Monday, January 23, 2012

Daddys Creek Canyon Race: A New Knoxville Tradition

We've been kicking around the idea of doing a race in Knoxville for a really long time, but motivation, availability of rain, bureaucracy and other deterents have always stifled the idea before it could blossom.  One night at the round table though Karl Whipp mentioned the idea of racing Daddys Creek.  I don't know why we hadn't thought of this before, but all of the sudden it seemed like the best place to have a local race.  It runs a lot, is accessible to most paddlers, and is hidden deep in the temperately forested canyonlands of Obed country, far from the distractions of the outside world.

So this past Saturday, we all got together to post times and celebrate the thickest piece of wilderness on the plateau; the Obed watershed.  It was a balmy 55 degrees most of the day, with a healthy flow of 1250 cfs.  South Knox showed up in full, adding tremendously to the completeness of the experience via solid safety and great company.  Drew Gunnoe and Adam Kinnon took all of the pictures that follow, being the only people with enough sense to document this silly event.  Two brave souls even took a shredder down the canyon, which in my un-inflatably experienced eyes seemed both awesome and terrifying.  I didn't see any of their lines, but heard they aced it.  Official knuckle-dragging champ of the world Keith Sprinkle even came over from Asheville, putting a notary stamp of approval on the race.  I won't mention that there was room in his van for a West Asheville rider who simply preferred to limit his involvement to the shit-talking/texting extent.  He knows who he is.  Finally, much to Bryce's dismay at having to go run class II, Team Jib made the event in true top down double poach form.

First, a little perspective on the Obed.  Only 45 minutes from Knoxville, this huge watershed contains hundreds of miles of streams, all having their own unique character and style.  There are four main stems of the Obed-Emory watershed:  Daddys Creek, the Obed, Clear Creek, and the Emory.  The Emory drains the high  mountains in the vicinity of Frozen Head State Park and has a few interesting sections.  Clear Creek is the cleanest, longest and most remote stream in the watershed, offering up a sweet 20 mile overnighter up top followed by progressively more difficult water as the creek cuts one of the more majestic canyons in the area. The Obed's main theme high up in the watershed is solitude, with a fun section just below crossville followed by a 22 mile roadless stretch perfect for overnighting, with Gauley sized whitewater when the flows are up.  Daddys Creek meanders unassumingly, draining several retirement communities before dropping abruptly through a super cool canyon above its confluence with the Obed.  The inner two miles of this canyon have the best whitewater/canyon combination of them all, and runs a lot; providing class III whitewater a majority of the winter and spring in normal years, and rowdy action when the river is running high.  Add to this creek runs on tributaries like Island Creek, Little Clear Creek, Crooked Fork, Crab Orchard Creek and Yellow Creek and you can see that the Obed is truly a special place for paddlers and really anyone with an appreciation for unfettered river canyons.

Clear Creek Canyon

 Surfing the Obed

 Side Canyons Galore

 Overnighting on Clear Creek

 Crooked Fork

 Below the waterfalls on Crooked Fork

Clear Creek Canyon

 On the rim of the Obed's main canyon

 Upper Obed

 Daddys Creek Canyon


 Little Clear Creek

Obed Whitewater

 Upper Obed

Campsite on Upper Clear Creek

Back in 1966, TVA had other plans for the Obed.  They were intending to put a high dam at Alley Ford, on the lower section of the Obed, which would have flooded out a good bit of the Obed, Clear Creek, and Daddys Creek.  Local paddling clubs and conservation groups fought the opportunists and won, defeating the dam proposal.  Over the next 10 years the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was being drafted, and continued efforts to include the Obed in this charter legislation bore fruit.  In 1976 the Act was passed, and the Obed became the only National Wild and Scenic River to be managed by the Park Service.  Now well over 100 miles of river corridor are protected from development, hydro interest and mining.  So next time you start to ponder what has succumbed to the dark graves of all the TVA impoundments in the area, remember that the Obed escaped this fate, and flows free and wild to this day.  Without the tireless efforts of those who fought the good fight though, this would not be, and it will always be a fight to protect these places.

Back to Saturday, we arrived at the takeout at 9:30 to find a fire already raging courtesy of Karl.  We loaded up and did run number one to dial in the lines.  After setting everything up we went back up and paddled down to the start of the race.  A few people ran in teams of two and three, and others held their own one minute interval.  Everyone had a great time, though we did have one epic swim out of the hole at Rattlesnake. A spot on throw from the shredder crew served as an expedient rescue, and the victim, who shall remain nameless, took a ride in the middle of the shredder down to where the boat had lodged in a fearsome sieve.  Once re-united, we all enjoyed the lower gates of the canyon for a while before heading down to the fire at the takeout.

Thanks again to everyone who came out.  It was an awesome day in there, and a true community effort.  Thanks to everyone for helping organize things.  And thanks once again for Drew Gunnoe and Adam Kinnon for the pictures.  There wouldn't have been much point of posting without them.

Marshall and Jeff getting ready for the Canyon at Yellow Creek

The boys setting safety at the big hole at the bottom of Rattlesnake

 Already out of breath

 This hole was very hungry 

 Sean Camp coming in hot

 Nate Helms fresh off the Big Ditch

 Master Woodsman Keith Sprinkle

 Keith had never run Daddys before untill the race.

 Mark Newton and Mary Ann Grell staying tight through the Rattlesnake

 Alex Ohman and Ben ?last name? also were Daddys virgins and put up a pretty fast time.

 Ben should get a deduction for this money line in the RPM over the fang.

 Alex Zendel

 Taft Sibley in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle kayak

 Taft chews a lot of tobacco.  That's why the water was the color it was.

 Here is a multi-shot sequence of Bryce and the Son of Dod battling down the back of the beast

Jeff and Marshall coming into the rarely run right side of the fang

 Coming into the finish area

Rock Party!

 Hanging at the finish line

 Tallying the results

Packing up for the takeout

The results:
bankfool                      14:42
the helmsman               14:55
t-fat                             15:11
son of dod                   15:11
leave one behind evans 15:21
oh man                         16:00
rpm ben                       16:00
ohio gunslinger             16:01
enter handsman            16:39
sir newton                    16:40
lone joan                      16:51
goldilocks                    17:04
drinker of footwear       51:03

Till next year!

1 comment:

Sarah Zimmerman said...
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