Sunday November 20th was my first birthday lap on the Green River near Saluda, NC. My birthday has always fallen on a weekday the past couple of years and prior to that my kayaking skills were not worthy enough to get on the Green river, so this year it was a go. It was also the first time the temperature dropped this year and it was pretty much wintertime boating conditions.
Due to the drought the releases have been limited or even non existent, but we were lucky enough to get a 1-6pm dam release. A small crew was assembled and plans were set. My birthday arrived and our crew seemed to dwindle where life was getting in the way. So finally there were two of us, just enough to set shuttle and guarantee a ride back to get the car left behind, so off to the river we went.
Arriving at the river the sun was bright, and a cool crispness as the breeze blew the colorful leaves off the trees. The night before I was having dreams about the Monkey (a treacherous rapid that I have not run yet) thinking that today might be the day. Since my crew diminished down to myself and one other, I was able to relax. Ideally, you want at least a crew of four people if there was a rescue situation (one victim, two performing the rescue, and one to go for help). My buddy Dwight showed up and we loaded the boats and headed to the upper section of the river.
Sliding into the river, I felt back at home. The coldness enhanced the solitude and the uncomfortableness of forgetting my pogies (mitts to keep my hands warm) heightened the experience. It was beautiful. Not many words were said for we were both just caught in the moment, lost in time.
After kayaking most of the upper section of the river, we ended up getting ahead of the water that was released two hours prior. It was a new way of seeing the river, it looked totally different. We joked about what some of our uptight buddies would have done in this situation being cold, wet, and not any water to kayak. They would have been pissed and hiking out of the gorge, but we cherished the moment. There were points where the boat got stuck and we had to wait a few minutes watching the water rise to push us down the river even more. I tried to get stuck on sunny rocks to warm up the hands.
So we eventually made it to the Class V Narrows section of the river. Not wanting to waste this trip on super low water we pulled over and decided to wait for the water to come down. Thinking that it is pretty cool that we were the only ones in the gorge that day was pretty awesome. Then we giggled that no-one else is that hard up or stupid enough to go kayaking on this day. Then our buddy Brogdon and Bill paddled up. We weren’t the only ones. Bill was barefoot in his kayak and only wearing a short sleeved dry top so I suddenly forgot about my coldness.
The river filled up and we progressed down. Killing boof after boof, busting through waves and holes, my coldness subsided and it was total bliss. Even though we had two more people the level wasn’t conducive to running Gorilla anyway even though it would have been cool to do on my bday. We made it down to the halfway point just after Sunshine rapid and had our ceremonial beers. Dwight brought Guinness Nitro this time and it was smooth. After a few minutes, it started to get cold again from sitting still and the sun was setting so we chugged the Nitro’s and proceeded down stream. We finally made it to the last two rapids (Toilet bowl and Hammer Factor) as we got ahead of the water again. We proceeded to navigate toilet bowl, but we were nervous about a low water hammer factor because we didn’t want to get stuck in the hole under a huge overhanging boulder. We decided to wait for enough water to pile up on the rock beside it to get up and over the nasty hole. After five minutes Dwight decided to give it a go. I could not see what happened from my viewpoint but there was one other kayaker that caught us on the river towards the end and he liked what he saw so he went too. I proceeded to enter the rapid and drove hard up on the left rock to get past the hole and suddenly I lost all forward momentum and proceed to fall off the rock into the hole. I didn’t fight it any longer and turned the bow of my boat directly into it. The other guys at the bottom started to giggle as they thought that a show was about to begin. My bow shot over the back section of the hole then smacked the big overhanging rock on river right. It turned the stern of my boat into the hole and it tried to flip me over to the left. A left side low brace reverse sweep stroke was the only thing keeping from me flipping over as my face was in the water. I then took my left hand and pushed off the left rock and up I went preserving a warm dry hair day. Whew…… The guy behind me dropped into the hole early also and he became “the show”.
Going into the river it was a two man journey, coming out of the river was a five man party as we celebrated with beers at the takeout. We then proceeded to Green River BBQ where they had Cold Mountain beer on tap. As Hendri Coetzee would say “Living the Best Day Ever”.
Few pics taken from a kid who hiked in with his Dad to see the river, thanks little dude: