After borrowing a paddle from Thomas' dad (which I couldn't afford to replace, therefore couldn't afford to lose) we picked up Ryan in Indy and Chris and Shelbyville, and then we started driving. Or we would have, if we hadn't stopped in for a sit-down at Bob Evans. Finally on the road at 9pm or so, we made it to Knoxville where we grabbed a hotel room and crashed.
We hit the Green River Narrows on Friday after some phone calls to locals we knew, we convinced a friend of Thomas' to take us down. She did a run in the morning and we met her at the takeout at 11 or so, ran shuttle, and put on to the Green. After some boogie water we got to the Bride of Frankenstein and the start of the narrows. We had a group of five, plus a handfull of locals, and altogether too many people in the group for the 3 boat eddies of the narrows proper. Mark, one of the locals, pointed at me and said "All right man, you're my buddy. You're gonna follow me and just do what I do." I nodded, and we were off. While others in our group scouted drops like Frankenstein and Go Left, Mark and I would take a look from the eddies above the drops, he would feed me some beta, and always follow it with "stay on my ass," and we'd be off.
I found myself in a not altogether uncomfortable side-surf, and supported myself with a low brace. I couldn't go forward or backward since the slot was only about 9 feet wide. I tried to muscle over the pile, but the hole was too deep. I tried getting my nose into the green water, which only managed to windowshade me. I rolled up again, and as I struggled to pull over the pile my knee came out of my thigh brace, punched out of my sprayskirt, and I was swimming. Making sure to hold onto the paddle I couldn't replace, I was hit by a rope on my way down to the waterfall but couldn't hang on. I slid over the falls and out the whitewash below, swimming hard into the eddy to avoid sliding into Chief, when I was hit by Mattus' rope. My boat floated into an eddy, where it hung out for a moment, but before anyone could get a hand on it, it slid down the river. I had to jump across the river and hike downstream, hoping that my boat was still in one piece.
Gorilla, the largest drop on the river, all was not lost. I had a new dent in the stern and a crack from where my paddle had tried to punch through the side of the boat, but the crack was above the waterline and the dent wasn't all bad. The only losses were the crunched paddle shaft of my split, and my skullcap, which I had in my boat somewhere and which was claimed by the Green. Somewhat shaken, I fetched my paddle and followed Mark down the next rapids, Powerslide and Rapid Transit, two big slides which reminded me of the North Shore. After portaging nutcracker and Sunshine (Sunshine was way scary) we were into boogie water and I was starting to hit my stride again. The rest of the crew was still upstream, taking their time, and I bombed the rest of the run with the locals, skipping past eddies and blasting through the last major rapids. I found myself in a horizontal pin above a small slot for about 5 gut-wrenching seconds, but I scooted back enough to let my bow clear and I was downstream. Our group managed the rest of the run without any carnage, and we were off to Tallulah.
On the way, we grabbed some tasty BBQ by the Narrows and did laundry so that we wouldn't have to slide into wet paddling gear the following morning. We stayed the night off of a forest service road (free, yippee!) and stoked up a fire, since it was starting to snow. Jordan rolled in late (or early, depending on how you look at it) after a 10 hour drive.
After a chilly night, we grabbed breakfast at Nanny's (grits, biscuits and gravy, and other assorted wonderfulness for less than $5), set up a shuttle, and started down the 600 or so steps that lead to the Tallulah Gorge. The Tallulah only runs a few weekends a year when Georgia power schedules releases, and it's a southern classic. Wes, Mattus' friend from CO (who looked a bit like a skinny Mel Gibson; the Patriot Mel Gibson with the sideburns and long hair) lead us down. The first rapid was 20 feet from the putin, and after one more sweet boof over a 6 or 7 foot falls, we were at Oceana.
The bottom of Oceana and the Thing
We loaded up boats in a hurry, since if we wanted to make a second run we had to be at the top of the stairs by 3. We made it, but not by much. Our second run was a little more exciting, since Jordan smashed his hand up on the first rapid, I hit the center line on Oceana without scouting (sooooo much fun) and then Jordan swam above Bridal Veil (skeerey) which necessitated some tricky rescue techniques and then again in some of the boogie above Lynch's Wrench. We made it out though, tailed by the sweep boaters who were there to make sure nobody was left in the canyon. After an amazing dinner at a Chinese buffet (sushi, Mongolian grill, crab wontons, and all sorts of other wonderfulness) we dried our gear, bought some beer, and headed to the campground for a warm fire and video footage of the day.
Sunday we rolled out a bit later than expected, dusted the frost off our gear, and after breakfast fired up another run of the Gorge. Ryan bowed out this time, and the rest of us hiked down the steps and put on to a higher river (700cfs instead of the 500 the day before). Chris swam on the entry rapid (which he deemed "crapid") and after Tanner's Boof we scouted Oceana again, which was thrumming with more water. We all hit the left line this time around (aside from Jordan, who took the dry line). A few of us were slowed up some in the hole at the bottom, which was pushier this time around, and Thomas was flipped by the pulsating thing and skidded into the bottom hole, getting pushed against the side of the river and eventually swimming. His paddle hung out in the hole for a long time, but eventually washed out. The rest of the run was cake; everything was much smoother and more padded, but nothing was too big and thrashy. At the takeout, I ran Wes to the top so he could get another run in, and then we all saddled up and headed home. The drive was a haul, and I had to pull the last 5 hours on my own, but passed the time by calling up some friends and listening to a Harry Potter book on the iPod, finally rolling in at 2:15 in the morning after a great weekend of boating.
Mattus' line on Oceana (my camera battery died shortly thereafter)