Whitewater Initiation

by Steve on July 15, 2007

A couple of weekends back a bunch of the boys escaped the heat of Alabama and headed for the mountains of North Carolina for a weekend of camping, fishing, and whitewater.

Over thousands of years, the swift currents of the Nantahala River have carved an incredible gorge, lush with vegetation, in the mountains of western North Carolina. Winding eight miles through this gorge, the clear waters of the Nantahala offer plenty of practice on easy Class II rapids before culminating in the exciting Class III whitewater of the mighty Nantahala Falls.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Right up to that last part about the falls. Now in a large raft it’s not so bad but most of our group were accomplished river kayakers back in their younger days and they had no intention of running the river by committee. Once they found out you could rent sit-on-top kayaks there was no other choice. That left two of us, myself included, to figure out how to survive on our own. I grew up in small boats but not on moving water – all of my paddles are of the single blade variety and the only river canoeing on my resume was so slow I poled my way down it standing.

The required safety briefing consisted of: “Make sure your life jacket and helmet fit (I need a helmet for this?) and keep them buckled. When you end up in the water (did he say “when”?) don’t try and stand up. Stay on your back with your feet downstream, wait until you get to slow water to swim to safety.” I actually made it about halfway down the river before I got caught off guard and went swimming. It wasn’t as bad as I expected and looking back I’m glad I experienced it before the final run down the “falls.”

Here’s the preferred method of running the falls:

Here’s how I ended up shooting that class III stretch:

Must. Get. To. Boat.

It was COLD! The Nantahala is a controlled release river and the water is so cold coming off the bottom of the lake that most of the first half of the trip there is surface fog caused by the temperature difference between the water and surrounding air. When we stopped at the mid-way point we were all suffering from mild hypothermia with uncontrollable shivering and it was in the high 80’s.

Learned quite a bit from that baptism!

More info on the Nantahala.

{ 1 comment }

Deborah Aylward July 15, 2007 at 22:27

“…a bunch of the boys escaped…” was the first hint of the fun to come!!!

This post should convince you once and for all that you are, indeed, a good writer. Happy writings……after you warm up and get dry, of course.

Veritas et Fidelis Semper

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