LET IT RAIN!
Well as was painfully evident we got a ton of rain over the past couple of days which brought in plenty of the goods. On tuesday Brad Caldwell, Shayne Day and myself headed out into Graham County with the greatest of intentions. After realizing the guy with the directions to the First D put-in was in Ecuador we went onto Yellow Creek while it was still pouring rain out. We got out to the gauge and saw it was at a good level and on the rise so we decided to hike up in fear that the river may flash. So we got up to the twenty footer and gave 'er all having good clean lines. Then we kept on boogying down through some good rapids portaged the sieve and keep on going down until we got to Cheoah and started it with around 400 CFS however by the time we got to the Forest Service Bridge the river had gotten up to around 1000 CFS. By the time we got to the lake though we were riding around 2000 CFS which is always a perfect level and brings in some awesome wave trains and makes the holes in the lower section burly which makes it even better. With clean lines and good times we all hit the lake and were still pumped and talking about the next day little did I know what would ultimately be in-store. As the night progressed plans were laid to run Upper Santeelah which has been one of the creeks in the area I have wanted to get onto. The weather turned out to be a brisk 23 degrees at the put-in however the level was great. Getting closer and closer to the put-in it began to snow and snow was sticking to the ground and had laid a bit already. Up the mountain we went and the view kept getting better and better as the mountain tops shown white with a blue bird sky in the background. As we put-in I was a bit nervous but ready for the action that was to come. That day we had a crew of five boaters Tim Madison, Joe Barkley, Steven Matz, Eli Smith and myself. Steven had hit the run the most and had all the beta down solidly however we still had to check for wood left and right because it is an old growth forest and it had been storming. Wood in drops eventually led to my demise and hike off the river. I took a pretty bad swim at one of the more technical slide rapids in the upper section where most of the larger rapids are. To give you a visual of what happened to make me tuck tail and stuff the pride here is the story. The first rapid in the section of what I am referring to as the Dendrology Rapids. It was not necessarily to nasty rapid wise with a narrowing slot move with a undercut right you had to slide somewhat near. However the wood that was in the rapid forced you directly into a super small gap with the tree limb boxing you closer and leaving only a 3 foot slot to make it through. Tim, Steven and Eli made it through nicely but after seeing the log in I chose to take the short hike and seal launch back in. After that the second of the Dendrology Rapids was in the lurk. the move was a left to right down a long slide with a decent hole at the bottom that had a massive old growth log leaning into the left side of the hole backing it up. I am not entirely sure how steep the rapid was but like most other ones on Santeelah it was burly and big. After watching a nice clean line down it I bucked up got my head in the game and went for it. As i got left things were going good. It then came time to charge back to the right which is where my problem laid. I was unable to bring it back over right as I had apparently gotten to far left for my own good. It was decision time in my head and I made the snap decision that it would be better to surf the hole at the bottom and try to drive out the right side of it. which was clear. I saw the impending doom of the tree and was able to get my boat turned down the slide enough to try for the surf or possibly just maybe make it. However the hole had different plans as I slammed into it and then bounced off the tree back into the hole. The hole then held me and I tried to pull a bit out but then felt it drawing me back left which was when the fear finally slapped in. As the boat began to slide back I began to panic and decided my best action might be to put and swim out since i could see where to dive to out of my boat. I then pulled and swam like a fish away from the tree and left side. As I popped up in the clear I was entirely over excited about swimming as I was still alive and not stuck on a tree. After the cold swim and actually being able to get everything back together except for my confidence for the rest of the day. Speaking of collection of gear I owe Eli big time for saving my boat and Joe for pulling my paddle out from the log where it had gotten stuck. I bucked back up however ran two more rapids and then we were at the midpoint which was where I decided to hike out after the aforementioned experience. However I will say that I had an awesome couple of days on the river with great crews. Even with the one bad experience I still cannot wait to get back out there again and give 'er on Upper Santeelah cause there were far to many awesome boofs and drops not to go back out there even if it is a wood laden wonderland.