and very badass. We got tons of video, knowing no one had ever documented the run.
"Hot Pocket"
"Pocket Rocket"
Coming into "Banana in my Pocket"
As with any creek that has yet to be verified on its content, we were weary of the inevitable pile of crap rapid that would rear it's face at some point, signifying the beginning of the end, but the goodness kept going. We just couldn't believe it. It was just getting better and better. Giggling like school girls we transitioned out of the bedrock section and into what would turn out as being one of the better boulder garden stretches around.

The boulder garden stretch starts by opening up with some good class 4 boogie, and before we knew it, we were out at the first scout, which turned out to be an epic s-turn rapid.
"Pocket Pool"
Next were some good boofs and then a big hole that threatened a likely jettison should we stop for directions. 
"Deep Pockets"
Below here we entered a most excellent ledge garden ending in a classic slot boof.
"Pocket Pussy"
The action kept coming, and we stopped at one point, figuring it was over and time to hike out. A little hike revealed the rapids only got steeper, so we hopped back on for what ended up being the crux section of the run, with 5 or 6 stacked up juicy rapids with character from fading hole avoidance, to downstream multimove survival boating. A few hundred yards above our takeout was an awesome double drop with the first being a sick 8 foot water boof, followed by the second, an undercut ferry drive.
"Pocket Protector"
The hike out is steep but good to go, and reduces the shuttle from 40 minutes each way to around 10 minutes all up top. You could definitely do multiples, and every single drop is 100% runnable. We did portage 2 logs, and one rapid near the end that was too sick to consider since it was around 7:30 at this point.
So there you have it. Pocket is one of the best class 4-5 creek runs in Tennessee. It has awesome scenery, decent water quality, and tons of bedrock, ledges, boofs, slots, and boulder gardens. If you like Little Possum and Little Stoney, you will like this even better.

Stay tuned for the next Sequatchie Valley creek. If you need to know how to access the run and what weather and flow conditions to look for, the American Whitewater page for the run has all the info you need.

Keith coming into "Deep Pockets"
Melting one in the last drop of "Pocket Rocket"
Keith below "Banana in my Pocket"
Avoiding an actual pocket
Last slide on the run
"Banana in my Pocket" from above
Entrance to "Banana in my Pocket"
Twisty entrance to "Hot Pocket"
Middle drop of "Hot Pocket"
Above final drop of "Hot Pocket"
Final drop of "Hot Pocket"
Keith, "Hot Pocket"
Playing some "Pocket Pool"
Keith with his hand in his pants
I got deep pockets
Keith in 2 of 3 at "Pocket Pussy"
"Pocket Pussy"
wet and tight
What is this, the Middle Kings?

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