June 10, 2017

Watauga River

  • 9.13 miles
  • 4:04 duration

I am several days late writing this post after a busy week with Annual Conference. Every time I thought about starting to write it, something else more important surfaced. I finally have found time to start while watching over Aunt Sylvia through the night in the hospital. Prayers for her are appreciated, as we wait to see what her urologist suggests we do about the kidney that is giving her problems. If this post isn’t as full of detail, or is incoherent at times, blame it on lack of sleep.

A beautiful Saturday called for another trip down the Watauga River. This trip included several paddlers: Rob, Richard, Julia, Berta, Steve, Helen, Aaron, Doreen and Terry. We had a good mixture of kayaks and canoes for this expedition.

When we met up at the Love Road launch site, the water was much lower than our last trip but still running nicely. We unloaded our gear, and then the drivers all moved their cars to the take out point at Wagner Road while some of us waited with the boats.

After a successful solo trip last week, Julia chose to paddle tandem (two people in the canoe) with Richard so that she could get some experience in the stern (back) of the boat. The paddler in the stern is the captain, and steers the boat through the rapids. She is hoping to bring some of her friends along for adventures this summer.

Also paddling tandem canoe were Helen and Aaron. Berta, Doreen and Rob were in solo canoes, while Steve, Terry and I were all in blue kayaks of various kinds.

It was a few minutes before 11:00 when we hit the water, and the weather was perfect. As usual, there were large numbers of people fishing the river, some from the bank, some from three person fishing boats, and others wading in the shallow water.

With the lower water level, we had to navigate a little more than our previous trip, dodging the rocks that were covered before. While it is fun to run the river at high and fast water levels, the lower levels can be exciting as well because you need to steer around more obstacles. Of course, Huck has to pay the price for these lower water runs, with new bumps and scratches from the rocks we fail to miss.

Everyone made it safely through Sycamore Shoals, a set of rapids that can be tricky at times. Further down river, there are three rocky ledges that stretch diagonally across the river. The first two have a drop of a foot or so, but the last is a five foot drop. There is really only one spot at this drop that you can safely navigate without getting stuck (as Doreen did last year). Fortunately, we all made it across without incident, and then pulled in just downstream for a lunch break.

After we had once again started paddling, Steve and Aaron performed an impressive exchange of boats in the middle of the river. Steve climbed into the tandem canoe with Aaron and Helen, and then Aaron climbed into the inflatable kayak Steve had been paddling. I am still not sure how they managed to do this without capsizing.

We passed the Blevins Road boat ramp, and continued downstream through the many fun rapids this river has to offer. There is one area in this stretch of river that is very shallow when the water is low, and many times I have had to get out of the boat and drag it to deeper water. I was very glad to float on through this section, although I did bump and scrape a bit.

Goat rapid was a thrill as always, and I managed to hit the “hole” at the bottom. If you hit this just right, a big splash of water washes over you and the boat. On warm days like today it is nice to get that splash to help cool you off. Of course, without a spray skirt, this can fill your boat with water, so I was glad to have mine.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We reached the take out at Wagner Road, loaded up the boats, and Rob had me home in plenty of time to shower and head in to town to meet the family for dinner. We were celebrating my birthday a few days early since I would be gone to conference on the actual day.



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