Sunday, October 05, 2008
A cold night, a beautiful day, and some great rapids made for a fun trip to the Wolf. Bryan K, Sara, Pike, Dennis, and I headed to the newly-rebuilt Bear Paw on Friday night and ran Section IV on Saturday.
Friday night was quite chilly, with lows in the mid-twenties. We stoked up a nice campfire, put on some extra layers, and Dennis and I bored the others with paddling stories for a while. The night was crystal clear and the stars were out in full view. Despite the temps, we had a great time. Bryan and Sara (and their puppy) got to test their new tent in style. It must have performed well because no one had hypothermia come Saturday morning.
We started fairly early Saturday, meeting at Big Smokey at 9 to get our bracelets and shuttle. Speaking of bracelets, the price has gone up from years past - $30 fee + $5 deposit on the bracelet. The temp was still just above freezing, but the sun was out and warmed you up whenever it hit you.
Our shuttle driver was kind enough to drop us off at Sullivan's falls so we could avoid the 1.5 miles of flatwater from the normal put-in. Everyone ran Sullivan's, and everyone did great. For Pike, Sarah, and Bryan, it was their first real waterfall! After everyone did it once, we talked about how to Boof, then everyone ran it again to try the new move.
The Ducksnest rapids went by quickly enough and we surfed a bit at Dave's Wave before stopping to eat and bask in the sun at lunch rock. Perfectly clear blue skies helped the temp warm up nicely.
Everyone flew through the Upper Dells, and Bryan nailed a solid combat roll between the two holes at the bottom. The lower dells were more interesting and the group split with half taking the rock-tongue in the middle, and half taking the double drop channel on river right. The hole at the bottom of the tongue caused a couple flips (including an unintentional cartwheel), but everyone did great and there were no swims.
Big Smokey was where we noticed the shallow water the most. There were virtually no eddies in the entire slide leading up to the falls, and at one point the water was only about a boat-and-a-half wide. It was a bit hairy at that point because that tiny amount of water pushed right into one of the protruding rocks and it looked very much like you were going to smack into it. The tiny reaction pillow saves the day, however, and all faces remained intact.
The level was about 190. The rapids were all very passable, with Big Smokey being the most affected by far. There was little play, but it was a fun level for river running.
On a fun note, Pike bought a boat! Bear Paw had everything on sale (most is 20% off if anybody's interested), and they were getting rid of their demo boats. Pike wanted to pick up a creeker, and after trying on a couple different boats picked a red Jackson Hero. It should be a good fit between his Piedra and his EZ. They've also got a like-new Burn demo on sale for $700 if anyone's shopping for one...
Speaking of Bear Paw, I was floored by the path the tornado left. I knew it was serious (it was an F4), but I've never seen anything like that. There's a perfect path 100 yards wide (guessing on the distance) like someone cleared a highway through the woods. There's no transition area or buffer, just a perfectly clear-cut path that looks like loggers came through. Sadly, the path perfectly and completely enveloped the old Bear Paw. Happily, the parts that they've finished rebuilding are great, and there's tons of free firewood. Plus, it's the same super friendly and helpful people running the place. Good to see them rebounding so well.