With the craziest winter we have had in years dumping feet of snow in March, us midwest paddlers are excited for the thaw! The only tough part is that last year we were on the rivers by the end of February, so waiting until the middle of April seems like an eternity. So, eternity is where I headed….
I haven’t paddled much in the South East so I called up John McConville and we headed south to Eternity hole. Driving through the night we were exhausted. We were trying to escape the never ending winter in Wisconsin but arrived to cold temps in North Carolina. We met Justin Kleberg and got in a great warm up play session before heading to the Telico.
It felt great to knock off the rust a little and then join the dozens of SE paddlers on the Telico. It was a busy day on this river. The weather warmed up a bit, and we ran into Midwest friends who also headed south to find running rivers. John showed me the main features on the drive along the river, I was so excited to practice my boof over and over again. This river definitely demanded it. Everything went great, and I even hit my boof over Baby Falls. But following the guys down diaperwiper I lost my focus, missed the eddy halfway down, got stuck up against the rock, and dragged pretty good across the shallow water before I eventually SWAM! ugh so frustrating. I stuck it out a while and took some hard hits on those rocks. If you know me, you’ve seen me do this before. You’ve also seen me quite frustrated after and having to redo the run til I get it right.
So after a little bit of thought, back up we went to the top of Baby Falls to do it all again. I did even better this time on Baby Falls, I hit my boof, spotted my landing. Then diaper wiper was a breeze! I couldn’t believe that I messed it up so badly the first time around. This was probably the most fun river I have ever ran in my short kayaking career. We got off the river, found a campsite, and ate the wonderful camp cooking of mister mcconville. It was not until I met kayakers that I knew guys could really cook! (my college friends not so capable…lol) Every time I take a trip with the guys someone is always cooking deliciousness! In the morning, breakfast was another fantastic concoction that Justin put together. Now it was on to the Ocoee! A totally different feel to this river, the ocoee is more what I have been used to paddling, deep water with wave trains and play spots!
Justin had to leave us that afternoon, so John and I headed back west a bit to Rock Island, set up camp and waited for the SNOW to fall. Yes, snow! we were not allowed to escape from winter apparently. It snowed in the night; it snowed the next day. Feeling a bit sore from two days of paddling, the cold temps, and the snow were not a good combination for wanting to go play at Rock Island. So we headed to the Jackson Kayak Plant. John used to work here so he gave me a tour. It was really neat to see how everything is made and meet the people who put such hard work into designing and creating our beloved kayaks!
We thought about running the Rock Island falls that afternoon but I wasn’t completely up to it, having a rough first days on the river, I was hesitant to run my first 20 footer. So we went north to spring creek where we met Heeman the barbarian aka Tom. This was a great little creek to have in you backyard. The river itself wasn’t too demanding, class II/III but the gorge was beautiful. And the snow was falling in huge flakes! It was a great relaxing afternoon paddle! I still was feeling a bit sick, so it was really perfect for me for the day.
Our last day before we had to head home, we didn’t want to travel farther east, so we stayed around Rock Island another night. Clay Wright saved us from freezing, and found us a place to stay for the night. I have to thank him tons and tons! Still feeling sick the next day, I decided not to paddle. John, Clay, Boyd, and EJ ran the falls and Sieve City at Rock Island while I fielded all the questions from the dozens of onlookers at the park. Then we headed home. I made it back to La Crosse on Wednesday and it finally felt like spring! The temps have stayed in the 40s here and the rain came! The trip was perfect timing!
Events start in just a couple of weeks! Ryan Zimny is organizing the first ever Lester River Race on the 13th of April. Everyone is stoked!