May 27, 2020

Clear Creek Level guide from old and oldish school boaters

Bill Mckinley: Using the Oakdale gauge 1000 is low but doable. For me 3000 is plenty a lot of the Clear Creek rapids start washing out. I've done it at 5000 but not in a long while.

Steve Isbell: Lilly gauge, 200 is pretty low. If it gets over 1200 you will be running something else.

Judy Ranelli:  430 on the Lilly gauge is nice class III.

May 26, 2020

Family stress and dealing with it

I have been under a lot of stress with my sister being in hospice now for almost a year.  I have been trying to find paddling ways to deal with the stress.  One has been rolling a lot lately, solo.  I have found that I do better practice if I am not socializing.  I warm up with flatwater forward stroke practice for about 30 minutes.  It is good to be on the river.  I see fish in pools, there are great blue heron, woodpeckers, a barred owl.  Rolling there is comforting and peaceful. 
I still have anxiety pop up on whitewater.  I don't know a way to get past it except to be in my boat as much as I can, so that is what I am doing.

I did a practice roll Sunday with the crew around, in flatwater below slice n dice, and my hand slipped off the paddle, so I had to set up again and do it right.  This little thing, I knew, was a significant step to getting my zen back.  If you paddle this might make sense to you.  
There is a joy in paddling whitewater, it is intense and feels like electrified life.  The seeking of that joy is one of the best things I have ever experienced, and the threat of losing that joy is terrible.  
This sport, the arena of the river, draws out emotions that one might not even realize they have.  I have had this happen and have seen it in others.  I had a flip on the Greenbriar in March, and for the first time ever I felt fear of entrapment in my boat.  I swam in 2 ft. of water and everyone was surprised.  I was frustrated and angry when it happened, but then I realized that the flip was a gift.  That flip, in an inconsequential spot, showed me that I still had lingering fears from being in a heads down upstream pin on the Upper Nanty last fall.  Even though it was easy for me to get out of the boat in last fall's incident, the fear of being trapped with my head underwater was planted there.   
Every time I have had a serious whitewater accident my mind has just locked into focusing on the task at hand, just doing what I needed to do to get to safety.  But later, perhaps that night when trying to sleep, ruminations on what could have happened, what did actually happen, and how effing scary it was, slam into my mind.   I wish I could be one of the knuckleheads who shrug dangerous carnage off and never ponder the ramifications, but I'm not.   Maybe it's why I'm still here though.  
I'm not going to write about my sister because A. it is too personal and B. it is her privacy, too.  But suffice it to say this has been a really, really, really hard year.  And I have been in sorrow that I really didn't know I could ever feel.
We were around the campfire Sunday night, and everyone kept expressing how amazing it was and how we missed the river life and how it felt so good to be back.  And I was with my tribe, the Whitewater tribe.  If I could I would prefer to just stay there than be anywhere else in the world.

Hello to the Hiwassee 2020

I am so grateful to be able to continue my tradition of saying Hello to the Hiwassee the first official release day of the year, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.  This year I was joined by many members of the Birmingham Canoe Club.  My friend Michael made a nice video of our day, shared below:

May 6, 2020

Upper Nantahala beta from my friend Steve Pack

Subtract 600-650 cfs from the gauge and that’s what’s in the Upper Nantahala. The powerhouse can only contribute 600-650 cfs, the rest is runoff upstream of the gauge. At 1000 cfs, you’ve got about 350 cfs of runoff. That reflects White Oak Creek, the tributaries and what’s being released from the dam. Nantahala Lake is above target level (as of 05-07-20), so any significant rain will cause them to release some.
Short version...if the gauge is 1000 cfs or above, you’re pretty good to go. One of my favorite levels is 2000 on the gauge, about 1600 in the Upper. It’s a mini Cheoah. 3 miles of Class III boogie water.
Have fun!

Link to gauge:

The gauge reflects runoff also below the cascades, so not as predictable as a rec release where it all comes from the dam. As with all nonscheduled releases, scout it, watch the radar for rain. Duke will occasionally boost the flow if there’s been significant rain. They bumped it to 3000 on the gauge once. The duke guy saw us on the lot and warned us. We got 2.5 laps before we got off. 3000 cfs on the gauge really doesn’t have safe head clearance at the Troll Hole bridge. - Steve