Our first real paddling trip of the year, crazy.
We drove up Friday morning. Put on the Nantahala at Patton's Run and found a bunch small rocks and waves to play with. Then the sky opened up and thunders and lighting crashed around us and hails pounded our helmets. I felt pity for the rafters that don't have helmets, ouch.
After the storm passed us, we boogied down to the falls and then NOC wave. The wave is now a wide open hole but we were both hypothermic. I did a few rides but couldn't setup on the top of the foam pile without flushing then gave up to change into dry clothes and warm up. Dave and Bret put in there to play some more. We were too hungry so we left to feast on BBQ at Herb's.
While driving to Herb's I got a call from Steve Sullivan at National Parks Service. I immediately got worried, did I get caught without permits, changing and baring myself in the public, or smoke illegal materials? Turned out one of the Grand Canyon cancellation lottery winner couldn't go, and I was the next on the list. The launch date is June 25, 16 days on the river, not much time to prepare. I had an hour to give him an answer. Oh crap. Over dinner we decided we would take the chance and give it a shot to see if we can pull this off.
Finding camping at Whitewater Express was interesting, and we end up using 4WD to get in the field. Dave and Bret were already setting up camp and we shared a jug of yummy Nantahala Brewing Company's IPA that Bret picked up earlier.
Kurt and Paul pulled into camp around 1 or 2am but none of us heard them, due to slumbering caused by IPA.
Saturday morning at Ocoee putin. The rock slide over the winter had changed the put in rapid a bit that caused some anxiety but in reality it was actually easier if you know to how read new water. Right line looked beefier than before though. We played out way down and had some funky moments such as when I missed eddy 5 at Broken Nose and end up in lower 5 instead. Oh well, all good. Slice Dice's playspot was green and pretty much useless, and we concluded the release was much higher than the usual 1600 cfs on an Upper release day.
Witch's hole is now Witch's wave, a bit flushy. Robert decided to visit Lorraine's hole at Cat's Pajama, with the same disaster result and had to be pulled out of the water. Hell Hole was narrower but faster. I had some decent rides a few powerful faceplants. Jade for the first time spent some quality time deep in that hole.
Dinner was once again at Herbs. We talked about planning a boaterdicks festival but couldn't come with a better name. Some ideas got tossed around such as topless safety boaters but nothing concrete resulted.
We decided to paddle the Upper Ocoee on Sunday. Fun lines through Alien, Mikey's and Blue Hole. There was an amazing paddler at Callahan's doing every move imaginable and long long multi-minute rides. I got inspired by him, especially the ease which he initiate ends. After snacking on a bar, I got back in the boat and ferried into the hole, determined not to be intimidated and stay easy and loose. A few spins and I followed his methond to initiate lefty cartwheels and it was amazingly easy. A few more spins and one more lefty, except this time a pulse rocketed through my left arm and I felt a familiar pain in the left shoulder. By then I was in position to do a right hand back deck roll. I could tell by the washing machine effect that I was still deep in the hole, and rolling up in it means I'll have to use both arms, iffy given the pain in the left side. I waited patiently with my right hand and paddle shaft protecting my face, and finally the buffeting effect ended and I rolled up. Immediately I could tell the left shoulder was at least partially out. I limped back into the eddy not wanting to deal with the next drop. Once safely in the eddy, I used my right hand to move my left shoulder a bit to test it, and I felt a distinct pop as it moved back in the place and the pain subsided right away. Well, now I know for sure what happened. It was on its way out but not far out enough to move to the outside of the socket, so a little nudge moved it back in.
Jade was very concerned since she knew something wasn't right by the way I tendered my left arm paddling back into the eddy. I told her what happened and we decided I should take out there and wait for her to finish the river then pick me up.
Waiting turned out to be informational. I never had a chance to study the Humongous side of the river, and discovered a nice curling tongue through the meat of the hole. There also a few interesting surfing waves toward the end of the Olympic section. The sky opened up one more time clearing the spectators. Just in time as the rain ended Jade showed up to pick me up.
We had a wonderful dinner with Knut and Julie in Asheville dinning on a traditional German fare made by Knut. Got home just before midnight, tired and sore, wondering what to do with my shoulder, and stressing about planning for the Grand Canyon trip.